By Cheryl Conway
A 12-year old girl in Short Hills is inspiring others to help children who are less fortunate through her new charity.
Etasha Donthi, a sixth grader at Millburn Middle School, established the Hope And Joy For Children charity in 2016. Through her talent with origami art, Donthi has so far raised $1,000 with all proceeds going to Save The Children, an organization that supports children living in poverty in third world countries such as Africa and Ethiopia.
Inspired from a school lesson about poverty and her mother’s donations to Save The Children, as well as her own eyes, Donthi decided when she was in fifth grade that it was time for her to give her hand into helping others.
“I felt strongly of helping others who don’t have food or water around the world,” says Donthi, founder and CEO of The Hope And Joy For Children. “Living in New Jersey, I go into New York a lot. I see beggars on the street; I feel bad for them. I want to do what I can to help them. I see these people and feel what can I do to help them?
“They deserve opportunities like I do,” she says. “They deserve a lot better than what they get.”
Donthi found her own creative way to “give hope and joy for children around the world” that are living in poverty. She started to make homemade origami art and sell her work with all proceeds going to Save The Children.
“When I got the idea, I knew it could become a success,” says Donthi.
She learned the art of origami “over the course of my life. A few of my friends taught me the art of origami. I love the amazing colors and patterns, to make it life-like. I found it very interesting; mesmerizing how they made it with just a few pieces of paper.”
The young artist uses resources from home and craft books to come up with ideas, along with some videos and tutorials. She makes different shapes and designs.
“I like to make ornaments and these cool figures,” such as a dodecahedron, a figure folded out of 30 pieces of paper which “takes a lot of effort and love into making,” Donthi describes.
Smaller items can take 10 to 15 minutes while larger pieces can take up to 40 minutes to make, she says.
Through her creativity, Donthi has crafted about 30 to 40 different designs available in different colors and sizes. While the dodecahedron is more decorative used as a showpiece, Donthi does create some pieces that can be utilized such as ornaments with tassels, bookmarks, “animals that look life-like,” cubes that can be used to put things in like pencils, for storage and even gift boxes.
Her pieces range in cost from 50 cents to $12 depending on the item and how much time the creation takes to complete.
While she admits her schedule “can get very busy” especially being on the school’s swim and dance teams, “and to have homework every day,” Donthi makes time for her craft. “While I’m sitting watching TV I can sit and fold some paper.”
Although she makes most of the art pieces herself, Donthi has gained support from about 30 friends and family members who help her sell her work and create. She has a large inventory waiting to be sold.
Customers can order through her website at https://23donthie.wixsite.com/hopejoychildren or find her selling her items at local stands in town.
In Aug. 2016, Donthi applied for a grant through Youth Service America (YSA) through its Friends For Change initiative. At the end of Dec. 2016, Donthi was notified that she had been selected as a recipient of 2016 Disney Summer of Service Grants.
Children ages four to 18 were invited to apply. Applicants with the best responses describing the services they planned to provide with the grant were selected, she explains.
“I had to fill out a form with many questions,” says Donthi, like how she started the charity and what inspired her.
“I was totally surprised,” says Donthi regarding the $500 grant she will be receiving from YSA. “I didn’t believe it. I applied just for fun.”
With the grant money, Donthi says she will be able to support even more impoverished children and raise more awareness to her charity.
“Our goal is to inspire others,” says Donthi, including her three year old sister who “comes to every event,” she says. “She’s very supportive. She tries to help me out a little bit. She does like to fold the paper, and all the colors, it amazes her.”
This young non-profit entrepreneur will use most of the grant money to rent space at the Bauer Center in Taylor Park in Millburn on Sat., March 25, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in her first charity fundraiser, The Disney YSA Fundraiser. Any small portion of grant money left over will be used for publicity like posters as well as origami paper.
The event will feature tables set up with her origami creations for sale, as well as products and supplies pertaining to the craft of origami. Her friends and family will be alongside her in her efforts as well as classmates and community members who have been invited to set up a table and sell their own creative ideas.
Some will be selling slime, crafty items, and other works of art, books or hobbies.
Donthi has contracted to have 30 tables displayed at the fundraiser with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward her charity’s recipient, Save The Children.
A public event, everyone is invited free of charge to attend and to buy.
Donthi’s goal is to raise $10,000. Her start-up costs, most of which were funded by her mother, were “maybe $100” to pay for paper and supplies.
“With the support we have, we can definitely achieve that goal,” she says.
“There are a few open spots left,” says Donthi. While most of the stands will be run by children, Donthi is opening up her table space to adults.
“They can share the table with someone; even if it’s a few days before, we will try to make it work.”
After this event, Donthi plans to hold other similar fundraisers. She also invites others to contact her to get involved.
Donthi can be reached at email@example.com or through her website at https://23donthie.wixsite.com/hopejoychildren.