The rights of vulnerable children and the right to participate
She raised over $1,3 million through her organization
Philadelphia, United States of America
Neha Gupta is a truly global child, she is a citizen of the United States of America, born in New Zealand to Indian parents. In 2005 Neha visited her grandparents in India to celebrate birthdays with the children of the local orphanage.
This was the first time reality dawned on her. Her young friends in the orphanage, who seemed to have so much in common with her, had no chance of an education. They faced malnutrition and disease; and they lacked love and support. Neha was shocked. She considered empathy to be insufficient, she needed to act.
The situation left such an impression on Neha, that she went straight home to the suburbs of Philadelphia and embarked on her first fundraiser. Going door to door, and reaching out to friends, she collected toys and goods for a garage sale which netted around $800. Inspired by her success, she sought further donations from friends, family and the general public. A year later, she returned to India with $5,000 to fund a library, food, clothes and blankets for the children of the orphanage.
In 2009, when she was 9 years old she started her own organization, Empower Orphans. Education and health are central in Neha's vision. Empower Orphans sponsors the education of individual children with food, clothing, health care and medical supplies. They also have established libraries, computer labs, a science center and a sewing center, in several schools in India.
As time passed, Neha saw that there were American children in her region who also desperately needed help. So why stop at only helping children in India? Neha made sure her organization expanded its reach to Pennsylvania. At her University in Pennsylvania, she started a Penn State Chapter for Empower Orphans op. The aim of the chapter is to encourage her fellow students to take action and to help underprivileged children.
What is truly remarkable about Neha’s achievement is the extent to which everything has been carried out by children, for children. Neha has empowered children and youth to become social actors, by supporting her organization or by starting social projects of their own. Children and young people in the USA, India, Singapore and Australia have all been inspired by her example, supported and guided by her expertise. She has achieved all this as a schoolgirl. And she won’t stop now that she is a student. Neha is an inspiring young woman who demonstrates, like her hero Gandhi, that you can "be the change you wish to see in the world".
''Winning the International Children’s Peace Prize has truly helped me to feel empowered.''
Supported by the KidsRights Care and Study fund, Neha started on a premedical track in college and dreams of becoming a doctor in support of the health of children.
KidsRights empowers Neha to be a strong changemaker for children who want to participate. Neha has empowered children and youth to become social actors, by supporting her organization or by starting social projects of their own. Children and young people all over the world have all been inspired by her example.
Read more about child participation
Child Participation means that children can discuss and co-decide on all matters that affect them, like family, school, community matters, government policies and legal policies. Decisions about children are often made for them but not with them. Child participation increases self-esteem and self-believe of the children. It is an important step in realizing the rights of children and also one of the core principals of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children have the right to be heard and the right to access to information.
Child participation is key in everything KidsRights does. KidsRights believes in the power of children and sees children themselves as changemakers. In support of Neha KidsRights sponsors projects focused on child participation.
Through the project fund on child participation a major research has been done in India on imparting knowledge about the need of children’s participation towards protecting their rights as well as the development of their community. The children are encouraged to raise their voice, to ensure their participation in taking decision on matters affecting their lives and rights. As a result a toolkit to embed child participation in community development is developed which will be used to further spread child participation in community development.
Through the ambassadors program 289 children in South Africa became ambassadors of change in 50 communities. The ambassadors followed a yearlong program that helps them to grow in knowledge, confidence, leadership and also to grow ideas of how they intent to being agents of change in their communities.
“You should not only sympathize with people, you have to empathize, and turn ideas into action.”
Neha is a founding member of The KidsRights Youngsters; a unique youth-led advocacy and awareness raising platform of the International Children’s Peace Prize winners, that aims to realize children’s rights, as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As leading young changemakers, they act locally, speak out to world leaders, influence policy, and engage children and youth worldwide.
In April 2015 Neha inspired youth at the TEDx Youth conference at The Dalton School in New York City. The central theme of the Youth conference was: What are you doing to influence your community for the better?
Neha spoke about youth volunteerism in one own’s community, her organization Empower Orphans and introduced The KidsRights Youngsters. Neha shared the message: we can ALL move the world! Neha’s inspiring story is featured in The Collective Project, a celebration of college students working to improve the world, initiated by Microsoft OneNote.
Together with Co-KidsRights Youngster Thandiwe, Neha participated in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth. "This is a good opportunity for The KidsRights Youngsters to let their voices be heard," she said.
This ECOSOC Youth Forum is convened to discuss the collaboration with children and youth in the development, implementation and evaluation of the new sustainable goals. Youth leadership, education, health and girl empowerment are highlighted as pre-conditions to achieve sustainable development.