At 15 years old, Neha Gupta has impacted the lives of over 10,000 orphaned and underprivileged children in India and the U.S. Her work as a child advocate began after volunteering at a local orphanage while visiting her grandparents in India. She was just nine years old at the time.
Neha says she started to build a relationship with the kids and was hit hard by how little they had and how different their lives were from hers in Pennsylvania.
"There was this one girl who was my age, and she was so scared about what she would do once she left the orphanage because she didn't have an education," Neha says. "It made me want to help kids like her all across the world."
Early on, when she spoke up about assisting kids with their education, people had a hard time taking her seriously. She says, "Adults, especially in India, would say, 'You're just a little girl. Do you really think you are going to change anything?'"
When she returned to her hometown, Neha ignored what they said and began her efforts by hosting a few book drives and selling goods made by the kids at the orphanage. With the support of her family and her community, Neha's endeavor quickly grew. Today Empower Orphans is opening libraries, computer labs, sewing centers, science centers and conducting health clinics in India and the U.S.
"Currently we support eight orphanages and have expanded our efforts to help underprivileged, abused and abandoned kids," Neha says.
Neha's work is being recognized locally and abroad, and recently the teen hero has been selected as a World of Children honoree.
The best part about helping other kids? "Seeing their smiling faces afterwards," says Neha.