L.A. Teens Launch Nonprofit to Raise Awareness & Empathy Through Art

Its Latest Venture Is a 70-Page Collection of Around 20 Pieces of Art

By Zach Armstrong

He didn’t know what the meaning of the word was at the time, but he liked the sound of it: Empathic. That word which Shayl Khatod’s father prescribed to him as a little kid. Now, as its definition has remained a core principle for the SaMoHi sophomore, empathy is being manifested around the world thanks to his own 501(c)(3). 

Reflect Empathy, officially launched in August by Khatod along with longtime friend and Archer School for Girls sophomore Melinda Wang, aims to raise awareness of humanitarian crises and understanding of others’ experiences of them through the power of words and art. The nonprofit already has multiple chapters, including two in Los Angeles, one in New York, one in San Francisco, one in London and plans for a new one in Amsterdam. 

Its latest venture, “Reflect Empathy Ukraine Anthology”, is a 70-page collection of around 20 pieces of student poetry, short stories, drawings and paintings from both Ukrainian and American artists. To support the Ukrainian artists who contributed, all proceeds sold on Amazon go directly back to them. Wang describes the anthology’s purpose in part as juxtaposing different perceptions from students around the world on the Russian invasion. 

“The purpose is to cultivate empathy so people don’t just see the war as facts and statistics like they see in the news, but read and dive into the stories of the authors,” said Khatod. “One of the main focuses of the anthology is creative nonfiction and how that can be so evocative, acting as a window into a world that may be different from what the reader is experiencing.” 

For the young philanthropic duo, a more comprehensive understanding of others’ dreadful experiences can go beyond mere emotions for an individual, and manifest into tangible impacts and galvanized actions. 

“Art is a medium for change,” Khatod said, going on to reference a Polish researcher whose study on refugees showed hate speech was omnipresent in societies where people are not exposed to art, literature and human contact with refugees.

Aside from the new anthology, Reflect Empathy also curates an online blog called “The Human Prize” which takes submissions from Ukrainian authors detailing their experiences through the current conflict. Earlier projects also include raising $4,000 and hosting educational seminars on the coup in Myanmar. 

While the Russia/Ukraine conflict doesn’t saturate the headlines as it once did, another global crisis has taken its place. This being the one in Gaza. Naturally, Khatod and Wang are taking action. Their plan is to soon host a panel of experts along with hosting an art gallery (featuring both student and professional work) which would showcase lived experiences and various perspectives on the Israel/Palestine tension.

With impressive accomplishments from a new nonprofit by remarkably young founders, it’s no question Reflect Empathy has some promising potential for the future. 

Where this story starts is the seventh grade year for the co-founders when they met. Coincidentally the same year Khatod discovered his passion for addressing humanitarian crises after being introduced to Model United Nations. But what drew Khatod and Wang together initially was their shared and intense love for literature and poetry.

“We’ve had this passion for learning about other people’s feelings and knowing if they were happy or sad, even since we were really little,” said Khatod. “Poetry was what really got us together, then we found that we have this inherent similarity.”

in Hard, News
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