Local Teen Supports Children

Through Project Asha, the foundation she launched during her sophomore year of high school, Aarya Potti is bringing hope—which is what “asha” means in Hindi—to children throughout the world and close to home in Orange County. “The pandemic gave me time to not only work creating the foundation but also to realize how much the pandemic affected people in India, where my dad is from,” says the Chapel Hill High School senior.

She was recently named a “Hometown Hero” by Chapelboro/WCHL for her charitable work. Robin Pulver, executive director of OCPYC, nominated Aarya for this award.

During trips to India to visit her father’s family, Aarya learned about gender-based disparities and the inequities in educational access for girls. “It’s always bothered me that things that I consider to be normal, such as going to school, are privileges in India,” she says. “I wanted to do my best to try to even out the playing field, especially for females.”

To that end, she developed her foundation with the support of a small group of friends and family. In just the last two years, she has raised nearly $10,000 through donations through the organization’s website and gifts from individuals throughout the country, ranging from Chapel Hill to Texas to California.

With no organizational overhead, Aarya gives all of the money to organizations working to make life better for young children, with the majority going to orphanages in India. Thanks to her grandparents and other families who live there, Aarya is able to ensure that the money goes to female students to help fund their education since the country lacks strong public education.

Having raised more money than she anticipated, Aarya extended her support to her local community. The Orange County Partnership for Young Children was recommended to her by Amy Rickard, the principal of Morris Grove Elementary School, which Aarya attended. “The $1,000 gift that Aarya recently made to the Partnership through her foundation to us will impacts the lives of young children and families throughout our county,” says Robin Pulver, executive director of the Partnership. “It’s so exciting to see young leaders like Aarya who care about the community and want to make a difference.”

Aarya says that she chose the Partnership because of her desire to help a local organization that has wide outreach. “Being able to help others in this way makes me feel good,” she says. “I hope that I can keep helping my community as well as people across the world.”

She encourages everyone to contribute. “It  doesn’t have to be a big donation,” she says. “It can be $5; every little bit matters.”