For many homeless, a simple smile and a kind word bring an unspoken reward. 11-year old Symond believes that when you show the light of compassion, in the midst of darkness, people on the street will find their way. His philosophy to share hope with those who need it the most led him to start Share Hope USA, an LA-based non-profit. Share Hope USA helps many homeless people with food and clothing. They also collect cans of Play-Doh in the month of May for Children’s Hospital in LA. (CHLA)
Symond has been wanting to help homeless people since he was eight years old. He recalls seeing a homeless man on the side of the freeway once and feeling the urge to give him money. Symond’s parents always told him he can do anything he set his mind to, and after that experience he became very curious about homelessness. This led him to wanting to make a change.
1. When you look at homeless people, what do you see?
I see a human that needs help.
2. If you could put yourself in the shoes of a homeless person for one day, what would that be like?
I would feel cold, hungry, unloved, and forgotten.
3. Tell us about your upcoming fundraiser to collect Play-Doh for the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. (CHLA)
Every year we do a Play-Doh drive for CHLA. They run out at the Children’s Hospital a lot because they cannot re-use the Play-Doh because the kids are sick. I try to collect as much as I can to help them. I am giving smiles. Our drive begins May 1 and end May 31. We collected over 11,000 cans last year. Our goal is 22,000 this May.
4. Where can people donate Play-Doh? And Do you pick-up?
They can find information on the Share Hope USA website at www.sharehopeusa.com. They can mail it, or if they have collected a lot, we can pick it up. What I really would like is for people to start mini drives in their schools, churches, and groups. If we have their help we could reach the goal of 22,000 containers in May.
5. What does your typical day look like? How do you juggle school with your charity?
My dad says, school and homework first. So that takes a lot of time. But after that we work on planning events, speaking events, and preparing for upcoming events. In the middle of that I play sports, and video games.
6. How do you feel when you help the homeless?
I know we are there to help them. But when you help someone who can no way pay you back and is so grateful, you feel really good… Happy.
7. What do you want to teach others about homelessness?
That the homeless are human, they have names, feelings, and concerns. That a smile and a kind word go a long way for them to start on the path to getting off the streets. That when you show them the light of compassion, they find their way.
8. Can you share a story about a homeless person who’s made a difference in your life?
There is not just one. But the many Dana’s, Ernesto’s, and Caroline’s that we have met and helped it has shown me that these people did not say “when I grow up I want to be homeless” but they find themselves in this situation. The reason does not matter as much as the solution and help we give them.
9. What do you believe is the biggest challenge in helping the homeless?
For me, it’s having enough hygiene kits, water, and food for the homeless. We need donations of these items.
10. How do you recruit volunteers?
We use social media. Volunteers have always been easy. We love them and could not do what we do without them.
11. Do you recruit friends from school?
Yes. Some of my friends from school have helped me in my Play-Doh drive and homeless events.
12. Can you share how someone can start a non-profit and what are some of the challenges?
The first step to starting anything is asking the right questions. For me, it was why are people hungry and homeless? For someone else, it may be different. The important thing is to ask the questions and be a “difference maker.”
13. Share with us some of your most memorable stories of working with the homeless.
Meeting the people: Like Caroline, who was 8-months pregnant and living in a tent for 6-years. And Dana, who has lived on the streets for 10-years and her dog Browney. They are great people!
14. Who do you admire?
If I was to pick someone it would be my Mom and Dad first. Then, Ellen, she helps so many people and makes people smile.
15. What is your favorite movie?
16. Why is it important for people to know your story?
Because the more people who know what I am doing the more help I can get and the more people will be helped.
17. What is the greatest need for the homeless?
To be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity.
We believe that the opportunity of being a “good” person is afforded to each and everyone one of us. We all need to be good. Good mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Good employees, bosses, husbands, and wives. We have it in us to be good people! Symonds Share Hope USA afford us all an avenue to be able to be “Good”. By #sharinghope with others, we are one step closer in achieving this.