To call Reva Chaudhry a busy teen is an understatement.
The Ahwatukee resident, 15, already has 14 AP classes under her belt at BASIS Ahwatukee, which has given the excelling junior its Student of the Year Award the last five years.
But studies aren’t the only thing that keep Reva busy, especially since the pandemic began.
Last summer, she handmade 120 greeting cards with personalized notes that she gave to employees at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts in her neighborhood, reducing some workers to tears over the messages of gratitude and encouragement.
She made another 50 cards for healthcare workers at Chandler Regional Medical Center.
She made paintings that she sold to raise over $600 for the hard-hit Navajo Nation.
In December she got donations of slightly imperfect products from mainly local businesses – Engrave My Memories, Zaaina Skincare and Wisely Wrapped – and made 100 care packages for homeless people that included insulated mugs, satchels, journals, handmade soaps, socks, and snacks. Then she dipped into her personal savings to buy them blankets and pens.
Naturally, she made cards to go with those packages – and also included a list of ideas for things they could write in the journals she donated.
And she started a nonprofit called Gift A Treat (giftatreat.org) to raise money for prosthetics and diagnostic tests for needy, crippled people in India.
That last endeavor evolved from her visit to India,
“I met my grandpa’s friend who volunteers at a hospital and uses his own money to fund diagnostic tests, dialysis support, and prosthetics for impoverished patients who barely make a dollar a day in wages.
“I was so inspired by his story, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity and be a part of this cause,” she explained.
As for the greeting cards, Reva said such handmade gifts “have always been my way to make someone feel loved and special, which is why I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember.
“This past year being so incredibly difficult and tragic for so many people, I wanted to shine a light in the lives of those who are often forgotten among all the chaos: the homeless,” she said. “When most quarantined to keep safe, the grocery store workers still showed up for work. I wanted to express my appreciation for their courage and hard work and once again, the best way I could do that was through my cards and a personalized message.”
Her greeting cards also have evolved into a blog, paperunleashed.com, and instagram handle #paperunleashed, “to really experiment with textures, colors, patterns, and styles. So these cards often feature intricate cut-outs, many, many layers of papers, patterns, and textures, and unique color combinations.”
Her meticulous attention to the cards emerges from her description of the ones she made for the homeless people to accompany what she called “carefully curated” packages.
“I wanted them to be beautiful yet simple, so the message shines. I gathered some of my favorite patterned paper, cut them to size, and stuck a slightly smaller white cardstock paper on top.
“For each card, I cut out a gold bow, which finished them off perfectly. I keep a list of some of my favorite quotes and uplifting lines, which inspired the message I wrote in each card.”
She used the watercolor card set she received for her birthday, as well as doilies and angel paper cut outs to make the thank you notes for front line workers, taking the time to speak to the store managers to find the employees’ names “so I could personalize every card and envelope with each employee’s name.”
“Seeing the pictures of the workers who received the cards, their smiling, happy faces, it was an amazing feeling,” Reva recalled. “These reactions just reinforce why I love making cards so much. One of the employees at Trader Joe’s loved her card so much, she had tears in her eyes and said that this made the last three months all worthwhile.”
Her sense of philanthropy dates back to fifth grade, when she and her sister Anya Chaudhry, a valedictorian in Desert Vista High School’s Class of 2020, started designing t-shirts for Bad Turtle Designs, selling them at every school event and city gathering the sisters could get to. The proceeds went to the Phoenix Zoo.
She explained her way of balancing her rigorous academic schedule with her philanthropy in the same meticulous way she makes cards.
“It all comes down to breaking everything down into small, manageable steps, and working my way up. Monday: design and cut out all the pieces for my cards and finish all my math homework. Tuesday: actually create the card and promote my page on Instagram.
“By the end of the week, I have a card done, blog post done, all my schoolwork done and I can then start thinking of what I need to do next. Keeping my end goal in mind as a motivator and focusing on the small, attainable steps keeps me from getting overwhelmed or overstressed.”
“Ever since I was 7, I would spend days creating the perfect birthday, anniversary, Christmas card for my mom, dad, and sister,” she said.
“Even at 15, I still do that every holiday. I wanted to share my love for crafting and show how something as simple and conventional as paper can have the power to become so special and create so many memories and smiles.”
Though she hasn’t zeroed in on a college yet, she has a pretty good idea of what she wants to do when she gets older: “Finding my own ways to serve the community, creating my own charity foundation, designing my own blog.
“I do things on my own terms,” she said. “I want the same sense of creative expression and freedom in all my future endeavors, which must also complement my philanthropic pursuits.”