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Ryan Hreljac: A First Grader’s Determination Leads to Drilling 100′s of Needed Wells

Charlie Butts

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Water!  What’s so special about water?  Ryan Hreljac found out that it is pretty special if you don’t have

Ryan Hreljac

Ryan Hreljac founder of Ryan’s Well Foundation source: Ryan’s Well Foundation

Ryan Hreljac founder of Ryan’s Well Foundation source: Ryan’s Well Foundation

it.  When Ryan was in first grade, his teacher wanted her students to begin to think about sharing basic things with people who do not have what most people take for granted.  One of the things she said some people in Africa needed was a water well.  Ryan asked, “Why do they need a well?  Why don’t they just go to the water fountain?”

His teacher said there is no water fountain, and the nearest water well is 5,000 meters away.  Ryan had to convert meters to steps, and when he found that it was only ten steps to his water fountain he began to realize how difficult 5,000 steps would be.  So the idea of providing a well sounded pretty significant and he decided to try to provide one.  He went home and asked his parents for the seventy dollar cost. He says his parent sat him down and told him that since it was not a small amount of money, he would have to earn it over time.  By the time he had done enough chores to have earned seventy dollars the program at his school was over.  When he contacted organizations that provide wells in Africa, he found the total cost to get a well dug and functioning was more like two thousand dollars.  He quickly determined that he would not be able to earn that much through house chores.

So at the age of seven, Ryan began public speaking throughout his community. “After that,” hereports, “ it became less and less of my project and more of everyone’s project. The entire community got involved and slowly the country and finally the world.”  He established the Ryan’s Well Foundation, which over the past twelve years has completed over eight hundred water projects at the cost of millions of dollars. Those projects have helped over 700,000 people in more than a dozen countries.

Ryan, now a very articulate and mature young man of twenty, explains that his foundation does three basic things.  First they build clean water wells.  “Every day,” he says, “six thousand children die because they don’t have clean water.”  The second thing they do is educate whole populations about the importance of clean water. Instead of building a well and walking away, they involve the whole village in the building of the well so they also know how to fix it when it breaks.  This makes the project sustainable.  And the third and perhaps most important thing they do, Ryan thinks, is to all people to figure out, in his words, “their puzzle piece” of how they fit in to make the world a better place.  If everyone does that the world will be a better place. Certainly Ryan has found his puzzle piece and is making the world a better place.

For more information on Ryan’s Well Foundation go to: http://www.ryanswell.ca/

Related stories about young people doing amazing things to deal with the huge need for clean water see: Transforming rain water to drinking water http://wp.me/p2fje5-gK and The young inventor of dry bath http://wp.me/p2fje5-aL

The end of malaria? Brothers John and Mark Lewandowski might have the answer

Raluca Besliu

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Brothers John and Mark Lewandowski may soon launch a global health revolution, by inventing a portable, cheap, fast and easy to use device for early malaria diagnosis. Their invention may not only prevent the death of millions who have already contracted the disease, but also lead to a drastic reduction of incidences of malaria.

lew full (Time 0_01_15;01)

Malaria is a leading cause of death in the world. Around 300-500 million people are infected with malaria each year. In 2010 alone, an estimated 660,000 people died from the disease. Caused by parasites of the Plasmodium species, malaria is easily transmitted to people when infected mosquitoes bite them. It is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Asia and Latin America. While continuing to claim countless lives on a yearly basis, malaria can be cured, especially if detected in its early phases.

The young inventors’ device, called the Rapid Assessment of Malaria (RAM), diagnoses malaria in less than one minute with just one drop of blood from a fingertip. John first thought up the devise in his graduate research at Case Western Reserve University where he studied inexpensive techniques to manipulate malaria parasites with magnetism.

RAM uses magnets and a laser pointer to conduct the diagnosis. Mark explained that the laser “shoots through the blood sample and the magnetic malaria particles interact with the magnets’ magnetic field and come together. Whatever light gets through the sample is captured by the light sensors and transformed into a voltage,” which reveals if and how much malaria a person has.

Listen to John and Mark explain their remarkable device:

The RAM device is reusable, both as a result of its plastic, replaceable sample holder, where the blood is stored, as well as its rechargeable battery. No training is needed to successfully operate the device. The young inventors tested their device on malaria samples sent from Papua New Guinea, where Case Western is operating a clinic.  The final version of the RAM will have an LCD screen that will provide an instant diagnosis. This is particularly crucial given the fact that, if detected within the first 24 hours of infection, malaria is easily treatable. If not promptly detected and treated, it can become severe and malaria medication less efficient. Since malaria’s original symptoms include fever and flu-like illness, such as shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness, people often fail to diagnose the disease before it is too late.  Not only is the disease more difficult to treat later on, but it increases the spread of the disease. With RAM, people can easily test whenever they fear they have contracted the disease.

Another intended addition to the RAM’s final model will be to add an external adapter to ensure that the users can recharge their device with any power source they might have. This is especially important, since malaria affects mostly countries with limited access to energy sources.

The cost of detection will be only 20-25 cents, significantly less than existing malaria detection products. Apart from being more time consuming, existing mechanisms are also more expensive, costing anywhere  between 75 cents to over 20 dollars, without considering the additional costs of refrigeration and medical processing. When assessing the total costs, John emphasizes that their product would be 10 times, even 50 times cheaper than everything else on the market.

In order to commercialize their product, the two brothers started their own organization, Disease Diagnostic Group LLC. They want to sell the RAM together with mosquito nets and the malaria treatment. John stressed that putting together prevention, detection and treatment is crucial to quickly reduce the number of malaria cases.  The two brothers have reached out to several organizations that might be interested in RAM, including the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO). Given the brilliance of their device, it will certainly not take long for organizations interested in global health to show interest in their product.

In propelling their product, John and Mark have already won several $10,000-15,000 business plan competitions and obtained a $100,000 investment from the Coulter Foundation at Case Western Reserve University, which will help them distribute their device in the field. In order to further test it, John and Mark will travel, in the fall of 2013, to Peru and Haiti, two malaria-ridden countries that are relatively close to the U.S.

In terms of upcoming projects, the young entrepreneurs are creating a supplementary app for the RAM to track and store the diagnosis as well as upload it to a GPS mapping system to provide an accurate, minute-changing assessment of malaria affected areas, so that treatment can be efficiently distributed. Also, the brothers hope to help scientists develop new strategies to combat the infectious disease.

When advising other young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, Mark suggests: “Take a look a long at all your interests and run them through different scenarios and see which one is going to have the greatest impact on the people around you and other parts of the world.” John added: “The beauty of our business model has been pairing something that has huge social impact with financial profitability or sustainability.  So, make sure that your initiative has a sustainable model around it and that it can reach a significant number of people.”

Watch our full interview with the Lewandowski brothers here.

At 14, Shea Gouldd made her baking passion a successful business

Raluca Besliu

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Shea Gouldd, an 18-year-old, from Delray Beach, Florida, had an interest in cooking since before she can remember. According to her mother, as a toddler she preferred to watch cooking shows rather than cartoons.

Her mother recalls that Shea always wanted to help make dinner. Her mom would let her snip green beans with scissors, measure rice and carry out other small tasks. Shea’s passion for cooking gradually turned to baking.

Source: http://www.sheasbakery.com/Sheas_Bakery/Shea.html

Source: http://www.sheasbakery.com/Sheas_Bakery/Shea.html

Since baking ingredients are rather expensive, her mother, a self-employed single-parent, challenged her to earn money. So, in 2008, at the age of 14, she started selling gourmet cheesecakes and seasonal breads to family friends and neighbors to earn money for baking and developing new recipes.
The business won customers and soon she could open her own bakery: Shea’s Bakery.  Family friends allowed the teenager to use a kitchen inside an office, in exchange for Shea’s catering for their occasional events. Through word of mouth, the young entrepreneur managed to have over 30 orders by that Thanksgiving.

Without any marketing her business grew 300% in one year and eventually caught the attention of local media. Shea believes that the reason for her bakery’s success is the high-quality ingredients she uses and the love she puts into her cooking. Her bakery carries over 60 items, including cakes, cupcakes, brownies and seasonal breads. The first store that displayed the young entrepreneur’s products sold 720 cupcakes in one week and over 900 cookies, brownies and breads during a second weekend.  In 2012, she was able to hire a full-time employee that managed the business while Shea was at school.

While significantly busier than most teenagers her age, Shea was also a dedicated student. She maintained a 4.7 GPA at the Spanish River High School and was part of the National Honor Society.  She was also enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Academy to improve her business skills. She also played tenor saxophone in the school’s decorated marching and symphonic bands.
Giving back to the community is important to Shea as well. Ten percent of all her products are donated to charity. Her bakery donates goods to a local soup kitchen where she has also served, and her bakery proceeds go to various charities.
Moreover, Shea is currently in the process of trademarking “Pattycakes,” her culinary invention, two cakes pushed together with icing in the middle like a giant cookie.

Shea was recently awarded the National Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a $10,000 scholarship along with the award from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation. She also received a $10,000 scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation. Shea has won many other competitions and prizes, including the 2010 Bravo Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, the first place in the 2013 Fla State DECA Competition.
The young entrepreneur is about to start her freshman year at the Washington University in St. Louis where she was awarded a scholarship worth more than $174,000. While she will not be able to cook for her bakery, she will still handle the administrative responsibilities.

Check out Shea and her bakery at:

17-year-old Talia Leman has managed to mobilize 12 million young people

Raluca Besliu

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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.

Source: randomkid.org

Source: randomkid.org


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


Ten-year-old Martha Payne advocates for healthier foods in school

Raluca Besliu

Friday, May 24th, 2013

In 2012, 9-year-old Martha Payne, a Scottish schoolgirl from Lochgilphead, discovered her passion for writing after publishing a newspaper article on the Titanic’s sinking.
Source: Marysmeals.org.uk

Looking for a way to write everyday, Martha and her dad created a blog that documented Martha’s school lunches. Martha was coming home hungry because of the poor quality of the food served at school. The schoolgirl lives on a small farm, on which her family grows some of their food. She could easily tell the difference between the highly-processed food at her school and the simpler, healthier cuisine she was eating at home.

On her blog, called NeverSeconds, Martha rated her food for healthiness, taste and mouthfuls and posted photos of her meals. In her blog, Martha asked where the food products she was served at school came from. She soon started receiving pictures of school dinners and lunches from students all over the world.

Her blog, launched at the end of April 2012, soon went viral, reaching over 5 million pagev iews by June. She received support from celebrities, such as chef and school activist Jamie Oliver, who encouraged Martha’s efforts, tweeting: “Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going. Big love from Jamie x.”

In June 2012, the Argyll and Bute Council banned Martha from taking photos of her school meals. The Council refuted the “attacks on its school catering.” The ban’s given motivation was that Martha misrepresented the food options available to students, who were able to select between two meals each day, which were decided by teachers, parents and the school board.

After the ban, Martha posted a goodbye on her blog, explaining how she received the news: “This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners. […] I only write my blog, not newspapers, and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.”

Martha was also disappointed because she raised only £2,000 of the £7,000 fundraising target for Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity that provided school meals for children in developing countries. She was collecting these donations through her blog.The ban caused a massive out pour of Internet support for the schoolgirl. The Council was quickly forced to lift the ban and apologize to Martha.  After the ban’s lifting, the school also started offering unlimited salads, fruits, and breads at meal times.

The general public’s support for Martha also manifested into donations for Martha’s charity cause, which allowed her to raise over £115,000, far surpassing her initial target. Mary’s Meals used part of the funding to build a new kitchen shelter for Lirangwe Primary School in Malawi, which has around 2,000 students, while the rest of the funds were used to cover the Malawian students’ meals.

In October 2012, Martha travelled to Malawi and had breakfast with the 2,000 children at the kitchen she helped build. The kitchen provides a special high-protein porridge to the school students.

In describing her visit, Martha said:  ”I was a bit nervous when I saw all the children waiting but it was awesome to see the kitchen finished and to paint the sign. It was really nice of them to sing my name when we got to the school.”

Martha’s generosity inspired other people to give as well. One woman, Shabnam Sabur was so impressed by Martha’s work in Malawi that she decided to follow her example and pay the running costs of meals at another Malawian school. Sabur told the BBC: “There was one particular moment in the report where Martha was surrounded by hundreds of school children her own age. They were so happy, so delighted, with huge smiles on their faces. It was at that moment I felt I wanted to be a part of it. […] I wanted to achieve what Martha had achieved in changing the lives of children.”

For her initiative, Martha was awarded several prizes, including the  ”Human Rights Young Person of the Year” at the 2012 Liberty Awards and the “Public Campaigner of the Year” at the Scottish Politician of the Year event.

Source: Marysmeals.org.uk

Source: Marysmeals.org.uore sub

In terms of career plans, Martha said in an interview that she hoped to be “an author or a journalist or a runner. Maybe I could be all three!” For the moment, Martha continues to run her blog, which receives more and more photos and

missions from students from around the world, who are often proposing changes in their own school meal plans.

When giving advice to other young changemakers, Martha emphasized: “Kids are really good at sharing and getting along. We do it everyday in the playgrounds at our schools. We should remember we are the experts at that. Because of the internet we can share beyond our playground and countries. Also, don’t be scared to start a blog. You can change what you write without smudges, you can say what you care about and you can publish it!”

See more at: http://www.takingonthegiant.com/category/charity/#sthash.sAzzwFTA.dpuf


Hannah Taylor: Helping Canada’s homeless since she was 8

Raluca Besliu

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

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 man troubled Hannah and prompted questions to her parents until one day her mother encouraged her to take action.


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.
- See more at: http://www.takingonthegiant.com/category/charity/#sthash.sAzzwFTA.dpuf

Cecilia Cassini: the youngest fashion designer in the U.S.

Raluca Besliu

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Source: WWD.com

Cecilia Cassini, youngest fashion designer

Thirteen-year-old Cecilia Cassini from Encino, California was the youngest designer in the U.S. and one of the youngest in the world, when she launched her own label in 2009, at the age of 9. By 2011, she had already created over 500 original pieces and dressed many celebrities, including Heidi Klum and Miley Cyrus.

The young designer primarily creates clothes for girls between 4 and 14, but often adapts them for adults as well. Cecilia likes to use feathers, fur and bows for her designs.

She designs all the clothes herself.  In order to balance school work and designing, Cecilia does her homework in the library during recess, so after school she can focus entirely on her creations.

It takes her about 15 minutes to create her dresses, which cost between $62 and $150.  She considers her signature piece to be her “big-bow dress. Bows are chic, and they add something amazing to everything.”

She explained the advantages of being a young designer, saying:  ”Sometimes adults create clothes for kids thinking that we don’t have sophisticated tastes yet, so what I’m bringing are very modern, high-fashion looks for kids from a kid’s eye. I know what girls my age want to wear.”

In an interview, the young designer recalled that she started designing when she was 4 years-old, when she “started cutting up clothing and began repurposing the material.”

Everything changed when Cecilia received a sewing machine from her grandmother for her sixth birthday. She hasn’t stopped designing since.

Her big break came during her first trunk show at Tough Cookies, a children’s shop in Sherman Oaks, where the young designer sold 50 pieces in three hours. In 2012, Cecilia got her own reality show, called Confessions of a Fashionette” on Style Network, following her efforts to expand her clothing line, by organizing a major trunk show in Los Angeles.

The young designer wants to be a role model for other young people and encourages her peers to chase their dreams. She revealed in an interview: “I’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer, and I think we shouldn’t wait till we’re older. I think that we should just do it now so I’m following my dreams and I hope that other little girls follow theirs.”

Cecilia also likes to give back to the community. Cecilia has responded to the invitation of several elementary school teachers, who wanted her to talk to their students about how she made her dreams reality and inspire them to do the same. She also funds charities that help people, especially children, follow their dreams.


14-year-old Kesz Valdez has helped over 10,000 homeless Filipino children

Raluca Besliu

Monday, May 20th, 2013

When he was two-years-old, Cris “Kesz” Valdez’s father forced him to scavenge at a dump site in Cavite City, situated not far from Manila. His father used to beat Kesz and use the money collected for drugs and alcohol.

Source: Bida Kapamilya

Source: Bida Kapamilya

When he turned four, Kesez ran away from home and lived on the streets, continuing to scavenge off a dump site and to sleep in an open tomb in a public cemetery with other kids.

Three years later, he sustained severe burns on his arms, when he fell in a pile of burning tires. He was rescued and cared for by a social worker, Harnin “Bonn” Manalaysay, who has provided for the boy ever since. Kesz is now the founder of the Bible study and outreach group Club 8586.

On his seventh birthday, in 2005, the first one he was celebrating in his entire life, Kesz did not want any presents from himself. Instead, he gave small gifts for street children. Soon afterwards, Kesz, who is now 14, established the charity organization that he has ran ever since, Championing Community Children.

Through his organization, Kesz offers homeless children in Cavite City “HOPE GIFTS,” containing packages with clothes, slippers, toothbrushes and toys. His organization has other programs as well. Kesz organizes teaching sessions for street children about hygiene, food and children’s rights and attends public events, where he represents these kids. In his initiative, Kesz  is supported by his friends, who also help distribute the care packages and teach the street children. Thus far, the young Filipino’s organization has distributed over 5,000 parcels and helped 10,000 street children.

At the end of 2012,  the young Filipino’s work was recognized by the International Children’s Peace Prize, granting him $130,000 prize to invest in his programs. The prize is awarded annually to a child, “whose courageous or otherwise remarkable acts have made a difference in countering problems, which affect children around the world.”

Kesz received his award from Desmond Tutu, the South African activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. During a press conference held after the award ceremony, Tutu told the young winner that he is “wonderful.” He also stressed that the young man was a “new voice for the voiceless.”

In his acceptance speech, Kesz encouraged the world to “remember that every day, 6,000 children die from diseases associated with poor sanitation, poor hygiene, and we can do something about it! Please join me in helping street children achieve better health and better lives.”

 He also had a personal message for all the children in the world: “[…] our health is our wealth! Being healthy will enable you to play, to think clearly, to get up and go to school and love the people around you in so many ways.”

Kesz, who wants to be a doctor, confesses that he wants to support street children in never losing hope, and to give them the love and affection that he received from his benefactor. In an interview, he revealed:  ”This is what I want to give to as many street children as possible… I want children in the streets to get the same chance I had.”

Dalumuzi Mhlanga, a college junior, is preparing Zimbabwe’s future leaders and entrepreneurs

Raluca Besliu

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Dalumuzi Mhlanga is a young Zimbabwean man empowering, mobilizing and inspiring the youth in his country “to work together beyond socioeconomic barriers so that they can lead community development efforts.”

Source: Lead Us Today

Source: Lead Us Today

Dalumuzi is a student of Politics, Psychology and Sociology at Harvard University, who is currently on an exchange program at the University of Oxford, UK, as a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship.

In order to achieve his ambitious goals, the young Zimbabwean started an organization, called Lead Us Today and providing leadership and entrepreneurship training, during the summer after his freshman year at Harvard.

He worked with a small team of young people to create a curriculum and started with only 64 students, but by the end of the summer they already had 200 people enrolled.

Thus far, the organization has trained over 300 students from eight high schools in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. In each school, his organization created community learning centers, which are spaces that bring together community members to tackle key issues facing their communities.

These centers have mobilized more than 400 community members, who are guided and assisted by the trained students, to design and implement over 20 community development projects. These include creating “fruit and vegetable gardens benefiting HIV/AIDS patients with nutritional needs and sanitation campaigns orchestrated in partnership with corporations that have provided rubbish bins.” Through its projects, it has reached over 1,200 people.

His original inspiration for starting his organization started from his personal experience in high-school. While most of his peers came from more privileged backgrounds than him, Dalumuzi struggled with feelings of loneliness and insecurity, as he kept trying to define himself in terms of material possessions. He eventually decided that he would define himself not in terms of what he owned, but in terms of what he contributed to his society and to the world.

This freed his of all his insecurities and gave him strength to dream bigger and bigger dreams. As a result of this personal experience, he subsequently decided that he also wanted to empower other young people to view their agency and their responsibility to make a difference in their community. Dalumuzi strongly believes that only when young people realize that they have the power to shape a democratic society, will progress be achieved on the African continent.

In recognition of his valuable initiative, in 2011, he was selected as one of the three student winners of the College Social Innovator Contest, hosted jointly by the Harvard College Innovation Collaborative and the Common Good. He was also named one of the ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Zimbabwe.’ The young man is extremely grateful for the constant support he has received. He confesses: “It’s so encouraging and so inspiring, and it keeps me going in a lot of ways. It’s been amazing to have that support and know that people all over the world can believe in an idea and motivate and inspire you.”

At Harvard, apart from running his own organization, he was very actively involved on campus. He served as the Director of the Leadership Institute as well as the Vice-President of the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa. He was also the Student Representative to the Harvard Faculty Committee on Public Service, providing guidance on student voluntary projects to college officials.   

In terms of his long-term goals, through his organization, the young Zimbabwean aims to create “a generation of engaged and socially responsible citizens in Africa and Zimbabwe who are spearheading development efforts today and will continue to do so in the future.”

He also hopes to one day be involved in playing a role in formulating public policy on education in Zimbabwe.

Check out Lead Us Today here: http://www.leadustoday.com/

F*ck Cancer: Yael Cohen’s revolutionary approach to beating cancer

Raluca Besliu

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

In 2009, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, then 22 years-old Yael Cohen decided to start a non-profit organization called F*ck Cancer.
Yael Cohen, the founder of Fuck Cancer.

Yael Cohen, the founder of F*ck Cancer.

Cohen recalls why she decided to create the organization: “The movement started from my head in my hands, defeated and defiant, wanting to support my mom. I decided I would do something to teach people how to look for cancer instead of just find it, because early detection really was our salvation. It has been almost two years since mom was diagnosed, and my life is now completely different.”
The Vancouver-based organization has two central objectives. The first one is to encourage and empower young people to act as detection ambassadors for their parents, by determining them to get mammograms, colonoscopies and other diagnostic screenings. According to Cohen, taking these tests means to “actively look for cancer, not just find it. Cancer is most curable at stage I.” As part of the first goal, F*ck Cancer also aims to prepare young people to ask their parents about their family history as well as to discuss lifestyle factors and early warning signs.
The second objective is to use social media to build an online community for cancer patients, their families and friends. Cohen emphasizes: “It might be arrogant, but we are the first generation with the technology to change the whole world.”
In 2009, F*ck Cancer started as a Facebook group by the same name. The group quickly gained 1,000 members. The Facebook page now has over 71,000 Facebook followers and has turned into a fast-growing nonprofit.
Cohen’s organization uses edgy and innovative campaigns to raise awareness and invite people to take action. In October 2012, F*ck Cancer launched the “Touch Yourself” campaign in collaboration with Women’s Health and Men’s Health magazines used the image of a naked woman holding her breasts to encourage young women to do self-exams for early detection. The organization’s non-conventional strategies have managed to attract celebrities such as actress and spokeswoman Sophia Bush to become involved in supporting the organization and its goals.
Until now, F*ck Cancer has raised over $1 million and won the Mozilla Firefox challenge for social and humanitarian causes. The December 2012 fundraising campaign raised roughly $500,000. Cohen prides herself with the transparency of her organization, as she has managed to build trust among donors by posting an infographic on the organization’s website that tracks incoming donations and expenses.
Cohen has also received awards for her innovative approach. In 2011, The Globe and Mail named her one of the “12 people who are transforming philanthropy,” while Chatelaine Magazine’s 2011 Women of the Year issue one of Canada’s “Hot 20 Under 30.”
Ultimately, through her organization, Cohen aims to create a change in social attitudes toward cancer. She emphasized emphasized: “For our parents and grandparents [cancer is] the ‘C-word. We want to shift away from that fear-based marketing and focus on the fact that approximately 90 percent of cancers are curable if caught in stage I.”


Ally Mollo: Building a doll empire; Supports three charities

Raluca Besliu

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

In 2009, when Ally Mollo was 8 years-old, she started drawing pictures of guardian angels, inspired by her own guardian angel, her grandfather.
Ally revealed: “My mom always said my grandpa was looking over me so I drew lots of angels representing my family and friends.”
Ally Mollo, the creator of a doll empire.

Ally Mollo, the creator of a doll empire.

Her mother loved her drawings and suggested that they should do something more with them. Ally decided to transform them into soft dolls, because she wanted them to give “kids comfort and also be fun to play with and bring along.”
She created the Guardian Angel Rainbow Division (G.A.R.D.), an “elite task force of angels” created with “talents, special skills and gave each one an emotional strength that helped them to earn their wings.”
The G.A.R.D is made up of seven plush dolls with different ethnic backgrounds and stories about how they got their wings. They are all part of the Custard ‘n Jelly doll collection, a name inspired by Ally’s Italian roots. “We discovered that ‘guardian angel’ in Italian is ‘custodi angeli.’ Custard ‘n Jelly was born!”
The dolls, which are produced in China, are sold online and by 19 separate retailers throughout the United States. Ally’s favorite doll is Laney, a red-headed Scot whose specializes in “making wishes.”
Ally was not satisfied with just being an entrepreneur, she wanted to be a “socialprenuer.” She decided that a portion of the doll sales should go to one of three charities that help children, which she carefully chose herself: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation, Child Find of America, and Children Incorporated.
Each doll carries a registration code, which allows the customer buying the dolls to chose the charity to which the portion of the sale shall be given. Ally considers her business to be “a great learning experience and it’s been wonderful hearing from other little girls around the U.S. that write me about how great the angels are and how they have helped them.” She nevertheless admits that there were challenges along the way. She reveals: “My biggest obstacle was that I didn’t know all of the things that it took to start a business. I had to learn the process and a lot of words that I didn’t even know, like ‘intellectual property’!” She was also surprised to discover that it takes time “to get things going and patience.” In terms of costs, Ally was fortunate to have the support of her parents, who helped her pay the prototypes for each doll and the materials needed to make them.
The dolls have so far been greatly successful. In 2011, they were selected by Time as one of the top 15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses.
Right now, Ally is working on making an animated show for the dolls.
When giving advises other child entrepreneurs, Ally emphasizes the importance of patience. She adds: “You have to be realistic that things don’t happen overnight, and you have to give your product time to become a flower instead of a weed. My mom and dad said that you can’t be afraid to take chances. And you have to keep going and going and you don’t give up.”
If you want to find out more about Ally and her dolls, visit her website: www.custardnjelly.com, Facebook page: Facebook.com/custardnjelly, Twitter: @custardnjelly.

Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/346839#ixzz2P2Al0P1l

Jason McAninch: 8th Grade Founder of J-TEK, a computer services company; also funds charity

Raluca Besliu

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

At a young age Jason McAninch discovered he was good at operating and troubleshooting computers, as he kept helping classmates and teachers with their computer problems. In 1999, when he was in the 8th grade, he started J-TEK, a company initially focused on creating custom computers for locals. When companies such as Dell and Gateway entered the market, the young entrepreneur’s company shifted its focus on computer consulting, “helping others with technology support.”

Founder of J-TEK and J-TEK Foundation

Throughout high-school and college Jason continued to create a client platform for J-TEK as much as studying and work allowed him to. But, it was only May 2010 that Jason decided to take a “leap of faith” and pursue J-TEK full time. J-TEK currently provides its services to Johnson County and surrounding areas in Kansas. Stressing that the key to success is putting constant hard work into your  business, Jason nevertheless acknowledges that it is essential to take care of your well-being, because “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”

Jason also believes that, when creating an enterprise, it is important to surround yourself with people that believe in you and your ideas, to seek input from others, including parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, customers, and to create a team to keep you grounded and focused on your goals.

In retrospect, Jason thinks that: “I was a little crazy to risk all of that, but that’s what separates entrepreneurs from the rest of everyone else. It takes extreme risk to start a business and I think my age has definitely been a HUGE factor to my success, but it also has been a struggle. I looked at it this way – if I fail, I am still young in my career and have time to dust my shoulders off from a failure and go do something else without any major consequences.”

The young entrepreneur initially worried funding would be an obstacle, but came up with inventive ways to overcome this problem. He recalls: “When I couldn’t afford to buy parts for example for computer repairs, I had customers pay for the parts and even go get them for me (before I could drive) so I could do the repairs.” Another concern was building the right team for J-Tek.

At the start of 2010, Jason also created the J-TEK Foundation, a non-profit organization which focuses on helping children and students with the entrepreneurial drive and spirit reach their full potential. The non-profit is funded from the proceeds collected by J-TEK through its technology recycling services.

In September 2010, Jason received the title of KC’s Top Professional in Kansas City’s Top 30 Under 30. The young entrepreneur gave the prize money to his charity of choice, Kids TLC. The organization, situated in Olathe, Kansas, helps children in the community that are in crisis or are homeless. Currently, all of the funds raised by J-TEK Foundation’s recycling events are directed toward the Kids TLC.  Jason also volunteers as a Youth Friend for middle school students in his community, in an effort to motivate them to succeed.

When offering advice to other young entrepreneurs, Jason stressed:  ”Don’t be afraid of failure… the biggest failures give us the best lessons and experience. If you don’t try you will never know what might have been. There is never a better time to start a business than when you’re young… before you have a family, vehicle, home, debt, and all the craziness that comes from being an adult.” He added: “Have fun being a kid – remember, you’re only young once in life … make sure you make time to have fun.”


13 year-old solves big problem with slick solution

Charlie Butts

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

At thirteen, a Connecticut middle-school student, Cassandra Lin was upset to find that many people in her community couldn’t afford heating fuel. She was already bothered by the world-wide issue of global warming. Instead of thinking since she is just a kid it isn’t her problem, she made it her problem. And because she didn’t know she couldn’t solve the problem… well just click on this short video and see what she does.

Laetitia Mukungu: empowering women, while promoting education

Raluca Besliu

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

In 2009, then 14-year-old Laetitia Mukungu started in her grandparents’ village the Women’s Rabbit Association (WRA), a cooperative organization that farms rabbits to help local women led decent lives and pay for their children’s educational needs. The rabbits are sold to Kenyan restaurants for meat.


The teenager’s decision to start the business was directly linked with unexpected changes in her life. After completing her primary education at Nairobi Primary School in the Kenyan capital, where her mother, the main breadwinner, lived and worked, Laetitia was admitted to attend Precious Blood Girls’ School Riruta. She could not afford the fees, given that her mother had lost her job.

Laetitia decided to return to her grandparents’ village and be a tutor in Maths, English and Science at Bukura Educational Complex, a local primary school in her village. It was then that she discovered “the problems that these children faced: lack of school fees like me at that moment, uniform and adequate stationery.”

She decided to create an income-generating project to support the kids in the school. The teenager started by researching potential business options. She soon discovered that rabbit meat was high in demand, but the supply was low. She also found that rabbits are “most productive of domestic livestock. Their gestation period is only 30 days and a female rabbit on average, gives birth to 42 young ones per year, they are very cheap and easy to feed as they only feed on grass and water, they occupy little space hence suitable for most rural farmers who are small scale, they are quiet animals that can be raised in any environment even in a school, they rarely get sick unless kept in unhygienic conditions thus appropriate for rural women who have no money to spend on disease treatment and their meat is white, high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol.”

She realized that rabbit breeding would be a perfect enterprise, since it “is not complicated and requires no professional skills, which makes it suitable for rural women who are largely uneducated. It is also very convenient for the women’s location because there are enough resources in terms of land and rabbit food (green vegetation) in the rural areas.”

In order to start her business, she needed funds. Laetitia went to the head teacher of the school where she was tutoring and told him about her idea. He agreed to lend her 40, 000 shillings, or around $500.

She also wanted a strong team of women to join her project. In order to do so, the girl would “follow the children to their homes so that I could talk to their parents. I explained to them why they needed to join and work with me on this project because it would eventually improve their lives.” She further adds: “I had major problems trying to explain to them how keeping rabbits can help their lives. Besides, they would look at me as ‘this small girl’ so I had to keep educating them to open their eyes further.”

With the received funds from the head teacher, the young girl build a rabbit hutch and bought 15 rabbits, 10 female and 5 male. The project currently produces around 200 rabbits each year. The girl emphasized that the 15 women that joined rapidly “gained knowledge and skills in rabbit farming and now are able to carry out the feeding, breeding, manage disease and treatment and sell the rabbits.”

Through the revenue raised, the WRA promotes education, by supporting 12 “under-privileged students in the school in terms of school fees payment, buying of stationery and uniform to ensure they are comfortable and able to stay in school,”  as well as food security, by buying “maize and vegetable seeds that are grown on the women’s farms for subsistence.” The teenager adds: “In total we have 3 acres of land and 1 acre of land produces 15bags of maize on average. On the farm we use rabbit droppings as organic manure and rabbit urine as an organic pesticide. Since we began we have harvested 600 bags of maize.”

Laetitia also used some of the revenue from the business to launch a micro-finance bank to lent to the village women who wished to initiate their own small businesses, such as selling fish and fruits, at a fair interest rate. The young girl reveals: “I lend the women from 5,000 shillings to 10,000 and they repay within a year, with an interest of 500.”

Laetitia has a successful business that she is passionate about and that is personally rewarding. She says: “My goal to touch and transform the lives of women in my community gave me the joy to go on. The majority of these women are poor, single and jobless. Single parenting for these women is a huge challenge as they have to deal with the emotional toll of bringing up the children while supporting the family financially.” She explains that, for her, the most “exciting thing about what I do is when the women I work with say, ‘Thank you our child for being born in this community.’ Knowing that they are so grateful for my help excites my heart. It affirms me that I’m on the right path and able to put a smile on someone’s face.”

In terms of short-term goals, the teenager mentions: “I want to see the project breed up to 800 rabbits every year, up from 600. I also want to get my own slaughterhouse so that I can sell the rabbit fur to bring in an extra income.”

Laetitia’s long-term objective is that, through the sale of rabbit meat and by-products, she will become “the largest rabbit producer in Kenya and use the profits generated to create a Kenya with 20,000 economically empowered rural women who are bold, confident and self-sustainable by 2033.”

When advising other young people to start their own business, Laetitia emphasizes: “[…] no business is less important. Its success will depend on your passion, motivation andambition. Don’t only focus on making profit and getting rich. Let your business have a social effect. Touch someone’s life. Put a smile on someone’s face. Always do what you love because you will still love it when it threatens to collapse. There’s nothingimportant in business like developing and maintaining a diverse network. You need connections!’

For her incredible work, in 2012, Laetitia was selected as one of the 13 finalists for the Anzisha Prize.



Alex Scott: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Charlie Butts

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Things can seem so simple through the eyes of a child. There is no grey, only black and white, right and wrong. It often makes adults, those who “know better,” simply shake their heads. But it’s also why children can surprise us and enlighten us, can accomplish things we wouldn’t have even dreamed of—like, say, improving cancer research with nothing more than a lemonade stand.

By the time she was eight years old, Alexandra Scott, the founder of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, had turned that dream into a reality with little more than ambition and the inability to “know better.” And really, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone.


Asya Gonzales: 16 yr-old Founder of Stinky Feet Gurlz; Starts Charity of Raise Awareness to Sex Trafficking

Raluca Besliu

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Asya Gonzales is the young founder of Stinky Feet Gurlz, a company that designs, markets and sells 1940s-inspired t-shirts and apparel. The 16-year-old girl came up with this idea when her mother showed her one of her childhood doodles of a girl with big red lips and pin curls. Asya recounts that when her mother, alongside her sister and cousin were children, “they played hard and when they’d come in to watch TV, they’d take off their shoes and their grandma would come in and shoo them out because their feet were stinky so they were the original Stinky Feet Gurlz.”

Asya Gonzales, founder of Stinky Feet Gurlz

Inspired by her mother’s doodle, Asya started drawing similar 1940-looking girls. She subsequently got the idea that her drawings would look good on t-shirts, and, with the support of her parents, she started Stinky Feet Gurlz. Ever since she was little, Asya had wanted to be a fashion designer and create unique ad stylish clothes. Her company gave her the perfect opportunity to explore and express her design creativity.

When starting Stinky Feet Gurlz, Asya received the moral and financial support of her parents, who are also entrepreneurs. Her first batch of t-shirts cost around $700, while the website cost $150, because Asya’s mother designed it herself. Other costs included buying the name, printing stickers and business cards, but the young entrepreneur confesses that her biggest expense “next to the t-shirts was trade marking the company’s name,” which her parents helped her do. At the moment, the young entrepreneur is mainly promoting her work via Facebook and Twitter, by “doing t-shirt or sticker giveaways for participating on our Facebook fan page” and by participating “in other company fan pages by donating a prize in their contests.”

The young girl has also created a charity foundation, called She is Worth it!, to bring awareness and action to the atrocious child sex trafficking industry, by donating a part of every sale to raise money for backlogged rape kits, which cost around $1000 each and for which local authorities claim they do not have the funds.

Watch Asya Presenting She Is Worth It!

Asya decided to start She Is Worth It! after she and her mother watched a video, in which her mother saw a picture of “a friend that they think somehow she was taken when she was younger,” and after she saw the movie Taken, which gave her “a bigger picture view of how things are.” In fact, Asya considers her greatest achievement to date to be raising awareness about child sex trafficking. Apart from obtaining a donation from U.S. Bank to support her cause, Asya is proud to have been able to speak at the Independent Youth Symposium to around 500 children about this important subject. Asya’s main motivation in creating both her company and her charity is “really being able to make a difference and changing someone else’s life and showing them that they can be successful no matter where they came from. Also, it’s being able to have my own business and not having to work behind a desk and being able to support myself and not relying on someone else to support me later on.”

Asya has so far been declared one of the top 8 kid entrepreneurs on CNN Money, been featured in The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids and been interviewed on CNN and Time Magazine For Kids. When advising other children and youth to start their own business, Asya stressed: “If you can dream it you can do it! Always have motivation, and instead of changing to be who someone thinks you should be, be you. Be who you are.” Nevertheless, the young entrepreneur also emphasized: “even though you might have your own business, you’re still a kid, enjoy it. Never think you don’t have enough time to have fun, there’s always time. […] Just have fun and be willing to learn!”

You can access Asya’s website here: www.stinkyfeetgurlz.com and follow her here: www.facebook.com/stinkyfeetgurlz;  www.twitter.com/stinkyfeetgurlz; www.youtube.com/stinkyfeetgurlz



Juan David Aristizabal Ospina: uniting Colombians to bring social change

Raluca Besliu

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

23 year-old Juan David Aristizabal Ospina felt increasingly disturbed by the fact that Colombia’s mainstream media mostly presented sensationalist information about conflict, violence and corruption.

It also transformed drug traffickers and guerillas into heroes, by disproportionately focusing on  them, while failing to highlight the stories of people bringing positive change for their society that could inspire citizens to take action. At the same time, he felt that the Colombians that were making a difference in society did not have a space to share their initiatives and to collaborate with each other.


Compelled to take action, Juan David decided to create Buena Nota, an online platform that informs, engages and connects young Colombians to social problems and their solutions. The platform allows citizens groups and social entrepreneurs to present their projects to a wider audience of engaged citizens via notes, videos, the Buena Nota radio, as well as to elevate them to the national level.

It currently draws its audience from four main groups: project leaders, who aim to enhance the visibility of their projects and collaborate with other change-makers; organizations wanting to support social change through their actions or donations; the around 3 million Colombians that Juan David estimates have access to the Internet and wish to learn how to be involved in social change; and the 4.5 million Colombians living abroad, who want to be involved in bringing change in their home country.

One of the key strategies applied on the platform, the VICA method, aims to help leaders strengthen their social message, make it more visible at national-level and determine Colombian citizens to become involved.

Juan David has also managed to create partnerships with businesses, funders and universities,  in order to provide a wider platform for the social projects. Companies, such as Avianca, Publik, AVIATUR, Genesis Foundation, and Telefónica, have started collaborating with projects that they found on the platform. Buena Nota itself has landed an important collaboration with Compartel, a national initiative of the Ministry of Information Technology that will bring Internet access to five million people in the country’s most remote areas, by providing public computers. The company has promised its computers’ home page will be configured as Buena Nota, which will significantly expand the platform’s audience.


Currently one million people are involved in the young entrepreneur’s platform in one way or another. If currently 23,000 new visitors enter the platform daily, Juan David hopes that, within the next five years, that number will reach 300,000.

His long-term goal  is to shift the paradigm in which Colombians perceive themselves, from victims to change-makers. In terms of funding, Buena Nota’s financial resources mainly come from advertising and corporate sponsorships, but, on the longer-term, the young entrepreneur hopes that the more of the revenue will result from commissions charged for online donations to the projects that the platform might feature.

Juan David has also written a book, entitled “Llenando espacios,” which presents 16 remarkable Colombian change-makers, in an effort to raise their visibility and increase public in trust in them as well as to encourage everyone to have the confidence to take action and make a difference.

Believing that everyone has talents and skills that can contribute to social change, Juan David encourages everyone to work together in order to break down invisible walls in society that prevent change and evolution. Juan David emphasizes that his books “focuses on the people, not the projects,” and aims to demonstrate that once you become a social entrepreneur, you can develop your talents to become “someone really special and even be in the spotlight.” The young entrepreneur revealed his hope that his book will determine each reader “to find inspiration to fill a gap by being a social entrepreneur or by supporting one.”

Talking about his personal determination to be a change-maker, Juan David highlighted three key events in his life. The first was visiting his grandfather’s farm as a young boy and realizing that the farm’s children couldn’t attend school, as he did. He decided to record their stories and those of other children and share them stories in his school newspapers. The second was his parents’ repeated question to him: “How are you going to serve the world?,” which determined  him to never stop working until real, widespread change has occurred.  The last event was the death of one of his best friends in high-school. He had worked with Juan David on youth projects and was killed by a gang. His death determined Juan David to work hard to carry on the fight to bring change and determine others to do the same. Through his platform, the young entrepreneur is tremendously pursuing this goal.



Lauren Slive: Changing Health Care in Africa, One Suitcase at a Time

Chris Landers

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

And to think, it all started with a couple of suitcases.

When Lauren Slive first began her dream to improve health care in Ghana in 2007, she was just a 19-year-old girl dragging as many supplies as she could carry through airport customs. But from those humble beginnings sprang Project HEAL, an organization connecting medical supplies and knowledge to hospitals and communities in Northwest Ghana.

Lauren Slive: Two suitcases have turned into more than 100 tons of medical supplies.

The determination of Lauren and her friend, Emma Lawrence, ensured that their dream would grow. In that first summer, the group distributed 450 medical kits and informational pamphlets to families and health leaders. By the time they graduated in 2009 — with the help of over 50 volunteers along the way— Project HEAL was responsible for a children’s library, a playground and thousands of pounds of first aid materials.

But Lauren wasn’t content to stop there. She had witnessed firsthand local hospitals that were without medical gloves but were receiving expensive x-ray machines and other equipment they couldn’t use. There had to be a more efficient way to connect donated goods with the places that needed them the most, and so Lauren and Emma began MedPLUS Connect.












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