Art for charity's sake

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Apoorva Panidapu

According to Apoorva Panidapu’s parents, their thirteen-year old daughter is a joyous person both on the face of it and to the core. Her most noticeable features are her radiant smile and her remarkable speed (except when it comes to chores).

For her parents, it seems that Apoorva is always in perpetual motion as she tries to satisfy her insatiable curiosity. By three years old, she was devouring one book after another, her father remembers. Apoorva is just so excited about so many things, including drawing, music, writing, speech and debate, Kung Fu, problem solving, teaching others, and everything in between. She can recite more than two hundred digits of Pi rapid fire, and she can memorize a deck of cards in fifteen minutes. “We don’t need a calculator when she’s around, or RAM for that matter, because her speed and memory are super charged for puzzles, codes, and theorems,” her mother confesses with a shy smile.

Recently, viewers all over the world got to see Apoorva’s love of learning on NBC’s Genius Junior, where she shared her passion for mathematics and competition. Apoorva was her team’s 'Super Brain for Number Cruncher' in the preliminary, semi-final, and final rounds, solving strings of equations with squares, cubes, and cube roots in split seconds.

Apoorva won millions of hearts for her efforts, as viewers from around the world sent her messages expressing their awe, congratulations, and encouragement. What many viewers might not know is that Apoorva is not simply a “super brain,” but also an artist who is deeply committed to what she calls, “Art for Charity’s Sake.” With her kind heart and colorful brushstrokes, Apoorva is making the world a better place. She is the “Human Calculator” with a heart of gold…

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“Five-hundred and eleven, five-hundred and twelve, five-hundred and thirteen. We have raised over five hundred dollars! That’s enough for ten goats,” my fourth-grade teacher exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with joy. I cheered and clapped along with my peers, delighted that my small fourth-grade class was able to make a difference for underprivileged people around the world. We did it just by making and selling bracelets, origami, and artwork at our school fair. That the goats would provide entire villages with milk, cheese, and butter day after day simply thrilled me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the class project even after it ended, wanting to make more art to buy more goats!

Throughout my life, my parents have always given me unconditional love and support. I think I took the incredible opportunities they provide me with for granted before participating in my school’s fundraiser. I started to truly realize how fortunate I am to be born into my family, when I thought about the lives of the people who did not have enough food to eat. For many African children, hunger is a constant, chronic pain. Right now, children are living on the brink of famine. Millions of girls and boys need emergency food assistance to survive. Death is prominent in many areas, and a devastating 20 percent of Africa’s children do not reach the age of six. I decided to continue to work with Save the Children so that I could do more to help families in Africa who lack such basic human necessities as food, clean water, medicine, shelter, and safety.

Because I was so saddened by this harsh situation, I wanted to take action to defend human rights. I connected with Save the Children and created a charity dedicated to the Child Hunger and Famine Relief Fund.

This fund aids children of Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, by giving them sufficient food, water, and shelter. I am proud to be making a positive contribution, wanting nothing more than to make art for charity’s sake.

To launch my fundraiser, I created my own online art gallery, a platform for me to connect with people who would like to buy my art or make donations in support of my cause. Since I started my charity eight months ago, I’ve raised over $2,500. With Genius Junior airing, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some media attention, and I’m getting even more orders for my artwork.

As an avid artist, I’m most inspired when I’m painting and sketching in order to help improve the lives of others. I’m honored and humbled when I can support the children of Africa, and I plan to continue making art so that I can help people all around the world.

Apoorva Panidapu is a member of the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Study of Exceptional Talent (SET), Davidson Young Scholars Program, Mensa International High IQ Society, Poetic Genius Society, and National Junior Honor society. She says one of the best moments of her Genius Junior experience was as they were leaving, “I received an invitation from Neil Patrick Harris to meet him in his trailer. I was so honored to get a final hug and autograph from him. I gave him a painting I made for him because I wanted to thank him for the opportunity. He really was the best host ever!”

You can follow Apoorva on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

The views expressed herein represent the opinions of the author and not necessarily the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.