Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 by Raluca Besliu
Talia Leman wanted to help the victims of the destructive and deadly Hurricane
Katrina. Determined to help as much as possible, the ten year old planned to raise $1 million, which for most would seem a ludicrously ambitious goal, especially for a child her age. Talia managed to rally a children-led movement that reported not $1 million, but over $10 million, ranking this youth-led giving power with the top five U.S. corporate donors, including Wal-Mart, Exxon and AT&T.
The movement started that Halloween when Talia decided to trick-or-treat for coins instead of candy. Her younger brother, however, vehemently opposed. Consequently, she became the CEO, chief executive optimist, of the fundraising effort, while her brother became the CON, the chief executive nemesis.
The now 17 year-old changemaker recalls: “We posted our photos on a make-shift website. Naturally, I was wearing a shiny coin costume while he donned a Darth Vader costume, complete with a light saber. The Today Show happened to be trolling the internet for uplifting Katrina stories and came across ours, and invited us on the program, in our official capacities.”
The Today Show appearance transformed Talia’s initiative into a country-wide movement. Kids through out the U.S. were inspired to trick-or-treat for New Orleans. Talia personally collected $312 that Halloween, while with the help of donations from local companies, her total contribution reached $250,000. Nationally, kids inspired by Talia raised a total of an extraordinary $10 million.
Through this fundraising effort, Talia realized the immense potential young people had to change the world. She created the organization RandomKid that provides young people with the ideas, resources and tools to raise funds for charitable causes. Talia told The Story Exchange that “RandomKid was born from this need to provide the resources to other kids who want to make a difference for the things that they care about in the world.”
The organization has already mobilized 12 million young people from 20 countries and provided aid on four continents. The organization makes a 300%-1000% return on whatever was invested in their organization. Projects supported by RandomKid range from funding water pumps and building schools, to providing medical care and fostering peace.
Apart from running her organization, Talia published a book in 2012 entitled “A Random Book About the Power of ANYone,” which highlights how young people can make extraordinary contributions and make positive change in the world. Her book outlines the tools needed to achieve these goals. On Amazon, her book is rated #1 bestseller on volunteerism, #3 in the self-esteem category, and #6 in motivation.
For her extraordinary work, Talia received numerous awards, including the National Jefferson Award, World of Children’s Founder’s Youth Award and the International Youth Talent Award from the European Union and the Spanish government of Extremadura. She was awarded the “Nobel” Prize for her tremendous efforts to assist children throughout the world. Talia was appointed UNICEF’s first known National Youth Ambassador. Moreover, in an op-ed entitled “Talia For President,” Nicholas Kristof New York Times’ columnist endorsed Talia for president: ”If your image of a philanthropist is a stout, gray geezer, then meet Talia Leman, an eighth-grader in Iowa who loves soccer and swimming, and whose favorite subject is science. I’m supporting her for president in 2044.”
Talia’s future goals include developing a mobile app “to provide youth with all the tools and resources they need to make their projects take off into the stratosphere from their phones.” She also wants to expand The Big Return, a project that was piloted in St. Louis. The project trains organizations to rally their young participants and offer them the skills, resources and tools needed to raise their own return rates to 200%-1000% for their community causes, while also helping young people acquire leadership skills, improve their grades and connect in their communities.
What about other young people who want to change the world? Talia suggests: “First, understand that you can do great things precisely because you are a youth and you don’t know what isn’t possible. You have a wealth of inexperience –for you there is no box to think outside. Second, take the first step, whatever it is, and trust that all the next steps will make themselves known. Plans happen best when they emerge.”
Check out Talia’s organization here: https://www.randomkid.org
See more at: http://www.takingonthegiant.com/category/charity/#sthash.sAzzwFTA.dpuf
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