Our youth leadership story began a long time ago (in the 1990’s) when we were growing up in the state of Delaware. From a very young age, our parents encouraged and actively involved us in hands-on community service projects. They supported us in projects such as cooking food for residents at homeless shelters, collecting books and toys for Christmas donations, distributing toiletries at homeless shelters, conducting bingo games for senior citizens, performing dances at cultural events, and organizing food drives. We also organized several community service projects through our Sanford School Service Club, SAI Service organization and the Indo-American Youth Group. Participating in these activities opened our eyes to the hardships that many children and adults face in our community due to their health, economic and social challenges and encouraged us to find ways to help disadvantaged young people. In addition, it reminded us of how blessed we were to have a loving family, caring teachers and excellent educational opportunities.
Deeply touched by what we saw through our community service experiences, we were committed to working harder in school so that we could obtain the education and financial resources to make positive contributions in the lives of others. We did not want to wait to grow up to perform large-scale community service! However during this time, we were involved in a life threatening car accident and spending a lot of time in hospitals further made us realize the importance of a healthy life. Our family decided to use our second chance at life to actively conduct service projects to make a difference in our community and abroad. So while studying in middle and high school we started small projects that we could accomplish with our limited money and time.
During our travels and visits to our extended family in India, we were shocked to see the hardships experienced by children living in villages and slums. We were particularly saddened at seeing how a large number of young girls had to abandon their dreams of studying at school because of economic and social challenges and began thinking of ways to encourage and help disadvantaged children to fulfill their dreams of going to school and gaining economic empowerment. These included giving tobacco control presentations, donating books, school uniforms and educational supplies. Using the lessons we learned in school, we began organizing leadership programs. Conducting these projects really energized us. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response and enthusiasm of the students that we help. All these experiences have had a powerful impact on us and strengthened our commitment to work harder to make a positive impact in the lives of young people around the world.
The Tobacco Control Movement:
In 2001, after learning that Delaware’s legislators were debating an indoor smoking ban, Meghan decided to take action. As an asthma suffer she had trouble breathing in bowling alleys and restaurants and did not like being left out of having fun with her friends. Motivated by her challenges with asthma and her desire to serve as a youth mentor to prevent children from starting smoking, Meghan launched Sanford School’s Anti-Tobacco Action Club (ATAC). As Founder/President of ATAC, she recruited members, conducted research, prepared a multi-media presentation and gave presentations to school children in Delaware. She learned that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths and most smokers start as teens. This motivated her to make her peers aware about tobacco related illnesses. She spoke at legislative hall and wrote articles to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use. As the elected State Chair of Delaware’s Kick Butts Group, she worked with a passionate group of youth leaders to conduct advocacy events and prevent her peers from starting to smoke. In 2003, legislators passed a historic law making Delaware the second state in the country to become smoke free. This success convinced Meghan that young people have enormous power and can play an important role in making a real difference in their communities.
Using the training and experience she gained in Delaware, Meghan has traveled several times to India where she has given presentations to students in colleges and schools in cities and in villages. She has trained several thousand youth leaders to become passionate tobacco control advocates.
As undergraduate students at Harvard, we both continued our community service leadership activities and decided to expand and formalize our projects. Thus we formally launched Global Youth H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, Leadership Program) as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to train youth leaders and to conduct projects focused on improving the lives of disadvantaged youth.
In 2004 Sarina traveled to India and conducted a successful youth leadership training summer camp for children in a village in Mhow, India. She worked with local youth leaders to conduct fun health education projects for children of varied ages. In addition to tobacco control work, she conducted training in hygiene and mobilized children living in the village to clean up their village. She also organized arts and crafts workshops and at the end of the program organized a talent show.
Since 2004, we have expanded our community service projects in India. We have established a computer training program for disadvantaged children in India and have donated sports equipment, school uniforms, toothbrushes and books to children in village schools.
In America, through Global Youth H.E.L.P. we have conducted several tobacco control presentations and have organized projects for children living in shelters and in the Foster Care Program of Delaware. With our team of enthusiastic volunteers we have donated backpacks, school supplies, summer books, clothing and toys for disadvantaged children in the Foster Care Program and for the YWCA Home Life Management Shelter/ We have conducted a Youth Leadership Program for girls in Delaware’s Foster Care Program.
While having a lot of fun conducting our projects and volunteering with our friends, we have gained first hand experience in planning and organizing events. We believe that our community service has been an excellent leadership boot camp. In addition, we have received an immense amount of love and joy that sustains and energizes us. Thus, we want to share our experiences and lessons to encourage other youth to help them launch their community service projects and become leaders in their communities.
Sarina graduated from Harvard in 2004 and is completing her gastroenterology fellowship at UNC while also earning her Masters of Science in Clinical Research at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. Meghan graduated from Harvard in 2008 and earned her MBA at Harvard Business School in 2012. She currently works in finance in New York. We have a lot of ideas for new projects and in the future, as we acquire more skills and resources, we are passionate about expanding our projects to help many more young people around the world.
We are inspired by the hard work of the Global Youth H.E.L.P. youth leaders who are helping to quickly expand the organization. The team has recently launched an English training program in India, further grown the foster care backpack donation program, and expanded the computer literacty program. Thank you to Radhika Malhotra, Varoun Gulati, Ananya Singh, Mohan Malhotra, Anisha Malhotra, Dhwani Dutt and Dhruv Dutt for all of your hard work over the years!
While the needs and problems facing disadvantaged children are increasing, we believe that young people around the world have the enormous power individually and collectively to solve many problems in their communities. Thus, we eagerly share our experiences to train and encourage young people to launch their own projects for tackling problems in their communities.
We strive to pursue our mission.
Our Mission is to harness the power of youth by developing a global network of passionate youth leaders dedicated to creating positive change through health, education, and leadership programs.
Our success is due to the enormous support we receive from so many people who help us financially and by serving as volunteers. Our deepest gratitude to our family, friends, teachers, and organizational partners who support, advise and encourage us to pursue our vision. On behalf of the children who benefit from your generosity, we express our sincere appreciation for your support. Every small and large contribution is valued and appreciated. Our dream is that other young people will use some of our ideas to launch their own projects.
We hope that you will encourage and financially support our projects.
Meghan Pasricha & Sarina Pasricha