Dhriti Pentela sought out SiliconAndhra Sanjivani Hospital when she traveled to India the summer before her freshman year of high school.
Her dance teacher in Forsyth County had recommended that she visit and try to volunteer throughout the summer.
When she first arrived, she said she was amazed by the hospital and the help it has been able to provide to the rural village of Kuchipudi. It is a nonprofit hospital, running entirely off donations, that provides medical attention to villagers in the area where many suffer from preventable diseases.
Pentela remembers speaking to one villager that summer who said the hospital opened its doors to them when they needed an emergency C-section before the facility was even open to the public.
“I just thought that was so inspiring,” Pentela said. “And so when I came back here, I first started going door to door asking for donations for the hospital. I did get a good amount, but I was like this isn’t really going to make the impact I wanted to make.”
After some time, Pentela finally realized what she needed to do.
She decided to use her love for making jewelry to help raise more in donations for the hospital, selling her creations as part of what would soon become Empathy Designs, an organization and online store where 100% of the sales go toward local and international nonprofits.
Now a senior at South Forsyth High School, Pentela first started making jewelry when she was only 8 years old. She loved it so much that she continued, taking jewelry classes at a community recreational center in her spare time in middle school and during the start of high school.
“I’ve just always liked creating jewelry,” Pentela said. “It’s kind of a tradition. My grandma taught me, so I always just do it for fun.”
For Pentela, it just made sense that she would sell her creations that she loved to make anyways and give the profits to others who needed the money much more than she does.
After making the decision to begin Empathy Designs, Pentela said it took some time for her to really establish the organization and grow the store into what it is today. She started off in 2017 by selling her jewelry at local farmer’s markets and art festivals whenever she could.
She sold the jewelry at local events for about a year and a half while she worked to create her website, empathydesigns.org, which became her online store. After launching the website, which features different earrings, necklaces and bracelets, she said her sales went up significantly.
Through that time, she also began to donate to other local and international organizations. Now, the store works to support six different nonprofits, with two of the organizations being local to Forsyth County.
Besides the hospital in India, these nonprofits include Meals by Grace, Next Generation Focus, Color of Change, EarthShare Georgia and Active Minds. These organizations support different causes that have an impact on the community.
Pentela said that people ask her all the time why she chose to reach out and try to help in so many different areas instead of just one. She said the decision was inspired by conversations that she’s had with friends and community members.
“It was just through stories I heard in everyday conversations, and I found that [everyone] has their own individual story that guides their purpose in life,” Pentela said. “All of these causes — like ending hunger, climate change, racial inequality — they’re causes that everyone should care about, but there’s always a specific cause that an individual can relate to. I just want the website to be something that anyone can go on and find what they want.”
When Pentela first launched the site, she also included a blog where her friends and other guests from across the U.S. have been able to submit written stories, sharing their voices on topics such as climate change, diversity, sustainable fashion, feminism and much more.
“It kind of matches the whole purpose of why I made [the website] and what Empathy Designs became through individual’s stories,” Pentela said.
Pentela said that the start of Empathy Designs has had a huge impact on her life. She loves creating jewelry and using that time and energy that she spends on the hobby to help make a difference in communities all over.
“It feels amazing,” Pentela said. “It’s guided me to what I want to do with my life.”
As she starts to think about college and her future, Pentela said that she wants to study social entrepreneurship and create even more initiatives such as her store. She also plans to continue growing Empathy Designs, focusing on how she can better the store and make it look more professional. She may even try to create a brick and mortar store at some point in the future.
“I’ve always told all of my friends this isn’t something that I’m just going to do in high school,” Pentela said.
For now, as Pentela finishes her last year at South Forsyth, she plans to just continue doing what she loves — making jewelry while making a difference.