Editor’s Note: Newsday selected six millennial activists who go above and beyond to fight for the causes they care about. We are highlighting their hard work on Long Island and, in some cases, on a national and international level. Do you know a millennial in your community who advocates for an issue they care about? Email email@example.com.
When Kyle and Brandon Persaud were children, they visited Guyana every year with their parents, who are natives of the South American country. Kyle said his parents looked forward to the trips, as they miss the food and the culture of their home from time to time.
In 2007, when the brothers were 7 and 5, “my mom and dad decided it’d be a good idea to visit an orphanage, because both of my parents have had hard lives growing up,” Kyle said.
Kyle says he distinctly remembers munching on a chocolate bar with Brandon when a teenage boy, Jason, asked if he could have some, too.
“We didn’t want to give it to someone we didn’t know,” Kyle said. “But when we didn’t give him the chocolate, he started to break down and I guess he started saying stuff about his life that we really didn’t understand.”
Jason wasn’t able to go to school because he was one of the eldest orphans, Kyle said. “He had to work to help pay the fees for the other children.”
Although the brothers may have been too young to know it, that moment was significant for more than one reason. Kyle and Brandon’s mom, Felicia Persaud, said she lived in orphanages in Guyana for more than six years before she was adopted by a Guyanese woman and moved to the United States.
“Our mom gave back a lot to [Guyana] and the orphanages,” said Brandon, now 15. “So looking at what she does for other people, that was our mentality of what we wanted to become.”
In 2013, the young teens founded KB Operation Hope. The nonprofit organization provides educational and medical supplies for impoverished areas around the world. These supplies include over-the-counter medication, bandages, books, crayons and backpacks. The goods are either donated or purchased using grant money.
The brothers said they’ve donated supplies to multiple orphanages in Guyana, including Camal International Home, where their mother once lived.
“At their age, to start wanting to help kids — and it’s not only children that these two boys have been helping, it’s adults, women, the homeless,” Felicia Persaud said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Kyle and Brandon.”
Although the brothers are focused on Guyana due to their personal connection and familiarity with the region, they have also shipped supplies to schools and orphanages in India and Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
“I definitely want my organization to grow from a small one right now that’s comprised of about six people, to one that’s going to be comprised of hundreds,” said Kyle, 17. “I want it to be an international hub for support for children.”
In addition to collecting and organizing donations, the brothers also run the organization’s social media platforms and recruit millennial ambassadors to accompany them on their trips to Guyana. The current team of ambassadors are classmates of the Persauds at The Knox School in St. James.
The brothers have also met with the United States embassy ambassadors in Guyana, as well as the vice president of the nation, Sydney Allicock.
Kyle said sometimes when speaking to adults, it’s a challenge to be taken seriously. So he and his brother always make sure to show up with plenty of facts and evidence. “It’s really difficult to communicate because we are teens and I don’t think any adult wants to hear a teen tell them about the issues in their country,” Kyle said. “But I think that with the support of my parents and the support as a group, we’re able to do so in a very mature way.”
Both brothers would like to offer their support to villages in Africa someday, and plan to work together in the future, even though they’re not planning out the same career path.
Brandon, a sophomore, says he’d like to become a criminal defense attorney. Kyle, who is still deciding on a university as a senior, has a plan mapped out.
“I want to become a political attorney,” he said. “But I also want to work closely with the United Nations. I love learning about international relations and global affairs, so I want to act as sort of a liaison for UNICEF or the protection agency, something with government.”
Kyle added with a smile, “Eventually, I would like to become president of the United States.”