15 year old launches 'Little Helpers' podcast, showcasing kids making a difference
[May 31, 2021: Madeline Mitchell]
Rishika Jeyaprakash was 9 years old when she came up with the idea for her nonprofit, Little Helpers. She remembers the date it launched: July 23, 2015.
“I was always told to be kind by my parents and just like, if you ever see someone in need just smile at them, just try your best to help them out. If you see a friend at school who’s sitting alone, like, invite them to come sit with you and just stuff like that,” Rishika, now a freshman at Mason High School, says. “And that’s when I thought, ‘OK, helping by myself is one thing. But what if I could get, like, my friends to join me or other people to join me so that we could give back on a larger scale?' "
It's been almost six years since Little Helpers was formed, and in that time the 501(c)(3) nonprofit has led over 60 service projects, raised more than $16,000 for various causes and donated over 4,500 new toys to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“We didn’t expect it to grow this big, to be honest. But she has a big dream, though," Rishika's mom, Rajini Jeyaprakash, says.
Rishika told The Enquirer she was inspired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and her dream is to one day grow Little Helpers to that scale. She hopes to get there by inspiring other kids, too – kids that she's now starting to feature on a new podcast, "Little Helpers Big Inspirations," available on Spotify and the Little Helpers website.
Rishika says the podcast centers around interviews with different "kid changemakers around the world." She hopes it will inspire more children to give back to their communities.
“The whole motto of Little Helpers is to spread kindness and inspire kids to give back because I always like to say, like, I want to plant the seed of kindness in kids at a young age so that we can watch it kind of bloom into a garden of kindness," Rishika says.
Giving back 'means a lot to me'
Rishika started donating toys to Cincinnati Children's when she was 11, using her birthday money. She's donated to the hospital several times since, and her mom says it's inspired Rishika's younger sister, Joshika, to start her own nonprofit.
“So every month we used to have toys in the house before I go and drop it off at the hospital," the girls' mother says. As early as age three, Joshika "would never ask for it or she would never say that she wanted to take one.”
Joshika, 8, started her own charity in August 2019. Joshika's Jewels for Joy sells jewelry Joshika makes herself, and the proceeds go towards COVID-19 relief projects and toys for Cincinnati Children's. She also donated some jewelry to nurses and doctors at Cincinnati Children's, UC Health West Chester and Atrium Medical Center, as a token of appreciation.
Joshika says she enjoys making the jewelry and naming the different colored bracelets and earrings on her website, which she launched in February. Over the last year and a half, Joshika has made over 400 pieces of jewelry and donated more than 1,000 toys to Cincinnati Children's.
Rishika and Joshika appeared earlier this spring on BYUtv's Operation Awesome, a reality series that featured 10 young leaders and their service projects from across the country. Rishika's episode focused on collecting back-to-school supplies for Mason City Schools.
Rishika was contacted by a studio in New York last June, and the episode was shot in Mason in August. It was an "amazing experience," she says because it's been hard to spread the word about Little Helpers during COVID-19. They used to do service projects in person, but with the pandemic, they've moved most of their operations online.
One of those projects is Pay-It-Forward, a campaign aimed to support both local businesses and local families in need. Through community donations, Little Helpers has purchased $1000 in gift cards from Kala Coffeehouse, Tony's Pizza and Two Cities Pizza and donated the gift cards to the Mason Food Pantry, the United Way of Warren County and Warren County Community Services.
“After I donate I sometimes, people come back and tell me, ‘You know, your donation made a difference to me,’ " Rishiska says. "I think that’s what matters, like, knowing that I did help someone out today, it means a lot to me.”
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