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Service Spotlight: Empowering Refugee Children

This week’s service spotlight features Tanya Sachdev, a rising high school senior and the founder and president of Empowering Refugee Children (ERC). Tanya and ERC are based in North Carolina and their impact can truly be felt on a global level. Without further ado, I’m thrilled to introduce Tanya and ERC.


Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”

Tanya: Happiness is the opportunity to pursue and share your passion with a community of people wanting to help make a difference.


Liz: Tell me about Empowering Refugee Children (ERC).

Tanya: Empowering Refugee Children (ERC) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving educational accessibility for local refugees and amplifying the voices of refugee youth. Through our scholarship program, we aim to spread awareness about the Global Refugee Crisis and provide financial support to refugees pursuing higher education. The scholarship works to cover tuition, textbooks, and any other necessary educational resources. Additionally, ERC works to create a platform for refugees to share their stories and voices to help advocate for educational support.

Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?

Tanya: I learned about the Global Refugee Crisis from an NPR newscast about the Afghan Refugee Crisis back in 2021. As I began researching more, I learned about how over 100 million people are forcibly displaced and how there are over 27 million refugees in the world. I started a club at my school: STAR (Students Together Assisting Refugees) which focused on raising awareness about the Global Refugee Crisis.


As I began volunteering for a "Homework Help" program with a local refugee organization, I had the opportunity to work with a high school senior who wanted to pursue a four-year degree in History. Unfortunately, due to her financial situation, she would be unable to pursue her dream. Half of the world's refugees are children and only 3% of refugee children are able to pursue higher education. Despite being a basic right, education for refugee children is often overlooked. Through our scholarship program, ERC works to try to make a difference, even if it is a drop in the bucket, towards refugee education.


Liz: What does service mean to you?

Tanya: To me, service means empathy and caring for others. Service has different forms, but I believe it comes with a desire to understand others and uplift individuals and communities.

Liz: How can people support your work or get involved?

Tanya: ERC has a "Get Involved" Section on our website! Make sure to check it out to learn more about what ERC does and how to support! Additionally, we really rely on donations from individuals to help provide our scholarships. Last month, on June 20 (World Refugee Day), we handed out a $1000 scholarship that is helping support a refugee student pursuing a university degree. Our scholarships would not be possible without generous donations and love from the community. Please consider donating to help support ERC! If you want to stay up to date with us, make sure to check out @empoweringrefugeechildren on Instagram! By sharing our story with others, you will make a difference in helping ERC grow!


Liz: Anything else you’d like to add?

Tanya: By taking time from your day to learn more about the Global Refugee Crisis, you are already making a difference! Thank you for learning more about ERC and for your support as we work towards making a difference in refugee education! Happiness truly is having a community wanting to make a difference, and we hope you can be part of our journey!


Liz: Do you have a favorite piece of advice or quote you’d like to leave us with?

Tanya: One of my favorite quotes that encapsulates ERC is:


"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world"

– Nelson Mandela




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