Walking around DC, we observe different types of people. We see well-dressed men in suits, always in a rush. We see girls sitting outside a coffee shop, talking and laughing with each other. We see a couple strolling through a park enjoying the scenery together. We see children begging their mothers to buy them toys at the store downtown. You may be thinking, this sounds like a perfectly normal day in D.C. However, if you shift your perspective slightly, you’ll see the world through a whole new lens. You’ll notice someone in a wheelchair on the street corner with a cardboard sign. You’ll notice men gazing imploringly at a coffee shop, stomachs growling in hunger. You’ll notice a woman sitting alone in a park, crying silently in frustration. You’ll notice a child counting pennies in a cup, hoping to afford a pair of socks.
Most of us would probably ignore them, thinking there isn’t anything we can do or someone else will help them.
But that’s not the reality.
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’re Shreyaa and Esha Venkat, an 18-year-old sophomore at Georgetown University, majoring in global health, and a 15-year-old junior at Broad Run High School, and we believe that it doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is to your community, it just matters that you do something to help.
Five years back during a visit to DC, we approached a traffic light and saw a man holding a sign that said HUNGRY NEED FOOD. Instinctively, we took out a banana, granola bar, and a water bottle from our car, rolled down our window, and called to the man. He ran over and gasped in joy as we placed the food into his rugged hands. We could tell he’d been through a lot in his life and that he needed this food more than we did. As if reading our thoughts, he said, “Today I was praying someone would be generous enough to give me food, as I haven’t eaten anything in days. Thank you for making my day!” We smiled and told him that everything would get better, just have faith. He nodded graciously and ran back over to his crate, stuffing his new treasure into a backpack that held his belongings. That got us thinking…
Our visits to DC became more frequent after that experience, but for a more meaningful reason. We were aware of the severity of the homelessness issue in DC prior to our interaction with the man experiencing homelessness. However, it was at that moment we realized how impactful 30 seconds of kindness can be and how much a simple meal means for someone, something many of us take for granted every day.
This inspired us to create NEST4US, a 501©3 non-profit with a mission to provide volunteer solutions to the community to make the world better through kindness! Our work focuses on three key areas: sustainability, quality education and leadership, and kindness. Through our five core programs, NEST Nurtures, NEST Tutors, NEST Inspires, NEST Kares, and NEST Buddies, we provide opportunities where anyone can passionately give back. By collaborating with organizations worldwide, we’ve impacted tens of thousands across the globe!
When we first started NEST4US, we experienced many forms of discrimination because of our race, ethnicity, and age, as many doubted the ability of youth like us to make a true difference. After all, we were only 13 and 10, how could we make an impact? Although these adversities created massive obstacles in our service journey, they’ve also motivated us to foster a community built upon mutual respect, inclusivity, and understanding. Our goal is to make sure no one faces the same discrimination we did when trying to achieve their goals.
As a teen-led nonprofit, we show people that you don’t need to be an adult, have any special skills, or be a superhero to make a positive impact on someone’s life. According to us, EVERYONE has the power to change the world! The key to building a better future is believing in the power of youth, and we’re so grateful to our community for believing in us.
When we first formed NEST4US, it was just us, two kids with a simple goal→ to help those in need. Now, five years later, we’re proud that our volunteer family has grown to 1,500+ people of all ages and backgrounds who altogether have contributed $900,000+ in value of volunteer hours! We may only be two kids from a small part of the United States, but we believe that with the vital traits of kindness, passion, and generosity, anyone, young or old, can make a meaningful difference.