Meet Radhika Mitra. At 16, she started her own nonprofit organization called Renaissance Now (RenNow). RenNow helps artists in developing countries who make handmade crafts like jewelry, pottery, or dolls. It provides the artists with the training and tools they need to work faster and create better products. This means they have more to sell, they’re selling a nicer product, and they can earn more money. Radhika’s main goal is to help artists make more money so that they can take care of themselves and their families. Learn more about Radhika’s story and what inspired her to start RenNow.
How old are you?
I am 22 years old.
What inspired you to start Renaissance Now?
When I was 16, I went on a vacation to Kolkata, India. I witnessed a young boy who tried to sell a handmade necklace to me and my sister while our taxi was stopped at a red light. He had his face pressed to our windows, and we noticed he was dressed in just rags. Before we could react, the traffic light turned green and cars started moving. Just then, a rickshaw (handheld cart) literally ran the little boy down in front of our eyes. It was awful.
My sister and I returned home that night and discussed what we had seen. We knew we had to do something about it. I did some research and found that many young children and women travel from villages to the cities to sell their handmade crafts, which are highly valued in the global market. I knew then the best way to help them would be to give those artists proper tools and training to improve the quality of their work and help them reach a wider market. That's when Renaissance Now was born.
Why do you think art is important?
Art has always been a big part of my own life. Growing up, I watched my grandma and my dad take time for their hobbies, like painting, sewing, and photography.
I also saw the role art plays in connecting all of us across the world. It is something that has always been present throughout history. Regardless of where we come from, we can appreciate the thought and creativity that goes into art.
How has your organization grown since you started it?
Renaissance Now has grown greatly. We're now able to reach a wider group of artist worldwide. We work with artists from a variety of backgrounds from woodworking to textile (fabric or cloth) to sewing. We also work with film and sound artists.
It's also been exciting to watch our YouTube channel grow. Because my sister and I were both in school when we started Renaissance Now, it was challenging for us to travel and conduct training in different parts of the world. That's why we started our YouTube channel, to share what we are doing at RenNow and offer tutorials for artists. It also helps bring awareness to our cause and raise funds for trainings and tools and supplies for artists in developing areas.
What's been the highlight of working with artists from around the world?
The best part is seeing how Renaissance Now impacts the artists' businesses and livelihoods. We have received many letters from our artists who say our tools and training have helped transform the quality of their products and businesses.
One memorable experience was with a small leather bag factory with five artists. They each had families who depended on them. While they produced beautifully crafted handmade leather bags, they were struggling with the quality and the quantity of bags they could produce with limited resources. So we donated the best available leather sewing machine to the factory. It improved their ability to produce bags by 10 times. They were able to produce more bags in a smaller time frame and the quality improved. They invited us to their home and were extremely grateful that RenNow recognized their problem and turned their business around. Seeing this kind of change, which transforms the livelihood of many families, really makes the work we are doing at RenNow worth it.
What is the most important lesson you've learned from the artists?
There always will be obstacles when you're trying to do something good. It may be discouraging, but do it anyway. Stick with your choices and run with it.
What's your advice for girls who are interested in starting their own organizations?
Build an organization around something that excites you. Find a need or a cause you're truly interested in and want to make a positive impact on. When you start an organization, there is a lot to learn, like planning, fundraising, and executing your goals. It's a lot of work, but one thing that drives you is your passion. It shines through when you talk to others, and that can truly transform and grow your organization.
What can girls do in their communities to help give back?
We have many avenues to get involved now, whether it is through our school, community organizations, or even Facebook. One of my favorite online organizations that specializes in helping young people give back is DoSomething.org.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to continue my efforts in Renaissance Now along with my professional goals. I just graduated with a degree in computer science and management from college, and I plan on pursuing my business and volunteer efforts. It is important for me to have that balance.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
If you are interested in getting involved with the work we do at RenNow, you can email us at email@example.com. We offer a variety of ways for girls to give back. You can help afterschool art programs in your community, host a school fundraiser, or start your own RenNow club at your school.
For more ideas on how you can give back, visit our Volunteer in Your Community page.
Content last reviewed June 08, 2015
Page last updated June 08, 2015