Kenisha and Alisha Arora saw 2020 get dark in an awful hurry.
So they battled pandemic gloom by spreading around a whole lot of light.
In March 2020, when classes went online, most extracurricular activities for the busy teens abruptly halted. Realizing it might be a while before they could connect again in person with senior friends in the hospital where they volunteered, they wrote a couple of cards of encouragement.
“We saw the impact that two cards had on seniors,” said Alisha. “That’s when it hit us that hope is really powerful.”
That day, they gathered up all the craft supplies they could, fired up Google Translate, and made 2,000 more cards in a half-dozen languages for other isolated seniors in long-term care.
Kenisha is now a second-year medical sciences student at Western and Alisha is in Grade 10 in Mississauga.
Their work as social entrepreneurs continues: Kenisha is one of 10 students accepted into the Founders’ program established by the Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship, Powered by Ivey, to provide support, bursaries and mentorship to young entrepreneurs.
“COVID in general felt like a hopeless time for many of us in our community, and we realized there were probably people who were more vulnerable than we were and were feeling it even more deeply,” said Kenisha.
As they distributed their cards of hope to seniors, they got to wondering who else might be feeling isolated, and Alisha thought of a classmate who had been in multiple foster homes.
With $2,000 they’d fundraised with the community and local businesses, they began assembling HopeBags for kids in care.
Each drawstring bag includes toys, a blanket, water bottle, book and a variety of treats such as chocolate and popcorn. The bags are distributed through local children’s aid agencies.
Then some seniors who they’d helped at the beginning gave back with knitted soft toys and some of the children recipients began assembling bags of their own. The Aroras called the growing team HopeSpreaders.
“It really did come full circle,” said Alicia. “There is so much dignity and power when people start to give back.”
So far, they have distributed 5,000 HopeBags. And the movement keeps growing.
“It’s the depth of influence. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about, ‘does this spread hope?’” Kenisha said.
Diana Award recipients
Along the way, they have garnered support from independent local businesses, chain stores, franchisees, along with giants such as Crayola, Tim Hortons, Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Recently, the sisters received the Diana Award, named in memory of Princess Diana to honour young people with notable social action or humanitarian work.
Both teens credit their parents Taruna and Neeru Arora for being their moral and social compass.
“We were quite young when we started the HopeSisters but one value we learned from our parents is, ‘You see a problem, you act. You don’t wait for someone else to do it.’” Kenisha Arora
In addition to HopeSisters and a demanding academic program, Kenisha has been active with the University Students’ Council and is a student representative on Western’s Senate.
She was also a student representative as part of Western’s strategic planning process that led to Towards Western at 150.
- Online at https://www.thehopesisters.com
- By email: love.hopesisters[at] gmail.com or london.hopecollective[at]gmail.com
- On Twitter and Instagram
Western is celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week November 8 to 12 with a series of virtual and in-person events hosted by Morrissette Entrepreneurship. Make connections, learn more about resources and be inspired by entrepreneurs by visiting Beyond the Start: Global Entrepreneurship Week at Western