Karma for Cara Foundation awards microgrants to youth 18 years of age & younger who spearhead exceptional service projects in their communities. Microgrant recipient Brandon (18) from WA secured his award for The Hope Festival, an annual student-run project that serves in-need families & individuals across the greater Seattle area. The Hope Festival provides over 1,000 individuals with free groceries, clothes, hygiene items, feminine/infant products, school supplies, and books & toys for the kids. Additionally guests receive free services like haircuts, massages, dental care, vaccinations, health screenings, and much more. Guests’ connections made with local agencies & organizations at the festival’s Connection Center provide support long after the festival ends. The Hope Festival’s goal is that every person served walks away with a newfound sense of hope.
What inspired you to start this project?
As an 8th grader, my older brother Tyler volunteered at a local community service event serving those in need which opened his eyes to the magnitude of the homeless crisis in downtown Seattle. In fact, Seattle/King County is home to the third largest homeless population in the United States. As a result, he founded The Hope Festival. The Hope Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit organization run entirely by local high school & college students with the goal of fighting poverty and homelessness in the greater Seattle area. Our largest project, The Hope Festival event itself, is our main vehicle for making a difference. This year Tyler recruited me as one of 3-5 annual youth leaders from Eastlake High School to serve as “co-directors” of the annual festival. Hope Festival has always been–and will always be–entirely youth run, and in the process we will continue to show young people the power they have to be the change they wish to see in the world. Together, with the support of more than 500 local youth, students, and adult volunteers, we plan and execute our annual Hope Festival event.
While working on your project, what surprised you?
What surprised me, and probably most people, is the ability for our realities to change within the blink of an eye. When COVID struck about a week before our event was to take place–with the goal of putting safety first and protecting the health of our volunteers and those we serve–we decided to postpone the 2020 Hope Festival to a later date. While these many incredible plans were canceled, the last thing we decided to do amidst the COVID-19 crisis was sit back and think about all our canceled plans. The need in Seattle and surrounding communities was greater than ever, and we knew we had to show up and meet the challenge head on. We have been working tirelessly to support those in need during this difficult time. We first donated 350 hygiene packs to the Bellevue School District for distribution to those in need at their COVID care centers. We’ve donated 10+ pallets worth of brand-new infant/baby clothes to organizations across Washington State, including local Boys & Girls Clubs, several preschool programs, the immigrant community, homeless shelters across state, and agencies serving single mothers across the Seattle area. We used donated fabric to fold hundreds of masks. These masks were packed in COVID care kits (including food, hygiene supplies, COVID info, and a handwritten letter) and were given out to those on the streets of downtown Seattle. With homeless shelters full & the virus running rampant in Seattle, the best way to slow the spread was to get masks to those who don’t have them.
What do you feel you learned from this experience?
The world will throw curveballs at you. When the world does throw these inevitable curveballs, the easy thing to do is to hide away and hope the fear and discomfort pass soon. However, the true test of leaders is showing up when times are tough. When things are scary and the world getting crazy, as leaders we have a responsibility to be there and do our job when times are tough.
How did Karma for Cara impact your project?
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to the entire Karma for Cara team for continuing to support the work of the Hope Festival. While not everything went exactly according to plan, your support has allowed us to make a difference in communities both local and global amidst this crisis. And your financial support has kept our nonprofit afloat and going strong. Your partnership has made it possible for us to continue serving the Seattle area and being the change that we wish to see in the world—you have truly empowered us. And for that, we truly cannot thank you enough.
How will your project continue to impact others?
We will continue working tirelessly to serve those in need during a time when the need is greater than ever. Because the festival was canceled just three days before the event, we will be ready to launch an event into action next year quickly once public health officials deem it safe to do so. Obviously, the health and safety of our volunteers & those we serve is of utmost priority. We have a brand-new team of Hope Festival youth leaders who are ready to spearhead the most impactful service event we’ve ever created—and we can’t wait to get started.
How many hours did you spend on your project?
How many youth volunteers or students were involved in your project?
How many total hours did other youth volunteers or students (age 18 or under) spend on your project?