This message is from Talia Leman, 2008 Youth Award Honoree, who started RandomKid when she was 13 years old to give youth the tools they need to solve real world problems. Her efforts have led to a 12 million-strong international youth movement. She wrote this shortly after receiving the Youth Award, which funded the expansion of her website and gave her the visibility she needed to take RandomKid to the next level.
When I won the World of Children Youth Award, hailed as the “Nobel Prize for Children”, I felt humbled, proud and grateful. I was humbled to be in the company of such accomplished co-recipients, proud to have my efforts and organization recognized in such a meaningful way, and grateful for World of Children’s investment in furthering the goals of my nonprofit, RandomKid.
World of Children offers their Honorees something that goes beyond the award itself — something that can be characterized as a “send-off”, or better, a “catapult”. Because World of Children is recognized globally for their prestige, their Award recipients are recognized as worthy of the world’s consideration. From being written up by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, to sharing my story over the radio waves of Voice of America, I went from trying to be heard, to being invited to speak.
For the past three years I have been downloading requests from kids worldwide who want to work through RandomKid to unify their fundraising efforts with other like-minded kids in order to make a measurable difference in the world. Everything changed for me after receiving the World of Children Youth Award. My reach more than tripled overnight, as I returned home to nearly 5,000 emails in my inbox. We went from having 600 children engaged globally to almost 2,000. I am now revamping my website into a real-time interactive place where substantially more kids from around the world can come together online (no more offline downloading) to unify their efforts independently in order to help solve real world problems: building schools/homes, placing wells, providing surgeries, supplying orphanages, delivering medical care, and more. When the site launches, it will change the way teachers and youth leaders engage kids in service-learning, enabling them to connect to each other and the world, so they can make a tangible difference that can be pinpointed on a map.
Within days of coming home, the president of a local college serving 60,000 kids came to my middle school to offer me the use of their bandwidth for my new website. Later my mom told me that she saw The New York Times article attached to his clipboard. The University of Iowa, which provides the server that allows the World Health Organization to reach into the most remote areas of the world via the internet, offered their same server to RandomKid, at no charge, empowering us to connect with kids in remote regions all over the world, too.
I have now begun developing fundraisers for other organizations that will be run through RandomKid starting the in the fall of 2009, helping these grassroots nonprofits and NGOs generate the funds they seek to do their good works, while the kids who fund them build life-long skills.
I used to wonder why donors would be motivated to give monetary awards to people. How does that make it possible for the donors to change the world? I can now tell you. People who invest in us believe in the power of our work. Because they don’t have the time or energy to do what we do, they make it possible for us to do what we do better. They change the world through our vision, by giving us greater reputability, visibility and funding.
One of the people we fund through RandomKid builds schools in rural Cambodia. I heard him say once that when we fund something, we are creating world policy. It’s not just governments that do this, it’s also people like us. When you support World of Children, it’s your world policy that we should support and expand efforts that help the world’s children. It’s your world policy that by investing in the world’s children, our future leaders, you are securing a better fate for all of humanity. It’s also your world policy that we need to be proactive about the way we help children. I remember learning, when I served as UNICEF’s National Youth Ambassador, that $1 donated before a disaster is equal to $25 donated after a disaster, because the time it takes to raise the money after the fact allows the disaster to worsen in its effects. Donations to World of Children are often proactive dollars, preventing disasters by making the world a better and safer place for children. There is no value you can put on that.
I am forever grateful to World of Children. If nothing else, remember that a child is the only known substance from which a responsible leader can be made. Children are not just the voiceless and the vulnerable; they are also the inheritors and the hope of this earth. We are worth every investment.
CEO and Founder
2008 Youth Award Honoree