By Erin Bissette
Privilege has been a much contested issue in the media recently; who has it, why they have it, and whether or not people with privilege are able to acknowledge its presence.
One Charlotte teen is taking that delicate phenomenon and using her own privilege to help those with less of it through her nonprofit, Foundation for Girls.
Foundation for Girls specifically helps refugees, victims of human trafficking, and homeless girls by partnering with other existing nonprofits, including The Relatives, OurBridge for Kids, Refugee Support Services, Galilee Ministries, Redeeming Joy, MYM Charlotte, and Catholic Charities. Volunteers bring the programs to girls that these groups are already serving to provide additional services
Shreya Mantha officially established Foundation for Girls as a 501(c)(3) in 2014, but the dream simmered for a couple of years before growing into what it is today.
When she was in 7th grade, Shreya’s parents encouraged her and her sister, Sahana, to meet and engage with girls from different backgrounds, which Shreya said was a wake-up call to some of the real-world problems other girls her age in the same community face every day. She started volunteering and observing how other nonprofits helped underprivileged girls in Charlotte, which inspired her to give back to them all of the opportunities her circumstances had afforded her.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that there’s so many girls that struggle and I wanted to help,” Shreya said to a group on March 8.
The desire to give back to other girls in Charlotte, combined with her preliminary involvement in the community, culminated into a true dream that was fully realized when her grandmother’s dying wish was for her and her sister to help the disadvantaged girls in the community.
Now, Shreya is a 10th grader at Providence Day, but Foundation for Girls continues to grow and today has five different programs. Each one partners with a professional in the field to guide the girls and volunteers.
The newest program is the Mobile Technology Lab, which focuses on helping girls break into the information and technology (IT) field. Every Thursday, volunteers bring laptops, (purchased with grant money) to ourBRIDGE for Kids to teach digital literacy to 4th through 6th graders. The curriculum, which Shreya helps develop and teach, trains kids in technological productivity, coding, and programming.
It is human nature to get swept up in the seemingly pressing events and worries of our day-to-day lives, but somehow Shreya balances a high-school workload and varsity sport while managing a successful nonprofit and keeping realistic aspirations for her vision. Foundation for Girls has a mission called Goal 2020 to help 2,500 girls by the year 2020. They track both the number of girls helped, and their total volunteer hours each year.
Shreya’s perseverance and awareness of community issues is inspiring not only to those she’s helping, but to her peers and classmates from Providence Day School who also volunteer as tutors. Ultimately, Shreya aspires to create a social enterprise that would employ the girls and young women served and use the profit to keep giving back to the community. After creating Foundation for Girls from scratch, Shreya said one of her most important takeaways is how community partnerships and collaboration of like-minded individuals can have such an impact in a community. Because she can’t attend every single program each week, Shreya personally meets with the executive directors and program leaders of each nonprofit partner to stay up-to-date on programs and look for gaps in the curriculums that can still be bridged.
If you want to support Foundation for Girls, the organization is always looking for additional corporate sponsors, partners, donation supplies, and volunteers!
Erin Bissette graduated in 2016 with a degree in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Throughout the month of March, SHARE Charlotte will focus on #GirlPowerCLT by spotlighting the work of some of our nonprofit partners and their volunteers who work to support women and girls in our community. Sign up now for our weekly email. We won't spam you. That's not cool.
By Erin Bissette