We had the good fortune of connecting with Harthik S. Parankusham and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Harthik S., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It all started with a toy car. 2011, and my family moved between towns. As an immigrant, English was always a challenge – moving between towns made school even harder. The new school was tough, and I fell behind faster than I could catch up. But my first grade teacher embraced my struggle. He was the one who gifted me a reading tutor, and it wasn’t long before I loved books. After each story I had read with my tutor, I earned a toy car. I fell in love with Mr. Putter and Tabby Cat, with Fly Guy and the Berenstain Bears. In fact, I’d even read in bathrooms, on the bus and falling asleep. As I grew, Harry Potter grew with me. And yet, my focus shifted from reading to writing, recreating the magical worlds I’d once read about.

It was through writing, that I explored both the intangible and the mundane; discovering oddities from my imagination, but also who I was as a person. I loved writing because of the feeling it gave me. I loved reading because of it’s escape from reality. Whether books made me smile or cry, it was cathartic in nature.

Today, Raayu approaches mental health in a novel way, allowing children to embark the story writing process through workshops and then to reflect with one question “How did writing today, make you feel?” Imbuing metacognition into our method, we’re innovating Mental Health Awareness.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The Raayu Children’s Foundation 501 c(3) has impacted over 800 children today! Through our workshops with schools and libraries, we’ve partnered with upwards of 12 NGO’s, most notably endorsed by the Yale Daily News in our state of Connecticut. Our educational outreach initiatives have garnered over 4,000 reads on our library at Raayu.org – all of which empower young children to become authors and understand their inner voice.

Raayu’s mission approaches mental health in an engaging and research-backed way. We empower children to practice lifestyle choices ie. therapeutic writing and reading that improve mental health, from a young age. Furthermore, over 200 stories that advocate for morals through metacognitive processes in our little authors have been published since 2022. Raayu’s E-Library cycle between 60-100 stories published a year, all of which come from our workshops! Recently, we’ve taken initiative to design our Nature Writing Workshops, a setting that embodies the cathartic nature of writing. Taking Raayu Children’s to West Hartford we hope to bolster less academically rigorous areas around Connecticut, and spread advocacy around these overlooked fields on wellbeing. Our impact spans on the national and international level, to Texas, New York and even third world countries (ie. India.) – though our focuses have primarily been in Connecticut thus far.

However, mental health through writing and reading is not complete without the expert opinions of those who are well versed in these matters. Our Author Talks Podcast, investigates how writing and subsequently reading plays a role in mental health for authors who write full-time; we’re in the process expanding our podcast to discourse with mental health professionals and the importance of mental well-being advocacy in younger children!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Raayu Children’s Foundation would not have existed today, without our dedicated and loving team of volunteers. In 2024, The Mental Health Crisis requires all hands on deck. Our work at Raayu Children’s, empowers reading and writing as a form of therapy, mindfulness, and lifestyle. We Shoutout a huge thanks to our team who fostered an environment where young children felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings through stories.

Website: www.raayu.org

Instagram: https://instagram.com/projectraayuhs?utm_source=qr

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/98353743/admin/feed/posts/

Twitter: https://x.com/ProjectRaayu/status/1694729337407173090?s=20

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCltzvy3uQciINe1NdEtpnMQ

Image Credits
The Raayu Children’s Foundation: www.raayu.org

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.