Meet Shreyaa, a 17-year-old freshman at Georgetown University, and Esha, a 14-year-old sophomore, at Broad Run High School. Together these two sisters created NEST4US, a nonprofit dedicated to volunteering and making the world better through kindness, their mission is to empower the next generation of youth to make a social good part of their everyday routine. They have been creating “Blessing Bags” and volunteering at food banks and homeless shelters during COVID-19.
1. What made you both found NEST4US?
When we were little, our family would avidly volunteer together at local school and community events,
lending a helping hand to various causes in our community. We think that’s what was key: we’ve always been passionate about volunteering right from the beginning.
From our childhood volunteer experiences, we realized that there are millions of people in the world who don’t have access to basic necessities like food and some don’t even have families or loved ones. This is proof that the world needs people to spark change and build a better future. So, we thought, why couldn’t that be us?
We knew it was our responsibility as humans to give back to the people who need it the most. That’s the reason why we formed NEST4US as a platform for giving back to the community in a multitude of ways. We strive to promote inclusivity, inspire the community, and make the world a better place through kindness. Through our five core programs, we provide opportunities where anyone and everyone can give back in a way that interests them.
2. What challenges have you faced running your own non-profit?
In the beginning, we witnessed discrimination based on age, as many organizations doubted the ability of youth to make a true difference in the community. After all, we were only 13 and 10 years old at the time, how could we make an impact? However, we believe that one doesn’t need to be an adult, have a job, or even be a superhero to impact someone’s life in a positive way. Our own experiences of discrimination have motivated us to promote inclusiveness and diversity in the community and encourage mutual respect and understanding between people of different races, gender, age groups, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status.
There’s no form to complete in order to receive food, a kind note, and a huge smile from us; we give open handedly to all with compassion and love. Through social media platforms, we serve as advocates for positive change in the community and promote diversity and inclusion by welcoming people of all backgrounds to our volunteer family.
Another big barrier NEST4US has faced has been getting adequate financial resources. Financial support is really crucial to growing our organization onto an even larger scale. There are lots of grants available for youth-led organizations, but they’re certainly competitive. Since we’re a teen-led organization, we were self-funding and relying on in-kind donations, community support, and mini-grants from local business partners to run our programs efficiently.
As we developed NEST4US, we began receiving financial support, partnerships, and networking opportunities from corporate businesses and other organizations. In addition, our stories have been shared on news stations and media platforms like People, Variety, Lifetime TV, ABC7/WJLA, GMA, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, NBC Washington, WUSA9, among others. We believe strongly in the power of collaboration and are continually forging partnerships with other nonprofits to find new and innovative ways to help those in need.
3. What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The feeling you get when you contribute meaningfully to society is so fulfilling and honestly unparalleled. Giving back opens your eyes to so many diverse perceptions of the world, as it allows you to meet and connect with people of all different backgrounds. When you surround yourself with people who share the same passion and ultimately the same dedication of making the world a better place, you realize how truly rewarding it is to be part of something bigger than just yourself. Seeing people from different places across the world and of various ages & backgrounds come together with one common goal in mind, to help someone in need and spread kindness, is one of the best parts of the volunteer work we do.
We thoroughly treasure the connections we have made, both with the people we serve and with our volunteer team!
4. In what ways have you used NEST4US to help your community through the pandemic?
The pandemic was definitely a shock for everyone, as none of us have ever experienced something like this before. However, closing NEST4US NEVER crossed our minds because we knew that there would always be a way for us to help those in need, regardless of whatever circumstances came our way. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we’re still making an impact in the community by continuing to serve those in need. By adapting NEST4US in innovative ways, we’ve been able to reach and help people in need during the crisis by ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable in the community are met. Through our NEST Nurtures food redistribution program, we’re continuing to serve the homeless community, low-income families, and underprivileged kids.
In addition, we have expanded our corporate partnerships with Panera Bread and Starbucks, where we rescue and redistribute excess food to those who live hungrily. With safety being our top priority, we make sure to provide all our volunteers with appropriate PPE to ensure their safety on the frontlines of this crisis.
Disadvantaged communities have become increasingly vulnerable due to a lack of basic resources to maintain proper health and safety. However, we’ve made it our priority to guarantee that proper supplies end up where they’re needed most. Through our NEST Kares care package program, we’re consistently assembling care packages filled with toiletries and nonperishable food items and distributing them to those in need in the community despite the outbreak. Inclusive, good-quality education is the foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.
After witnessing the transformative effects of continued education in our own community, we set our sights on providing quality education and leadership & mentoring services for vulnerable students worldwide through NEST Tutors, our free virtual tutoring program, and NEST Inspires, our leadership program! As of now, we have over 750 tutees and tutors worldwide participating in this online tutoring program! Even with all the negative effects of the pandemic, we have still found a positive outlook through global partnerships with organizations in Zambia, India, and Vietnam, through which we’re helping underprivileged students achieve academic success while contributing to the UN Global Goals. Additionally, we provide interactive workshops and webinars that allow hundreds of kids nationwide to hear from renowned speakers & activists and foster connections that lead to positive change in the community! Additionally, through our virtual Kindness Challenge, people can spread positivity during these uncertain times through acts of kindness right from their own home! We also wanted to show our love and support to the Class of 2020 by sending them graduation congratulatory cards! We’ve mailed out over 400 congratulatory cards to seniors nationwide!
“At the end of the storm, there is always a rainbow.” Regardless of how bad the situation may seem, we believe that positivity and kindness towards others shouldn’t waver. Something good will come out of our current uncertain situation. However, now is a good time for people to reflect on their priorities and values and appreciate all that life has given them. Spending time with family, calling old friends & elderly folks, and learning a new skill or hobby are all great ways to occupy time in a productive and worthwhile manner.
5. What are some ways people can volunteer virtually amid strict social distancing?
Through NEST4US, people worldwide can virtually give back in a multitude of ways. NEST Tutors: Through this free virtual tutoring program, college and high school students can volunteer to tutor kids from around the United States through various digital platforms! Virtual Kindness Challenge: Through our Virtual Kindness Challenge, people can spread positivity during these uncertain times through acts of kindness right from their own home! NEST Inspires: Through this leadership program, people around the world can get inspired by our workshops and seminars from keynote speakers, changemakers, and community activists!
Other Virtual Ideas:
● Writing notes of encouragement to loved ones, the homeless community, frontline
● Families can make videos showing how they are being kind during COVID
● Virtual Vision Wall/Word Cloud: Share their vision for a better, kinder world through service on social media platforms
● Families can share their favorite kindness story/experience during COVID in a blog or video style
● Creating videos of families thanking first responders to the COVID crisis
● Checking in with senior citizens by making videos to support them and sending them cards
6. You were recently announced as an honoree of the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award. This is a pretty major honor. How does it feel to be recognized?
When we first heard about it, we really couldn’t believe it. It was the BEST call we’ve ever gotten and we’re literally shaking in excitement! Being recognized in front of such renowned presidents is truly a
We’re so humbled to receive the George H.W. Bush Award on behalf of our volunteer family, who have been such a great pillar of support. To us, the key to building a better future is believing in the power of youth and we’re so grateful to Points of Light for believing in us. When we first formed NEST4US, it was just us, two kids, with a simple goal→ to help those in need in our community. Now, four years later, our team consists of over 1,000 volunteers who altogether have contributed over 450,000 dollars in value of volunteer hours!
To honor the legacy of President George H.W. Bush through selfless service is something we are so proud of. It is so incredible to be acknowledged alongside extraordinary changemakers like Marc and Lynne Benioff, co-chairs of TIME, and Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani! We are so grateful to Points of Light for believing in us and in the power of youth to make a lasting impact. We will take this award as a motivation to continue making a difference in our community and in our world!
7. When is the celebration happening? Since it’s virtual, can others tune in or take part?
The George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards Celebration is happening on September 26th at 8pm EST. It’s a virtual event, so anyone around the world can tune in for this event by registering using the link below: https://www.pointsoflight.org/bushawardscelebration/
8. How is it leading this organization with your sister?
Leading NEST4US as a sister team is amazing because we’re able to enact change in causes we’re both passionate about and give back together, which is something we’ve enjoyed since we were little. We also have a special chemistry that allows us to bounce off of each others’ ideas quite easily. Volunteering together has enabled us to continue our family’s service legacy, of which we’ve heard many stories about from our parents and grandparents.
One of the best parts is that we talk about NEST4US all the time- at school, on the way to soccer practice, at the dinner table, and even on vacations! Serving the community is super fun, but giving back with your sister is the absolute best!
9. How do your parents feel about the work you’re doing?
There have been many people in our community who have inspired and mentored us since day 1, a
prime example being our parents. From them, we learned to put others’ needs before our own and never give up. Ever since we started, they’ve been by our side, supporting us and lifting us up to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. Volunteering as a family has always been the best and we really enjoy giving back together, even to this day. The giving spirit has always been in our family for generations. Our parents have shared many of our family’s service stories and experiences with us. They have raised us to be positive people and have been extraordinary influences in our lives and always will be. We think that’s what was key: we were so passionate about volunteering right from the beginning.
We really wouldn’t be where we are today without our parents. They have been extraordinary influences on our lives and always will be.
10. What occupies your time outside NEST4US?
In addition to being co-founders of NEST4US, we are academic honor roll students, travel soccer players, karate black belts, certified soccer referees, Kathak & Hip-Hop dancers, and martial arts instructors.
Many people wonder, how do we manage to balance academics, extracurriculars, and still keep time open in our schedules to give back consistently? Well, we believe that you don’t need to have time, you should take the time to help others. Think about this. We all block out time in our schedules to hang out with friends, watch a movie, go to the mall, etc. So, why can’t we do that with community service as well? It’s easy, fun, and you get to meet and connect with new people while helping those in need! Community service has really helped strengthen our time management and organizational skills, which allows us to put equal amounts of effort into everything that we do!
We may only be 14 and 17-year-old kids from a small part of the United States, but we believe that with
the vital traits of kindness and generosity, anyone, young or old, rich or poor, can make a difference.
11. Do you have any advice for other young volunteers or community leaders?
Through NEST4US, we emphasize the importance of spreading kindness and positivity always. Instead of doing something nice for someone else every once in a while, we believe that kindness should be a lifestyle instead of a one-time action. There are so many acts of kindness people can do every day that can make a difference regardless of how big or small the action is. The best part about kindness is its ripple effect. Once you consistently spread kindness and generosity, others will follow your example, and eventually, the ripple of kindness will spread across your community, and eventually the entire world. It only takes 30 seconds to change someone’s day, or even life, for the better!
By standing up and stepping up for those who feel most alone in this world, we show the community
that you don’t need to be of a certain age or background to change the world!
Website: www.nest4us.org Facebook: NEST4US Twitter: @joinnest4 Instagram: @joinnest YouTube: