Vyas Sai - Inspiring Youth Towards Charity- Sai Walakathon - Walking For Street Kids
Vyas Sai Balabhadrapatruni, known simply as Sai to many, is a junior at Westford Academy with strong connections to India and Indian community in U.S. When he started thinking of raising funds for the Rainbow Foundation in India, he never in his wildest dreams thought he could reach so many people and raise close to $7000. On many of his visits to India he had seen children, of the same age as him, on the streets, begging or walking over to clean the car windshield, or selling small toys and goodies. He was confused as to why they were begging and why his parents were not handing over a lot of money to them. But he was too preoccupied with his vacation and extended family that he did not really spend too much time thinking about it. But his whole perspective changed when he visited India last year, and spent 2 weeks in Bangalore, as part of his graduation requirement for SAFL, a three year course in Sanskrit as a Foreign Language, which he successfully completed. During this visit, he got to take many field trips around Bangalore, to the tribal areas around the city. He found many children living in small shacks running around playing games and shrieking happily. He then visited the shelter for street kids in Hyderabad, called ‘Rainbow Foundation for Kids’, along with his mother and found his true cause. The center held elementary school age boys, many of them having been abandoned by their parents due to poverty and many other kids who had run away due to abusive parents. He was encouraged to connect to them and he did the thing he knew best. He sang for them, some Western, and some Indian classical music songs. The kids not only loved him for that, but also showed off their innate talents. Reading about homeless kids, he always thought that they are sorry and sad people walking around with gloom in their eyes. But this bunch of happy children perplexed as well as pleased him. It was explained to him that the kids truly appreciate the shelter and the safety it provides to study and be normal kids like himself or any of his friends. This made him want to do more for them, to make them happier, more cheerful and more normal.
Sai has been participating in local community, religious, spiritual, music, theatre, and charity related events since he was 5 years old. He has been introduced to the concept of charity very early in life. He has used his Indian classical and western music skills to raise funds. He has volunteered many times at Soup Kitchens. As a member of the National Honors Society at school, he contributed his time actively to various community service activities. Needless to say, he is no stranger to ideas of community service. He, with the help of his parents, started a project called ‘Kids to Kids’, and conducted multiple fundraisers. He raised close to $1200 to help sponsor the kids adopted by Big Help. He collected close to $1050 to contribute to the Boston One Fund for the Marathon bombing victims. This year, he saw the pictures of Nepali kids who died or rendered homeless by the massive earth quake and once again took the action and raised funds for them. But his desire to do something for kids at Rainbow Foundation did not die yet, but only grew strong.
So, this summer, after his final exams were over, Sai started planning for a fund raiser. His initial goal was a modest $2000. His initial idea, on his return from India last year, was to conduct a non-stop talent show, a talent-a-thon for 12 hours. Knowing many of the excellent dancers, singers and performers in the Indian youth in Boston area, he was confident his ‘Kids to Kids’ drive would be successful. But he had to drop that idea considering the expenditure and overhead costs that were involved. Then the thought of a Walkathon occurred to him seeing many of the various walkathons that happen in Boston area. He, along with the help of his parents proposed the idea to parents of other Bala Lahari children, and he immediately got overwhelming support. He appealed to the kids that *it takes less than a dollar to provide a kid with 3 meals a day*, which made a great impact on them and made some of them donate money from their piggy banks. He planned activities, delegated action items to other volunteers, made phone calls, sent emails and evites, and was able to successfully mobilize people to not just donate money to the cause, but also to walk with him. It was a true pleasure for him to see the contribution amounts go up and up on the web site he has set up for this cause (https://www.crowdrise.com/walk4streetkids). Looking at the response from his family, friends, and community, he raised his goal from $2000 to $5000. He was also happy to see more than 50 people show up for the actual walk. What made a more significant impact on him was the fact that the parents and kids, not only loved the idea of current walkathon, but wanted to make it an annual initiative under the flagship of ‘Kids to Kids’. In addition to what’s raised through this web site, he also raised additional funds by asking various corporations and banks, and once again through snack sales conducted at ‘Bala Lahari’ events. When $2000 seemed impossible to him initially, actually raising a whopping $7000 made him ecstatic. He is truly thankful to the people who donated their time and money, and also genuinely touched by their generosity.
Sai is in India currently, helping the Rainbow Foundation plan their first ever public fundraiser, a walkathon in Hyderabad, the proportions of which are a multitude of his small efforts back in Boston. But the organization truly appreciated the efforts by this young boy to raise funds for them, and acknowledges that this is by no means is a small gesture. He will be spending 3 weeks of his summer in India at this center, teaching Music, Math and English to High School aged kids, and connecting with them in any way he can, even teaching them music, and playing games. He sure will be coming back with more stories, anecdotes and experiences that will live with him forever and strengthen his resolve to do more for these children and other such noble causes.
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Raising funds for Boston Marathon Bombing Victims
Handing over the funds to Mr. Chand Pasha, President of Big Help, along with his fundraising partner, Nithya Yelamanchili
Walkathon for Rainbow Foundation
The website created to raise funds for street kids