Kids Helping Kids

Daily Point of Light # 7815 May 20, 2024

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

In 2020, when the world went into lockdown, searching for hobbies that could be done alone, ten-year-old Gaurangi Gupta was thinking about others. Of course, as a classical pianist and avid basketball player, she had plenty of time to practice her skills. But aside from spending quality time with her little sister, her favorite thing to do is read. It was while considering the latter that she began to worry about the kids who, with the library temporarily closed, wouldn’t have the opportunity to do the same.  

It was this realization, combined with her search for ways to stay connected with friends while school was online, that lead Gaurangi to create Youth4Us. Her organization promotes literacy, entrepreneurship and community engagement by finding and creating fun opportunities for kids to volunteer. Hundreds of kids have joined her in doing kind things and looking for ways to improve the lives of others as well as the planet. 

This fall, Gaurangi will be starting high school ahead of the curve with experience coordinating volunteers and planning projects and events. Her work is inspiring young people to help other kids in their community and setting them up to become lifelong volunteers. 

What inspires you to volunteer? 

My journey of service started when I was around eight years old. I volunteered to read to kids at my sister’s school. I loved when they asked questions and hugged me after I finished a story, so I started visiting more frequently. It ignited my interest in reading and gave me confidence. 

Tell us about your volunteer role with Youth4Us. 

I’m the founder. When I learned that so many organizations needed our help, it felt right to get involved and to raise awareness among other kids. I want to build kids up and create leaders with empathy.

Guarangi (left) with Annie Criss, camp director of Chestnut Hill Academy, where students worked on a snack pack donation project during Winter Break Camp/Courtesy Guarangi Gupta

We have many programs, for example, the Bookaid Drive where we collect gently-used books and distribute them to underprivileged kids in the USA and India. We’ve donated more than 2,000 books in the past four years. I also do the Children’s Business Fair every summer. More than 50 booths participate, and 100 kids get hands-on entrepreneurship experience for free. They learn how to draw in potential customers, manage customer requests, work around things when they break or don’t go as planned and other skills that can be used later in life.  

We also do the Three R’s–reduce, recycle and repurpose–Crayon Initiative. We work with BJ’s Restaurant and the Family Pancake House to collect used crayons from kids’ meals that would have otherwise ended up in landfills and donate them to hospitals, schools and other organizations.  

A few months after we launched, there was an overwhelming response. Now, over 400 active members from preschool to age 17 participate in volunteer activities and improve their skills at the same time. I organize community outreach events with the assistance of my seven Youth4Us ambassadors.  

What inspired you to get started with this initiative? 

The pandemic hit, and it was a very lonely time for children accustomed to being in school with friends. Our daily activities ranging from participation in school clubs to visiting the library were suddenly taken away from us.  

I used my lockdown time to address gaps in the community. It started with a book drive for kids who had been missing out on the joy of reading while the library was shut down. Then, I ventured into creating opportunities for kids by tutoring and giving virtual drawing classes to younger students.  

I set up a shared library in the neighborhood with my dad’s help and started a weekly virtual book club. It made my friends and me happy when we couldn’t talk to each other as much. I also decided to write a book and donate as much as I could to promote literacy. Little Vara Wants a Puppy is inspired by my seven-year-old sister, Varalika (Vara) and the experience of wanting a dog we’ve had together. All of these experiences propelled me to channel my love of art and reading into Youth4Us in 2021.  

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

I think the most rewarding part is just seeing progress. I was the first person to do the kids’ business fair a few years ago, and now there are many. It’s so rewarding to see people taking initiative, because that was my goal. Many of them have been inspired to start their own initiatives and nonprofits. Seeing them go out into the community and spread kindness has been amazing. 

Guarangi’s organization now has over 400 active members who participate in volunteer projects, from preschool to age 17./Courtesy Guarangi Gupta

Have you run into any major challenges and if so, how did you get through those?  

It was not easy to start during the pandemic. Everyone was worried about COVID, and the challenge was in how to unite kids safely, without exposing them–or myself–to the virus. So, I started a porch pickup with the necessary material to complete an activity at home and then drop off to be donated. This took extra effort, because I had to make sure everything was being sanitized.  

My biggest champion and mentor is my mom. She was confident that my idea would create an impact and has been continuously helping me overcome obstacles along the way. 

You work with a lot of younger kids who might be first-time volunteers. Do you have any advice for people who are new to volunteering? 

Find a friend and sign up for a project. Volunteering doesn’t have to be an activity do by yourself. You can absolutely have fun volunteering with your friends. For younger kids, just enjoy the process instead of thinking about it as an obligation. And think about how many people you’re making happy.  

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

Anyone can make an impact on the world, regardless of age. I started this initiative when I was just 10 years old. I hope I can inspire kids to start volunteering early on. You can absolutely start when you’re older, but imagine the years you’re missing out on.  

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

Kristin Park