By: Jan Engoren
You’ve heard of Hello Kitty, and now thanks to rising seniors at Spanish River High School, Nishah Jaferi and Jonathan Beres, both 17, you may hear of their winning initiative – Hello Hygenics, which seeks to combat barriers to grooming and hygiene by providing handy, on-the-go wellness kits for those in need.
Thanks to the non-profit Philanthropy Tank, founded by a group of local attorneys, CPAs, financial advisors and nonprofit leaders, the concept is based on the popular TV show, Shark Tank, albeit with a philanthropic bent.
“We are incredibly proud of the Hello Hygienics team as they wasted no time upon earning their grant money from our philanthropist investors to put together a program to help members of our community that are most in need,” said Philanthropy Tank CEO Amy Brand.
“Making a positive difference in the lives of others is the heartbeat of what Philanthropy Tank students are mentored, motivated, and supported to do,” she said.
The goals of the non-profit are to support future ‘changemakers,’ facilitate students’ leadership skills and develop innovative, creative solutions to address and improve social issues in their communities.
Since 2015, local students have created and continue to run organizations supporting music/art education, women’s empowerment, underprivileged children, pediatric cancer patients and other social and wellness programs.
The organization has awarded more than $400,000 in funding over the past five years and provided hundreds of hours of mentorship for teens who have started nearly three dozen local charities.
Due to their success in Palm Beach County, Philanthropy recently announced their expansion to Baltimore, MD.
This year, seven student-led charity programs earned more than $89,000 in funding thanks to their virtual pitches to the group of philanthropist-Investors.
Jaferi and Beres made their final pitch to the “sharks” on-line, as the live event, originally scheduled for Mar. 19 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, was canceled preemptively due to COVID-19.
Fine-tuning their idea since last November, the two were thrilled to learn that in April, their charity, Hello Hygenics, had been awarded $10,000 through the Philanthropy Tank charity.
The two, who both plan to attend college next year – Jaferi in the medical field and Beres in hospitality and culinary arts, admitted they were nervous, but excited during the pitch as both are passionate about their project.
Recently, their winning charity delivered 200 hygiene kits with personalized, hand-written messages inside to The Lord’s Place in Lake Worth. Each kit included travel-sized hygiene products including: deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, reusable cloth masks, soap and sunscreen.
“I know first-hand how people in poverty can struggle,” says Jaferi who spent her younger years in Pakistan. “The same struggles I saw in Pakistan are present right here in Palm Beach County.”
“This is an issue that resonates with me,” she said.
“It all comes down to a basic sense of empathy,” Beres said. “If you can put yourself in their shoes and feel their struggle, you’re more inclined to do something.”
“We’re doing everything in our power to change the scenario,” he said.
Part of the two teens’ mission is to involve their peers in the community and encourage them to act on social issues such as homelessness, poverty and to engage with empathy.
“For us, it’s about more than the kits,” Beres said.“We have a three-pronged mission – access, empathy and raising awareness.”
Both credit the guidance and support of their Philanthropy Tank philanthropists who helped them maximize their impact – primarily by engaging with social media, developing partnerships and seeking in-kind donations.
“It would be hard to make the scale of impact we had without the support of our Philanthropy Tank mentors,” Beres said.
What life lessons have the two learned from their experiences?
“It’s never too late or too early to pursue your ideas or dreams,” says Jaferi, who admitted she wondered: Am I too young to make a difference? Will I be able to get the resources I need to make an impact on the community?
“But, our mentors encouraged us to try our best,” she says. “Age is just a number.”
Beres agreed. “I learned not to limit myself. Never settle. Aim bigger and better. It was a real pleasure to take the lessons they taught us and see how everything was realized. They helped us achieve our fullest potential.”
Their goal for the school year? To deliver 3,500 more kits to those in need.
To learn more about Hello Hygenics visit them on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. To learn more or for a full list of winners visit www.philanthropytank.org.