Teen Interview With Nitya Devisetti
--Lena Kimura
29 minute read
Aug 19, 2020

Nitya Devisetti is a senior in high school in the Bay Area. In early May, she started the ‘Ma(s)king a Difference' non-profit organization to donate masks and cards to help those in need, and bring the community together. I had the pleasure of holding an interview with her to get to know a bit more about her, ‘Ma(s)king a Difference’, the struggles of being a teen in Silicon Valley, veganism, community, and much more.

Below is a transcript of our conversation.

Lena: I just wanted to know how you got ‘Ma(s)king a Difference’ started. I know there was a little bit of background on Karunavirus.org, but I want to know your thought process going into it, and what really motivated you.

Nitya: Yeah. In the beginning, my mom was donating money to India and I was like “Why are you donating money to India? We live here.” and she was like “Yeah, but I need to help my home. I need to help the people that live there.” So I was thinking we're not really doing anything in Cupertino; where we live, but we're helping India. Another country. I just felt like that wasn't in alignment. We were helping our home in India, but we weren't helping our home in America. So I was just like “Hm. How can I start something to help the community here?”
I've been playing team sports ever since I was little. I used to swim, I used to play tennis. I didn't really like those as much as basketball, soccer, volleyball, all those team sports. It was because I valued the sense of community, teamwork. I really like working with people, bringing people together, leading a team. It's not only about yourself, like in other sports that are more individual based. I always had that sense of community growing up. So I kind of wanted to incorporate those 2 elements; help my home and have a sense of community.
In the beginning [of lockdown], I was like “Oh my god, I'm not going to see my friends. I'm not going to talk to anyone; social distancing.” COVID-19 is one of the toughest times our world or our country is facing and it doesn't make sense to have a gap in our community. It doesn't make sense to do things on your own, go through this alone.
So all of those experiences in my life kind of led me to say, “I need something to bring people together, help people that need it, and have this form of teamwork, community, and being together during these unprecedented times.” Global pandemic: it can't get much worse than that. So that's what inspired me to get this started and it was so spontaneous.
I just got on Wix and thought about what elements I needed. I need a form, people to make masks, people to make cards because some people don't know how to sew and I wanted this to be for everyone. So I was just thinking, who can do what? How can I get people to get started? This was at 6pm on a Saturday night. I just stayed up the entire night, built the website on Wix, I formatted it. My dad woke up at 5am and came into my room and said, “Why are you still awake?” I was like “I need to get this done!” I wanted to get this started ASAP. By Sunday morning, I had a website, and by Sunday night, my mom had sent the GoFundMe link to everyone. I wanted to include the website on GoFundMe. So after she sent the GoFundMe link to everyone, I emailed my principal Monday morning and sent out a blast email to all of the other principals in the district. So that's how it kind of got going. A bunch of schools started posting about. When there's a need, it kind of just grows. It was kind of like a niche. It wasn't in Cupertino, it wasn't in our community, so everyone's like “Oh my god, a volunteer opportunity during COVID-19, a way to help out” because we don't have that. That's how it grew so fast. It's because it was something that wasn't there.

Lena: That's incredible. I totally understand that urge on a random night to get things done. I want to know how long 'Ma(s)king a Difference' has been going around, because you have quite an outreach at this point. Were there any challenges you faced, whether technical or internal? Take me through the process and the ups-and-downs of starting a non-profit.

Nitya: Yeah, definitely. So for challenges, I'd say that the biggest one was that during those times there were a lot of student initiatives. None of them that I was familiar with in my area had the thing that I was looking for. It was kind of hard in the beginning to be like “Okay, please sign up for this one because we can actually go places.” I actually didn't face too much of that opposition or struggle with getting people on board because there was no mask-making thing in Cupertino. There was one in our county and in our state, stuff like that, but there wasn't one in Cupertino. The thing with it being the entire state is that Cupertino only gets so much help, if any at all. I was trying to focus here.
Some people were like “Do I post about this? Do I not post about this?” Our school's ASB said, “No, we can't post about it because where do we stop?” Some principals didn't respond to my email. There was just that type of stuff. When we were raising funds, “How do we distinguish ourselves from other mask making organizations?” because they could just donate directly to people that buy masks for healthcare workers. That was kind of an issue. “How do we get people to see the difference?”
We aren't an established non-profit like 501(c)(3) just because the process is really lengthy and we've only been going since May 4th. It's only been 3 months. We did accomplish a lot in just 3 months. Another challenge was PVSA certification. A lot of people were asking me how to get PVSA certified and I honestly don't know. I just did the test and filled out the form and was like “Okay whatever. I'm probably not going to get certified' because it was so last minute. I didn't plan out for this.” I was so shocked. My mom got an email saying we were PVSA certified and I was like “Oh wait what? I didn't even pay attention to that.” I guess it was kind of like a lucky thing that happened.
The only challenges were really in the beginning of getting people on board, raising funds, that type of stuff.

Lena: That's really cool. You talk about community a lot and I really resonate with that. I'm a swimmer so it's a little different, but the whole sense of having a team and having a community, I relate to a lot. So from one person to another, and especially being a teen/young adult, how do you think having this sense of community has shaped you? Not just within 'Ma(s)king a Difference' and the pandemic, but throughout your life?

Nitya: That's a great question. I think everyone should have a sense of service or giving back. I just think that's part of humanity. We wouldn't be human if we didn't care about other people, or be selfless, or try to change the world in some way. I think the sense of community is so important for that because if you don't have a sense of community, working with other people, caring about other people, being part of something bigger than yourself, then you're not really human.
In literature, we studied individualism: the very extreme aspects of being an individual. We don't want to be that very extreme person. We don't want to be just limited to ourselves. We want to be a part of something bigger than us. If you have that sense of community, you can give back to someone else. You can help change someone's life. Just along those aspects, I think it makes you a better person to have that feeling. During COVID-19, people are starting to realize the sense of community. They're starting to care about issues bigger than themselves. I think that's so important and it makes me really happy. We're probably going to talk about veganism later, but that's also thinking about other things. You're not thinking about yourself. You're thinking about how other people feel. You're thinking about social issues. That's where it starts. It starts from community, empathizing with people around you, and actually caring. I think it's very, very important to grow up with that from the start because then it's just natural. It comes to you, you don't have to force it. I really encourage people to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Our world doesn't work that way. You can't just be along in your own bubble.
Lena: I think the whole community thing is really important as well and I really like the way that you articulated that. How you can't just be in your bubble, by yourself. It's just not realistic no matter how much you want to be alone. You also touched upon being vegan. Do you want to go over when you went vegan? What drove you to become vegan?

Nitya: Yeah, for sure. I became vegan in October of 10th grade, so that was over 1.5 year ago. It hasn't been that long, but it feels like it's been a long time because I've grown so much as a person. I was raised as a meat eater, so I have been eating meat a lot of my life. I converted to veganism for the animals. There have been major purposes like health and environment, things like that. But for me, it was for the animals because I have a dog. His name is Cookie. The empathy, understanding other beings and individuals. My dog is like a human that can't talk to me. That's how I view him. I was just thinking, “Why would I view a dog differently than a pig when a pig is smarter than a dog?” Pigs are the 4th most intelligent animals. To me, it was viewing all beings the same. I did not support the way that they oppressed animals or exploited them in slaughterhouses and factory farms. The way they use dairy cows; they take away the baby and artificially inseminate them. I don't agree with those values because I don't think forcefully exploiting a being just for a sensory pleasure such as taste is justified. I just don't think it's morally right, in my morals. I was like “Yeah, I'm not going to support this.” I just took action. That's kind of my personality.
I'm starting to see a lot of people step up and take action now during these times because people are actually starting to realize all beings are the same. Everyone is equal. There is nothing that makes one person more superior than another. Everyone has a basic right to life. That's just how I viewed it. That's what made me turn vegan because there's nothing that makes one animal more superior than another animal. If it's based on intelligence, then there are some humans that are more intelligent than others. As long as you can feel pain, as long as you have a central nervous system, morally for me, it's not just justified to inflict pain on someone that can feel it. That's kind of why I went vegan.

Lena: I went vegan for a similar reason. I was feeding these cows grass and it was kind of this “Oh my god, I'm consuming these beings, yet I'm having so much joy feeding them.” It is getting a bit more popular now which is great and I have like 2 other friends that are vegan. Is your family vegan? I know you have that Instagram account which is cool. How did your family react? What did your friends say?

NItya: There was definitely not that much positive response if I'm being completely honest. My sister is vegan. She's actually the one that went vegan first. She saw the videos on Instagram and was like '”Wait what? I did not know about this because if we did, then we would've been vegan a long time ago.” So she told me what happened [in the videos]. I've never seen those videos because I can't. I just lose it. As soon as she told me, I was like okay I'm going to go vegan too. That's kind of where it started.
Our parents were not very supportive in the beginning. They thought we wouldn't be receiving the right nutrients. They eat meat, so they're completely on the other end of the spectrum. They were raised differently than us. They were raised knowing that milk is used in religious ceremonies because a cow is a holy animal in our religion. It was just the culture, the way they were raised, they have different ideals. They were like “How will you grow up without milk? Calcium…” All that stuff.
There's always new research coming. Staying educated is really important as a vegan because you have to look at the nutrition, see how to balance your diet. I'm an athlete, so the diet part is really important for us. Protein was a major concern.
I tore my ACL in 8th grade and I had to eat a lot of chicken because apparently chicken helps your bones heal. When my parents found out we were going vegan, they were like “No, you tore your ACL before. You got injured before. How are you going to play sports and get enough nutrients.” So that was a major concern for them. When I went to school, people were just like “Wait, why would you be vegan? Just be vegetarian.” People weren't educated in how factory farming works. So it was definitely a very negative response people start making fun of you saying things like “What do you eat, grass? Plants feel pain too. You're the reason that there's global warming and deforestation.” In reality, that's not true because plants consume more plants than we do. That's just how it works. The crops that are used for animal agriculture destroy the soil. That's what causes all these climate issues. That's why people go vegan for the environment. It consumes way more water to make cow milk than to make almond milk, for example. In the beginning, I didn't know about all these environmental things. I didn't know about the health benefits. I didn't know where to get protein. All I knew was that I didn't support animals being abused like this. It was very, very difficult when people came at me with those responses because what do I say? Do I just sit there and be quiet? Do I just sit there and be like “Yeah, I guess I'm causing environmental destruction, but I'm not going to support animal abuse.” I didn't know the responses back then, so I was just sitting there taking hits. I got mad on the inside, but I wasn't saying anything to them.
I went home, I did my research. How do I come back to this? That's why my sister and I started the vegan account. People were like “Where do you get your protein? Plants feel pain too.” That account is like our silent comeback. We're not mean, but we stand up for what we believe in. The account received so much hate. All of the guys in my grade were just commenting “Get some Chick Fil A, it's so good.” 60-100 comments like “Where do you get your protein? Dogs and pigs are not the same. What does a lion eat?” Stuff like that. It was hard because they were people in my grade, so it's not like I could just block them or ignore them because I'd have to see them at school the next day. We responded formally, gave them the facts. It's nice on an online platform because you can respond after doing your research.
In the beginning, it was very bad. None of my friends are vegan. It was very difficult for my sister and me because no one really understood where we were coming from. No one really wanted to understand. Veganism has a very large, negative stigma. “Oh my god. They're probably not eating anything. They're probably malnourished. They're not strong.” Random things like that. I tried to tell my friends about veganism, they didn't want to hear it, or they came up with excuses. But finally, my sister converted one of her friends to veganism. And he then converted his entire family to veganism. The thing with his family is that his older brother is in my school, so we kind of had that connection. I was friends with the older brother, and my sister was friends with the guy.
We started going to Cubes of Truth by Anonymous for the Voiceless. They're this outreach group. My sister and I wanted to do a lot of activism, getting involved some way or another. When I was faced with a lot of opposition I was like “I'm not going to just sit here and take it. I want to do my research and try to educate people.” Once I had all that knowledge, I didn't just want to keep it inside because people really don't know what's happening. I wanted some way to express what I knew. That's why we went to Anonymous for the Voiceless. They hold T.V.s and a poster that says 'The Truth' and they set up in a square format. We wear masks in the demonstration. We have outreachers. What we do is grab people's attention that walk by and then we're like “Do you want to learn more about what's happening here?” and they say 'Yes' or 'No'. Then we show them footage of the animal agriculture industry, animal cruelty, all of that. Then we just explain to them “Are you familiar with what speciesism is?” and then we just go from there. Raise awareness, give them a card on resources on how to go vegan. Even when we were doing that, people were a lot worse. They were screaming from their cars. People were walking by with babies and being like “Are you crazy?” This restaurant owner came out and said he was going to call the cops. It was crazy. But it was a lot more rewarding because we were also able to change a lot of people. Even though we got a lot of hate, it was still amazing to see how many people are willing to change. Even that one person makes it worth it.

Lena: That's amazing. Like you said, your sister reached that one guy and that reached his whole family. I think that's so important to realize that as long as we reach just one person, that person can reach another person. It slowly sends out those ripples. You also talked about how you were raised differently than your parents obviously. In the Bay Area, the culture is also a little different as well and being vegan somewhere else is going to be a different experience than growing up here where it's pretty diverse. That said, the Bay Area is not perfect. So going to a public high school in the south bay, what's the biggest problem you see among other students? What are some challenges you see arising among yourselves?

Nitya: I definitely think that competition in the south bay has exponentially grown. I'm actually on the teen commission and what we do is advise the city council on teen policies. We combat issues that we see amongst teens in our community. Cupertino is known to be one of the most competitive school districts and has the most competitive schools, academically. Being on the Cupertino teen commission, mental health, competitive culture has definitely been one of our major issues that we want to combat. That's definitely what I see throughout the south bay.
People do everything for the wrong reasons, being college apps. I'm completely for pursuing your passion and listing it on your college application, but I feel like the lines get blurred. People do stuff completely for college apps. They call it 'pad' or resume 'padding' which is like the slang term. I don't think that's the right way to go about it. Especially with what's going on in the world right now like performative activism. Doing something for the intention of another thing, that's not how you should live your life because then it's kind of like a lie. I just think it takes some time for people to grow and mature and learn that life is short. You should do things that you love. You should do things for the right reasons. I can't change the culture. I was raised this way; your education comes first, college is everything. I'm Indian so the pressure is just extra high. We have a circle of our religion. We meet every month, or twice a month to pray to God. In that group, there is a lot of toxicity in the sense that everyone's competing with each other. One person is like “My child got into Harvard.” Another person's like “My child got into Stanford.” Then it becomes this one-up each other thing. That's kind of what our culture is like in the south bay. It's not only limited to my religion or my culture. It's seen throughout. I think that's a major issue because 1) mental health, and it really puts a lot of pressure on the kids and 2) it prevents them from doing something that they really want to do and doing it with the right mindset.
When people are doing something because they're doing it for another reason and not because they love it, their results are not going to be good. Like if I started 'Ma(s)king a Difference' just for college applications, then it wouldn't have grown so fast. The way I would write it on my college apps is “Yeah, I created a program where people create masks and donate cards.” I wouldn't have to continue putting in so many hours every day. I wouldn't have to communicate with districts, the city. I wouldn't have to push me to make thousands more masks because I'm not going to be writing that in my college apps. I'm not going to write that we donated thousands of masks. I don't have space to write all these numbers and all of these lists of things I'm doing, or list what I'm doing with other chapters. The reason we're doing this is because I love it. I love helping people, I love helping my community. I love working and seeing other people change their community. It's not like I can write this on my college apps like what other chapters are doing, because it's not related to me. I just think that people should really try to change their mindset, but that's one of the biggest issues I see here.

Lena: Yeah. Especially because starting a non-profit is a pretty big deal. And with how much you've accomplished, I think that's amazing. If you have any stories or anyone in particular that had a surprising interaction or something that stood out? Just from people you've met or with interactions on the internet or something?

Nitya: There's this volunteer, she's of African-American descent, and she's a social worker. She works in psychotelehealth, something like that. She makes hundreds of masks for us and whenever I run out of materials to give her, she uses her own materials and she sends them out to San Francisco. She works by day, and then at night she's sewing masks. She sends me little pictures by email and is like “I'm donating these masks and meals to the homeless today.” Just daily little things. She doesn't want recognition, she doesn't want her picture to be on the website. She doesn't do anything other than to help people. I just find that so inspiring. That was one of the first volunteers I came across.
There's another adult, named Seema. She came to me and was like “Just give me all the fabric you have. I'm going to distribute them among my friends and I'm going to cut it and make it into kits.” So every time I have like 50 yards of fabric, she cuts it and makes it into hundreds of kits in like 3 days. I'm just like “How do you do this?” She invites me to Teen Awakin Circles, and texts me pictures, and adds me to group chats with her friends. She praises me, connects me to other individuals. I didn't think I would meet all these people. I was thinking about this. I started this alone in my room. I couldn't see my friends. I couldn't meet anyone. I was just like “Oh my god, there's no social interaction.” And at a time like that, I'm meeting so many wonderful people that I didn't even know existed. I'm being so inspired.
Finally, Seema connected me to this other woman. She's a social worker as well. She volunteers at homeless shelters and all those organizations. She's like “I try to make masks on my own, but I don't have enough masks so it's embarrassing to reach out to other people.” So she contacted me and said “You have a ton of masks, I have a ton of contacts. Let's merge together.” She's actually the one who connected me to the Cupertino Union School District. She was like “You're going to be handing out masks.”
It's just so inspiring to see. I'm a youth. I'm not some adult. Society says you don't have too much power [as a youth]. That's kind of how it's been in the past. But seeing all these adults support me, like the city of Cupertino reached out to me because I mentioned 'Ma(s)king a Difference' in a teen commission meeting and a representative happened to be there. She reached out to me and said “Can we have your story for the website?” I said sure. All these adults find me empowering and that just inspired me to do more. It just shows how people care about what you're doing. People actually care about the community and they want you to continue doing it because they want to keep seeing change. They want to make change themselves, so that's why they keep getting involved. I didn't know there were people like that just because of all my negative experiences with veganism. I was like “Oh my god, I'm the only person that cares about everything. I'm the only one that actually wants this world to be good. I'm the only person that wants to make change.” A common response you hear is “One person can't change anything. So what if you're vegan? It's not going to stop anything. You can't change the world.” But like you said, the domino effect. If you change one person, that person is going to change another, and then slowly people are going to start changing the world. That's kind of like all we have to rely on as individuals. If one person makes a change, then it's bound to make an overall impact on that world and that's what you got to hope for. Seeing all these individuals step up, especially these adults that are being supportive of me, a youth, instead of other adult organizations, they're coming to me and saying “I'm willing to support you.” It truly does mean a lot and inspires me to do better and make more change.

Lena: Wow. The whole thing about being supported by adults… Also, it's funny you mention Seema because her husband leads the Teen Awakin Circles online and he's actually the one that told me about you initially to reach out.

Nitya: See! This is what I mean. They care about me so much, it makes me so grateful.

Lena: Yeah and we're always told that our generation is the one to change the world and then my thought process is like “Well, you're still alive too.” Our parents are still alive. There's nothing stopping them from changing the world as well, but I think that's just so funny. What a small world. Our communities are all just so interconnected in that sense.
Now, just to get to know you a little bit. I guess this is a cheesy question, but where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Nitya: So in 10 years, I'll be 27. I see myself in med school, if not, then residency. I do want to become a doctor. I'm thinking either orthopedic or cardiothoracic surgery just because I really do like surgery. It's ironic because sewing masks. I really like surgery because of the hand-eye coordination, the motor skills, stuff like that. I've always had a knack for being delicate, so I just like surgery. I also really like anatomy. I like memorizing things and procedures.
I really think cardiothoracic surgery would be fun. But orthopedic surgery because I did tear my ACL playing sports. Sports have definitely played a large role in shaping me as a human being and I've had so many injuries, I've seen so many injuries. I intern with the athletic trainer at my school, and I started a program at my school for that to happen for other students. I just find it very fun to be on the field, see things happen, the adrenaline of fixing people. Stuff like that. I really love it. Orthopedic surgery has definitely caught my eye as well. So yeah, medicine is the goal.
Personally, I want to have a lot of pets. I always tell my friends that I want a pet pig named Bean. I'm kind of known for it; having a pig named Bean. That makes me really happy to think about it. So yeah, that's kind of where I see myself in 10 years.

Lena: That's really cool. Just having an end goal in mind is really amazing. You keep talking about all these things that you've started and created and it's just so inspiring. I'm thinking now “Oh my god. What's stopping me from just going out and pursuing this idea?” I think that's a really inspiring thing to keep in mind because we're always thinking “I'll do this later... next time....” What are your thoughts for people that want to get a project started or that have an idea and just don't know where to begin?

Nitya: It's overwhelming when you have a thought and you don't know how to get started, so either talking about it to someone just to be like I'm going to do this, this is how it's going to get started. When you're talking, the flow just happens. That's where the passion comes in. If this is something you believe in, you're not going to stop thinking about it. It's going to be on your mind. It's going to be something you really want to pursue.
I can just briefly touch on the internship with my athletic trainer. I really like sports medicine. I liked taping people up. I didn't know how to do it, though. Our school's medicine club was new. I just knew that I wanted to help people with sports injuries because I knew so much about it. I knew almost everything that I needed to know to be on the field. I basically just went to the athletic trainer and asked “Can I please volunteer with you?” and he was like “Sure! I definitely want you here.” I was just thinking about myself because I knew that this was what I wanted to do. When you find someone that can help you, when you find a mentor, when you find that person that can guide you/give you the resources to do it, then you can get started by yourself from there.
Then I was like “Wait, there are probably a ton of other people who have the same interest as me.” It's not a competition to me, it's not like “Oh my god, I'm the only person in my entire school that interns with the athletic trainer. This is gonna look great on college apps.” No! I was thinking more about how I love this so much. There are people out there that are going to love it as much as me. That was my thought process. So I was just like I'm going to tell the athletic trainer that I'm going to get more people on board. I'm going to get him more help. He is one trainer and there are hundreds of athletes in our school. He has to tend to all of those athletes, all of those sports in one season. I play basketball; I can't intern with him when I have the season. So I was like, “We both need people to intern with you. I want to help people pursue their passion, and you need help.” So a mutually beneficial relationship.
That's how you can approach someone that can give you the guidance and resources. Even when you're applying to college, you're trying to say “I am a good student for this college.” You're trying to advertise yourself as a person. Whenever you're trying to pursue something, try to put yourself out there. Show why you are the one for the job.
I was like “Okay, I'm going to give you all of these volunteers through my sports-med club, and you can teach them how to do sports injury stuff.” It was literally the most insignificant idea. There were like 5 people that signed up. It's not that many people. It wasn't a huge success, but I still loved doing it because that's my passion. Even if it isn't successful, even if it's insignificant, if you really believe in it, you can make it happen. That's kind of why people say they want passionate individuals. If you're doing it for college apps, you're not going to like it. You're not going to make it happen. You're not going to want to do it at all. You're only going to do it if that's what you really want to do. I guess if you really want to start something, try to find someone that can support you and that you can talk through the process with. Plan it out so you're not overwhelmed. It's very easy to say “It's not worth it, it's not going to look good on college apps.” Finding the driving source; the need. Why did you think of this idea? Why do you want to execute it? How are you going to do it? That would be a good place to start.

Lena: You have so much wisdom. Your morals are so set and stone, and you sound very confident in what you're saying. I just want to know where that comes from. You stand up for what you believe in and in veganism, you believed what you believed and you got a lot of backlash for it and here you are still vegan and advocating for it. Where do are your morals rooted from?

Nitya: I get asked that a lot. The idea of integrity. This is kind of weird to bring up, but I don't cheat. I refuse to cheat, I refuse to help people cheat. No one even asks me anymore. In 9th grade, people were like “Hey, what did you see on the test? Do you have answers? Do you want answers?” I refuse to do that because I believe in this idea of karma and integrity. It's the adherence to your morals. It's your willingness to adhere to your moral values.
My dad is really religious. I'm not that religious, but I'm superstitious and spiritual. He taught me this value of karma which is basically if you do good, good will come back to you. Even when you're being selfless, even when you're helping other people, it'll always come back to you one way or another. Hard work pays off, because you're putting in the work. If you stick to your morals; if you don't cheat today, you will do good in the future. If you cheat today, you will struggle in college for that exact reason. That's just how my mind thinks. If I save these thousands of lives with these masks, if I bring the community together, if I'm the one to do it, somewhere in the future, I will be helped. Everyone that knows me knows that I believe in karma because I've always talked about it. Being very close to my morals. I feel like if everyone lived in alignment with their morals, our world would be a lot better of a place. People don't want other people to be hurt. I don't think it's in human nature. Maybe there are those exceptions, but the majority of people want peace. They want equality, they want things to be right in the world. If they lived in alignment and actually took action, then we would not have that many problems.
I think about myself. If I do this, then it'll help me. But in the process of it helping me, it'll help so many other people. When you're helping other people, it'll help you. It's kind of like a paradox.

Lena: Yeah. In school, a lot of times karma's only referenced when you do something bad. So I guess to close off, is there a role model, or someone you admire? It could be anyone.

Nitya: I definitely admire my parents. If I had to choose one person, I'm not going to choose between my parents. I'd say it's my sister. A lot of people have to work very hard to be good natured and they have to work very hard to give up something they love and be selfless. Even if it's the littlest thing.
I went to a red cross camp and we all got water bottles. This one girl's water bottle broke, or she lost it, or something like that. I had my water bottle and was just thinking “Should I give her my water bottle? I really, really, really like this water bottle and I really want to take it home and drink from it. It's so cool it has this red cross symbol on it.” Then I thought about it. My sister would've automatically given this to her. My sister would've given this up in a moment because it's just her nature. She was born selfless. I respect that so much. A lot of her values influence me. She's the one that told me about veganism. I gave that girl my water bottle because I knew that's what my sister would do if she were in my position. I hadn't even thought about that until now. She's actually younger than me too, by 2 years. You know how people say 'age is wisdom'. My sister is that exception. She's taught me so much. She's a good-hearted person and she spends a lot of time helping other people, and living for other people. She always makes me food. She always helps clean the house. She always helps my dad garden. It's just her thing to help people. I'm so happy that she's my role model to be inspired to do the same.

Lena: The whole thing about age... This whole time I thought you were talking about an older sister. It's just so amazing that these values transcend the means of age and all of that. I want to say thank you for joining me for this whole hour. It's crazy how connected we are and we didn't even know. Thank you for joining me! You hold so much wisdom and maybe you hear this a lot, but you're truly inspiring in your drive and ambition, and the intentions that you set are just so pure. ServiceSpace would love to have more people like you!

Posted by Lena Kimura on Aug 19, 2020