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Tara Suri

Inspired by the poverty and sexism she saw in India, at age thirteen, Tara Suri started H.O.P.E., or Helping Orphans Pursue Education. She started out small — holding bake sales, making bracelets, and even recycling used soda cans — but her idea was big.

Now seventeen years old, she’s turned that organization into something bigger: Turn Your World Around. Together with others, she’s raised over $50,000 to make the world a better place and engage hundreds in activism.

How old are you?

Tara Suri with groupI am 17 years old.

What is your hometown?

I live in New York.

What grade are you in?

I am currently a senior in high school.

Why did your family originally go to India?

I am of Indian heritage; since I was a little girl, I would either travel with my family or by myself to India. As I grew older, I became painfully aware of the sexism and poverty in the country; this inspired me to start our first program, HOPE, which then expanded into Turn Your World Around. We now work in many different countries around the world.

Do you travel a lot?

I have been fortunate enough to travel and volunteer around the world, including Ghana, India, Ecuador, Peru, and other countries. It has partly been this exposure that has influenced my development of Turn Your World Around. I absolutely love to travel and absorb different cultures and add new dimensions to my world view.

Let’s talk about Turn Your World Around. What is it and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Turn Your World Around helps youth turn their passions into action. We see youth as a movement capable of eradicating poverty, protecting the environment, increasing access to education and health care, advocating for human rights, and promoting peace — we seek to harness this movement to make a global difference.

Youth can start a service project through our mentorship program. We also offer other programs. HOPE provides all children with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Connect a Kid strives to increase access to technology in the developing world. And Shakti Girls is a program that empowers sex-trafficking victims in India with education.

How do people accomplish these goals?

First, through online toolkits and action plans, we help youth define a project. For example, one girl is working on environmental awareness and another is working to raise funds toward a cure for pancreatic cancer. Depending on the area of interest of the youth, we also aid in finding local organizations around the world. Once youth have developed their plans for action, they are able to implement projects in their own communities. Getting involved begins when people register on our web site. By raising funds and awareness about the particular issues each program tackles, youth around the country and the world play a critical role in creating impact.

How do you balance your nonprofit work with school and family life?

Life is a balancing act, and I work to efficiently integrate all the different components of my life through planning and preparation. This sometimes requires sacrifices — but the reward and fulfillment are completely worth it.

What is your favorite subject in school?

I love all my classes, especially those subjects in the humanities, like English, social studies courses, and Latin.

What are your hobbies?

I am especially passionate about reading, speaking, and writing; I once wrote a novel about sex-trafficking in India. In my spare time, I also sing and travel.

What do you want to study in college?

I am interested in so many different fields, and I would like to pursue a fusion of the humanities, international studies, law, philosophy, and economics. I feel that this combination will allow me to lead a life filled with service and activism.

You have been given many honors, including National Grand Prize Winner of the Taco Bell/MTV Teen Hero Awards and CosmoGirl! of the Year 2007. How does it feel to receive so much attention for your work?

Receiving these honors has only further inspired me to do good; while this attention has been wonderful, the greatest honor is seeing the impact Turn Your World Around has. Perhaps the most rewarding experience was when I visited Balagurukulam, the orphanage in India that we support, and I saw the dormitory that we were able to build. Before, the children had to sleep under a thatched roof that would often be blown away by storms. I truly have never been so happy to see walls and a roof in my life!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

I have always looked up to Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Her organization, the Green Belt Movement, creatively couples female empowerment and human rights with environmental protection. The movement's innovation is deeply inspiring.

What would you say to young girls who also want to give back to the world?

Start turning the world around! Everyone is capable of making a difference, and so can you — always persevere to transform your dreams into reality.

Content last reviewed May 01, 2009
Page last updated November 21, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.