Student Centered: May 2022
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” As Asian American kids born to immigrant parents, we have seen poverty in the streets of India from a very young age during our trips to visit relatives. After the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit in 2004, we visited a children’s orphanage that was full of kids who had lost their parents. We donated food and clothes. The children were so happy that they sang a song for us, which brought us to tears. From the time we were in pre-K, we have packed shoeboxes to send to kids around the world. We had no idea then that there was so much poverty, child abuse, and hunger in America, too.
How We Started
Our parents are doctors. They work in a county hospital because they say it’s very rewarding to take care of people in need. One time we heard them talk about a child likely suffering from abuse at home, and we were shocked to learn about child abuse, Child Protective Services (CPS), and foster care. We saw on TV the plight of underprivileged children and adults during COVID-19 and the “Texas freeze” last year—the long lines for food and water and how people died without any power to heat their homes. So, we decided to start a club called Mission BE A Resource (BEAR). We recruited our friends from school—most of whom are members of National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), a program of NASSP, at The Honor Roll School in Sugar Land, TX—and set out on a mission to support our community through donations and volunteering. There was a lot of support for our work from the community, so our mom helped us establish Mission BEAR as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit so that we could apply for grants and keep track of the donations we receive.
Unlike volunteering alone, doing so as a group is fun and a lot of work gets done! During COVID-19 when schools shut down, we still managed to get together with our friends and volunteer at many food banks. We worked for hours stocking shelves, sorting and bagging food, and delivering it to the long line of families in cars. It was hard work, but we enjoyed every minute of it, and we were proud to be of service. We saw how people depended on donations and how happy they were to receive help. Of course, we quickly learned about masking, hand washing, distancing, and temperature checks. Thankfully none of us got sick.
What We Have Achieved
So far, we have collected money from family and friends and donated supplies to the Rainbow Room—where CPS workers can go and get supplies for children who have experienced abuse and neglect—in Fort Bend County, TX. We have purchased Christmas gifts for foster children, volunteered at many charity events, started back-to-school collection drives, and run Christmas toy drives. We have helped sort books and make meals for kids. We have made cards of kindness and volunteered at multiple food banks. And we have made snack bags for abused kids who come for therapy, so they feel loved. When the arctic weather hit Texas last year and affected all our lives, we realized how important it is to help each other and share what we have. When a stranger thanked us and said, “God bless you” for loading food into his car, we were all moved. It is such a pleasure to be able to help someone.
For Global Youth Service Day last April, we received the Hershey Heartwarming Project grant from Youth Service America to hold a school supply drive to benefit students in the Fort Bend Independent School District. We raised $1,000 worth of school supplies! In addition, we even held free online arts and crafts classes for kids last summer. We have received grants from Karma for Cara Foundation, Random Acts, and America’s Promise Alliance to make snack/meal bags and care packages for low-income communities in our neighborhood and people experiencing homelessness. We are so thankful to these organizations for helping us spread kindness in our community and making us realize the value of service. We are also grateful to our parents, teachers, and NJHS advisers who motivated, encouraged, and guided us from a very young age to do good things and showed us how important it is to give back to others.
Five of us in our NJHS chapter have received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for the time we have spent doing community service. Although we are proud of the certificates, it is the thank yous, blessings, and smiles of the kids and adults we serve that will stay in our hearts and minds forever.
Our Hopes for the Future
Through volunteering, we have found a way to bond with our community, meet new people, collaborate, learn leadership skills, develop compassion for others, and have fun. We want to promote volunteerism among tweens and show others that no matter your age, there is always a way to help someone. Every small act of service can bring happiness, and it is important to help others so we can create a better world. Both NASSP and Ashoka, an organization devoted to helping young people make positive changes, have taught us the power of stories. We look forward to doing more community service projects in the future and hope our story will inspire others to give back to their communities, so they can appreciate the true meaning of “rewarding.”
Maya and Arjun Govindaraj are twins in eighth grade at The Honor Roll School in Sugar Land, TX. They are president and vice president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Mission Be A Resource (BEAR), and members of their school’s NJHS chapter. This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of NASSP’s Advise magazine.