Q&A With Microgrant Recipient Laya


Karma for Cara Microgrants help fund exceptional service projects led by youth 18 and under working to better their communities. Read about our microgrant recipient, Laya, a 13-year-old who teaches first grade students about homelessness. In addition to the educational component, she also organizes activities to provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness.

1. What inspired you to start this project?

My project, All Hands In Baltimore, has two distinct purposes: not only do I make projects to help the less fortunate, I also get the opportunity to teach and guide first graders and fill them with the same eagerness to help others that I experienced in first grade. Starting with my very first days at McDonogh, I did various projects to help those around me. Particularly in first grade, my teacher organized projects to give to homeless men and women living on the streets of Baltimore. Looking back on my fond memories of my early years in Lower School, I realized that those experiences gave me a strong foundation and desire to help those around me. I started looking for other opportunities to teach those younger than I to give back to the world, and pass on the same experience that I got in first grade. My school founder, John McDonogh, wrote the “Rules for Living” for students to follow in order to live meaningful lives, and I consider the most important rule to be, “Study in your course of life to do the greatest possible amount of good.”

2. Why is your work important to you?

My work is important to me because after first grade, giving back to the world has become a part of me. The first graders and I make projects such as bags of trail mix, sweet treats, 30 blankets, and 200 winter kits filled with essentials such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, gloves, hats, thermal socks, etc. I distribute many of the products with my mentor, Mrs. Irving, to homeless men and women on the streets of Baltimore city. They live under bridges, on park and bus benches, and anywhere else they can find. I have gotten the chance to talk to men and women, and I have realized that though they may have empty pockets, they have full hearts, and take nothing more than what they need. I know that I can’t end homelessness altogether, but every little bit counts, so I strive to do whatever I can to help them.

3. How will the money from the microgrant help with your project?

As a result of the generosity from the Karma for Cara foundation, I will  be able to gather the supplies needed to run the five individual projects that I will be organizing with the first graders at McDonogh School. It shows me that the foundation believes in what I do, and it lets me focus all of my energy on serving others and teaching the children.

4. What message of giving back do you have for others?

I would tell others that they should do whatever they can to give back to the world. They might only be doing their small part, but if everyone pitched in, we could change the world. Though we might start out small, we can get bigger, only if we work together. One person can make a difference – thousands of people will make a difference.