At 23 years old, Anish Patel’s biggest concern isn’t debating Friday night plans like the average young professional living in New York City might; rather, he plots ways to expand his now eight-year-old nonprofit. Uplift Humanity began as an idle thought in 2010 during the born and raised Jersey kid’s frequent trips to his hometown of Gujarat, India. One summer, as his rickshaw passed by a structure known as a “facility,” he inquired about it–only to be told, “It’s a place for bad kids.”Those “bad kids” are, in fact, children stuck in desperate situations. Often abandoned by poor parents, orphaned or deemed “delinquents” for committing petty crimes, these youths are then shut up in rehab

Those “bad kids” are, in fact, children stuck in desperate situations. Often abandoned by poor parents, orphaned or deemed “delinquents” for committing petty crimes, these youths are then shut up in rehab centers where the surrounding communities avoid and neglect them. Because they lack proper guidance, care and education, these children tend to get into trouble once released and create a cycle of recidivismIt struck Anish that though there are numerous programs that exist to support other causes and crisis in India, he couldn’t think of one that targeted at-risk youth. “If everyone is saying these kids are bad,” he said, “how do they become good?”

It struck Anish that though there are numerous programs that exist to support other causes and crisis in India, he couldn’t think of one that targeted at-risk youth. “If everyone is saying these kids are bad,” he said, “how do they become good?”

The nagging idea in the back of his head ballooned after he returned home. Anish set upon organizing his thoughts into action. He wanted to bring a group of his peers back to India to help equip these children with life skills, but needed a trusted adult to chaperone such a trip. He approached his biology teacher with a plan. “When I told her I wanted to work with juveniles, she looked at me like I was crazy,” Anish recounted. However, her helped proved to be a strong asset in helping develop a curriculum that served as the foundation for engaging children.

In its initial stages, Uplift Humanity began as a group of 15 South Asian-American students ready, willing and able to give back to their roots. The group funded their own trip in order to be able to help groups of less fortunate children with whom they shared the same culture.The task was not met without challenges. Most children in these facilities did not speak English, which led to implementing a language requirement for all volunteers.

The task was not met without challenges. Most children in these facilities did not speak English, which led to implementing a language requirement for all volunteers. The growth of the nonprofit was so unprecedented in following years that Anish had to eliminate the language requirement in order to accommodate for the numerous non-Indian volunteers eager to join.“We realized we had to innovate,” Anish said. He described the current curriculum as being very hands-on and activity-based so that a diverse group of volunteers could get involved as well as being instrumental in “transforming the kids faster.”

“We realized we had to innovate,” Anish said. He described the current curriculum as being very hands-on and activity-based so that a diverse group of volunteers could get involved as well as being instrumental in “transforming the kids faster.” “When we get them off their feet, they enjoy being a better person,” he said.

Today, Uplift Humanity is a fully-fledged nonprofit that operates in multiple regions in India. To accommodate for communication barriers and establish an academic program, local teachers and translators are hired. Funds collected through the now-annual summer program enable it to be self-sustaining. Their official website sets up a call-to-action that allows any budding entrepreneur or passionate student to start their own campaign.

As far as long-term goals, Anish said that although the mission began as a way to educate these underprivileged youth, current goals soar far beyond that. “We’re trying to change societal perception, and get these kids employed,” he said. Apart from constantly brainstorming to improve the nonprofit, Anish works full-time at a strategy-consulting group. In spite of stress of essentially juggling two jobs, he strives to perform to the best of his abilities in both endeavors.