Kids Can Also Run Charities

Kids Can Also Run Charities - The Scarsdale Inquirer

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BY HELEN BUSH

Just over a year ago, the concept of community service took on a new meaning for eighth-graders Maya Bharara and Ishwar Mukherjee. At the start of seventh grade, both students decided that they wanted to go beyond starting a school club and found their own charity. They called it 33Birds. Maya and Ishwar found support in their former Fox Meadow teacher David Besancon and met with him to discuss possible causes for their charity.

“As anyone who has been in Mr. Besancon’s class knows, 33 is a very special number. His father was a huge basketball fan, and his favorite player was Larry Byrd, number 33. We also used “Bird” because, birds fly free and reach great heights,” said Maya, explaining the foundation’s name.

“We knew we wanted to do something local, so that it would be easier for us to connect with the people we were helping,” the students told the Inquirer. “One of the basic human necessities is food, but unfortunately, many people do not get the amount of food and nutrition they need. Knowing this, we eventually decided to focus on hunger in Westchester.”

With this emphasis on local hunger, Maya and Ishwar turned to local resources to help address it. They created a 10 x 10-foot garden , from which they harvested peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, eggplant and other produce. All the fruits and vegetables from this and the middle school garden were donated to the Grace Church soup kitchen in White Plains.

After just over a year, the students are looking to expand the focus of 33Birds from White Plains to Edward Williams School in Mount Vernon. According to them, “90 percent of the students at Edward Williams depend upon the free meals they receive during the school year — these are often their only guaranteed meals. Over the summer, however, the children lose those dependable meals, and many of them hardly eat.”

33Birds is currently working with a program that sends children from Edward Williams to a summer camp run by Children’s Aid Society, “where they can get the food they need in a positive and fun environment.” This latest partnership addresses the needs of local children and the presence of local hunger. But running a charity, especially for students not even in high school, is not easy. Both acknowledged that “throughout the many things we’ve done, we have had to make sure we were keeping track of how much money we raised and spent, our profit from our tag sales, who we needed to contact, where we advertised, what permits we needed to get, and many other things.”

Besides organization, the students have had to confront the limitations of being under age. A long-term goal for the two founders is to have 33Birds recognized as an official 501(c)(3) charity. Such status permits nonprofits to be exempt from federal and state taxes and also receive grants from foundations. Yet Maya’s and Ishwar’s status as legally underage prevents them from doing the legal work necessary to become their own charity. Despite such obstacles the students plan to continue the 33Birds charity into high school. “We want the public to understand that there are people only a few miles away from us that are hungry, and that kids can make a difference. You don’t need to be an adult to help people in need.”

IMukherjee