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(Prabhat is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Tax ID: 90-0618901)

Bowling Fundraiser

On June 7th, 2014, we held a bowling fundraiser at Rockaway Lanes, Rockaway, NJ. The money we raised went towards Prabhat, to be used for a non-profit organization that benefits rural villages in India. Specifically, the money will be used for early childhood care and development of children in the age group of 0-5 years.

Lisa Kintish of NorthJersey.Com is calling - It takes a child to help a village and Anthony Lusardi of The Citizen of Morris County is calling – Denville girls fight poverty by walkathon and others are calling an amazing event by 13 and 14 years old girls. Times of India, an Indian leading newspaper, is calling “Together for a cause – four teens from New Jersey”.

Shagun Vashisth, Shefali Kumar, Nidhi Mehra and Esha Jain promoting their Prabhat 5K Run and Fun event.
Parsippany is a world away from a remote poor village in India, yet on June 15, the distance did not feel as far when about 150 runners and walkers participated in the Prabhat 5K Run and Fun! and raised $10,000 for an Indian orphanage. The organizers of the event were the four members of YouTopia, the oldest of which is only in the ninth grade.

Shagun Vashisth (ninth grade), Shefali Kumar (eighth grade), Nidhi Mehra (eighth grade), and Esha Jain (seventh grade) have been friends for years. To someone meeting them for the first time, they initially seem like any girls their age, answering questions as a group and noting how much fun they have together. However, when the conversation turns to YouTopia and their interest in bettering the lives of less fortunate children around the world, it becomes easy to forget how young they are.

The girls were inspired by Prabhat, an organization started by several of their parents, whose mission is to "transform the lives of underprivileged children in both our native and adopted countries by providing them with education that lays a foundation for a better tomorrow and allows them to contribute towards the progress of their communities and countries."

The 3-year-old group is partnered with Nirmala Kalyan Samiti, which executes Prabhat’s projects in India, and Divine Onkar Mission, which aims to reduce poverty in some of the most remote parts of India. The proceeds from the 5K will go to Divine Onkar Mission to contribute to education.
In seeking to make their philanthropic mark, the girls enjoy that with their own organization they are in charge and can choose where to give donations. As they say, it is "kids helping kids." For them, age is not an obstacle to making a difference. They observed that this is the reason for the wordplay in their name, YouTopia, "A better world starting with you."

After the 5K run/walk, there were family activities such as face painting, a spoon and ball race, and toss the ring.

Reflecting on the day, Esha said, "I was excited and proud that we were able to organize a successful 5K that helped make so many peoples' lives better. Personally, I believe it is important to help the children of the world, because every child deserves an education and a safe place to live. The children we are helping are orphans or have parents that cannot provide a healthy and safe environment for them. We wanted to help the orphanage support more kids and help them have a better life."

Shagun offered, "When the day of the 5K came, it felt so great to actually see the event that we've been planning for months happening. The amount of people who came out to the 5K and ran, volunteered, and showed their support was unbelievable. Watching everyone outside, having a good time while supporting this charitable cause was an amazing feeling. Even though YouTopia was missing a member, the 5K was everything that I hoped it would be, plus more. It was like a big game that we had been practicing for — the practice paid off."

As to why it is important to her to help other children, Shagun explained, "Personally, I believe that helping children who are less fortunate is really important because someday, they will be adults, and if they have the education, shelter, and healthcare that they need now, they will be able to make a better life for themselves and generations to come. If a child can receive an education, he or she could grow up and do something amazing, like finding cures to diseases. A lot of the things that we may take for granted, such as school or a roof over our heads, they think of as a luxury. The 5K was a way for kids to help kids live the best lives that they can. They are kids just like us, and have every right to live a healthy, comfortable life."

Through YouTopia, the girls not only give to others, but also have gained proficiency in areas most do not encounter until adulthood.
Nidhi said, "Becoming a member of YouTopia and organizing the 5K has taught me more people skills, and helped develop better organizational skills. A key part of organizing the event was gaining donors and sponsors for the 5K, which involved talking to people about the cause and what we needed from them. This experience has definitely helped me become better with asking people for donations, and stay organized. We used tools such as Google Docs to keep all of our documents and spread sheets in order. Organizing this event has been a huge learning experience for me."

She continued, "Aside from organizational and people skills, being a member of YouTopia has made me more aware of the conditions that some people do actually live in. Before YouTopia, I knew that people lived in poverty, but it didn't really affect me. Now, after learning about the destitute conditions that some are forced to live in, I have a great desire to do something to help. I've learned that just because we are young, we can still make a difference if we really put our minds to it."

Esha said, "Creating YouTopia helped me with my people skills. I had to learn to talk to business managers to get them to donate food and help our cause. I also had to reach out to neighbors and friends to ask them to participate and donate. I had to learn to be comfortable going out and talking to them about the cause. It was a wonderful and extremely rewarding experience."

It is not clear what is next for YouTopia, but the girls do know that each year will have an event and the proceeds will go to different charities, the common denominator being health care and education. It is also their hope that their organization will become better known.
As Shagun observed, "I think it is essential to continue to help these children, and other children all around the world so they can be provided the opportunities that we are presented with."

Meanwhile, the girls can enjoy the fact that YouTopia’s debut event was a success.

Shafali expressed it well by saying, "I still can't believe the event already happened. When I woke up on Saturday morning, I thought: this is the day. All of our hard work and countless hours of effort will pay off today. And it sure did! There were so many people at the event, including runners, volunteers, and just people who came out bright and early on a Saturday morning to help support us! Not only did we raise a lot of money, but I felt as if everyone had a wonderful time simply enjoying each other's company and giving back to the community. I think that it is extremely essential to help and educate children all around the world because everyone deserves a chance. Every single one of us has potential, sometimes all we need is an opportunity. And what we are doing, in a small way, is providing that opportunity. I've learned so much through YouTopia, but I think the one thing that stands out the most is that our community and the world is so generous and so willing to give back. Now, I truly believe that everyone of us has that spark within them to change the world in a positive way."

Story published in Times of India

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