PENNSBURY – Since elementary school, Neha Gupta, now 17, has led an effort to help orphans in her parents’ homeland, India, by giving books to establish libraries in orphanages and helping youths to sew as a means of income.
Gupta’s mother, Amruta, is from Mumbai. Her father, Vikas, is from Dehli.
Their daughter started Empower Orphans in 2005 when she was a student at Edgewood Elementary School. She was only nine years old. The Gupta family lives in Lower Makefield Township.
Gupta’s is founder and CEO of Empower Orphans, whose mission “is to elevate the well-being of orphaned and underprivileged children and empower them to succeed, by helping them help themselves.”
Empower Orphans aims “to motivate individuals to translate their empathy into action, by providing orphaned children the opportunity to help themselves and be treated with the equality they deserve.”
To date, five libraries have been established. Sewing centers with 60 sewing machines have opened. Four computer labs were started. A water well was installed. Eye and dental camps were conducted.
Gupta recently received resounding honors in Washington, D.C. from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).
She was awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the organization for her international community service. Claes Nobel, a senior member of the famous Nobel Prize family, is a co-founder of NSHSS.
A celebration was held at Georgetown University’s Conference Center in Washington, D.C. with approximately 1,500 international attendees. The mission of NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and to encourage members to apply their unique talents, vision and potential for the betterment of themselves and the world.
Gupta is honored that NSHSS would choose her as a scholarship recipient.
“I admire NSHSS for its drive to provide students with the resources to
pursue academic passions,” she said.
This scholarship will enable her to be one step closer in becoming the doctor she has dreamed of being.
“I want to be able to combine my passion for medicine with my love for children,” she said.
Gupta has continued her family’s tradition of celebrating family birthdays by taking food and gifts to orphaned children in the mother’s Indian hometown.
Since an early age, Gupta has participated in this tradition during her trips to India from the United States.
When she was nine years old, the harsh reality of the orphaned children’s prospects hit her hard. She realized that there was no one in the world that really loved the orphans and they could not get a good education as they did not have the means to purchase school books.
Instead of just feeling empathy toward them, Gupta took action and decided that she wanted to help make a difference in the lives of the orphans.
Gupta, who wants to become a pediatrician, has raised more than $1 million thus far. The majority of the funds was raised by making and selling wine charms at community events, through friends and family, and by going door-to-door in various neighborhoods. A number of corporate sponsors have donated gifts in kind.
One-hundred percent of proceeds benefits Empower Orphans.
“Empower Orphans was born as a result of my annual trips to visit
my grandparents in India,” she said. “As part of our visits, I would volunteer at the Baal Kunj Orphanage along with my parents. It was there that my entire perspective on life changed and matured.”
As Gupta listened to the stories of the children and heard them weep, she was able to feel their pain in her heart.
“These children of my same age and ethnicity seemed so similar to me, and yet, we were living different lives,” she said. “It was shocking to hear that they would likely never escape the clutches of poverty because they lacked access to fundamental education and basic healthcare.”
Gupta felt as though it was her responsibility to take action to help them lead better lives.
Gupta has won numerous awards for her efforts, including: World of Children Award, Kohls Cares, Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Huggable Heroes, Caring Institute Hall of Fame, Power Of Children Award, Gold Level President’s Volunteer Service Award, Great Friend to Kids Award; Wachovia’s 2008 National Philanthropic Award, a bronze medal for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Philadelphia 76ers Hometown Hero Award, as well as becoming a finalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2008 and 2009 Citizen of the Year.
In addition to being the leader of Empower Orphans, Gupta serves as the senior representative to the Pennsbury School Board.
For more information, visit http://www.empowerorphans.org/projects/completed