We All Have a Voice

FulfillmentHelping Hands

In 2007, two important things happened: I was born and my brother Akash, a third grader at the time, started an organization called Kids for a Better Future, or KBF for short.

Every year, Akash and his friends would support a different important cause involving kids around the world. Akash started KBF with the intention of proving to adults that kids have a voice and opinions and can actually make things happen, and that adults should listen to us. Akash and his friends ran KBF for the following 10 years, supporting many causes, including girls’ education in Afghanistan, an end to homelessness in New York, the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in the Congo, and the crisis of teen suicide in the U.S. When Akash and his friends went to college, my friends and I were in third grade, and we took over and continued the noble mission.

For the past four years, KBF has been a huge part of my life. I always look forward to our meetings, where I see my good friends and we discuss issues that are important to all of us and, what’s more, decide what we want to do about them. Coming together in KBF has helped us see and understand our privilege, because we all come from places where we don’t have to fear war right outside our door, where we have clean water in our sinks, always have food to eat when we’re hungry, and can go to school and get a good education. Whether we’re working on a project for the homeless or a movie screening for gun control, we always end with something we all agree on and make it happen.

More than anything, the organizations we support have told us they need financial support, and so a lot of our effort goes into fundraising. Since Akash started KBF, we have raised a total of over $130,000 and have given 100% of it to the organizations we support. We’ve raised money in many ways — film screenings, birthday appeals, and end of year appeals — but the largest fundraiser is always the annual walkathon in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

We always make sure to connect with the communities we support through hands-on work. When we supported Coalition for the Homeless, a group in NYC working hard to end homelessness, we went to Penn Station and handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to homeless people all around. When we supported the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC), an organization empowering immigrants (mostly Syrians) and strengthening their families, we were welcomed several times to their after-school program, where kids could come and work on their homework and have fun. They showed us an Arab dance called the Dabke and how to play a traditional drum called the tabla! It was fun and exciting, and we made friends with the kids there. One of my most inspiring moments in KBF was when we partnered with the kids of AAFSC and organized two kids’ rallies against Islamophobia and the Muslim ban. We marched from Brooklyn Borough Hall to the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights and sang “Imagine” by John Lennon. Passersby joined in our chants and even marched with us for a few blocks, and I’m sure that we made everyone feel hopeful about the future.

By far the best thing about KBF is the feeling of speaking up and showing the world that you aren’t just a dumb kid, but a person with ideas, opinions, and a voice. Every year at the Walkathon, we get cheers and people on bikes riding past, who say “good job” and give us high fives. It’s the best feeling, knowing our voices matter and aren’t just murmurs in an ocean of yells. I am proud that my organization enables me to prove to adults that kids can make a difference. When we supported the Malala Fund, I kept thinking about how Malala was shot for speaking her mind and even just going to school, whereas across the world, my friends and I are going to school and speaking up and we’re applauded for it. And what I take from it is how fortunate I am to have a voice, and how I have to use it for what I believe in.

Time has made us busier and busier, and there’s a chance KBF won’t continue this school year. Seventh grade has begun, and we will soon regroup and make our tough decisions. But whether or not KBF continues, we have all gained so much confidence and empowerment from it, and all of our lives are better for having come together in this endeavor.

Since I was born, KBF has been in my life, and it has made me who I am. I see pictures of me when I was a one-year-old baby in Bhopal, India, the site of the largest industrial disaster ever. My whole family had traveled to Bhopal to volunteer in a clinic that serves people affected by the disaster. My brothers Akash and Gotu had meetings with Bhopali kids about how KBF members back in Brooklyn could support their cause, and the baby-me was in those meetings, too! Looking at these pictures, I realize how much KBF has affected my entire life. Because of it, when I hear about a problem in the world, I don't think, “Well, that's a shame.” Instead, I think, “How can we fix it?”

Satya is a seventh grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, sing, and hang out with his friends. His dream is to become an actor.

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