Megan Foo's Blog

Our Featured Givologist of the Week: Avika Dua, Newsletter Editor-in-Chief

[b]Megan Foo: What is your background?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] I just graduated from Walnut High School, which is in Walnut, California. Most people haven’t heard of Walnut; it’s in Southern California. I was an IB Diploma Candidate, recently receiving my Diploma, and I’m heading to Harvard University in less than a month to start as a freshman, so I’m moving across the country and I’m very excited to become an East Coaster.
I’m really passionate about sustainable giving; I have run my own Walnut-based nonprofit throughout high school and I love the idea of giving and learning more through the process of giving, and that’s why I involve myself in Givology and nonprofit service. I also spent this summer working at a different nonprofit organization in the Inland Empire and it was a homeless shelter and food pantry agency.
I also love Thai food, boy bands are my kryptonite, and I like singing in the shower even though I’m not very good at it. I used to be a dancer for five years.
[b]Megan Foo: What are you hoping to study in university?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] I’m hoping to study economics and government as kind of a concentration and secondary. My favorite subjects in high school were English, History, and Economics, more specifically developmental and macroeconomics. Macro and history are where my interest in government came from. I’d like to marry the two realms and do something hopefully policy-related in the future after college, but we’ll see.
[b]Megan Foo: Why did you decide to volunteer with Givology?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] I had a friend who worked here a long time ago and she recommended to me that I give it a try because she saw that I was working with a nonprofit locally. She said that if you want to take nonprofit work to the next level you can get involved with this international nonprofit and for me, it was a lot more feasible since I don’t even have my driver’s license and I was a bit young to work at other non-profits. The fact that you can make so much of a difference from your own house regardless of your age or location was amazing to me. I just love what Givology does, and I also love reading the stories of specific students. After the recommendation, I went onto the website and saw that this was something that I wanted to do. I applied to be a development intern and I got a phone call; I was surprised when they told me to join the team right away. I was really excited – from then on I tried to involve myself in things related to the students that Givology sponsors.

[b]Megan Foo: Which nonprofit were you involved with in high school?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] We started one in Walnut; it’s called For All Mankind. Its purpose is similar to Givology’s, we provide financial support to poverty-stricken, war-afflicted nations and it’s local because we pool our community together for fundraising events. What we usually do is host a benefit concert and the money that we raise is how we get global in a sense. We pick an organization that helps somewhere that’s completely out of our physical reach. A few years ago, we donated money to a campaign called Falling Whistles which campaigns against the use of child soldiers in the Congo. Just this year, when I was specifically in a greater role with this project, we donated $8,000 to the Water Project, which is currently building a well at a school in Uganda. I loved that we got to pick the project location to be around the school as it will help them – when students don’t have clean water, it’s hard to focus in school, and they’re taken away from their studies because they have to travel so far to get water. The impact of creating a well there is actually manifold: you’ll see people healthier but you’ll also see them more educated.
[b]Megan Foo: How do you think your work with Givology has furthered your understanding of the state of education worldwide?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] Working with Givology has really opened my eyes to the different stories of people; that’s one thing that I love that Givology does so well through its website and interactive model. As Newsletter Editor-in-Chief, I’ve actually gotten a chance to read almost every student’s biography, and other times I’ve had the chance to read the letters and post updates from them. Just hearing about the obstacles they’ve been able to overcome or the obstacles that they are currently facing has shown me that the state of education around the world needs help. Working with Givology has really made me optimistic about helping though, since there are so many young activists who are working so, so hard to improve the condition of others. Because Givology has really great retention rates with each student and with each donor, you really get to hear the students’ stories throughout the period of their entire academic careers. You get to see how they improve and how little donations can aggregate to create significant, positive change in their lives.
[b]Megan Foo: Can you tell me about your experience as Newsletter Editor-in-Chief?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] Another thing about Givology that’s so awesome is that if you want to initiate a project, it doesn’t matter how high up in the rungs you are; you just have to reach out to someone. I told Joyce, the CEO of Givology that I was actively involved in my high school Yearbook, and I’d done a couple of newsletters for some political campaigns around here. I said, “Does Givology have a Newsletter? I’d love to get involved with that.” She said there was nobody spearheading the Newsletter at the moment, so she gave me that task.
Before that, I had been doing some of the marketing things. I’d been involved in a couple of different projects, mostly in posting different students’ profiles, and this allowed me to do that in more. I was really excited; I’d had some Yearbook design experience. At first, I didn’t really know how important the Newsletter was but the more I worked on it, I realized, after seeing how many people opened our Newsletter, getting some feedback from people on the team, that you really get to know what’s going on in the organization from it. I realized that it’s a very important tool that Givology uses to keep an engaged donor base. In the Newsletter, we constantly change content but we keep the sections the same. We have backgrounds on students, we have updates on projects, we have information on our partners and their projects, so it really allows me to delve into what Givology does and involve myself in every project that we’re doing because it’s my job to know the projects that we’re currently maintaining and promoting.
[b]Megan Foo: What are your hopes for Givology’s future?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] I think Givology’s future is very bright in the sense that we get so many new interns each day, that there are so many people who want to help. What’s integral to the success of an organization that’s completely volunteer-run is that there are people who are constantly joining the movement of young activists, who want to see a world that’s committed to changing the condition of those who need help. I hope that in the future, Givology grows not only in terms of its donations, but also in its impact. We operate in so many countries right now, but we’re already working to join hands with other organizations, to start new partnerships. There are so many nonprofit organizations out there with incredible premises and the fact is that every nonprofit out there could use something like Givology – some kind of online community where different people who aren’t sure how to get involved but would love to would get online and read about its amazing projects and funnel money through Givology to that specific project. It’s a very necessary thing in today’s world to have something like Givology around.

[b]Megan Foo: What does education mean to you?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] To me, education means opportunity. My very first blog post on Givology was dedicated to the idea that education is the greatest equalizer – that’s a Horace Mann quote. Another reason that I got involved with Givology was because I read stories about people who were my age, my counterparts in other countries, and seeing that they didn’t have the same opportunities that I’ve had made me want to work to finance their education. To me, education has always been a magical thing, I’ve always loved school and to hear about people who can’t go to school because of factors that are beyond their control is very upsetting, but also something that you shouldn’t just sit and worry about and wonder about – it’s something you should stand up for and try to change.
[b]Megan Foo: What do you enjoy the most about your volunteering?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] Listening to different people’s stories – I kind of mentioned that before. People come from different walks of life. A lot of times we see the person in need as a small, malnourished child, but often times it’s just people who are down on their luck, people who are strong and capable but just need some sort of help to get back on their feet. Givology does this so well. We really focus on featuring people’s stories rather than just telling people about it – we want to show people the impact of what they do. Volunteering personally for me has meant being able to see this impact and I find it a very big honor to listen to people and read about them and their stories. It’s always rewarding for me to be able to hear stories and be able to help people and know that the small things that I do will actually matter to them.
[b]Megan Foo: What advice would you give to someone who is considering volunteering?[/b]
[b]Avika Dua:[/b] To get up and to do it. I’ve volunteered with a lot of different organizations in the past and a lot of times I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at the beginning, but that’s the best thing, just to try something new, to get out there and volunteer. Go join Habitat for Humanity and build a house for your local community or make some sandwiches for a shelter. It doesn’t have to feel like a groundbreaking project to matter. I used to think that you had to be teaching English to a child in Sri Lanka to make a difference. However, I learned that change can start really small so even small volunteer work, even if you feel like it may not be particularly impactful, it really does help shape the bigger picture. Some of the most rewarding work is the work you do in your own community, where you can help the people around you and you can actually see the impact of what you’re doing. Definitely get up and do something, and start something if it’s not currently available for you.

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