August 25, 2020 / Source: The Bizz USA
By Haarika Kalahasti; Edited by Adya Kumar
Although COVID-19 has negatively impacted many small businesses, individuals have begun to step up to promote change. Another organization that emerged during this pandemic is Gift of Words, an initiative established by a high school sophomore from Texas, Aishwarya Balaji, who is passionate about STEM, along with community service.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, availability of education and service opportunities have been negatively affected. To tackle those two challenges, the high school student’s solution was The Gift of Words. Gift of Words is a student-led organization that strives to spread happiness and bring various people and communities together through words and actions. Its goal is to distribute the “gift” of affectionate words and actions to the world. When starting her business, she noted that “coming up with the idea was the easiest part for me. It was tough networking and opening it up to the world at first. Nextdoor really helped launch the Gift of Words. Many people in my area saw the opportunity and instantly took advantage of it!”.
The organization consists of two main activities: writing cards to send to patients, healthcare workers, and senior citizens, and participating in the mentoring program. The card writing program was created to give volunteers a way to earn hours while there is a current lack in volunteering opportunities. This half of the organization mainly targets middle school and high school students looking for service opportunities. Getting the volunteer hours is a relatively simple process with the Gift of Words. First, the volunteers fill out a google form with location information. Then, Gift of Words will contact you regarding possible locations that volunteers can send their cards to. The volunteer should then pick a location and email the hospital their cards. Following the completion of the card, the volunteer should fill out the service hour form to get verified! All of the information regarding volunteer work, and the link to sign up can be found in their linktree. So far, Words of Thanks has sent over 200 cards and has over 50 volunteers dedicated to writing cards! When Aishwarya was asked for the feedback from hospitals and senior centers, she said, “They were very sweet! They were delighted and grateful for the volunteers at Gift of Thanks for lightening up their day.”
The second half of the organization is the mentoring and tutoring program through which Gift of Words strives to keep children engaged in learning and doing activities apart from school! In the tutoring program, high school tutors teach students (Grades k-9) about the core subject of their choice during one-on-one sessions. Moreover, this tutoring program is entirely free, so it is recommended that students enroll in this excellent opportunity. On the other hand, the mentoring program is best for students who just want to have fun! This portion of the program is targeted to smaller children, but is open to all kids K-9. Some topics currently being taught include art, storytelling, crafts, and creative games.
Each “round” in the program lasts four weeks, as Gift of Words acknowledges that students’ attention span may be short. Gift of Words’ application for the September to October round begins on September 14th! The registration information can be found on their website and their Linktree in their Instagram bio. If interested and looking for more volunteer opportunities, consider signing up to become a mentor or a tutor for this organization. As of right now, Gift of Words has gathered over 80 students and mentors in just one month of launching!
The Gift of Words team works toward establishing itself and promoting kindness in the world of uncertainty. When asked how it was starting her own business, 15-year-old Aishwarya said, “It was worth it. At first, it was a bit tough because it was hard to do outreach and network with unknown people. However, after breaking out of that bubble, I was able to spread it out. It’s grown immensely, and I’m super happy how it’s grown so fast!.” In just one month, Gift of Words has reached people in over seven countries, spreading its outstanding services across the world. Her advice to young entrepreneurs and business owners is to “persevere. Just because it’s hard to start a business, don’t give up. It becomes much easier after you lift it and put in the effort to do so. It can be a little rocky, but just have faith in yourself. When you get through it, it will be worth it.” Her words of wisdom are incredibly beneficial to those aspiring to start a business of their own--it’s important to network and be persistent!
The Bizz USA recommends checking out, volunteering with them, becoming a mentor or a tutor, and even signing up for the tutoring and mentoring program at the Gift of Words! As a quick reminder, registration for the September to October cycle begins on September 14th. Be sure to sign up! With a compassionate mission to spread happiness through words and actions, Gift of Words has touched the lives of many people across the globe, and there’s no doubt it will continue to do so.
Please check out Gift of Words!