Yesterday nearly 100 youth from Allen and surrounding areas had a visit from City of Allen’s Mayor Stephen Terrell while they participated in Radha Krishna Temple’s Kids Helping Kids event, a part of the Little Hands Big Hearts initiative to aid DFW area children experiencing homelessness. The youth received community service training and learned about the plight of youth homelessness.
These budding future activists watched a video clip interview of a homeless mother describing her family’s survival struggles as she tries to break out of the cycle. She describes her and her husband’s earnest efforts to break the inertia of poverty so she can provide more for her children.
The participants learned about the severity of the homelessness problem and how the number of children experiencing homelessness has been on the rise. Five years back when the Little Hands Big Hearts initiative was first launched Hope Supply Co, a leading volunteer driven non-profit serving 75 agencies in the 5 county wide DFW area that exclusively serve homeless children, had served over 45,000 homeless youth back in 2015. In the past year, the same organization served over 64,000 kids!
One of the temple’s principle aims is investing in youth. By inspiring youth to share, give of themselves, and experience compassion for those who have less we mold and shape youth today to make their own positive impact and lift the greater community. One young girl shared a quotation about the importance of lifting up others. She astutely explained, “when we lift others, it brings out the best in us too”.
“The youngsters had a chance to put themselves in the shoes of their disadvantaged piers”, shared Sunil Verma, one of the adult volunteers. “This was an invaluable opportunity for them to learn gratitude for what they have, but more importantly to learn to step up and share.”
Mayor Terrell encouraged the youth to get involved in their community. Shreya Bhat, Radha Krishna Temple president, explained to the youth the relevance of the Mayor’s work in the community. “We are so grateful to have had Mayor Terrell speak to the youth. With his long distinguished career of serving the Allen community and his many achievements during his tenure, the Mayor has been an excellent role model. His example demonstrates how much difference one person can make,” she explained.
When asked what inspires him to serve, Mayor Terrell explained, “all I do is plant seeds”. He added, “I plant them all around, and then I get to see some of them sprout. The joy comes from getting to see those sown seeds grow into something that has a positive impact on the community”.
About 100 school-aged youth from 9 through high school attended the program. The youth packaged about 68 personal hygiene kits for the homeless and also brought dozens of gifts for the homeless youth.
Near the end of the learning and serving portion of the program, the Mayor and organizers welcomed the arrival of Santa Claus to the event hall. Santa further inspired the spirit of giving in the youth, and invited them to celebrate the joy of giving by kicking off the holiday fun celebrations.
The youth had time to enjoy the indoor winter playland stocked with fresh snow, the bounce house and more. Parents and the children took time to learn about more upcoming volunteering opportunities for the Little Hands Big Hearts initiative. Little Hands Big Hearts organizers are planning a trip to The Samaritan Inn homeless shelter and to Hope Supply Co in January.
“I never realized that homeless children even existed. This program taught me a lot. I learned how much I have, and now that I know this I realize I can do something to change this, shared 6th grader Aaral S. “It made me sad to know that some of my classmates are homeless, that so many kids really don’t have a home like me. But I was happy to be doing some things that hopefully will help them and make them smile”, shared Devin M, a 15 year old participant.
With the amount of abundance children today experience, many parents wonder how to teach their children to appreciate what they have, to share, and become contributing members of society. “I know our aim is to give gifts to the homeless youth. However, the Kids Helping Kids program was a real gift to me and my family. This real life learning lesson was a godsend to us,” shared Seema Bahri.
Little Hands Big Hearts initiative will continue for the next several weeks with several ways to get involved and help. Youth can receive certified volunteer community service hours for their time and efforts. Adults and youth can become Little Hands Big Hearts Ambassadors, where they can work to inspire others to get involved or host a bright yellow Box of Hope and collect items for homeless youth in their own community or office.
At a minimum, may you be inspired to pitch in at least by bringing donations to your nearest Little Hands Big Hearts Box of Hope. Besides dropping off at the temple, Patel Brothers Indian grocers are hosting Little Hands Big Hearts bright yellow Boxes of Hope at their McKinney, Frisco and Plano locations. Additionally, Larkspur at Twin Creeks Adult Living Community and Alpha Self Storage in Allen.
If you would like to learn more about becoming an Ambassador, or other upcoming Little Hands Big Hearts volunteering opportunities, please contact the temple. Radha Krishna Temple plans more real life learning community service events through the year. Do let us know if you have any suggestions for community service projects or if you would like to be involved on a regular basis in the future.