Hannah Taylor was five years-old when her and her mother drove passed a man eating out of a garbage can in Winnipeg, Canada. Puzzled, Hannah asked her mother why he would do this. She introduced Hannah to the dire reality of homelessness. For the rest of the year, the story of the man troubled Hannah and prompted her to ask her parents questions about homelessness, until one day her mother encouraged her to take action, as a solution to her inquietude.
Following her mom’s advice, Hannah asked her grade school teacher if she could talk to the class about homelessness. She did and together with her peers, she “ended up having a bake and art sale, and giving all the proceeds and clothes and stuff to a local mission. And it got bigger from there.”
At 8 years-old, Hannah established the Ladybug Foundation Inc., an organization that currently assists over 50 Canadian charities, which provide shelter, food and other basic provisions for the homeless, hungry and poor. Hannah also strives to raise awareness about homelessness and has spoken at over 175 schools and to audiences as large as 16,000. She constantly reminds people that food and shelter are basic human rights and everyone must do their share to help those in need. Hannah has also discussed the issue of homelessness with top officials, such as the past Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, CEOs and the Presidents of Corporations, musicians and actors.
Since its creation, the Ladybug Foundation has raised over $2 million for Canadian charities helping the homeless. In order to raise the money, Hannah has launched several initiatives for her organization. One is Big Boss lunches, where she unites key leaders in Canadian cities, including Winnipeg, Toronto and Calgary, and asks for their financial support. Hannah recalls that for her first Big Boss Lunch, she “drew 50 pictures to sell. Most were of ladybugs. One of the big bosses asked how much they cost. I said, ‘Let your heart decide.’ He said, ‘I’ll take one for $10,000.’”
Hannah does not just help the homeless. She likes to befriend them, whenever they were willing as well. She described how she became friends with a homeless man: “Once, when I was 8, I stopped to fill a homeless man’s asking cup with all the change in my purse. Then I hugged him and left. His name is Carey. Twenty minutes later, he came up behind me and handed me my ladybug charm. It fell into his cup by accident. He said he thought it might be important to me. We’ve been friends ever since.”
When asked the most difficult part of her journey since launching her organization, the young girl confessed that the death of two of her friends, results of the dangers of homelessness and poverty, was the saddest and hardest experience of her life. She reveals: “They found my one friend, Patches, on the riverbank; he drowned. I had exams and couldn’t go to the funeral. My other friend froze to death because she couldn’t find a place to sleep.”
Hannah believes that her mission will only end when “people will care about each other like family. The homeless will have homes and won’t have to eat out of garbage cans.”
The young Canadian launched another organization, called the Ladybug Foundation Education Program Inc., where she created the “makeChange,” a multimedia resource for teachers to empower young people to become involved and make a change in their community and in the world. MakeChange educates students on existing social problems and encourages student engagement through asking questions and taking action.
Hannah has also published an illustrated children’s story, called Ruby’s Hope, which inspires readers to make a change regardless of their age. In recognition of her hard work for the homeless, an emergency shelter in Winnipeg was named Hannah’s Place. In 2007, Hannah received the prestigious BRICK Award in the Community Building category.
Hannah advises other young people to follow their dreams: “Just follow your heart. Tell your parents about what you’re doing, or what you want to do, and they might give you some ideas, too. But really, just follow your heart, and maybe get your schoolmates involved so they can help out, too.”
Check out Hannah’s Ladybug Foundation at The Ladybug Foundation Website.
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