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HopeSisters’ London, Ont., chapter unites community groups in homeless outreach

Click to play video: 'Sisters on mission spreading hope, positivity for Ontario children in care'
Sisters on mission spreading hope, positivity for Ontario children in care
WATCH: Kenisha and Alisha Arora are known as the HopeSisters, dedicated to lifting the spirits of vulnerable members of their community. – Aug 11, 2020

What started as two sisters looking for ways to make a difference during the pandemic has grown into an international community of volunteers working together to spread hope — most recently, in London, Ont.

Western University student Kenisha Arora, 18, and her sister Alisha, 14, started off by writing letters to seniors in long-term care and retirement homes last March. Their not-for-profit organization, HopeSisters, has grown significantly since then, both in terms of scope and size.

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HopeSisters’ local chapter, London HopeCollective, focused its attention this week on reaching out to those experiencing homelessness.

The sisters, who are from Mississauga, visited the London chapter on Wednesday and were joined by local NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan to distribute HopeBags to local shelters.

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“I was thrilled yesterday to join London HopeCollective to spread some hope to the homeless in London,” Kernaghan said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“It’s inspiring to see Londoners stepping up to help their neighbours in times of need.”

Kenisha says “we have a lot of HopeSeniors that we’ve championed in long-term care and retirement homes. And they were kind enough to knit some hats and scarves for these homeless people and some of the kids in foster care.”

They say the Afghan Sikh community also provided “incredible amounts of donations” while Tim Hortons provided food for those experiencing homelessness.

“It was really just about our whole community coming together and give back,” Kenisha added.

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The HopeSisters began in March 2020 in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It was just so disheartening to see the amount of inequities and how much isolation was taking a mental health toll on everyone,” Kenisha explained.

“My sister and I want to do something and we decided it was time, that right now is perfect for us to spread hope.”

Alisha says they sent 2,000 cards to seniors in long-term care and retirement homes.

Next, a friendship inspired them to spread hope to kids in foster care.

Read more: Western University, affiliated colleges join push to assist students aging out of foster care

“I had a friend who was in foster care. She was just 13 years old but she was at over 10 different foster homes. So she never really had a stable lifestyle and even more surprising, she never even had things to call her own, even something as simple as a blanket or a toy,” Alisha said.

“So one of the first projects we worked on was a Project HopeBag, which was bags filled with toys and books and essential items to give to kids in care. And we partnered with a lot of small businesses.”

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The Arora sisters also helped organize a parade in their hometown of Mississauga over the holidays.

Read more: Veteran homelessness functionally ended in London, Ont., city officials say

While the not-for-profit began as a way to shine light amid the pandemic, the sisters plan to continue their efforts even after the health crisis eventually ends.

“This mission of spreading hope is something that we hope to cherish for the rest of our lives,” said Kenisha.

Alisha says the mission is much bigger than the two of them. “It’s not just about the HopeSisters, but it’s about all the HopeSpreaders that are involved to make an impact,” she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about us. It’s about what we can do together.”

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University commerce student donates proceeds from clothing line to charity'
Queen’s University commerce student donates proceeds from clothing line to charity

The sisters say anyone looking to contribute can head to their website, thehopesisters.com, to learn more.

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“You can find out more about how you can get involved specifically with the London chapter or even doing things that don’t take too much time out of your day. I know that we’re all busy people, but even something as simple as donating, writing a card or putting together a HopeBag,” Kenisha explained.

Read more: ‘It is a parallel pandemic’: What loneliness does to our mental health

“I also encourage everyone listening today to find time out of your day to do something — a small, random act of kindness — whether that be smiling at someone, holding the door. Something small can really make an impact.”

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