Sunday, May 9, 2010

An interview with Shimmy Mheta, CEO & Founder of Angelwish

Shimmy Mehta, CEO and Founder of Angelwish, was one of the first people to sign their organization up for What You Can Do, and we were very excited to have this amazing organization on board. Angelwish’s main focus is to grant wishes for children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. See our interview with Shimmy below to find our more about this organization and where his inspiration for starting it came from.

1. Can you talk a little bit about why you started Angelwish?

I started Angelwish because of a somewhat selfish motive. I was looking for a simple, yet effective way for me to help the community.I traveled a great deal at the time and physically volunteering was not an option. I reached out to several HIV/AIDS organizations that treated children that I had helped when I was in college and asked how I could help this under-served population. Their response was that they didn't need a new x-ray machine or anything medical in nature. They really needed simple items such as holiday or birthday toys for the parents to give to the children. I quickly realized that these simple and inexpensive items could have such a huge impact - and I made that the cornerstone of what we do.

2. Where did your inspiration come from?

I'm a kid at heart - and enjoy helping others help those in need. Angelwish facilitates happiness multiple times over because not only does the donor benefit from giving, but their gift is given to a social worker who will give the gift to a parent who is sick and out of work to give to their child.

3. Can you talk a little bit about some of the emotional challenges that children living with HIV/AIDS face?

Children living with HIV/AIDS have a lot of obstacles to overcome emotionally. There is still a very large stigma attached to the disease, whether the child is infected or affected. While pediatric infection rates have diminished, the adult infection rate continues to rise. Many of these infections happen to people who already have children. Imagine losing a parent at age 5 or 8? The children that we work with have experienced tremendous loss and abandonment. They have lost much of their childhood and have had to grow up very quickly in order to take care of their parents or siblings.

4. Outside of great healthcare, what, in your experience, is the biggest need that children with or affected by HIV/AIDS have?

Children living with HIV/AIDS (infected or affected) need the stigma-less support and compassion of their communities. Years ago, it was assumed that children living with HIV/AIDS would not livebeyond the age of 12 or 13. Thanks to medication, long lives can be led. Children that we work with are being brought into more mainstream programs that will help them achieve their goals and we should encourage them to do so.

5. Where do you see Angelwish 5 years from now?

Angelwish has been evolving since we began this journey in 1999. I'd like to see Angelwish helping children all over the world that are in jeopardy of losing their childhood to chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, asthma or diabetes. We've all been children at one point or another...let's share a little bit of that with someone who hasn't had the pleasure yet.

For more information about Children living with HIV/AIDS or to find out ways you can help, please visit - Angelwish

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