12-Year-Old Sews Hundreds of Masks and Feeds Strangers

Amritha Mandagondi
Oct 27, 2020

Summary: In between schoolwork and exams, 12-year-old Laksha in Atlanta, Ga., found herself sewing masks for family and friends to help her community during the pandemic. Soon she wondered if she could also do something to help the many children who rely on school meals but have not received them during school closures. As people donated to her mask-making effort, she gave all the proceeds to a local nonprofit that provides support for families and children living in poverty. With a mom who sews alongside her and a dad and brother who deliver the masks weekly, Laksha says "this whole experience has been very fulfilling for the entire family and has restored our faith in the collective."

Munjal Shroff
Children and magic almost always go hand in hand. In their pure magic lies their honesty, imagination and love. One day, on our journey with KarunaVirus, we received a message from the aunt of 12 year-old Laksha Shroff from Atlanta, Georgia. The message spoke about how the child’s spirit of service and love for communities has made her an everyday hero.

Somewhere between homework, school and exams, she has been sewing masks along with her mother while her father and brother are distributing them. The money raised is donated to a local nonprofit by the name Tilman House Charity. Her day starts early and goes deep into the nights just so she can meet the demand and the deadlines. She named her project ‘Happily Ever After’ as she truly believes that the end to every story is always in bright light in spite of some absence of light along the way.

We got interested in her story and here’s a peek into the conversation that we had…

Today, the younger generation in particular is leading the way for all of us with immense compassion and love. I’m sure it will be inspiring to know about how it all started for you -- both the intent and the idea of your generosity?

Starting out is actually a funny story. My brother's friend Dhruv told his mom that “we should have Laksha make masks for us.” Then his mom texted my mom on their group chat with a lot of their friends, asking if I could make masks for them. Before I even knew that people wanted me to make masks for them I had 16 orders already, and I had to quickly look on YouTube and all over the internet to find patterns and how to make them. As soon as I found out that I was making masks for so many people, I was also thinking about how I could help the community during this time. I then realized that I could ask for donations from the people that I was giving the masks to, and thereby achieve my goal of helping children and families who depend on school lunches during the lockdown.

How did you feel when you started to see your idea ripple out? What were your initial thoughts and how did you begin to see it all together?

I was super excited to start everything, and when more and more people found out about it, I had to start making more and more masks, so I was a little nervous that I would not be able to make enough of them, but I was excited that this could help people. My mom and I kept sewing and working, inspired by the response we got and our desire to help children in our community. I was determined to fulfill the mission of our project, which I named 'Happily Ever After.'

Can you share with us if there were any special memories along the way that made your heart swell with joy and love?

I think that the entire opportunity was amazing and filled my heart with joy, which I loved. It was amazing to go to the Tilman House, which is the charity we donated money to. It was such an amazing feeling to know that I got to help the community, and use my hobby (sewing and design) for the greater good.

What is it about 'giving' that moves you the most? What is it about ' helping others' that excites you to keep going?

I think that one thing that makes me want to give is because my parents have brought me all around the world and it has really shown me how others live, many of whom are less fortunate than us. I think that every person deserves to get their 'happily ever after’. And if I can help them, with the proceeds of a project like mine, then I can be a small stepping stone towards positivity for a little kid or family, and that would be amazing. But yes, I do believe that I owe a lot to my family for instilling these values in me. They had always spoken of how disparities in life can play out and how there is more for some and less for some. I was always enthusiastic about working for those with less as that gives me so much satisfaction.

What did your friends and family say and feel when they heard about your gifted offering?

My friends and family have been so supportive and have helped me so much. Many of our friends and family now use the masks and donate to our cause. My mom helped sew the masks and my brother and dad have been going and distributing the masks every Sunday. This whole experience has been very fulfilling for the entire family and has restored our faith in the collective.

Often, many people who are interested in doing good work don’t take the steps to start. They may find it difficult to see a vision through or for whatever reason, they continue doing whatever it is that they are doing. Is there anything you’d like to share with them from your experience?

I would say that when things get tough, remember your cause and inspiration. Whatever it is that you are doing, make sure it is something that you love and have a passion for. I also think that it is so important to write down your goals in a notebook or something, or to keep a bucket list of all the things you want to accomplish. I’ve been writing in my journal everyday and I know that it helps me through my tough times. Sewing around the clock for my project took my sleep away for a couple of nights in a row, but what kept me going is the target I had in mind, and the goal to donate and provide food for those in need.

If you were to pick your favorite three learnings from your service to others, what would they be?

I think my three favorite acts of service acts would be:

First, to spread kindness wherever you are. I think it is so important to do random acts of kindness.

My second would be to use your voice however you can. It is incredibly important to stand up for what you believe in. If you think someone is being rude or racist or anything like that, you should tell people your side of what you believe in and hopefully show whoever is being rude, that 'hey this might be a better approach, you don't need to be that rude.'

The third thing would be to help people who are less fortunate than you are and to help people who are in need. Service like this has taught me that selflessness, helping others, and giving others a small piece of 'Happily Ever After' gives us more satisfaction.

This one's my favorite question. We are all living in an unprecedented time in history. How would you define this time for yourself and for the world we live in? How would you remember this time as you grow up and look back?

I would say that this is such a terrible time, but we have to look at the bright side. But, there have been amazing things happening to the environment. For example, in the Venice canals, there have been fish and jellyfish coming back to the waters. The ozone layer is recovering and pollution levels have decreased. We also have a lot of time to pick up old hobbies and to learn new things. When I look back, I want to cherish the goodness that these times would have left us with.

Lastly, how do you want us to end this incredible conversation? You could leave us with a message or poem or anything that you wish!

A message that I would like to share is that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Light always finds a way, and there is no way to stop it, and good always wins. No matter how long it takes, good will always overcome evil. So anyone who is reading my message, I’m doing my bit and I hope to see our collective come together and shine the lives of humans and all creatures around us.

[Leaflet for Laksha's project]

Originally posted on ServiceSpace blog

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