Reading about stories of children who have accomplished great feats in the area of philanthropy never fails to awe. After all, we tend to think of children to be at a stage of development when they are rightfully obsessed with their own needs and entertainment. They have their whole lives to think about the serious stuff. And yet, there’s been a fresh new wave of child philanthropists in recent times, demonstrating that perhaps sometimes, it takes a young unjaded sense of optimism to give freely, providing inspiration for all of us. Here are four under 16 who are making a difference:
Ciro Ortiz, 11
After suffering bullying at school, 11-year-old Ciro Ortiz was inspired to set up an advice booth at the Bedford L train stop in Williamsburg, New York, to counsel fellow Brooklynites.
Since October, he has been offering five minutes of ‘emotional advice’ to subway riders every Sunday, and at $2 a time has been taking about $50 a day. "I didn't know if people were going to stare or laugh at me," he says. But then they "saw that I was taking it seriously."
Channeling his entrepreneurial spirit into offering counselling “is a good way to give back and make money,” he told the New York Post. “He buys food or snacks at school for kids who can’t afford them,” said his father, Adam. “He’s not selfish with his money.”
Plus, it seems that children’s keen sense of intuition is at play: "Somebody came up to us and said that what [Ciro] told her is what she'd been feeling in her gut that whole time," Ciro's father, told the New York Post.
According to Ciro, ‘dealing with change’ is the most common problem he sees among the adults he has talked with. That, and love.
Max Shapiro, 7
Helping the homeless stay warm
After witnessing the plight of homeless people near his New York home this winter, Max, age 7, asked his parents if they could help him buy coats, blankets and hot chocolate for them. In order to help as many people as possible, they subsequently set up Knights of Warmth, donating clothing and hot food and drinks to the most needy.
Knights of Warmth are currently raising money for the New York Cares coat drive, as well as homeless shelters supported by Robin Hood. Max’s parents are matching donations up to $10,000.
Learn more about Knights of Warmth here.
Theodora Von Liechenstein, 11
Saving endangered plants and animals
Theodora Von Liechenstein founded the Green Teen Team Foundation in May 2014, when she was 9 years-old.
The objective of the foundation is to help to save endangered plant and animal species in order to conserve the planet’s biodiversity. This is done, in part, by empowering children to be able to make changes to their lives, and consequently, the lives of others and the life of the planet.
Via conservation projects, educational workshops and summer camps across the globe, the foundation aims to build an active, worldwide community of environmentally engaged teenagers and young people, in a bid to create positive change at grassroots level.
Recent initiatives have included providing rice for the children of a primary school in Madagascar for a year, as part of ongoing work to involve and educate communities in the importance of biodiversity and the protection of native endangered species; the Chelonia garden project, which has created a protected habitat in which endangered European turtles and tortoises can reproduce; and in conjunction with Rewilding Europe and two other organizations, setting up camps for young people to spend time in Rewilding areas, creating new nature based economies and learning about the importance of nature, biodiversity and conservation first hand.
Learn more about the Green Teen Team Foundation here.
Lucy Gavaghan, 15
Animal rights law petitioner
This now 15-year-old girl from the UK embarked on a campaign last year to convince the country's biggest supermarkets to stop selling eggs from caged hens, and won.
In 2012, the EU placed a ban on keeping hens in battery cages, but the industry got round this by putting the hens in larger "enriched" cages. While, in theory, this gave them more space, Lucy argued that each hen had space equivalent to about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, and couldn’t spread their wings.
After writing to the supermarkets, as well as politicians, without success, Lucy started a change.org campaign, which gained over 280,000 petition signatures. She also instigated a Facebook takeover and a launched a letter writing campaign - over 750 letters were sent directly to Tesco.
After finally securing a meeting with the company's head of agriculture, Tesco announced that they would stop selling caged eggs by 2025, a pledge that Morrisons and Asda, the only two of the big four UK supermarkets that continued to stock caged hens eggs without intent to change, have since committed to, following a second petition. Many other UK retailers have subsequently followed suit.
Last August, Lucy launched her third successive petition, calling on the UK government to ban caged egg farming in the UK for good. This currently has over 85,000 signatures, and you can view it here.