Activist Empowers Community Youth and Families Through Art and Volunteerism

Daily Point of Light # 7765 Mar 11, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Sindhu Surapaneni. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

At just 15 years old, Sindhu Surapaneni is a remarkable testament to the power of youth activism and volunteerism. With more than 1,100 hours of service to her community in Spokane, Washington, over the last three years, she has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to making a tangible difference. Sindhu’s multifaceted volunteer efforts, from teaching art to raising funds, showcase her as both a young cultural enthusiast and impactful philanthropist.

Sindhu’s journey of service is marked by her use of diverse talents to foster change and uplift others. As a 2x TEDx Speaker, international storyteller, art and Bollywood dance instructor, and henna artist, she has contributed significantly to her community. Her involvement in various capacities, ranging from executing Bollywood dance demonstrations to providing visual art lessons, illustrates her dedication to spreading joy, culture and understanding.

At the age of 11, Sindhu founded Imaginations 2 Creation, with a mission to produce art that embodies positivity and hope. Through her leadership, the organization has reached out to numerous schools, businesses and multicultural organizations, teaching more than 400 free art lessons. Her Everybody is Loved Here art project, symbolizing inclusion and diversity, has been embraced by 22 different institutions across Washington, Idaho and New York, further amplifying her message of love and acceptance.

Find out how Sindhu focuses her volunteer efforts on helping her community through fundraising and the arts.

Sindhu leads an energetic Bollywood dance workshop, spreading joy and cultural awareness through every step and smile.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

At the age of 11, I became an art instructor, teaching more than 400 free creative sessions on Zoom and Facebook Live as an outlet for kids during the pandemic. I began offering workshops and selling my artwork, donating over $22,000 to local charities that support low-income families and unhoused individuals. My online classes helped me grow and gave me the courage and confidence to deal with difficult situations. I also find strength in the importance of my projects and messages. While teaching art at elementary schools at the age of 13, I also worked with elementary school kids to create more than 1,080 cards to be sent over to Ukrainian refugees with positive messages.

Additionally, I offer students free dance lessons in the style of Bollywood – a common name for the film industry in India. I also lend my time to local area grade schools, having taught over 50 art lessons at schools that don’t have art programs. These days, I have been busy helping many more organizations that help low-income families and foster kids while still in school, volunteering, tutoring math and performing and teaching free Bollywood dance as the president of Indian Youth Club of Spokane.

By teaching Bollywood dance, I promote cultural diversity and inclusion, inspiring them to accept themselves for who they are and accept others for who they are. Our dancers include neurodivergent, LGBTQ, seniors and kids who are supported through the Indian Youth Club by schools, cultural groups and organizations to promote self-care, empowerment and personal growth.

I recently started doing henna art in the community and at private events to promote my culture, inclusion and diversity while donating all proceeds to local charities. Money made through math-tutoring and henna art has gone to donating bedding to Sleep in Heavenly Peace Spokane, pajama sets to Embrace Washington and warm clothing and shoes to Jewels Helping Hands. I also donated my time and money to Toys for Tots and Family Promise of Spokane.

Why is this issue so important to you?

I personally feel everybody deserves to have their minimum needs met. I’m a compassionate person and have empathy towards others. Whatever their needs may be, I try to help them in any way possible.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

I want to use my gifts to create change, taking action to make a difference in others’ lives and putting people first by serving others.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

My ultimate goal is to further empower the youth. We do this through keynote speeches emphasizing the importance of volunteering, which helps the youth learn the skills to get their first job or start a business with the experience gained through volunteering. I also want to continue offering free Bollywood dance lessons that emphasize that “everyone is welcome,” making sure everyone feels they belong and is accepted. This initiative further involves establishing a business entrepreneur club and fostering collaboration with local businesses to provide mentorship to like-minded youth.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

Volunteering has provided me with purpose and community, while also improving my social skills, self-esteem and communication skills. The volunteer experience enhanced my communication skills, enabling me to deliver two TED talks and receive three Gold Presidential Volunteer Service awards (in 2022, 2023 and 2024) for volunteering over 1,100 hours across 3 years.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I’ve learned patience, how to deal with kids of different ages, solving problems, organization skills, time management and leadership skills.

Why is it important for people, especially youth, to get involved with the causes they care about?

You gain a lot of new skills and gain professional

experience. Volunteering brings people together and you can make a lot of new friends. It also helps you with mental and physical health and well-being. Volunteering makes you healthier with optimism, joy and control over one’s fate. It strengthens the immune system. It strengthens your community, and you get the satisfaction of getting involved in the community. Finally, it helps improve your confidence and promotes personal growth and self-esteem.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Choose a cause, identify your skills, determine your volunteering frequency, research community opportunities and then tap into your potential through passionate activities to find a suitable opportunity.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Sindhu? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Points of Light

We are champions of civic engagement with a mission to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.