AMERICAN  ASSOCIATION  OF  UNIVERSITY  WOMEN
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At 16, Tech Trek Recipient Radhika Is Already Making Quite a Difference
 

One of the AAUW Co-Presidents, Jeanne Delp,
with Radhika at the Human Slavery Trafficking Event
      Radhika Mitra, AAUW Fremont branch 2005 Tech Trek recipient and a student at Irvington High School, couldn’t get the young Indian boy out of her mind.

      On a visit with her parents and family back to their native India a few years ago, she was riding in a taxi when a ragged homeless boy, who lived under the highway, came to the cab’s window while the light was green and tried to sell her a handmade necklace.

      Then the light turned green, and as they rummaged in their bags to buy something from him, a rickshaw came by and suddenly trampled him.

      “I felt bad that I never found out what happened to him and that I wasn’t able to help him,” said Radhika.  “But I came to realize that I wanted to help people like him who are in need and who have artwork to sell to others.”

      She then thought long and hard about how she could help and who she could help.

      “I’ve been around artists all my life,” explained Radhika.   “My dad is an excellent photographer; my grandfather is a writer and plays piano; my 14-year-old sister Ritwika is a singer; and my mother Susmita loves interior design.  So it just seemed natural to me to help struggling, poor artists and craftspeople like the boy in India who don’t even have the materials and training to turn out their works of art.”

      The whole family became very enthusiastic about Radhika’s idea and they all worked together to help her realize her dream.

       Her father Souyma, who is a marketing manager at EMC, did all the paperwork to establish a 501(C) 3 non-profit status for the agency they named Renaissance Now.   He also created a compelling web site for the charitable endeavor.  Her sister videotaped interviews with artists which are now on the website.  Everyone lent a hand to make the non-profit a reality.

      “They chose the name Renaissance Now,” said Radhika, “because the family loved the European Renaissance period of art and culture and wanted to help create a renaissance of the same kind in our world today.”

      Renaissance Now’s purpose is to help underprivileged artists and their communities around the world create great art by providing tools, teaching them modern marketing techniques and displaying their products via the website.

      Now the non-profit has grown from a family affair to an organization with many volunteers who are as enthusiastic as Radhika about helping poor artists make their mark in the world.

      Their first Renaissance Now assignment was to go to a week-long fair in India where underprivileged artists and craftspeople sold their wares.  To help them out, Radhika and her family distributed tool kits to make their creative work easier and more saleable.

      “What we discovered,” added Radhika, “was that the artists needed more than tool kits – they needed training, quality control education, help with packaging, understanding of sales channels and shops to display and sell their art work.   We saw our work cut out for us.”

      “The reason the family chose India is because they are familiar with the country of their birth.  They can also stay with relatives to reduce expenses.   This allows them to direct all of their funds to helping the artists in need.  Their charter also encompasses helping other artists in a variety of communities around the world.

But what has all this to do with AAUW Fremont Branch?

 
      By happenstance Mary Lynn Pelican, our branch’s co-VP of membership, met Radhika at Irvington High School while mentoring a student there.

Mary Lynn, Radhika, her sisters, and her father
at the Human Slavery Trafficking Event
      Radhika recounted her experience as an AAUW-sponsored Tech Trek camper at Mills College in 2005 and also mentioned she had started a non-profit organization with her father to help impoverished artists.

      “Connecting with Radhika,” said Mary Lynn, “was a lucky coincidence.  I immediately had the passion to help her with her non-profit organization by connecting her with AAUW.”

      Mary Lynn invited Radhika to our annual Women’s History Luncheon, which is a fundraiser for Tech Trek scholarships.

      Mary Lynn also told Randy Fewel, then president of the chapter, about Radhika’s dream of helping poor artists realize their dreams.  Randy connected Radhika to Sister Caritas of the Sisters of the Holy Family, who were organizing a Human Trafficking Conference on June 20, 2009.  This fair raised money for people – men, women and children – who have been literally sold into slavery by trickery and falsehood and now find themselves stranded, alone and helpless, away from their families and countries.

      Radhika and her family put together a booth and sold some of the craft items they had collected from India.

      “We had just one of each craft item from the fair in India and we pretty well sold everything.  We raised $1,000 for Renaissance Now and all the attendees who bought the items were very impressed with their beauty,” said Radhika.

      The 16-year-old Irvington High School junior is grateful to AAUW for listening to her dream of helping artists and helping them realize that dream.

      “I’m so appreciative of all the help that AAUW has given me – as a recipient of a Trek Tech scholarship as well as the chapter’s support of Renaissance Now,” concluded Radhika.

      If you would like more information about Renaissance Now and the work that Radhika Mitra and her family are doing to help artists, please visit their website at www.rennow.org.  


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