Barely 24, Anish Patel, the Founder and CEO of Uplift Humanity, started his philanthropic journey at the impressionable young age of 16! To say he is an inspiration would be an understatement. This #FeatureFriday we bring you his inspiring story.
Born and brought up in New Jersey, Anish Patel moved to New York to attend the prestigious New York University Stern School of Business. At college is where the seeds for doing something big to help humanity started to really bloom. When asked how he came up with the idea of Uplift Humanity, Anish said, “Uplift Humanity first started years ago as a project.” It was a simple idea that led to what is now a fully functional organization with close to 40 members working with him. Anish said that he used to go to India during summers and he “wanted to do something that wasn’t done before. No one worked with kids who were behind bars, no one educates them, no one gives them money, and they get released, commit more crimes and go back in.” Anish wants to become a champion against this recidivism. “They have no parents, or they have an abusive mother or an abusive father and they need a helping hand,” felt this young man at the age of 16.
Anish says “In the first year I thought why don’t I bring kids to India to volunteer with me, and so I brought 15 kids. I approached social media, made phone calls, trying to get to local newspapers somehow, and was able to convince 15 kids to travel 8000 miles away and work in a jail.”
“And that was how the idea of Uplift Humanity started. Eight years later now, we have 150 volunteers going to India and working at Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Gujarat.”
It was evident that such a big project required funding, not just for the children and staff traveling to India, but also for camping and approaching all the children who have seen more days behind bars than in an open environment. Anish enthusiastically explained to us, “I had to create a product for service, sell that product, and get revenue from that product and then I could actually fund my program once in India. So I started this thing called a Summer Program.” He did have friends with good reach, but he chose to create something that he could sell himself and use the revenue for funding the organization, a commendable thought!
For his Summer Program, Anish Patel took kids from America to volunteer at jails and orphanages in India, through which they gained a huge label and 18 days of altruistic work to their credit. The students paid for the trip, which generated the required funds. The Summer Program received broad acceptance and volunteers even came back in the following years to be a part of the program.
The feedback he has received for his efforts has him excited as he recounts an inspirational transformation story, “The one that resonates with me the most is about this kid we worked with for a few months. We went back to America, and that was when we only had the summer program. When we came back the following year, one day we were on the front page of the The Times Of India, and the guy read the article and came to our facility. He told us, ‘Because of what you guys taught me, now I’m released and I have my agarbatti (incense sticks) business. I am making less money than I would have if I was stealing, but I feel so much happier because I am doing something for myself and I am actually making money myself.’ It’s those transformational stories that mean so much more to you than all the data and statistics. We have so many more stories like that. Kids that we worked with are slowly getting employed.”
With SHAKTI, a soiree and fundraiser for Uplift Humanity scheduled for April 14th, Anish is bursting with excitement, “We want to showcase to people that these kids aren’t bad kids; they’re actually brave kids who have been through so much in their life. It’s called SHAKTI because it will showcase stories of the kids we work with.” The event will be a cocktail party featuring a video about the organization’s work over the last 8 years. Hosted by Kunal Lamba and bites donated by Michelin-Star Chef Hemant Mathur, it will be a night not to be missed. The event will feature entertainment and a variety of high end raffle baskets from local vendors to be given away.
What makes Uplift Humanity stand out further is the group of people on the team, whose average age is only 26. They have an innovative curriculum and an efficient approach to their teaching methods. They teach the children under their care, spoken English, tangible skills, and behavioral aspects.
As an American non-profit organization, Anish faced a lot of challenges in establishing and making their approach acceptable to the Indian masses. Bribery and corruption became huge obstacles, and surprisingly he says, “A large part of the program involved educating the government officials at the facility to say yes and even educating these local officials.”
The zeal to do good through hardships sparkles through Anish. His team taught the children even in the scorching Indian heat as the owner of the facility cut off the electricity supply. Anish and his team, along with teenage American volunteers have left no stone unturned in transforming the lives of the juveniles in India. As many of these children return to normal lives, leaving behind their days of delinquency, Anish Patel and his dedicated team have proven that it is not impossible to Uplift Humanity.