Twins award

Seventeen-year-old Indian American twins from New York and the founders of Wings of Hope, Renee and Rhea Mendonca, were recognized with the ‘Everyday Young Hero’ award by Youth Service America. (Wings of Hope/Instagram photo)

The possible side effects of vaping are many and Indian American twins Renee Mendonca and Rhea Mendonca are making an effort to help spread that knowledge.

For their community service and making a difference in the lives of youth, Youth Service America has recognized the 17-year-olds, who are seniors at Susan E. Wagner High School in New York, as ‘Everyday Young Heroes’ from across the world.

The dynamic twins are the cofounders of Wings of Hope, whose mission is to educate and empower youth about the dangers of vaping. They created the organization when they were just ten and were prompted to create it after the death of their grandfather from pulmonary fibrosis, according to a press release.

After observing that 85 percent of students, from the ages of 12-17, were hooked on to flavored e-cigarettes, they were inspired to write letters to governors of 50 states in the U.S. and President Donald Trump, urging them to ban e-cigarettes in the U.S. They also wrote to the e-cigarette company, JUUL, protesting against the advertisements on social media which were misleading teenagers.

JUUL has withdrawn marketing campaigns and flavored pods targeted towards underage teenagers, said the press release, adding that New York was the first to ban them and was followed by ten states.

The Mendonca twins have a 24-hour online helpline on Instagram: @wings_ofhope and email: wingsofhope555@gmail.com wherein vaping addicts can contact them anonymously.

To date, Wings of Hope has reached out to 150,000 youth from the U.S., Haiti, Congo, Malawi, Nicaragua, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Columbia, among other countries, stated the press release.

They have even composed and sung a song, “Break Free Of All Addictions,” to get their message across. They advise youth about the dangers of vaping through various online articles. They have also created a blog called Anti-Vaping Mondays, wherein they write about the stories of youth from across the globe who were addicted to vaping and how they eventually came out of that addiction with the help of Wings of Hope.

On their 17th birthday, the pair, who belong to National Honors Society, asked all their friends and well-wishers to donate to their favorite charity, St Jude Hospital. They raised $250,000, noted the release

“Renee Mendonca and Rhea Mendonca exemplify everything YSA looks for in young leaders,” said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. “We receive so many applications from around the world and picking 50 is not only a tough challenge, but a testament to the significance of Renee Mendonca and Rhea Mendonca’s contributions to service and the community.”

“We are very excited to receive this international award and are thankful to Youth Service America for this great honor and recognizing our work we carry out globally to save lives of youth addicted to vaping,” said the twins.

Youth Service America helps young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. The Everyday Young Hero award recognizes young people who are actively engaged in serving their communities, acting as a role model to other potential change makers, and making significant progress in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“We know that young people are uniquely suited to help solve problems - if given the opportunity,” said Culbertson. “Today’s social and environmental problems are immense; we need youth in this country to be leaders and problem solvers today, not just the leaders of a distant tomorrow.”

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