Finding the perfect prom dress is no small task, but it is even harder for those who can not afford one. Jinhee Lee, founder of Our Fairy Godmother, saw this issue and created an organization to help young girls in such situations.
What is Our Fairy Godmother (OFGM)?
Our Fairy Godmother is an organization I started in 2012, my senior year in high school. It is a prom dress drive that has grown tremendously over the past five years. Our Fairy Godmother is now contained under an umbrella organization called Post Script. The mission of Post Script is to empower the youth to make a difference by emphasizing their voices and capabilities. The organization engages the youth in local and global issues and challenges them to take action on the problems we face.
Post Script is the P.S. you put at the end of the letter, also known as the “afterthought.” The youth are too often the “afterthought” when it comes to being the true movers and shakers. Post Script is bringing the youth together to be reminded of their boldness and sending out a generation of world changers.
What inspired you to create this nonprofit?
I always heard, “You’re too young to do that. You can’t.” On the flip side, I see the youth and all I see is energy and people who can make a true difference. Students should be able to learn through doing and, at the same time, be empowered to lend their helping hand. Post Script creates a bridge between the youth and organizations that offer this vision. We provide the resources and help kickstart ideas, but the youth have the ultimate liberty to decide how to execute their vision. Our Fairy Godmother dress drive makes a difference by helping girls attend important events like prom, regardless of their financial circumstances.
I had a lot of roadblocks and challenges last year, but then I received a special email from a mother of two daughters. She had emailed me before the dress drive, stating her current family situation and how their financial circumstances prevented them from buying their girls a dress. I told her to come to our last event in New Brunswick and the entire family came and they walked away with two dresses. During the event I could see how excited they were and they continued to thank me with such gracious hearts. What really got me was when the mother emailed me afterwards. She told me how much it meant to her that her daughters were able to attend prom and seeing how excited they were about their dresses made her so happy. To me, if there are difficulties affording prom, there must be other financial difficulties going on at home. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been the girl who couldn’t afford many things, a prom dress being one of them. This email meant a lot to me because it reminded me of why I do what I do. Sometimes when you’re constantly feeling stress and pressure, you lose sight of why you started in the first place. Her thank you email grounded me and I continue to remember all the thank yous I’ve received to remind myself of why we do this.
Who is your role model?
A role model is someone you look up to and imitate. Mine would be the two closest women in my life – my sister and mother. They both have not taught me through words, but through their actions of facing daily challenges. No matter how difficult a situation, they both always keep their poise. Giving up is never an option. Their cores are built with strength and perseverance with genuine care and kindness. My sister and my mother have constantly encouraged me to chase my dreams and fulfill the potential they saw in me. My mother used to work 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and came home to care for me regardless of how tired she was. My sister, a working woman, and now a wonderful mother of a 1-year-old, works tirelessly at her job and then still comes home to care for her family and the people around her. They have claimed so many victories over life’s unforeseen challenges and they continue to constantly love. My strength and perseverance has been inherited from not just people I call my mother and sister, but my role models.
What are 5 tips that you have for people thinking about starting a nonprofit?
1) Do your research. See if there are other organizations doing what you’re thinking of doing and ask yourself, “why is your nonprofit different?”
2) Partner and collaborate. You do not have to do this alone and the more partnerships, the better! See what resources are out there for you to leverage.
3) Ask questions and talk to other people who started nonprofits. Ask for informational interviews from other nonprofits who just started and others who have been doing it for awhile.
4) Make sure you have an amazing board who is dedicated to the organization’s vision and mission.
5) If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? Believe in yourself! You can do it.
Contributor: Keerthi Jayaraman