When Amity High School junior Eesha Acharya used to go to India with her family as a child, it shocked her and saddened her to see the number of homeless people around. The effect stayed with her well into her teens and last school year, she decided to take action.
“As a little kid, I never realized the extent of the problem, especially in the United States,” she says. In middle school, she volunteered in a soup kitchen and found herself again shocked with how many people came in with kids for food and didn’t have a home.
So, she started New Beginnings, a club designed to help a women’s shelter in New Haven called New Reach. New Reach takes in thousands of women and their families to help them create a stable lifestyle. Acharya saw that since they take in so many people, that the shelter could use some help from volunteers to fundraise, make baskets, cook food and provide some basic necessities. “I walked into New Reach to talk to the person in charge and was so heartbroken to see little kids, including a two-week old baby that was homeless. I saw this as a problem that I need to help fix,” she says.
She started the New Beginnings club with friend and vice-president Claudia Lihar last year and already this year, has so many more members ‘doing so many awesome things,’ according to Acharya.
Lihar explains New Reach, “It gives homeless families, youths and individuals somewhere to stay. In times of crisis, they’ll help these people relocate and find somewhere to live. We think it’s a great organization, because not only do they help with housing, they help with food, clothes and their careers down the road.”
Through the use of shelters and peoples’ support of them, the number of homeless utilizing Connecticut’s homeless shelter system has decreased by 40% since 2012, according to the club’s leaders.
Among other fundraising activities, the club has run a backpack drive, asking for donations of gently used or new backpacks. They also collected towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other necessities. This year, the club held a clothing drive and a small kitchen appliance drive.
“In addition to fundraising, we also do activities with people at the shelter. Last spring, we did a Mother’s Day card making and cookie baking session. It was so cute, the kids put so many sprinkles on, you couldn’t even see the cookie anymore,” Lihar says.
Amity High School students are welcomed to join the club, which meets after school each Tuesday to plan activities and future fundraising initiatives.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent