Teenage brothers Avi and Aditya Shrivastava are passionate about helping others.
When the pandemic shut down schools and forced them to learn remotely, the duo decided to look into expanding their knowledge in science and technology.
Avi is a junior in high school and Aditya is in middle school, but both took online courses in data science and artificial intelligence (AI) during their 2020 summer vacation.
The brothers took classes through Coursera at the University of Michigan and Stanford.
“We had a lot of free time and we were both really passionate about learning and going into computer science and artificial intelligence,” Avi said.
The duo researched the classes and their father also took similar ones in the past, recommending they start with the introductory courses.
“They were difficult but really cool,” Avi said.
The brothers are now hoping to use the skills they learned in data science and AI to alleviate refugee issues through their nonprofit, Safe Havens Kids.
Over the past couple of years, the brothers saw the struggles that refugees go through on the news, especially when Kabul, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year.
“There have been children separated from their families and I was in shock. I couldn’t live separated from my parents,” Avi said. “Recently with the Afghanistan situation, we saw people desperately trying to get out, even climbing onto planes and trying to escape the country. We really took that to heart and that’s what inspired us to start Safe Havens.”
They used their newfound knowledge in computer science to help refugee kids by registering for a nonprofit on LegalZoom.
The idea started small, beginning with establishing a website that they built on WordPress that gives people the option to donate to the cause.
“Our goal is to help refugees that have come to America seeking a better life here,” Avi said. “We wanted to help them with issues that they have coming, such as housing and education for the children.”
They then shared the idea with their friends and family, and had friends express interest in helping. Starting with donations from mostly family and friends, knowledge of the nonprofit is growing as the brothers have been receiving donations from people they don’t know in Lynnfield and other communities.
To continue expanding outreach, the brothers went to the Lynnfield School Committee seeking permission to do a donation drive in the schools throughout the month of November, which was successful and helped increase the effort.
“We got so many items in just one month and we gave all the supplies to various refugee centers,” Avi said.
The nonprofit partners with the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center in Boston and the New American Association in Lynn, with the money and supplies that are donated going to both.
The brothers are now hoping to expand their nonprofit and they said the best way to do so is to get more volunteers and run more donation drives in various towns.
Some of their friends are implementing Safe Havens into the communities they live in, so there are currently volunteers in Needham Virginia.
When the brothers were first telling their friends about the idea for Safe Havens, they said they were nervous and unsure how people would react.
With everyone seeming to respond very well, the brothers said they were motivated to do more.
“I didn’t know how my friends would react because nobody has really done something like this in my school,” Aditya said. “I was kind of worried about what they would think, but as soon as some of my friends found out, they were pretty chill and supportive about it.”
Avi and Aditya also plan to improve the website by adding more features in the future that leverage AI and data science.
“We feel inspired and we know it’s only going to go up from here,” Avi said. “We want to make this nonprofit even bigger.”
As the nonprofit continues to grow, the brothers said they are sticking to the same goal of doing what they can to help refugees settle and build a better life in America.
To learn more about the project or to donate, visit https://safehavenskids.org/.