Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CAS Junior Reaches Globally with her New Non-Profit

Delia Rose Mandia is a busy NYU CAS sophomore double majoring in History and Language & Mind and double minoring in American Sign Language and Web Applications & Programming--while interning at the Alice Austin Museum this semester. Say that five times fast!

Mandia is no ordinary sophomore. Aside from double majoring, double minoring and interning, she sews at least one-hundred unique monster dolls per month for her newly formed non-profit, Night Night Monster (facebook). NNM.jpgUnlike many entrepreneurial ventures, Night Night Monster, which has spread both domestically and internationally, was not born from a moment of genius or the intention to "make it big." Rather, it started simply as a personal effort to rid herself of nightmares that she'd lived with since childhood. But as others observed and word-of-mouth grew, demand for these friendly stuffed-monsters stretched across the globe, and Night Night Monster was formed. And despite how new the organization is (formed in 2011), Mandia was recently selected to be in President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative Program for her work with Night Night Monster.

Last week, we talked to Mandia about Night Night Monster, how it was conceived, and how alumni might be able to get involved with this global initiative.  

Can you tell us what Night Night Monster is all about?

Night Night Monster (a dba of Night Night Dolls INC) is an incorporated nonprofit I started last year. We make dolls for children locally and abroad who suffer from severe nightmares and night terrors caused by trauma. Our dolls are used to neutralize the fear of monsters, including fear of the word monster. We make little whimsical Night Night Monster dolls that can be used by a child in any way he or she wants. Some kids say it helps them by guarding them, some say their Night Night Monster fights the bad monsters they see when they dream. And “Night Night” means bye-bye, meaning “Bye Bye Monster.” delia%20mandia.jpgI didn't know the dolls I was making could have that affect. But when I heard that was what one child was using it for, I jumped on the idea. I had nightmares and night terrors myself since I was very young. I had some health issues. I was on chemotherapy when I was little, and dealt with chronic pain (which I still live with). On top of this I didn't have the best home life. Now I'm in a safe place with my mom and grandma who love and support me no matter what. It wasn't until I was older, though, and in a better place that I realized not everyone is afraid to go to sleep. Not everyone wakes up screaming every night. I think that for me my daily hardships, my trauma, were translated into my dreams. I wish I had a doll like this when I was younger. Night Night Monsters are constructed using hypoallergenic, nontoxic materials.  

How long have you been managing Night Night monster, and how many dolls would you say you’ve created in that time? Is it a domestic operation, or do you ship them internationally as well?

I started it last year. I was home resting before and after a surgery. I wish I knew how many dolls I've made since starting Night Night Monster. In the beginning I wasn't thinking that this was going to be something that would actually catch on. So I wasn't keeping track. Whoever asked, I gave. By now I've certainly made into the hundreds. And yes, we ship internationally. We work a lot with Indian orphanages, for kids dealing with HIV/AIDs to leprosy. In the states we send to mainly hospitals and individual families, as well as to homes for children who have suffered from abuse. We've shipped to Haiti too. We send to whoever asks.

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 Do you ever get “thank you notes” from children?

 A lot of the dolls we send are to children whose first language is not English. I rather have a photo any day though. Seeing kids with something I made all the way on the other side of the world, smiling, is incredible. The first time I got photos back I cried. We do get letters all the time from the managers and social workers saying the children really enjoy the dolls.

From what I understand, you need to make at least 100 dolls every month (from your dorm room), on top of taking 18 credits, double majoring, double minoring, and interning at the Alice Austin museum. How do you get everything done!? And what is your strategy for finding helpers?

I'm actually taking 21 credits now! Over the limit- I needed special approval. I know, it's crazy. But I'm from the Multi-Task Generation. I can't do just one thing at once. While studying, I sew and watch sci-fi TV shows (mainly from the Stargate franchise... I'm a total nerd) or play video games. nnm%20materials.jpg I keep a 3.7+ GPA and am in the process of getting together an Honors Thesis for both of my majors. It's all about strategy and keeping an agenda. Granted I don't go out to parties like other college students, but frankly I wouldn't want to anyway. I rather be in my room working on bettering myself and helping others, than at a bar. I was raised to have certain values by my mom and grandma too, and I stick to them. My foundation is strong thanks to them. Studying and sewing is fun for me anyway. I love what I do. I'm lucky to have a great Lead Volunteer and friend, Danielle Amodeo. Also NYU has been so kind. We've had events with NYU's Palladium dorm and the Commuter Escape. Right now we have two great volunteer/interns from NYU. They are helping me a lot by making dolls and with media. The hardest part of running a nonprofit, and I imagine a small business too since there are a lot of similarities, is knowing when to delegate. That's the only way to grow and not drown in work overload. Learned that pretty quickly.  

Where did you learn how to sew?

I've always been into the arts, though I don't consider myself an artist. I paint and do embroidery. My poetry and photography have been published. Doll making was a natural extension. It was organic. I just picked up a needle like I picked up a paint brush or a pen and went at it. Though I do have grandmothers who were seamstresses. Maybe it runs in the family. My goal this summer is to make my two cousins and my best friend a dress. We'll see if that works out. I doubt it. The human body is a lot different than a little monster's body! And I hope to be working in a brain research center for some lab experience towards my 2nd major, Language & Mind.  

How long does it take to make each doll?

I don't really time myself because each doll is different and has different needs. I do run it like an assembly line. So I'll do all the cutting in one session, then the stitching in the next, the stuffing later, etc. Waiting for the paint to dry takes up the longest time. I guess maybe each doll I have my hands on for about ten or fifteen minutes. Again, this really varies. It also depends on how stiff my hands are. They don't always work right, so each doll looks different which works in my favor.

Have you learned anything since Night Night Monster’s conception?

Absolutely. People care a lot more than I thought. I heard the statistics about how we in the States give the most to charity independently, but I never took it seriously. On the news everything is about somebody being greedy or stealing. I've found the everyday person isn't like that. So many people have supported me, whether its by wishing me well, helping us make a doll, or giving a small contribution- all without me asking. I've learned people are inherantly good and want to help.

nnm%20doll.jpgDo you see yourself continuing along this path of social entrepreneurship upon graduating from CAS?

A life without service is a life not worth living. I don't remember who said that, but it's true. I can't imagine myself not being involved in some cause. I live my life this way, and always have because that's how I was raised by my mom and grandma. A life not involved with social entrepreneurship would be boring in any case, so why not go all in and make a difference? Why not leave a mark on the world by making one less child feel afraid? Our goal is to eliminate nightmares, one monster at a time.  

Is there any way interested NYU alumni would be able to help with Night Night Monster?

They can email me at drm355@nyu.edu or delia@NightNightMonster.org. Our website is www.NightNightMonster.org. We are always looking for extra hands, and since I have no experience with business any advice would be great. They could also make a donation to us through the website or email me (I rather email because PayPal takes a hefty percentage and we need every penny we can get for shipping and supplies. That's all we use the money for, period.)

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