Teenage siblings Shreyaa and Esha Venkat love to hang out together. But their idea of quality sister time isn’t about going to the mall or catching a movie. Shreyaa, 16 and Esha, 13 volunteer together as a sister team, a one-two punch against homelessness and food disparity that is their passion. The pair co-founded NEST (Newer Environment Starts Today) as a way to get other young people excited about giving back. It seemed to this dynamic duo that since half the world wastes enough food to feed the other half, raising awareness around food waste reduction could impact the rescue and redistribution of food to those in need. By partnering with local shelters, reaching out to youth through social media and marshalling volunteers to serve food and put together care and hygiene packages, Nest nurtures its community and its team of volunteers. Shreyaa and Esha’s volunteering activities are as varied as their skills, from helping with school events, feeding the homeless, offering technology workshops at retirement homes, tutoring kids at risk and coordinating book drives, these energetic sisters find joy in doubling up on the impact they can have by serving as a team.
Shreyaa and Esha are committed to making a difference in their community and they are today’s Daily Point of Light Award honorees. Points of Light spoke with them about their commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
We have a great passion for volunteering and community service! Every time we visit a shelter, we love hearing “Hey it’s NEST again with yummy food.” The joy in the faces we see is priceless. And it isn’t just about food when we are interacting with homeless people. We care for them by sitting down and hearing their stories, which gives them a sense of hope. We personally feel that everyone should try to be part of this meaningful experience at least once in a lifetime. We are inspired to give back because we know how fortunate we are and feel it’s our responsibility to help those in need. As youth, we are the hope of the future. We really hope more youth and teens get involved with their community.
Describe your volunteer role.
We founded NEST about three years ago and since then, it has grown from four members to more than 150 dedicated volunteers! We feed the homeless every week, help at local school and library events, organize food and book drives, and much more. We also celebrate birthdays and special occasions with our homeless friends by dropping off care and hygiene kits. Because we frequently visit homeless shelters, we recognize several familiar faces and make lots of homeless friends along the way. Currently, we are partnered with nine shelters and hope to add more in the future. We think that it is important to support our community in any way possible, and especially now with social media, to project positive messages to our peers.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Definitely the connections we have made. Not only with volunteers, also the friendships developed with the homeless people we serve are truly special. Kindness to us is sharing love and care to those who don’t get it and think they’re alone in the world. We are proud to have won the Outstanding Volunteer Youth Team of the Year Award hosted by Loudoun Cares.
As volunteers, we have learned how to adapt to hectic and unpredictable situations. We may plan to serve 25 people and then 45 show up. Sometimes we have volunteers who don’t show up or bring food. We have learned to adapt to the changing variables. How to lead and allowing others to lead are two skills that we have learned along the way.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
We are excited about our new partnership with the SOME (So Others Might Eat) shelter, local Girl Scout groups, and Children’s Tumor Foundation. We are looking forward to hosting another Sandwich Assembly Project and Thanksgiving feast for our homeless friends.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Giving back helps us grow and gain a different perspective on things often taken for granted. We strongly believe that even if you have nothing else to give, your kindness means the world.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
We would like to get more youth and teens involved because volunteering helps you to be more responsible, and you learn from it as well. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is, it just matters that you do something to help. As a team, we would like to be more involved to make a positive change in our community and our world.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Shreyaa and Esha? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written by Beth D’Addono.