Nishtha SharmaGlobal Operations Manager
Jeena SajimonCreative Head
Habeeba HasemCountry Manager, Egypt & Jordan
Ella NevilleCountry Manager, USA
Inbal HarelCountry Manager, Israel
Lina SimonCountry Manager, Palestine
Rasha FalhoutCountry Manager, Syria
Dheeraj NanduriAudio Visual Communication Manager
Reshab RetheeshAudio Visual Communication Team
Mayank BansalAudio Visual Communication Team
Mohammed JameerVideo Producer
Sharon VincentMedia Head
Sruthi SahasranamanTwitter Handler
Rukmini SenguptaMedia Outreach Manager
Alaka P ShajiWriting Team Coordinator
Siju RoseWriting Team
Chris Annette MendozaFundraiser Manager
Ankita SukhejaStrategy Director, Curriculum & Vision
Gabby WeissStudent Ambassador
Liyana ShirinContent Creator
What they do
Pooja is the Founder of Letters of Love and has been the driving force behind the movement ever since its inception in October, 2015. She is responsible for strategy development and outreach and providing direction to the organization. Pooja’s core focus is planning, curriculum development, operational delivery and ensuring effective and efficient implementation of Letters of Love’s vision.
Background and Achievements
She is a Mechnical (specialized in Energy) Engineer who during her final year in college, while integrating a dance workshop & life skills to a bunch of under priviledged kids, was deeply inspired by the potential of children as change agents in the society that she took up Education soon after. A Physics & Math teacher for senior students, she’s always focused on holistic aspect of education by merging routine classroom lessons with life-skill development. Pooja soon found her interests rooted in peace-building and conflict resolution. She was the Chapter Director of India and the current India Representative for The History Project, a Cambridge Social Venture that uses juxtaposed narratives of Indo-Pak History as a tool to inspire critical thinking & empathy amongst students. She is a Counselor at Seeds of Peace International Camp every summer and enables learning experiences for teenagers from Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt & the United States of America.
Cause of Madness
On being congratulated and asked about the challenges Michaelangelo must’ve experienced on sculpting his masterpiece, ‘David’, he said, ” It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.” Pooja has a penchant for sculpting Davids out of children and is deeply connected with the upliftment and empowerment of them. She is extremely passionate about breaking stereotypes, dancing, challenging the status quo and is also a loyal biriyani enthusiast.
“An 8th grader from Alaska wrote me an email through her Mom’s account after finding my email ID by pinging around 10 people I’ve worked with. ‘Dear Ms.Pooja , I want to make a difference to Syrian refugee children and help them smile and feel belonged. Could you please help me find a way ?’, was the gist of her email. That’s the point of it all. Establishing a human connect with refugee children and at the same time, empowering our children into believing in their potential to bring about change. It’s inspiring !”
What they do
Nishtha is the Global Operations Manager at Letters of Love and has very much been an active part of the initiative ever since it’s inception. She handles collaborations, coordinates between activities in different countries and also is the brain behind the website.
Background and Achievements
Nishtha holds her Bachelor’s in Power Engineering from National Power Training Institute (NPTI) from Nagpur, India. During her undergrad years, she was actively involved in mentoring underprivileged children tended by the NGO, Make A Difference. Since graduating, she has worked with Uber and Spaceboat. She currently works at an IT startup called Techjockey as their Product Lead.
Cause of Madness
Owing to the defence family background she comes from, Nishtha is a passionate sailor and takes keen interest in horse riding. She is also a workaholic and indulges in Operations and Business Development for both corporate and social sectors.
“The social conditioning we’ve been subjected to through media, textbooks and personal interactions has brought us to this point of intolerance and bigotry we are fuelled with today. With the right kind of education, exposure and active sensitisation, our children will be the change agents to a peaceful tomorrow. That’s one of our aims at Letters of Love. We create leaders out of 14 year olds!”
What they do
Jeena is the Creative Head of Letters of Love. Her primary role is to take care of all the visualization content and social media outreach.
Background & Achievements
She has an undergraduate degree in Architecture and is currently pursuing a Masters in Urban Planning at VirginiaTech. Other than her undying love for shawarma, Jeena names spreading happiness and cheer as her ultimate passion – mainly to her favorite kind of humans: children!
Cause of Madness
Other than her undying love for shawarma, Jeena names spreading happiness and cheer as her ultimate passion – mainly to her favorite kind of humans: children!
“Letters of Love is an act of pure kindness that makes a difference. It is able to accomplish what we all dream of to do. And of all things, every time I write and send a card, it fills my heart to the brim! :)”
What they do
Habeeba is the Operations Manager of Egypt and Jordan – two new additions into the ever-expanding map of Letters of Love. Her role will primarily focus on expansion and outreach, including launching awareness campaigns within schools, creating collaborations with relevant entities and, of course, collecting letters!
Background & Achievements
Habeeba is currently studying Business Marketing and Management, as she hopes to launch her own development initiative following graduation. She has been working with organizations that directly touch upon empowerment of children and teenagers throughout the past five years (even when she was a teenager herself!), from organizing Seeds of Peace fundraisers and programs as a volunteer within Egypt, to working with one of the few start-ups in the region which emphasize the power of youth as change-makers through offering long-term programs that equip participants with skills they need to succeed as leaders within their communities. Her work ultimately led her back to the place that inspired her passion for development – Seeds of Peace International Camp, where she worked as a counselor supporting youth from conflict-zones (Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, USA, Pakistan and India) in their own challenging journeys as peacemakers. There, deep in the woods of Maine, Habeeba was introduced to and immediately felt captivated by Letters of Love.
Cause of Madness
Her passions include reading books no one has heard of, painting, yoga, and playing the Ukulele. She is also on a never-ending hunt for the world’s best gelato – the current title is held by an excellent little shop near Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy and is closely followed by a favorite from her summers in Maine, located in the small town of Casco.
“I have an unrelenting belief in the youth of our world – I know they hold in their hands the future of this planet. If we are to stand any chance against the increasingly painful reality of discrimination, violence and hate, we must make sure that younger generations feel empowered and worthy of such feat. This is why I am extremely passionate about youth development – an ever-growing field in all countries, but especially ones recently destroyed by wars and conflict. Letters of Love may seem like such a simple idea – sending a letter to a child once a year – but it takes a tremendous amount of effort to make it happen, and its results are astonishing. Just wait until you see the smiles on those children’s (thousands) faces, and you’ll realize, we’ve changed something within them. They now know that someone out there is rooting for them and believes they can change this world despite everything they’ve been through.”
Ella is the Operations Manager of the United States. Her role reaching out to student chapters, youth groups and movements, non-profits, NGOs, universities, grade schools, teachers, and public spaces, in hopes to strike partnerships, spread the message of Letters of Love as far as possible and maximize its outreach.
She is currently an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Cortland, studying Childhood & Early Childhood Education. Ella has worked professionally with children for 6 years, spending most of her time in classrooms at an inclusive pre-school in Syracuse NY called “Jowonio Preschool”. Her work with Seeds of Peace, which began back in 2012 when she attended the summer camp in Maine, has opened up her eyes to the amazing impact interpersonal relationships one can have and the impact youngsters can have on each other and their respective communities.
Ella often finds herself thinking about empathy and its tremendous effect on children as they influence their environments positively through displaying this empathy in their daily actions. She believes empathic children will grow into empathic adults – which is a world she is extremely passionate about.
“I am a strong believer in the idea that one single person can have a life changing impact on another. All too often my phone buzzes with notifications from BBC and CNN, illustrating tragedy after tragedy; it’s easy to feel helpless in making a difference when the issues are so often advertised as massively hopeless. Letters of Love is a bright light in a world that is commonly portrayed as grey. I believe that we can spread love and support to people who otherwise may be feeling forgotten, reminding them (as well as the rest of the world) that every child, teenager, and adult deserves to feel known and, most importantly, feel loved.”
Inbal, or as we all call her, Gingit is hopping on board with Letters of Love as the Operations Manager in Israel. This is the first year Letters of Love will be officially operating in Israel, and Gingit is excited and hopeful that the team’s efforts will help spread the (much needed) love to refugees.
Gingit has always found herself drawn to education, and has always had faith in its importance, believing that through education, we can open up everyone’s eyes to the social injustices occurring around them, thus motivating them to show empathy and assume their roles as change-makers. She is on the path to becoming an educator in Israel, working hand-in-hand with students from both advantaged and unprivileged communities.
Apart from deeply being connected with children and pro active on the educational space, Inbal is an ardent cook. She loves to travel and explore different places, cuisines and culture. Being a drama enthusiast she also loves to watch plays.
“Letters of Love is such an inspiring initiative. It is so simple, so easy to make children smile- so why shouldn’t we? I’ve always felt that many aren’t doing enough to change the reality of refugees’ lives. They have survived horrific ordeals, and were robbed of their childhoods. I strive to tell their stories, to tell people about them, and ultimately make them smile, because we really need more empathy in this world. I invite you all to spread the love with us!”
Lina is the Operations Manager in Palestine. Her main focus will be initiating collaborations within the region to maximize the outreach of Letters of Love.
She is a recent graduate, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering, and is currently exploring the path it will take her. Lina first stumbled upon Letters of Love through her work as a camp counselor with Seeds of Peace, where she met Pooja(Founder), and instantly fell in love!
She is passionate about visual art – any form of it, and enjoys sharing this passion with others.
“Palestinians have their own stories with refugee camps – beginning with tents that later developed to bricks and now form today’s camps. It’s true that life at refugee camps is cruel, but I’ve seen firsthand how a glimpse of hope could bring light into refugees’ lives. . A “letter of love” could help restore someone’s faith and tell them there is still good in human-kind – a smile now, a hope for the future.”
Rasha is stationed in Damascus, Syria, where she coordinates between Letters of Love and the Embassy to ensure efficient distribution of letters and equipment on children in the region. She also handles the recruitment of volunteers within Syria to help with local programs.
Rasha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. She has worked as a freelance yoga trainer, occasionally providing some voluntary programs to corporates and schools, as well as an academic counselor. She has also volunteered to train teachers regarding methods of modern education, specifically in psychological support for children in Syria, Egypt and India.
Rasha is passionate about seeing a better world where equality prevails and no discrimination occurs. She has vowed to do whatever she can to achieve this dream.
“Letters of Love focuses on the most basic feature of human nature: Love. If people were to infuse their everyday acts with love, negativity, in all its form, would cease to exist. If love prevailed, peace would as well. That’s why I believe in Letters of Love – even the name says it; love changes lives!”
Dheeraj is the head of Visual Communications at Letters of Love.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and currently works as an Associate Consultant at Ernst and Young.
Dheeraj’s greatest passion is to impact the world through communication and design.
“It’s such a beautiful feeling knowing you can put a smile on someone’s face when they’re thousands of miles away!”
Reshab works as a graphic designer at Letters of Love.
He is a junior at Vellore Institute of Technology, studying Mechanical Engineering. Reshab is passionate about photography and post-processing of pictures, as well as volunteering for purpose of charity and giving a helping hand to those who need it.
Reshab is a fervent photographer. He is also very motivated to take part in social causes and change movements.
“Letters of Love is a very unique initiative. Most NGO’s primarily focus on basic necessities, but we aim to bring smiles upon children who have been entrapped in war, to show them that others out there are standing behind them in solidarity. I have never heard of any other initiative doing this, and I am grateful and blessed to be part of this family!”
Mayank is Letters of Love’s in-house Graphic Designer. He creates visual content for all the various social media platforms used by the organization.
He hails from Delhi (India’s capital) and is currently in his final year of the Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science program at the Vellore Institute of Technology.
Mayank’s passion for making the world a better place is his main driving force, pushing him to continue working with Letters of Love and move forward towards his goal.
“My belief in Letters of Love stems from this organization’s selflessness in a world filled with selfish people. This organization is one of the few where staff think of others before themselves, and work towards changing the state of those in need. If you work for Letters of Love, you know for a fact that your efforts, no matter what they are, will surely bring happiness to a lot of people.”
Mohamed is on the content writing team; his primary role is to create video content for Letters of Love.
He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Technology degree in Biomedical Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology in 2016 and currently works as a full-time photographer and cinematographer at Stories by Joseph Radhik – an international award-winning photography company that is based in Mumbai.
Mohamed is most passionate about creating meaningful visual content – one pixel at a time!
“Empathy is what drove me to be a part of this wonderful initiative from the time of its inception – stepping outside your own emotions to view things entirely from the other man’s perspective; in our case, kids. I personally feel that the power to empathize is what has brought us all together. We often undermine the power of a smile, a touch, kind words, words that could instill hope and faith; all of these virtues have the power to turn one’s life around. There’s light even in the darkest of places. Let’s help these kids find that light, together. Let them know that we’re here, here to stay, here to help whenever need be. Because, from caring comes courage. As Gandhi said, ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world’.”
Sharon is the account manager of Letter of Love’s Instagram.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Nursing from the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle and is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Medicine, alongside working as a full-time nurse.
Sharon finds the ultimate happiness in positively influencing people’s lives in any way she can, using her capacity as an individual, a nurse and a medical student.
“What I love most about Letters of Love is that we get to use social media for something so incredible. We are a team of 19 across 7 time zones and 11 countries. We come from all walks of life and we work for one cause – Letters of Love. For me, Letters of Love is my online family, where we all do small things with great love, so a little one far away from you and I will believe in the goodness of people. I believe that we are making a significant difference one letter and one smile at a time.”
Sruthi handles Letters of Love’s Twitter account. She consistently works on improvising new ways to raise awareness about the organization and its goals.
Sruthi is a journalist who juggles various roles from an editor to a freelance writer, and is currently based out of Bengaluru.
Sruthi is an impassioned journalist and a zealous bibliophile. She enjoys the company of books and being a Twitter enthusiast.
“After having done lengthy dissertations and studies to understand the nature of displacement and what happens to the children who are forced to leave their homes, I could not help but feel strongly about the crisis that has hit the world. Doing online research and talking to people who have witnessed this devastating tragedy firsthand was not enough for me. I wanted to learn more about it, but I also wanted to be an active part of the solution, which is why I am so thankful for Letters of Love. There is more than enough hatred everywhere – now is the time to start spreading the love!”
As Media Outreach Manager, Rukmini initiaties collaborations with as many groups, organizations and chapters to spread the word about Letters of Love and to get more people involved in this deeply sensitive yet necessary work.
She holds an Engineering degree in Information Technology, and currently works as a content developer at a digital marketing and advertising firm.
Rukmini is most passionate about doodling. She believes that art within itself is the greatest medium to bring about change as it brings people together when they collectively appreciate something so simple yet so beautiful.
“Letters of Love is the actualization of Gandhi’s quote: ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. We cannot stop the war, but we can prove to refugee children that there is some good left in the universe. Letters of love is an initiative that may seem to many just a mere letter, but we are actually making a change, one letter, one child at a time.”
Alaka P Shaji
Alaka is the Manager of the Writing Team at Letters of Love; she coordinates between the writing and translation teams across different cities and countries. Her role involves a lot of strategic planning to ensure that people are engaged in the act of writing letters at common places in all the countries collaborating with Letters of Love.
She has a B.A. in Journalism and Communication and is currently pursuing a diploma in Movements Arts and Mixed Media. Alaka works as a publicist for The Rural India Project, which is a storytelling initiative working towards unearthing untold stories from the forgotten countryside. Two years with the Rural India Project has taught her that at the very root of it, all struggles are the same, which is why she profoundly believes in the power of people to influence their own situations.
Alaka is passionate about learning different movements and making a connection between movements, emotions, people and cities.
“Looking to be part of a community that would help me make a difference, I stumbled across Letters of Love. It is a push for sustainable solutions for a better world. It is a community that cares for a change.”
Siju came across Letters of Love through a friend, and she immediately knew there was no looking back. She has been on the Writing Team ever since.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Media and a post-graduate degree in Journalism. Her schooling background in Muscat, Oman helped her read and write Arabic, which came in as quite a useful tool in her work with Letters of Love!
Siju is passionate about dancing, painting and travelling. She believes that life cannot move forward without those little activities.
“It’s easy to sit, talk & sympathize for refugees, but difficult to make a difference. First year of Letters of Love, I didn’t know how much difference it could possibly make – but seeing the kids’ responses to receiving the letters was a treasure that will last me a lifetime. I’ve since known in my heart that Letters of Love will continue to grow and bring smiles to more and more people as we move forward. Our letters may be a teeny-tiny part of the refugee children’s lives, but that “part” brings them hope, love and support, when they need it the most.”
Amnah works round the clock to translate all the lovely letters we receive into the proper dialect of Arabic for the children to read and understand.
She is a 27-year-old Turkic, Syrian, Labanese and Saudi who works as the CEO Office Manager at Batic, alongside being a mother for a wonderful 3-year-old named Omar.
The only thing Amna is deeply passionate about is her wonderful son, Omar. He is 6 years old and Amna finds joy in empowering him and wishes nothing but the same, if not more, for the children in Syria and other war zones.
“I believe in the power of Letters of Love to make refugee children happy, because it was made with love – it is, quite simply, a little thing for the little ones!”
Chris Annette Mendoza
Chris’ work as Fundraising Manager involves coordinating with staff from different countries to host events focused on collecting funds to support other programs done by Letters of Love, as well as monitoring all fundraising activities.
She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and is a mental health clinician focused on children and individuals who have experienced trauma.
Chris is passionate about mental health and teaching empathy through engaging children in art and play processes. She also revels in supporting families from war-torn countries resettle into their new communities.
“I believe in the power of love and kindness in action above everything else; I believe in the children of today and how important it is for them to feel loved and have hope for a better future. Letters of Love is a combination of the two, reminding our children, who have been through war, that the world is not all bad and that we haven’t forgotten them… because love is always the better choice.”
Ankita is the Strategy Director of Curriculum and Vision. She develops curricular goals, outlines and oversees curriculum development, as well as expands the organization’s long-term goals, strategy and vision. Her work enables network development and collaborations within Letters of Love.
Ankita recently graduated with a Master’s in International Education Policy from the Harvard School of Education. Prior to coming on board to Letter’s of Love, she worked as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University and a Course Developer at HarvardX. Before venturing into the field of education, she also worked for over 5 years in the field of Media and Communication, with organizations like NDTV and BBC Media Action.
Ankita is extremely passionate about experiential learning, story-telling and community building. She believes in building a fearless and passionate cadre of change-makers through the exploration and development of 21st century skills.
“Letters of love is a change movement, where every little action counts, no matter who you are and where you come from. For a world that is continuously demanding more leaders and change-makers to make a difference, this initiative provides a platform to go from being a by-stander to an active change agent. Along with building skills such as empathy, leadership, teamwork, and problem solving, Letters of Love instills hope for a better tomorrow.”
Gabby is our Lead Student Ambassador and is also our youngest team member. She is in charge of sensitising her school after undergoing training with our curriculum team and conducts sessions from K-12. She has also started a Letters of Love Club in her school.
Gabby Weiss, is a 13 year old from Alaska who over the last year and half, collected around 200 letters and colourful drawings to send to refugee children as her Bat Mitzvah project from her school and community. She even tried her best to forge Arabic with tracing paper after an NGO she approached readily translated 4 short phrases for her to write on these letters. She didn’t know whom exactly to send these to and on searching relentlessly online, found Letters of Love. We however would like to believe as Letters of Love found her!
Gabby is a blooming humanitarian and is very driven to social causes. She reads voraciously about a number of topics and is inclined towards researching conflicts. Apart from being a changemaker, she is an avid poet and a fabulous dancer.
“I want to start with a simple phrase that illustrates something we all really need to remember: We are all humans and we all need love and attention. So let’s just all talk kindly to each other and help each other out. Simple right? I thought that since I was a kid who realized this, I had to be missing something. I thought adults would have figured this out long ago. But I was wrong. Right now, there are millions of humans who are stuck in a violent, complex, traumatic war. They are trying to stay with their loved ones, but are easily ripped apart from chaos or death. They are trying to get to safety, but before they can, they have to face many horrific obstacles. They are trying to stay hopeful, but it can be very hard. These people have been labeled as refugees. Right now (as you are reading this) there are Syrian refugees who need your help (yes YOU)! Their futures and hopes have been demolished, but what if you could change that? It is incredible what kindness and love can really do. If you lived your whole life thinking that you were a burden, or unwanted and all of a sudden someone told you that you are special, important, and loved, it would definitely change your life. Not only that, this person would be more apt to spread love. The cool thing is that we all have the ability to spread love all the time. The other thing is, no matter who you are, everyone needs love (no exceptions)! So what are you waiting for? Let’s go spread love to everyone! And I just want to let you know that whoever you are and wherever you are from, I love YOU with an unconditional love!”
Liyana Shirin is a modest; amateur graphic designer. She has an eye for the smallest detail, which gives a flair to her designs.
She is doing her final year of Electronics & Communication Engineering at MESCE, Kerala, India. She is a dynamic person when it comes to taking initiatives. She has received various “Best Blogger” titles for her beautiful way of depicting the art of writing.
Liyana believe’s that the biggest investment one can do is, an investment in children. She is always up for actions that involve making the young generation smile. Apart from being a social butterfly, she can gracefully make your heart fall for her, with her dance.
A seed nurtured and moulded with love will bloom; passing on a smile to everyone who watches the journey. I learnt that even the smallest impact can make the biggest change. Sometimes it is always about the first step you make, that makes all the difference. Letters of Love does all of it.
Shivani is a blogger for Letters of Love. Her role includes writing blog articles relating to what Letters of Love does, interviewing several student ambassadors and related persons who have been the nerve centre of Letters of Love, and writing about the refugee crisis looming large.
She has been a law student based in Bombay for an exceptionally long time (graduating class of 2019, in all likelihood). She lives on equal parts books and caffeine. Her main interests reading include geo politics and public international law and whining about the depleting democracies worldwide. <br><br> She first learnt about Letters of Love when she attended the Meet, Greet and Scribble event in November 2016 and joined the bandwagon a year after by deciding to minimally contribute with the power of the written word.
Shivani is passionate about writing important and writing funny. She thinks satire, along with empathy, is the key to solve global conflict.
“Whilst, the news channels repeatedly blare how the international community has failed Syria and constantly emphasize the political bitterness that has contributed to the doom, the spirit of the twenty-odd grown-ups who chose to spend a Sunday evening to embellish cards to make refugee children happy reflected the mighty chunks of human goodness right there.”