Every year, millions of children around the world are victims of poverty, abuse, and neglect. According to UNICEF, the exact number of street children is impossible to quantify, but it numbers in the tens of millions, and the numbers are increasing as the global population grows. The children living on the streets are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse. Their daily struggles are far from being removed and their precious childhood is being taken away from them.
The Day of Hope is a day to remember these millions of children around the world. Hope is a critical essence in our lives, helping us to look forward to another day, to reach for tomorrow. Each one of us hope for different things: winning a competition, passing in distinction, getting rich, better health, greater success, and so much more. But imagine having to hope for food because you are starving? Or a safe shelter to sleep peacefully, someone to care for them, let alone getting a good education, and medical help? How can we uplift the lives of such children with more than basic amenities? How do we give them hope for a better tomorrow and a better life? This is really the core objective of SOFKIN (www.sofkin.org), an organization that I founded a decade ago. SOFKIN is a non-profit organization registered in New Jersey, USA, and Hyderabad, India, to support the upbringing of underprivileged children, striving to make a difference in their lives.
We practice our belief by establishing and supporting SOFKIN homes for children. The children are not only given food, shelter, clothing, medical, and education facilities, but are also given a secure home where they are cared for, guided, and nurtured by the housemothers. The children in SOFKIN homes go to regular schools, and are treated no different from we treat our own children. We also ensure they are given value based education, life skills, and leadership skills to excel in their careers because these children know the value of ‘opportunity’ better than anyone.
As an entrepreneur, on this ‘Day of Hope’, I am thrilled to see more entrepreneurs inspired to harness the power of entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation to make a positive societal impact. More than ever, they are striving to build businesses that make a difference in the world. Businesses that not only make money but pursue a path greater than just earning a profit. Call it altruistic-capitalism, or, as I prefer, “impact entrepreneurship”, a phrase coined in an article in ‘Wired Magazine’ by Adam Levene.
The entrepreneurs that are driven by the passion to make a social impact embody the powerful quote by Mahatma Gandhi, ‘We must become the change we wish to see in the world’. We all should do our bit to make this world a place that treats everyone equally, provides a safe environment, and provides equal opportunities. My own belief and passion to support the underprivileged children and make their dreams come true is what gets me out of the bed with enthusiasm every day, even if I have to face a tiring and challenging day ahead.
Entrepreneurship is easily becoming one of the top career choices for young people around the world. The billionaires Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, and Richard Branson each started their first business before graduating high school. Today, we see young entrepreneurs creating their first efforts out of high school and in undergrad dorm rooms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the teen employment rate from 1950-2000 hovered around 45%, but since then has steadily declined. As of 2011, only 26% of teens were employed. Certainly the reasons for this decline are multifaceted, from a struggling economy, to competition with older workers, to time conflicts, to the fact that many teens just don’t want traditional “teen jobs.” (By Whitney Johnson in Harvard Business Review, May 25th 2015).
The young entrepreneurs embrace the challenges of starting a business, addressing ambitious problems and, the successful ones, will add significant value and help build our future world. As a President & CEO of PamTen (www.pamten.com), I am personally inspired each day to come to work with courage to face any challenge and a determination to succeed in everything that I do. I feel there is a much stronger purpose to my life and to people involved in our company. We are proud to offer internship and employment opportunities for young men and women who have been nurtured and grown up in SOFKIN homes.
Each one of us should think about our own contributions to give HOPE by providing education, coaching, and opportunities. Then these young people can focus on creating a safer, stronger, and peaceful world through their creativity and passion for what they believe in and provide hope and inspiration to others along the way.