Placemats with a Purpose

I decided I needed to do something to help people dealing with hunger and food insecurity when I was just seven years old. After an eye opening experience, I visited my local soup kitchen to see how I could make a difference, but was turned away because I was too young to serve and told to try again in a few years. I’ve always been pretty good at setting my mind to something and doing whatever it takes to get it done but I remember something inside me refusing to give up, I knew I had to help in however I could, even in the smallest way. I went home and gathered a few friends and some markers, and we decorated piles of placemats with colorful drawings and positive messages which were later brought to the soup kitchen where they served the purpose of brighting the days of people who needed a smile most.

Since then, I have dedicated myself to the issue and I will say I am genuinely more proud of my service to end hunger than I am of any other accomplishment. I have made this more than a hobby, passion, or platform, but I have made it my purpose. After countless food drives, pantry shelf stocking, backpack stuffing, and so much more, I still craved making my impact bigger. Thus came my international non-profit, Seeds of Hope.

Of course Seeds of Hope is about ending hunger, but that is not all. That experience when I was seven stays with me everyday, and inspired the other half of my organization’s mission. Metaphorically, any tiny seed will soon be a mighty tree or beautiful flower, which expresses the power that each and every one of us hold to change the world. I believe that no matter who you are, where you’re from, how old you are, or what you have, you CAN make a difference and Seeds of Hope is all about sharing that.

I serve globally, and it is an incredible feeling that is absolutely indescribable to know that children and families in places like Haiti and Pakistan are benefiting from my efforts. However, just like a rooted seed, I will never forget where my drive comes from nor will I lose my ambition to alleviate the food insecurity crisis right here in our own neighborhoods. Food insecurity really is everywhere, closer than we may think and I can promise you that someone you know is struggling to decide what will have to go in order to put food on the table this month.

Since November, I have been working closely with the very soup kitchen where I began this journey. I wanted to bring the empowerment I felt as a young girl that first time I made a difference in my community to fellow leaders. After lots of long preparation, I was finally able to dedicate a student council meeting to creating placemats for the soup kitchen. All sixty of Pinkerton Academy’s student leaders decorated beautiful placemats with messages affirming the Seeds of Hope mission and proving how simple it is to create change.

This was a full circle moment for me and it really sunk in thinking how proud that seven year old I once was would be to see who she is today. I will never stop being utterly thankful for all I experience and gain through my purpose to serve, and my goal and strive for a world free of hunger will preserve longer than anything else.

Leadership on all Levels

What a time to be a New Hampshirite! I love my state for many reasons; our beaches, our mountains, and our primary election. Our country has been watching us closely, and we have been busy upholding the responsibility. I am so grateful I have been able to see these politically bustling weeks unfold literally right before my eyes.

Just a few weeks ago, I was truly in the heart of American politics, and because of all the attention on our nation’s capitol at the time, it was quite a once in a lifetime trip. I spent a few days touring the beautiful city and doing some site seeing (most of which I’ve seen a few times before, but really could never ever get tired of), and then united with other youth leaders from across the world. Representatives from every state as well as nine countries attended the LEAD Conference, a weekend full of inspiring workshops and speakers that equipped us to bring back new leadership skills to our school and community, and for me, my organization. I left the conference with some big, fresh ideas, and built some FANTASTIC professional relationships that are sure to last and continue generating real inspiration.

Since, I have been busy with incredible experiences and opportunities to take advantage of all that comes to our small state with the great honor of being the first in the nation. I have been fascinated by the intricate world of politics for a few years now, so I am very thankful to have been so involved in the nomination process this year. We may be small, but we are mighty and I think sometimes we forget just how powerful New Hampshire is in selecting our country’s presidential nominees. Since July, I’ve worked on multiple campaigns, interviewed three candidates and their representatives for newspaper articles, and been able to attend events celebrating the value of New Hampshire votes.

Saturday, I started my day at a long six hour rehearsal for the quickly approaching Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen competition, but was humbled to be able to join thousands of other passionate politic junkies at the Democratic Party McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner. There, I listened to eight candidates speak. Regardless of which candidate we were there to support, it truly was amazing to see so many individuals join together for their shared belief: belief in hope. Everyone there was supporting hope for the country and future.

Tuesday, the day we had all been waiting for finally came. I was thrilled to have to day off from school to do just about everything except catch up on sleep. My alarm woke me up at 2 am but I have never been so excited to jump out of bed. By 4 am, I was already waiting in a long and eagar line to participate in the audience of MSNBC’S Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist, and of course the honorary candidate guests of the day, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden at the Center of New Hampshire. If you are an early bird and tuned into the show, you might have seen a familiar face once or twice! I heard some of the nation’s most respected political analysts and it was such an honor to be a part of something so vital to the entire country. One of the things that stuck out to me the most about both the show and the Democratic Party Dinner, was just how many out of state travelers visit the granite state to join us in this politically busy time. We are so lucky, and I will always remember how it feels to be on the front line of all the happenings.

After the show, my day was still far from done. I then had the amazing opportunity to truly get my voice heard, despite my inability to vote just yet. I headed to Radio Row where I got to speak and interview with broadcasters from all over the country! I also met with one of our less publicized presidential candidates, Mosie.

As the rest of the country begins to follow in our footsteps for the next couple of weeks, I will remain incredibly grateful for these amazing opportunities and the once in a lifetime experiences I gained from them.

2020 Updates

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile, but as you can see I have been busy revamping this site to bring in the new year. We certainly kicked 2020 off in the best way, with a brand new international partnership and a huge shipment of seeds on its way to Haiti. These seeds are headed to a shelter where they will be grown and sold to the surrounding community for profit, which is so awesome because they truly have a dual purpose and will get us twice as close to our mission. The children growing and selling the produce will gain skills to enable them to provide for themselves when they are released from the shelter, helping prevent future generations of food insecurity in the country, At the same time, the community around them is benefiting from the healthy vegetables and newly prosperous agricultural resources.

Locally, we are making great strides toward a healthier, and more food secure state. I want to give a huge thank you to the Hampstead Lyons Club for initiating an incredibly successful food drive in honor of Seeds of Hope. At every meeting for two months, each member brought an assigned item for the food drive. In November, I was thrilled to bring it all to our local food pantry at St Anne’s.

Another shoutout goes the Derry-Salem Elk’s Past Exulted Rulers Association for allowing me to speak and making a generous donation and very helpful to my organization.

I was also able to attend a Ted Talk Conference, an experience I’ll never forget. I had the honor to attend to hear first hand accounts from speakers who have seen it all and gain new perspectives on issues from immigration or climate change to architecture or self conception. I spoke with Somalian refugees, doctors studying rare diseases in Africa, CEOs finding unique ways to combat plastic waste and save our oceans, pioneer researchers exploring new depths of mental illness, and so many other leaders who are courageously changing the world everyday. I made lots of lasting connections and I can’t wait for what is surely to come of them.

I spent a few days filling backpacks for students in the Epping chapter of 68 Hours, a national program which gives children who rely on school lunch to get the through each day meals for when they leave each weekend, and established a new business partnership with TD Bank, stay tuned for more exciting information about what you can do to help us out!

I helped WMUR, Walmart, and Hanford’s on their annual statewide food drive and collected over 300 winter coats for Anton’s Cleaner’s Coats for Kids drive.

And of course, I got to join the New Horizon’s delivery team once again for one of my favorite events all year! This year, I delivered turkey dinners to seventeen local families throughout Manchester to make sure everyone got to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday season.

November-January has obviously been busy for Seeds of Hope, but successful as ever! I am so inspired heading into 2020, ready for a year of hope and empowerment. There is so much more to come!…

Why Seeds?

Another Seeds of Hope shipment has successfully reached its destination and with that, we are one step closer to ending world hunger.

Half of the one billion people living in poverty are farmers. This means that as soon as we are able to strengthen the agricultural economy, the amount of people suffering from the hunger epidemic will be cut in half. Not only will we be closer to providing all hardworking people with their right to prosperity, but also welcoming increased amounts of local healthy nutrients to feed thriving communities. With substancial food as the product of good farming, the greatest stride we could possibly make against food insecurity is improving conditions for agriculture.

Of course, it cannot be this easy. As nice as it would be to simply grow more crops to provide all farmers with income and all less fortunate citizens with nutrition, there is a large barrier holding us back. Most farmers who live in extreme poverty lack the basic resources needed to attain these goals, whether it is education or the physical cultivation tools they have no access to, which makes a steady earning a nearly impossible task for an individual, family, and ultimately an entire community to achieve.

The solution lies in the delivery. By providing disadvantaged vicinities with the tools needed to successfully provide agricultural products, we ARE solving world hunger. Every little seed brings us a lot closer to where we need to be.

A Solution to World Hunger

Sometimes I’m asked, “do you actually think there’s a solution to world hunger?”, and sometimes, it can be easy to think my goal is too lofty. Today, there are 825 million people who are living in hunger. This number is undeniably huge, and what is even more troublesome is this number is nearly 6 million more than it was at this time last year. 12% of families in our country alone have to decide daily paying the rent or buying groceries for the week.

However, today there are 124 million people fewer than in 2005. This is fantastic, but I believe there is no time to rest until this number is 0 and every belly is full.

Saturday mornings, I feed 300 families in Manchester through the New Hampshire Food Bank. I shop with them through the facility for their groceries for the week and I get to know each and every one of them. Usually however, I don’t have the opportunity to build relationships with the beneficiaries of my service, infact, it is very rare. This makes it easy to forget just how impactful every effort truly is, and sometimes it feels like the work to be done is endless. I know I will never end hunger, but I also know I will never stop trying. The biggest mistake is doing nothing simply because there is little that you can do.

At this morning’s annual Seacoast NH Crop Hunger Walk, I learned that last year, we supported 1670 food pantries and soup kitchens around the country with eight million dollars through this event and other walks like it. This is incredible, and it proves that we really ARE making a difference. It is so easy to help, but only when others begin to realize that they are the ones in charge of controlling the fate of the hunger epidemic will we see the issue finally terminate. Alone we can’t help everyone, but everyone really does have the power to help someone. There is no reason we should be turning our heads in terrible indifference to others struggling, whether it is our neighbors or strangers overseas.

No, I don’t have the solution to world hunger, but what I do have is confidence that there is one. We are doing so much now, and I applaud so many hunger fighters around the world for taking on such a cumbersome task with me. But there is so much more to be done, the proof is all around us. Everyone can help, and as soon as the dream of that happening becomes a reality, we will certainly be a lot closer to global justice.

All of the beautiful flowers and deep forests of tomorrow are hidden in the seeds of today. We can dent despair, but it is going to take a lot more than just money and recognition to fix it. I’ll never be satisfied until every person’s human right to adequate food and water to sustain and thrive is actually fulfilled. Everything adds up, and although sometimes it may seem hard to find hope for a solution for this problem, I always remind myself to judge each day by the seeds I plant, not by the harvest I reap.

Wrap up of Hunger Action Month

Looking back on the month of September gives me butterflies, because we took some serious action against hunger and honestly, I couldn’t be prouder of my community!

The Seeds of Hope food drive throughout Hampstead and Atkinson was so successful, we provided enough donations to restock St Anne’s Food Pantry and keep them stocked for quite some time to come. I must say however, it was not as simple as placing a few boxes around town. At the start of the food drive, I was a little concerned, because the need was truly so urgent and donations were flowing as fluently as I’d hoped. About halfway through however, hunger awareness day came along and thanks to all of my incredible friends from all around the country and all over the world, we created change. After I produced my video thanking and promoting all the participants of orange for hunger awareness day, it became a bit more popular than I was expecting, and began to circulate through local social media communities. Share after share, view by view, we raised real awareness of a seriously relevant issue, and the compassion of New Hampshire citizens was once again, not kept quiet.

Shortly after my video was released, Seeds of Hope was flooded with support from businesses, other organizations, and families wanting to help. My heart is just so full reminiscing on something I have always, and will always believe in; the POWER of social media and the POWER each and every one of us hold. If this month hasn’t been a testament of all Seeds of Hope stands for, then I don’t know what is.

Of course, coming out of such an empowering month I am feeling quite inspired and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Hunger Action Month might be over, but stay tuned as Seeds of Hope season never ends, and things are REALLY picking up now!

Seeds of Hope during Hunger Action Month

Happy Monday! Today isn’t JUST Monday… today is the first day of a great week, Hunger Awareness Week! The entire month of September is about encouraging not only advocacy, but real action against a crisis that strikes every neighborhood in America…hunger and food insecurity.

My September has already been packed with initiatives to serve the cause closest to my heart. To start off, I would like to make the first public announcement that Seeds of Hope is officially running as an international 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. This was never the goal of my service efforts- in fact, it was never even a plan of mine. However this new label for my program will make shipments smoother and more efficient, which will help get things where they need to be sooner, and ultimately aid more communities around the world. This also means that we now have a designated bank account where treasury business will make accepting any greatly appreciated donations much more accessible.

My international work still isn’t enough to blind me of the need in my very own community. In celebration of Hunger Awareness Week, I have kicked off another food drive! Starting today and continuing until Friday the 20th, I ask YOUR help is restocking the shelves at my local food pantry, Hampstead’s St Anne’s. This pantry is in dire need, so it is incredibly important that we work together as a community to help out. There are currently donation boxes at Coco Early Real Estate Office, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Office, and my house, but more will be announced throughout the rest of the week, so make sure you watch my social media accounts to see how, when, and where you can contribute.

This Wednesday, September 11th, is national Hunger and Food Insecurity Awareness Day. Show your support for the millions struggling by wearing ORANGE! Send me a photo of your orange to be featured in an important upcoming Seeds of Hope initiative.

Seeds of Hope is not only about feeding people in need, but empowering the ones around them to see those needs and be brave enough to help. This month, I ask that you remember your power, and recognize the simplicity behind making a difference. Join me in helping our local food pantries, nurturing families overseas, and passing on the message that EVERYONE has wha it takes to make a difference.

Returning back to service with a Backpack Drive

I may have seemed MIA while I have been away at Phillips Exeter this summer,but I assure you my hard work and dedication for the community never took a rest. In between my studies, I was looking ahead and planning out my upcoming busy year as a Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen scholarship program local representative, but more importantly, a community member and leader.

Sitting in summer school could have made it easy to forget how many children and families would be struggling as the school shopping season was quickly creeping around the corner. I realized how fortunate I had always been to have the resources I need to thrive in any environment, academic or not. I needed to help those who weren’t so lucky. A family friend once stayed in New Generation Inc., a homeless shelter for pregnant women and women with children and babies, so I decided to reach out to the shelter and find out if they had any school age children who could benefit with some supplies. As soon as I came back home, I began collecting donations.

It is always so amazing to see just how easy it can be to make a difference. I love watching the community unite to help one another. I am so proud to say we gathered far more than requested by New Generation Inc. I truly thank each and every person who donated because alone I cannot change the world, but together we can make it a whole lot better.

People inspire People

Something I speak about quite frequently is the Butterfly Effect. When I was just starting Seeds of Hope, I found myself referring back to the ideal that every action, no matter how tiny, does indeed make a difference… even if it is hard to see. When tackling an issue as broad and truly severe as that of hunger, and at such a young age, there have always been times when I would question if what I was doing was ever going to be ‘enough’. One of the most important things I have learned in my years of service however, is that every effort makes an impact in one way or another. Donating some cans to a local food pantry will never end hunger. But, it may inspire someone else to donate a can, and the pattern goes on to create a ripple of awareness and compassion for the less fortunate citizens in our communities. Whether it is the flap of a butterfly’s wing or the planting of a Seed of Hope, alone we cannot do much, but together we can change the world.

Through the years, I’ve learned that other than serving, some of the best ways to reignite a spark of philanthropic inspiration can be as simple as talking to like minded citizens who care about making the world a better place.

Dylan Mahalingam, Co-Founder of Lil MDG’s

On the last day of school, my English teacher told me about one of her former students whom she claims I’ve always reminded her of. When she explained to me that he was ‘changing the world’, I was instantly flattered and of course excited to learn more. I asked her to connect us, and I am glad she did. After talking to Dylan, I have lots of new ideas for the bright future of Seeds of Hope.

When Dylan was just nine years old, he started a non-profit organization called Lil’ MDG’s. Similar to Seeds of Hope, This is also an international development and youth empowerment program, and his work with it really did improve our society. MDG stands for Millennium Development Goals, which were goals created by the United Nations to make the world a better place. The purpose of Lil’ MDGs is to not only raise awareness of these goals, but to utilize the power of our youth to play a driving force in the path to achieving these goals.

The goals were lofty, and set to be attained in the short period from 2000-2015. Although they weren’t all reached, very large strides were definitely made towards reaching them and the impact is visible. There were eight MDG’s, and they included:

  • to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • to achieve universal primary education;
  • to promote gender equality and empower women;
  • to reduce child mortality;
  • to improve maternal health;
  • to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  • to ensure environmental sustainability; and
  • to develop a global partnership for development.

Dylan and the Lil’ MDG’s accomplished some pretty incredible things that brought us a lot closer to reaching the United Nation’s goals. Just to name a few, they raised $780,000 for tsunami relief and over 10 million for Gulf Coast hurricane relief, as well as funds to build a dormitory for a school in Tibet; a computer center, library, and a mobile hospital in India; school supplies for students; and a playground for a school serving AIDS orphans in Uganda.

I also was able to discuss things with Dylan like the public’s view on helping solve global and even local issues. He brought up a few points that really stuck out to me. One of the goals of Lil’ MDG’s was to educate people on the steps they can take to make a difference in the world and in their own communities. He explained to me that many people don’t know about the issues surrounding them, and those who do, often don’t know how they can help.

It was truly an honor to speak with such a determined, selfless leader like Dylan. Seeds of Hope is about not only feasibly ending the global hunger crisis, but also about empowering people of all ages to utilize their power for good… because just like a butterfly flapping it’s wings, each tiny effort adds up. This time around, I was the one being empowered and I cannot wait to see what this new palate of ideas Dylan shared with me can do for Seeds of Hope and for all of its beneficiaries.

Planting in Pakistan

The girls of the Abba Orphanage Home for Girls in Lahore, Pakistan are busy planting their seeds! These photos light up my day every time I see them. There is no greater feeling than that of knowing the initiative I started is impacting young girls in need 7,000 miles away. See my post, Seeds of Hope In Pakistan. To read what the seeds are all about!