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My name is Nishi Uppuluri, and I'm a rising junior at Edgemont High. Since school as well as a lot of my other extracurriculars were closed due to the COVID pandemic, I found myself bored and in need of some social interaction. It turned out that my little cousins (ages 4 and 6) also felt this way, and it was from them that the idea of SewaPlayz (a virtual playgroup for children aged 4-7) was born towards the end of March. 

It was my first time doing something like this online, and I knew that entertaining young children through Zoom would be no easy feat, which is why I enlisted the help of my friend, Saumya Sawant. We wanted to make SewaPlayz as screen-free as possible, so we focused on teaching children creative writing, and playing age-appropriate games such as freeze dance, 20 questions, The Floor is Lava, and a lot more. Some of these games we learned from the HSS Shakha we attend, and others we learned from birthday parties and online forums.

We then decided to turn SewaPlayz into a fundraiser for Sponsor A Child, because we felt that SAC was very relevant to what we were doing then, since we were working on educating and entertaining young children.

Our indicator of our program being successful was the fact that enrollment was highly consistent. The kids also got more enthusiastic about the sessions as they went on, and one parent has even told us that her son would wait all day for our meetings. Most of the parents were highly involved in the sessions in the beginning, in order to make sure their children were paying attention. They also gave generous donations, with one parent even donating $560.

For Saumya and I, these sessions provided a lot more than volunteer hours -- they also provided much needed social interaction and stimulation during a time when even stepping out of the house could be seen as a risk. The kids would make us laugh every time we interacted with them, and we really enjoyed seeing them grow and develop over the three month period.

While we don't plan on doing this program annually, we are still open to the idea if we have time. But if we were to do this again, I think one thing we could improve on would be finding more physical activities for the kids that can be done over a screen. 

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