The year 2020 has been full of surprises -- incredibly unpleasant ones, to say the least. And while we adjust to the drastic turns our lives keep taking, it is crucial to help others who are struggling to make ends meet.
Nushana Huq, a 16 year old Bangladeshi living in Houston, Texas, has been doing just that. Despite being born in the US, Nushana has a very close connection to Bangladesh, and visits every year. She feels strongly about public policy and systemic reform, which led Nushana to her interest in volunteer work. "My philosophy is that action is always necessary, no matter how small of a step it may be," she says.
Nushana has done many volunteering projects in the past to help her community. From gathering used glasses to give to children who can’t afford them, packaging food to help people who lost their homes after hurricanes in Texas, selling handmade bracelets and cookies to help raise awareness about nursing home abuse, registering for a 150 mile bike ride and raising around $450 to help fund Multiple Sclerosis research, to finally launching her website, artbeneficial.com -- Nushana has found ways to contribute to society and help the people need in whatever way she can.
Artbeneficial.com is a website where local art is sold to raise money for different causes. So how does it work? Nushana explains it all.
What led you to come up with the artbeneficial.com website?
From Covid-19 to the new and much-needed awareness on racial discrimination, there is not a single country in this world that isn’t experiencing drastic change. Due to the new wave of transformation, I decided that I should strive to inspire many others to take action by also giving them something in return. I started thinking of ways I could raise money, but with the pandemic, I was truly at a loss of ideas at first. I, myself, am not an artist, so selling art was not one of my first ideas at hand. Slowly but surely, I realized that this whole effort did not have to be solely mine; I needed to get others to join in, so that we can have a much larger impact than anything I would do by myself. I have many friends who love art, so once I realized I could make this a group effort, the idea of selling art to raise money for charity finally came to my mind. My thought process was that during this time, art will provide a sense of peace in people’s minds, and at the same time can be a good way to raise money for current causes.
Talk us through the idea of the website.
The idea is simple -- I sell original, handmade art from fellow students through my website. The hard-working artists get 25% of the money raised, and the rest 75% go towards charities. These are artists that are as motivated as myself to do something for the society. I am currently donating to two specific charities: JAAGO Foundation to help Bangladesh recover from the devastation of Covid-19, and Color of Change in the US to help take steps towards racial equality (Black Lives Matter movement). I picked a Bangladeshi organization for Covid relief because while $100 can help multiple families in Bangladesh, but that same amount would barely even help one in America.
There are three perspectives on the gears of the website: the buyer, the artist, and me. For the buyer, the process is simple: choose the painting, put in credit card information or PayPal, put in your address, then wait for it to ship. As for the artist and me, there are a few more steps. Once the artist chooses the artwork they want to sell, they send me the dimensions, weight, description, and, optionally, a picture of them. I then upload the product onto the website. Once a purchase has been made, I check which artwork they purchased and verify the order. So far, as the artists are in Houston, I have been collecting and shipping the art pieces myself. For out of state artists, the shipping may be done by the artists themselves. Once it reaches the buyer, I mark the order as fulfilled.
Was the journey from idea to fruition difficult?
The journey from idea to fruition was definitely not easy, but absolutely worth it in the end. Once I had my idea, the next step was to create the website. I am not a tech person and have never created a website, so I had no idea where to start. I researched and used a website builder to create my site. Although the website builder did a lot for me, I spent quite a bit of time thinking through how to make my website look simple yet effective. Once the site was all set up, I bought the domain (artbeneficial.com) for my site. Next, I set up the shipping process by writing a formula to calculate shipping costs correlated to the United States Postal Service prices. I finally arrived at the most important step: finding artists. I talked to my friends first and was able to get two artists who wanted to create art for the site. I uploaded their products and started marketing, and eventually gained more artists. Currently, my focus is on keeping a steady supply of art and marketing the website. Although it took a while for the website to be up and running, I had fun going through the process and loved seeing a step by step process of how an entrepreneur would set up their business.
Tell us about the artists involved.
Currently, there are four continual artists on my team: Annie, Daaniya, Bendy, and Katherine. Daaniya is my cousin living in Houston, Annie is a childhood friend of mine, and I met Bendy and Katherine through some of my friends. They are all incredibly talented, and I am so thankful for them. I truly feel that it is a 50/50 effort; while I handle all the logistics, they make art to keep the website going. I couldn’t have done it without them.
How important a role do you think art plays in terms of people's mental health, especially during a time like this?
Honestly, I feel that art can have a very positive impact on people’s mental health. Now that we aren’t able to leave the house, art can inspire us to do something beneficial from home, whether it be any self-care activity, decorating a space, or simply creating another art. Art is very calming for the mind, regardless of what type of art it is, which is another reason I chose to sell art during this time.
What other plans do you have for the future?
I definitely hope to continue artbeneficial.com. There will always be challenges in the world, whether it be a local concern like homelessness or a worldwide issue like racism or misogyny -- and one of the things all causes need is funding. I plan on creating platforms to promote global responsibility. I want to raise awareness about how much suffering there is in the world, and then unite people to help solve these problems. The world having place for so many problems like racism, misogyny, human trafficking, animal abuse, and other atrocities truly makes me upset every single day. That’s why I launched this website instead of just raising some funds as a one-time effort. While I aspire to study and go into the field of human rights activism when I grow older, I plan on at least contributing to the extent I can until then, which is motivating others to take a step and generating funding for the causes. While I don’t believe that money alone can solve the world’s problems, I think that these are both crucial first steps to creating a platform that will reach the people in power.