Michell Spoden — In the efforts to overcome poverty and ignorance through public support, numerous non-profits are working across the globe. Even in our age of video games and finger-tip technology used for entertainment, not all teenagers take life as something about just enjoying themselves. Some young people are building platforms for helping the needy, thus striving for a change that will make the world a better place. Today I speak to two teenage school students who have started a would-be non-profit Speak 4 Change Foundation to help women and children locally and internationally. Meet André Luu and Hashnu Dasgupta and let’s hear from them about their initiative.
Michell: What are your names, ages, and position in the organization you are founding?
André/ Hashnu: We are André Luu and Hashnu Dasgupta, the co-presidents of Speak 4 Change Foundation. We are both 16 years old, and are currently juniors at University High School in Irvine, California.
Michell: What is your organization “Speak for 4 Change Foundation Inc.” all about?
André/ Hashnu: Speak 4 Change focuses on empowering women and children who are endangered every day, whether it is because of sex trafficking, child labor, or gender discrimination. Our goal is to raise funds to educate women and children, hoping that these affected individuals will return the favor one day, and speak for change. Because we hope to spread our cause and accomplish bigger and better things, even after we graduate from high school, we are currently in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
Michell: Do you currently work with an attorney putting your organization together?
André/ Hashnu: We are not planning to have an attorney to validate Speak 4 Change, simply because both of our mothers are highly involved with their own non-profit organizations, and therefore know the process to becoming a non-profit organization. Hashnu’s mother is passionately working for the Sunderban Non-Profit Organization in India. She travels to the village bi-yearly and distributes educational utensils (books, pencils, pens, papers) and clothes for the families in need. On the other hand, André’s mother is the founder of Viet Nalanda Foundation, a non-sectarian, international network for Vietnamese people who are followers of Tibetan Buddhism. The Foundation has sent Vietnamese monks to learn Tibetan and Buddhist philosophy in India and Nepal, helped build temples, monasteries, supported non-sectarian charitable activities in India, Nepal, and Tibet, and published various books to be freely distributed.
Michell: When did you decide to start this organization and where is it located?
André/ Hashnu: Speak 4 Change Foundation is a club founded in the summer of 2012 by André Luu and Hashnu Dasgupta. We are located at University High School, Irvine, California. Currently in the process of becoming a non-profit organization, Speak 4 Change has been working toward making a difference in third-world countries ever since its establishment.
Michell: How many people are in your group?
André/ Hashnu: There are more than 40 members as of now who regularly attend our weekly club meetings. We have a board which consists of co-presidents, André Luu and Hashnu Dasgupta; secretary, Nicole Su; treasurer, Michelle Lu; publicity agent, Shanjiv Ambi; historian, Romi Casey Sadlik; and webmaster, Pranavsai Iddamsetty.
Michell: Are your goals local, nationwide, international or all?
André/ Hashnu: As a charity organization aiming to help third-world countries, our short term goals are local, but we aspire to make a difference internationally. Our biggest ambition is to visit some third-world countries first-hand, and actively participate in ending social crises in rural areas that are heavily affected by these issues. By doing so, we hope to spread our cause and reach out to victims who deserve more.
Michell: Please tell us about how you mean to achieve your mission statement – educating women and children – as described on your website.
André/ Hashnu: As a high school club, we are limited in our means to raise money for charity organizations. We do the best in our ability to raise money by holding several events every month – such as bake sales, rummage sales, and dances – that guarantee the participation of fellow high school students. Speak 4 Change really values the involvement of students in social work. As for educating women and children, we are currently contacting some workers engaged in Bosnian, Bulgarian, Indian, and Vietnamese charity organizations which strive to increase the accessibility of education for young women affected by poor living conditions.
Michell: What are some of the main obstacles you expect to face during these efforts?
André/ Hashnu: The biggest obstacles that all new organizations face are activity and publicity. In the beginning, it was difficult to find students who were willing to take the time to learn about our cause and sacrifice their time to be involved in our events. However, as Speak 4 Change accumulates more awareness throughout the school due to publicity events and our Facebook page, we have been able to expand our membership. Although there are many competing charity clubs at our school, we take pride in the fact that our members are passionate about Speak 4 Change’s cause, always eager to participate in our events.
Michell: How will you evaluate the progress after you have educated them – the women and children?
André/ Hashnu: We hope to reach women and children who are affected by sex trafficking, child labor, and gender discrimination in third-world countries. Because Speak 4 Change strives to directly send assistance, whether it be through funding or supplies, Speak 4 Change will be in constant contact with charities that we donate to. In that way, we will be sure of whether our endeavors are effective or not.
Michell: On your “About” page, you state that “chapters are being founded all over the nation” can you share with us where else they are?
André/ Hashnu: At the moment, André’s friend, Nikita Shah, is recruiting members to found a Speak 4 Change club at her high school, Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School, located in Maryland. Nikita is expected to officially create Wootton’s Speak 4 Change branch in March of 2013. Because Speak 4 Change is rather new, we are still in search of volunteers who are willing to form their branches at their respective high schools. In the future, we hope to expand our organization locally, meaning in California, before spreading elsewhere.
Michell: Thank you both for sharing with our readers your good work!
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Speak for Change is also on Facebook and welcomes you to visit their and Like their page at http://www.facebook.com/speak.4.change.foundation.
About the Interviewer
Michell Spoden is a survivor of a cold case rape case and author of the book Stricken Yet Crowned. She has an associate’s degree in Business Science Administration and is presently working on her Bachelors in Project Management.