Dorcus Odera Takes on the Kenyan Education System

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 by Raluca Besliu

In some countries around the world, such as Egypt, Kenya, and Romania, the education system is examination-oriented, meaning that test scores, rather than learning, become the ultimate goal of education. According to a report of the International Journal for Innovation Education and Research, this ultimately distorts students’ motivation and learning, by overstressing the importance of exam results as a measure of students’ abilities. At its worst, an examination-oriented education system can stifle many students’ imagination, creativity, and sense of self, hindering their success in and out of the classroom.


Through her nonprofit, A Million Faces-Renaissance, Dorcus Odera, a 25-year-old Kenyan living in Nairobi, is a young woman ardently fighting to change the Kenyan education system’s focus on exams, by seeking to identify children’s greatest abilities and cultivating those to discover the peculiar bent of the genius in each through education.

Apart from that, she is also a member of the founding team of Peace for Africa and Economic Development (PAD), a youth organization that aims at empowering youths economically, by using their talents to help them come up with income generating ventures. She is also the Co-founder of WICI Africa, an African organization committed to continental cultural, ideological and social integration by inclusion, engagement and inspiration of the youth of Africa. As a result of her passionate work on child and youth education and empowerment, she was selected as a Global Youth Ambassador in April 2014 by A World at School, a digital mobilization initiative working to make education a reality for all children in the world.

Dorcus decided to create A Million Faces-Renaissance, due to her own negative educational experiences. For her, the Kenyan education system lost its value to empower and only subjected students to an education where success was defined by grades, not the impact created with the knowledge acquired. Everyone was evaluated in the same way, and those, who did not get the grades, were left behind rather than being nurtured and helped along. She questioned whether or not getting bad grades makes one any less capable of having a positive impact on society. In response, she decided to pick up those that the system and standards of the Kenyan education system had left behind and work with them to realize their inner competence and talents to make them useful to society.

That was how A Million Faces-Renaissance was born. The nonprofit does not spend time ranking children and more time helping them identify and cultivate their natural competencies and gifts as well as to introduce alternative forms of education through creating new, flexible and inexpensive community-based programs for children’s development that responds to their needs, as well as geographical conditions of rural areas. Finally, it seeks to transform early education sector so that every child has equal access to educational and developmental facilities and the chance to participate in diverse learning opportunities.

A Million Faces-Renaissance runs multiple programs. One of the key ones is the Play Clubs, which occasionally organizes play sessions in the slums in Nairobi, allowing children from ages 5 to 16, from deprived locations to play with different toys as well as interact with their peers. These kids are often continuously exposed to aggression and threats, while having little access to social facilities and poor health conditions. For them, playing becomes therapeutic, as a way to escape reality and relax. While A Million Faces-Renaissance does not currently have a specific place to hold the play clubs, the nonprofit plans to construct play centers in a few places in the slums that can be easily accessed by these deprived and traumatized children.


Another key program for the nonprofit is represented by the Reading Tents, which constitute a literacy and numeracy campaign with the main aim of developing the reading culture in children which in the long run ignites the learning passion in children and making them ready for school based learning. Around 100 children attend them each month, with 50 constant attendees.

The reading tents are organized in such a way that children come together to engage reading activities where they are exposed to books, encouraged to read or, at least, admire the pictures in books for those that cannot read or write, so they can develop the interest to read and know the stories behind the pictures in the books. Currently, A Million Faces-Renaissance organizes reading tents every once in a month in collaboration with the Kenya National Library, which provides spaces and books for the kids to use. Working with volunteers, the nonprofit holds activities such as reading aloud, telling stories from pictures in story books for children who don’t know how to read, spellings, dictations and many other activities to develop their reading skills.

In collaboration with another organization, called COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA), A Million Faces-Renaissance has also organized two annual Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development (YLED) initiatives, which have already served around 120 high-school students. The second YLED training, which was held in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, was targeted at 60 influential high-school students. The training brought together 14 experienced youth facilitators from Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, who provided the students through entrepreneurship and leadership training, on how to identify community needs, provide and implement solutions as well as pitch the idea to investors. The students came up with five distinct income-generating projects they would want to implement as groups. Working with CIYOTA, the young Kenyan’s nonprofit conducts a follow-up on the projects to see them grow to fully fledged businesses.

primary school

In 2015, Dorcus has a multitude of projects that she would like to accomplish. Firstly, she wants to hold two YLED programs in Kenya and the Kyangwali refugee camp in Uganda, respectively, while also continuing the monthly reading tents.  She is also hoping to launch some new initiatives in the future , one of which is called the Renaissance School, aiming to help – students in their early education levels to explore their gifting and talents and best apply their strengths and interests to meet their learning potential. It will run on a curriculum focusing on learning concepts rather than skills, in inclusive pedagogy that ensures children with different abilities to learn together equally, and constant assessment and evolution of teaching techniques, rather than assessments of students’ abilities.

Another program that the organization hope to launch later  as it grows is the Child Sponsorship Program, aiming to help the rural poor children continue with their education at primary, secondary level, and higher institutions by providing tuition fees and the basic learning materials. With this program, the organization intends to have vocational training to help those who have dropped out of school because of different reasons to acquire livelihood skills training, to help them be self-reliant.

One of Dorcus biggest challenges at the moment is effectively running the nonprofit’s activities without funds. She has made it work thus far, by partnering with organizations, such as the Kenya National Library, CIYOTA and individual volunteers to run projects, but is planning on more strategically fundraising to have the activities up and running. Another key problem that Dorcus’ organization is striving to tackle is the government’s refusal to support alternative educational approaches, due to its rigid promotion of examinations and their results. On the long term, the young changemaker hopes that A Million Faces-Renaissance will overcome this challenge and introduce systematic changes, by shifting the focus from examinations to building skills based in each student’s abilities and interests.

Apart from leading A Million Faces-Renaissance, Dorcus is also the Public Relations office at Peace for Africa and Economic Development (PAD). Her role in PAD entails building and sustaining PAD’s relationships and stakeholders involved in PAD’s programming, including youth groups, local government representatives, and other civil society organizations. She also works in the Programs department in monitoring and overseeing all of PAD’s local youth county representatives, while also building and maintaining PAD’s brand, addressing reputation issues when necessary.

child playing

Keeping herself busier than most, Dorcus is also a Global Youth Ambassador, mobilizing and organizing other youths to stand up for education and making her voice heard by organizing events, participating in campaigns, writing blogs and news stories, organize coalitions of like-minded youth groups for education, run petition drives and take part in other campaign activities. She also engage with the youth’s local stakeholders to achieve better results for education in the community in policy development, budget and other related processes.

When giving advice to other young people interested in bringing positive change in the world, Dorcus mentioned one of her favorite quotes by Jim Elliot, which she personally applies to her life and work:  “He is not a fool who gives what he can’t keep to gain what he can’t lose.”  She believes that making a change in the world is te greatest most fulfilling thing people can do every single day of their lives. She emphasizes: “You are the greatest resource you have to make a difference in your own small world. If you use the resource well you gain a fortune out of your work and efforts. Everyone has the potential to make a mark in their space. Find your space and make your mark.”


Prizeo Re-shapes Philanthropy for the 21st Century

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Leih Boyden

Interested in entering to win an intimate family dinner in New York City with Lady Gaga while supporting the Born This Way Foundation? How about supporting sarcoma cancer research by winning a trip to the set of The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay? Bryan Baum, age 24 and co-founder of Prizeo, is re-inventing philanthropy for our tech-savy and celebrity-driven age.  As one of Forbes’ 2014 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, Bryan Baum’s Prizeo has raised over 3 million dollars for charity while creating unique experiences for celebrity fans across the globe.


Photo source:

With degrees in Philosophy, Politics, Mathematics and Economics from Oxford University and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Bryan has spent time understanding and re-thinking philanthropy as we know it.  The World Economic Forum website states that while at Oxford, he directed the Aloysius Society, a philanthropic society in Oxford that has raised over US$ 1,000,000 in a year and has appeared in over 30 publications.  It was during this time, when he was organizing glamorous auction fundraisers, that he met those who would be the other co-founders of Prizeo.  They believed that instead of auctioning off expensive prizes for celebrity causes to only those who could afford attending these lavish events, celebrity fan bases, that stretch into the millions, would be a more efficient, far-reaching way to make a true impact.  While viral philanthropy is nothing new with well-known sites such as Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Fundly and more, Prizeo puts a spin on the age-old model of philanthropic auctions. Business Wire states, “Prizeo democratizes fundraising by transforming the traditional celebrity-auction model — once limited to a select group of privileged bidders — into an instantly accessible digital campaign that’s open to anyone who pays the entry fee: a mere $3 donation.”

Beginning in September 2011, Prizeo now makes these once esoteric prizes universally accessible to anyone through a small donation.  Prizeo’s website claims, “everyone has the chance to win big and make a difference.”   Originating in Britain, Prizeo launched its first international campaign in March 2013.  Prizeo raises funds and support for charities by raffling off unique prizes such as a getaway with Will Ferrell or a private Valentine’s Day concert from Mariah Carey.  Other celebrities Prizeo has worked with include One Direction, Kobe Bryant, Alicia Keys, Muhammed Ali, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sophia Bush.

According to the Prizeo website, here is how Prizeo works. First, you can scroll through the various prizes to pick one of interest.  Previous prizes have included an internship for a day with Snoop, playing with dolphins with Michael Phelps or a shopping spree at Dash with Khloe Kardashian.  Each package is unique and accommodations vary but most packages include travel costs. Then, you enter the raffle by giving a small contribution to the celebrity’s cause.  Each celebrity provides a video clip explaining the importance of his or her cause.  While only a minimum donation is required to enter the raffle, there are levels of contribution and contributing more money may increase one’s odds of winning or allows you to receive smaller prizes, such as an autographed t-shirt. You can also with extra entries by sharing online. Once you have entered the contest, you may choose through Facebook, Twitter, or email which friends to bring with you if that is an option for the campaign you have selected.  Finally, you will be notified through email if you have won your prize or a possible lesser prize that may be available.  The odds of winning depend on the number of individuals who have donated to the campaign however regardless of your donation size you are able to track your impact.  By registering with Prizeo, you are able to see what the charity has done with your contribution.  Prizeo keeps 10% of the prize revenue and the charity then receives 90% of the profits.  However, Prizeo is looking to reduce its fee in time by finding other revenue streams.

While one’s first impression that an exclusive studio hang out with Justin Beiber could not possibly raise funds for Typhoon Haiyan relief, the millions of dollars for charity that Prizeo has raised is hard to dispute.  However, since each charity organization is in charge of its financial spending, Prizeo does not control where exactly the raised money goes. The only way we can be sure that the money is being spent efficiently on the cause is by asking for the financial records of the organization before donating.  Thus begging the questions how and if Prizeo chooses campaigns based on the reputability of the charity organization, the most-well-known celebrity or both. A hopeful next step for Prizeo would be posting data on their website about how, specifically, the raised money was used in each campaign.  The Ancient Greeks viewed philanthropy as ‘love of what it is to be human.”  Is giving money through a computer screen in order to meet your favorite celebrity establishing this type of love and closeness with humanity?  Celebrity-centered philanthropy lacks of relationship building and social capital that is created if you were to volunteer in your community or help a neighbor down the street.  Undoubtedly, Bryan Baum and Prizeo’s other co-founders have created an innovative way to maximize a charity or organization’s fundraising potential and allowed access for millions of celebrity fans across the globe to enter to win an experience of a lifetime while also supporting charity with a modest donation.




Archana Gurung fights child marriage in Nepal

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 by Raluca Besliu

A 2014 UNICEF report emphasized that Nepal is still among the top ten countries in the world, where child marriage is practiced. A staggering forty-one percent of girls marry before turning eighteen, while ten percent wed by the age of fifteen. Early weddings cause considerable hardships for girls, many of whom drop out of school and face domestic & sexual violence, while holding little control over their reproductive rights, since their husbands are often much older.


Archana Gurung, a young Nepali, who sprung from the rural side of the Western part of the country, but was raised in the capital, Kathmandu, witnessed the suffering of many child brides and felt compelled to take action against child marriage, as she realized that some women her age already had teenage children.

Archana launched the Step Up and Say No More Child Brides initiative in 2012 to raise awareness among adolescents and communities to stop this practice, by conducting dialogue programs in several districts of Western Nepal, including Kathmandu’s outskirts. At first, the initiative was launched more to raise awareness about the problem, rather than to resolve its root causes, which Archana considers to be poverty, illiteracy as well as deep rooted religious and cultural taboos. Over time, however, Archana has become more interested in implementing solutions that could solve the issue.

At the moment, Archana, who works as a News Presenter/Program Producer at a state television station Nepal Television (NTV) and as an Editor and New Presenter at a state radio station Radio Nepal, is in the pre-production stage of creating a documentary film on child marriage in Nepal. The documentary will also incorporate child bride practices of other countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, as girls there are equally vulnerable.


The young Nepali realizes that her initiative’s greatest goal, convincing girls, parents and community stakeholders in Nepal that child marriage is nothing but derailment in life, is a long way from being accomplished. She hopes to reach it step by step, by accomplishing her short-term goals of constantly raising awareness among individual residents to shun the idea of child marriage and her long-term goals of establishing  micro-enterprises and collaborative, empowerment labs, safe homes, vocational trainings for girls and women to gain overall social and financial independence.

For her tireless work, Archana was granted The Community Solutions Program (CSP) Fellowship in the United States (US), between August-December 2014, dedicated to strengthening leadership skills. She worked at a branch of one of the oldest women’s organization in the world, the YWCA in Houston, Texas. There, she had the opportunity to work directly under the CEO’s supervision, learning fundraising techniques, conducting community fairs and organizational management as well as branding techniques.

Archana also had the opportunity to assist with case of teenage girls from different backgrounds, living at the YWCA of Houston’s residential facilities for homeless girls . As part of the fellowship, she also partook in an online course on leadership, certified by the George Mason University in Virginia, U.S., which provided her distinct knowledge on subjects, such as leadership style, network and communication, strategic planning and conflict management.


The young Nepali believes that, in order for her work on child marriage to have an impact, a broader set of changes need to take place in her country. She believes that Nepal needs to see an end of its political turmoil, the establishment of a stable government and the promulgation of a long awaited constitution.  She added: “I also like to see the mandated restructuring of the country with decentralized approach, which would smoothen the functioning of local bodies of the government, following which many local level problems would be resolved at local level itself. Among other key social changes that I aspire Nepal to undergo is the execution of the legislations at local level with direct involvement of government bodies and community leaders at first part.” For her, a stable political situation would ultimately result in the creation and adoption of areas, including women issues and child marriage, which have been ignored or less attended.

When giving advice to other young changemakers, Archana emphasizes: “Be sincere; be honest; be strong; be confident; learn as much as you can; be ready to face any obstacle on your way; be ready with a weapon called ‘knowledge’. Make the world a better place to live!”




Jessica Steinberg – a young changemaker brings giggles to children and adults alike

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 by Mihaela Bogdan

Jessica Steinberg started her nonprofit, Giveable Giggles, in 2008, when she was only 13 years-old.JESS

The organization’s mission is to reproduce conditions which create opportunities for children, (specific to their context), to achieve laughter, leadership and learning on a consistent basis. The organization’s activities have been carried out all over the world, including Israel, Jordan, Uganda, Argentina, and India . Right now, Giveable Giggles is currently undergoing an organizational restructuring; this is in order to ensure a genuine long-term impact for the community members we interact with. They are in the process of finding a site (in China) to establish a “Giveable Giggles village.”

Giveable Giggles is an active organization. For the first five years of existence, the nonprofit ran five international programs. The organization and their volunteers collaborated with local nonprofits to personalize programs according to the community needs in, for instance, English education, sports, art & crafts, cultural exchanges. All the programs created were based on an interactive and playful methodology that encouraged laughter. The programs have three main outcomes: laughter, creating a sense of empowerment  and renewed happiness. Local and foreign volunteers play an important role in programming, being involved in coming up with and leading events.

One of the events that it organizes is called Giggle Down the Runway, is held during Fashion Week, when kids paired up with a Giveable Giggles volunteer walk down the runway, with huge spotlight illuminating their confidence and happiness. Before and during the fashion show, some “paparazzi” take pictures of all the kids. A majority of the clothes modeled for the fashion show have been donated.

Some of the events for example created  or participated in have been birthday parties, school lessons, sport matches, meetings with Endeavor and Argentine food making and tasting.

Jessica believes that her success emerged from the countless times she got back up after being knocked down. Jessica is convinced that ” I succeeded because I made mistakes and learned from my failures.”

In setting up her initiative, she has dealt with many challenges. One of them was securing funding, which remains a constant challenge.  Another one was being young. She gradually learned to take these challenges as opportunities to learn, reflect and grow as a person.

Jessica is a very active person. Apart from Giveable Giggles, she is passionate about writing and journalism. She currently writes for four publications. She is also dedicating a lot of her time to her academic studies, as she is studying International Relations and Social Anthropology, in Scotland. Last, but not least, she is beginning to launch a social enterprise in Scotland.

Jessica emphasizes that it is more important to be compassionate rather than simply a volunteer. She believes that being compassionate to others, being selfless and putting others first is a state of consciousness that ought to take place every day, through acts of kindness, showing appreciation, offering to help. For her , it is a way to generate a positive impact at the micro, meso and macro level.

Jessica has some pieces of advice for  those who want to follow in her footsteps. She  encourages everyone to ”to whole-heartedly follow your passion. Take a risk, take many risks. Free yourself from your fear of failing. Success may take time, success is formed from mistakes but with dedication, motivation and innovation your goals are possible.” She added: ” passion is the building blocks to greatness, achievement and reason.”


Cody Unser: Giving Hope to Many

Friday, August 1st, 2014 by Angelica Pastrana
Cody mingles during one of her events

Cody mingles during one of her events

Cody Unser is an ambitious young woman who is rarely seen without her big smile. You would never be able to tell that when she was younger, she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), a neurological condition that injures the spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed and restrained to a wheelchair.

At the time of her diagnosis, her physicians had little information about this disease. To raise awareness about TM, she and her mother founded the Cody Unser First Step Foundation, The New Mexico based non-profit has provided support for those who also suffer from various forms of paralysis.


Bullied youth has passion to help people: meets many new friends

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 by Raluca Besliu

Harnoor Gill is a 16-year-old from Georgetown, Canada, with a passion for volunteering. He was born in Hong Kong to Indian parents, but has lived in Canada most of his life.

Currently in secondary school, Harnoor has been volunteering since he was three.  At that tender age, he started going door-to-door to

Harnoor Gill

sell cookies to raise money for the Hong Kong Red Cross.  It was not until the first time that he visited India with his parents and had his “first brush with poverty in the form of a freezing child in the streets during a cold winter that I realized what a difference I could make.”

Harnoor stresses that he couldn’t be where he is now without his parents, who have always supported and encouraged his desire to make a difference in the world, especially after he started having problems with bullying in elementary school. (more…)


Boy empowers children to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 by Raluca Besliu

When he was 9-years-old, Dylan Mahalingam founded Lil’MDGs, an international development organization aiming to leverage the power of the Internet and social media to educate, engage, inspire and empower children and young people from across the world to work together to advance the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs were eight international development goals set in 2000, aim to meet the needs of the world’s poorest by 2015.


Through his organization, Dylan, who is currently 18 years-old, managed to mobilize tens of thousands of children from 40 states across the U.S. and 43 countries to raise more than $780,000 for tsunami relief and over $10 million for hurricane relief. Through their combined effort, these young people have managed to make a tangible difference in the lives of over one million people worldwide. (more…)


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

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Charlie Butts

                                                                                                                 For 8th Grade Version Click Here

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

source: Ryan's Well Foundation

source: Ryan’s Well Foundation



The End of Malaria? Brothers Might Have The Answer

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.

Mark and John Lewandowski

Mark and John Lewandowski

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. (more…)


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

Friday, June 21st, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.


Shea Gouldd
Photo source:

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. (more…)


10 Year-Old Raised $10 million For Victims

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 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.


Talia Leman Photo source:

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. (more…)


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

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.



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.



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

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.” (more…)


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

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

Cecilia Cassini, youngest fashion designer

For 8th Grade version click here

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. (more…)


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

Monday, May 20th, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.

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.

Source: Bida Kapamilya

Source: Bida Kapamilya



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

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.



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

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu
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.”



Ally Mollo: Building a doll empire; Supports three charities

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu
In 2009, when Ally Mollo was 8 years-old, she started drawing pictures of guardian angels, inspired by her own guardian angel, her grandfather.   ”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.” (more…)


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

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.” (more…)


13 Year-Old Solves Big Problem With Slick Solution

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Charlie Butts

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.


Teen Empowers Women to Earn for Children’s Education

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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. (more…)


Alex Scott: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Charlie Butts

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.

Alex Scott

Alex Scott

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.



Stinky Feet Gurlz: Designing Clothes to Raise Awareness of Sex Trafficking

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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 thisAsya Gonzales, founder of Stinky Feet Gurlz 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.”

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. (more…)


Juan David Aristizabal Ospina: uniting Colombians to bring social change

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by Raluca Besliu

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.

ospina (more…)


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

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 by Chris Landers

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 to 100 tons

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. (more…)





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