SEATTLE — The media often focuses on celebrities and political figures who have become activists. Aside from actors, musicians and representatives, there are many people who are not celebrities that are doing a world of good. Child activists and volunteers have increased in number in recent years, and they deserve just as much of a spotlight as their celebrity counterparts.
Sophie Cruz, a passionate seven-year-old, was only five when she started to advocate for better immigration laws in the United States. Coming from a family of undocumented immigrants, Sophie has a dream of creating new immigration laws to help refugees who are fleeing war, poverty and economic hardship in their native countries.
Afraid that her parents would eventually be deported, Sophie decided to meet with the Pope during his visit. She wrote a letter to the Pope, and he gladly took it upon himself to meet with the young girl and listen to her story and the stories of her family. Sophie is now being called “The Face for Immigration Reform”, which is quite a feat for such a young girl.
Payal Jangid is from Rajasthan, India, a poverty-stricken village where girls are often sold into marriage at a young age. Payal, who was only 12 when she became an activist for her village, met with Barack Obama in 2015 to discuss the problems facing Rajasthan. Payal herself was a victim of slavery before making her escape with two other child slaves.
Payal was voted Leader of Child Parliament in Rajasthan, where she fights to change the stigma surrounding girls and women in India. She is an active member of The World Children’s Prize organization, where she has been given the title of “Honorary Adult Friend”. Payal meets with parents of children and girls to explain why education is such an important part of a child’s life and discuss how child slavery and marriage can be avoided. Payal is already a role model for future generations of child activists.
Salvador Gòmez Colòn
When Salvador’s home of Conando, Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Maria in the fall of 2017, many of the affected families were facing hardships. Aside from the millions of people that had lost their homes, the homes that remained were without electricity or running water. Hurricane Maria caused many people to find themselves stuck in poverty, with little to no resources or jobs.
Salvador, who could not stand to see his hometown in such distress, came up with a plan: he would start a Generosity campaign to raise money for solar lamps, hand-operated washing machines and any other supplies that were needed. In just four days, Salvador raised $36,000, and has exceeded his $100,000 goal by more than $30,000.
A 14-year-old filmmaker, Zuriel Oduwole has made it her mission to show the public the fun side of Africa. Zuriel creates films that document aspects of African cultures, such as dancing, music and beautiful sights. The young filmmaker and activist was born in California to a father from Nigeria and a mother from Mauritania. Zuriel has traveled to 11 different countries to meet with presidents and world leaders, while making speeches to young children about the importance of education and poverty prevention.
Her second documentary, Educating and Healing Africa Out of Poverty, documented the development of the African Union in 1963. Zuriel aided in founding the Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up foundation, which advocates for access to education for all children around the world. Zuriel is empowering children and gaining a following of other child activists.
In 2012, 8-year-old Vivienne Harr saw a picture of two Nepalese brothers carrying heavy stones. Disturbed by the photo, she then learned that the two boys had been sold into child slavery. Vivienne took it upon herself to start Make A Stand, which began as a lemonade stand in her local neighborhood to raise funds to help end child slavery. She erected the stand every day for a year and raised more than $1 million to help fight child slavery.
Through social media and internet news outlets, future generations can more easily become child activists by seeing what is going on in other areas of the world. A child or teen who is advocating for a better future not only gains experience in advocacy, but creates an opening for others to follow in their footsteps.
– Rebecca Lee