It is not unexpected that NYU boast of young, artistic talents or a Wall Street moguls in-the-making. It is, however, rare to find students making a mark on the world though altruism, and Sophomore Delia Mandia is one of them. During her freshman year, she created her own non-profit organization, Night Night Monster, which has expanded globally, since its start only one year ago. Last night, we had the opportunity to speak with Mandia to learn a little bit more about the progression of her organization and what it is that they do. This is one 20 year-old who proves that our youth doesn’t stop us from making an impact on the world.
For those who have never heard of Night Night Monster, can you explain what the objective of the organization is?
We are an incorporated non-profit in the state of New Jersey. We launched in 2011 to help children around the world who suffer from nightmares and night terrors caused by trauma. With the help of volunteers, we make fluff-plush dolls to help children overcome their fears and sleep peacefully. We make what are called “Night Night Monster” dolls. The word ‘monster’ is used because we want to neutralize the fear of the world itself. We don’t want kids to be afraid of the idea or even just the word.
When did this idea come to you?
It was a crazy idea that developed on its own, during a time I was probably at my lowest. Last year, I had to go through surgery and I had nothing to do. First, I started painting and then I got bored. I always did embroidery. I had left over cotton balls too. I started doing these little dolls during my recovering. I was like, “You know? These sort of look like monsters. But happy monsters.” I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night with this dream like, “Oh my god. I found my passion.” It just evolved. I gave one of the dolls to a little boy and he told me that it made his nightmares go away. After him, all of his friends who also had nightmares also got one. These little dolls, really, helped these kids. I myself had nightmares and night terrors since I was very, very young. I didn’t have a good dream until I was 17.
Woah! What was it about?
Harry Potter. I think I was at Hogwarts or something. Ron was there. That was the first time I actually had a good dream. I know what it’s like to be afraid to go to sleep.
So, how did Night Night Monster expand?
I was sewing, during my recovery, at a hospital in Connecticut. One person was like, “Can I have one [doll]?” I was like, “Yeah! Give them to your kids too.” Because even though I’m 20, I’m still in the pediatric ward. They then started giving them out to the kids there and told me I should really give them out to Yale and New Haven. That hospital would love some. So, I sent a shipment to them. We pretty much started going up and down the East Coast by word of mouth. I think because they really do help people—help children—it sort of just spread on its own. There were no advertisements. A lot of it was online.
How do you get funds to ship these dolls? And is it expensive?
It really varies. It depends on which country we’re shipping to. It depends on the size, the quantity and location mostly. To make the dolls, we can use a lot of the items that people donate. So, that cuts down the cost. We stuff the dolls with fluff. They’re fiber filled and not that expensive to make. The thing that really gets us is not the price. It’s the labor. So many people contact us all the time and want dolls. I’m just a kid at NYU. I’m taking 18 credits. I’m double majoring and double minoring. I’m interning at the Alice Austin museum next semester. And I’m trying to make 100 dolls a month from a dorm room.
So impressive. Is it a workshop in there?
Yep! I’m sitting right now [in Palladium] next to my sewing machine. I no longer have room to put on my makeup.
Aside from your own contribution, where do the other volunteers generally come from?
We have volunteers from all over the United States and even in Europe. We have volunteers in Ireland. It’s crazy! Our main base is in New York and New Jersey.
From starting your own non-profit, have you found that people are particularly generous?
I was sending a shipment to an orphanage in India. At that point, I was pretty much using my own money. I don’t have very much, but I was just using what I had. I was at the post office, packaging up the dolls in the box. This one lady saw and walked over and asked what I was doing. I told her and she was like, “Really? Oh my god.” I wasn’t thinking anything of it—just a normal, friendly Staten Islander. Then she’s like, “I’d really like to pay for your shipping.” I was just shocked. I didn’t know how to react because it was over $100. It was a stranger. She even gave us extra for our next shipment. I started crying it was that much of a shock. It wasn’t even the fact she gave the money to us. It was the fact that she was a random person, living her own life, and she cared enough to show interest in something that had nothing to do with her. It was completely selfless.
So, would you say Night Night Monster changed your perception of human nature?
It changed how I thought the world really was. Completely. People come out of the woodwork. They want to volunteer. Even NYU; I just mentioned that we had to fill an order for Haiti and they ended up donating money too. I didn’t even ask for it. It’s really amazing.
What do you hope to do with this in the future?
Well, we’re going to continue shipping all over the world and getting more volunteers. We have a twitter now. Orphanages are on twitter, believe it or not, and contacting us and asking us for dolls. Our big goal right now for me, as president and founder, is to try to find volunteers who are really interested and looking for experience with a non-profit.
On that note, how would students at NYU be able to help or donate?
They can go on our website or email directly firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also offering 2-4 credit internships for college students. We really need interns. People in marketing or interested in fashion or anything. We need everyone we can get.
Important To Note: Night Night Monster is hosting an event this Thursday at Palladium to benefit an orphanage in India. Anyone is welcome to come out and support.