15-Year-Old New York Student Helps 500 Homeless Individuals By Donating Socks
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15-Year-Old New York Student Helps 500 Homeless Individuals By Donating Socks

The third cycle of the Climate Leaders Fellowship led high school students in researching climate change effects and finding solutions in their local communities. Students partnered with local organizations to launch donation drives to support those impacted and collaborated with other students to achieve their goals.

The online program is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read about Malaika’s impactful experience below!

Malaika Singh
Age 15
Ethical Culture Fieldston High School
New York City, New York

Tell us about your Fellowship project!

Working with another Climate Fellow, I helped nearly 500 homeless New Yorkers this winter.

We researched topics for our project and reached out to a local church. We learned that socks are the most requested item for homeless shelters and decided to base our project on them.

For greater outreach, we chose to go online and created a GoFundMe. After sending targeted emails and texts to all our contacts, both local and international, who in turn sent the fundraiser to their connections, we began to receive donations.

We had an initial goal of $700 but ended up more than doubling it. While our suggested amount for donations was $5, people gave as much as $200 from as near as New York and New Jersey, and as far as India.

What organizations did you partner with?

We chose the oldest homeless organization in the city as our handoff. The Bowery Mission has been serving New Yorkers for 150 years and is recognized as one of the most effective.

They estimate 70,000 men, women, and children experience homelessness in New York City every year, and socks are one of the most-requested and least-given items in shelters. This was confirmed by the head of the soup kitchen at my neighborhood church.

As a result of climate change, colder winters lead to more sickness. Because of the amount they walk, homeless people wear through their socks very quickly and are susceptible to frostbite and other cold-related illnesses.

We closed our fundraiser before Thanksgiving to beat the shopping rush and to guarantee Bowery Mission would have the socks in time for winter.

We researched companies to ensure a fully climate-friendly project and settled on Pact. They use 81% less water and 62% less energy than the average sock company. Operations are zero net carbon and fair trade.

We personally delivered the socks after school to Bowery on November 17th so they had them for their Thanksgiving soup kitchen week. Afterward, we informed all our donors with pictures of proof of delivery.

In all, we delivered 450 pairs of socks, including 150 pairs for youth, 60 pairs for babies, and 240 pairs for adults.

How did participating in the Climate Leaders Fellowship make you feel?

Participating in the Fellowship helped me realize that I can make a major impact, even as a teen. I learned that I don’t have to be an adult to make a big change.

I was surprised by the generosity of people and how they reached out to their network for donations. Every day, I was excited to see the response to our fundraising as more donations came in. And finally, at the handoff, I couldn’t have been more proud of our project.

What do you enjoy doing for fun?

In my free time, I enjoy exploring my neighborhood with friends. There are so many parts we haven’t discovered, even after living in my area for 7 years.

I have a passion for music and play piano and viola. I also work at my rock climbing gym, and I enjoy coaching younger climbers.

And last but certainly not least, in warmer months, I love hiking with my 8-year-old rescue dog, Solo.

Do you have any ideas about your future career aspirations?

Though college is very far away, as I’m in 9th grade, I have a strong passion for helping people. I’ve also always loved writing in any form. I’d like to major in advocacy with an aspect of journalism.

Do you have advice for other students who want to make a positive impact? 

My advice would be to look for people who live in your community to work with. It’s always helpful to have a partner.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to everyone you know for your project outreach because people will surprise you.

Use the internet to your advantage–there are so many amazing websites that will help you.

And finally, to be ready for problems. There are always going to be solutions. Everyone has a community – reach out to your family and experienced adults for help.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.