Eight-year-old Sanya Pirani is on a mission.

She takes a deep breath and says, “I strongly believe every child deserves basic human rights like food, shelter, safety and clothes.”

So far in 2015, Sanya has raised more than $15,000 for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a nonprofit that packs and ships meals to families around the world, and she’s hoping to bring in thousands more by the end of the year. She’s also trying to help kids closer to her Prior Lake home.

In June and July, Sanya is coordinating a campaign for the Scott Carver Dakota Community Action Partnership (CAP) food shelf. Donations can be dropped off at Scott County libraries. People can participate by donating money or nonperishable foods at the libraries.

The drive was planned specifically to help CAP over the summer, when many food shelves see an increased demand because schools are not providing meals, said Sanya’s mother, Dilshad Pirani.

Raising so much money has been “really hard,” Sanya said, but she’s recruited a team of four other third-graders to help, who have raised over $1,000 so far. Sanya and her team have raised donations through friends and family, held bake sales and sent e-mails to executives at local companies.

“It feels so great that I’ve got a team to help me because I just can’t raise on my own,” she said. “It just makes a big difference when we all go together.”

Sanya keeps a blog about her fundraising on Facebook and her website (http://sanyapirani.wix.com/mycharity), where she also collects donations. She has received recognition for her efforts from Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. But she is just getting started.

Eventually, Sanya said, she hopes to raise enough money to feed the Haitian village of Letant for one year through FMSC. To do that, she and her team will need to raise more than $56,000.

“We have so many kids who have wonderful hearts come [pack food],” said Katie Olson, development assistant and monthly giving specialist at FMSC. “And to see somebody like Sanya who is going above and beyond — her goal is amazing.”

Sanya’s humanitarian side started showing when she was five years old, her mother said.

“Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, we buy her a new, nice dress and she would say, ‘Can you buy a new one for the poor also?’” Dilshad Pirani said.

A regular kid

When not fundraising, Sanya does normal third-grader things, like playing soccer, taking piano and swim lessons and surpassing her parents in technological knowledge.

She loves the Harry Potter series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books and the colors green and blue. She tells her peers that if she can raise money, they can, too.

Sanya will give a speech at her school, Jeffers Pond Elementary, on Monday to encourage her classmates to join in raising money for FMSC. She’s not nervous because she has given speeches at other schools, she said. But this time will be a little special, she admits.

“It feels different that you’re talking to people you already know,” she said. “My speech has been changed because it is our school.”

Like most kids, Sanya already has list of things she wants to be when she grows up — many related to the medical field. She also wants to start her own non-profit foundation so she can help more children and encourage others to help, too.

“Everyone can do this,” she said. “Mother Teresa said that if you can’t feed 100 people, just feed only one, because people all over the world don’t have anything and they always need help.”


Janice Bitters is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.