Nothing Can Stop Me


Sherida Alexander is from North Carolina. She is a senior in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system and a couple of days ago she graduated from high school. Sherida’s path is interesting because her road to graduation was not as smooth as others teenagers. She had to fight her way through her four years of high school and, until recently, was not sure she could graduate.

When she started as a freshman at Hawthorne High School, everything looked fine until Sherida had trouble with her vision. Her doctor told her that she had keratoconus. It is a specific disease from the cornea which cause it to change its shape to a cone and blur the vision. Most of the times, keratoconus is diagnosed in young people and can be cured. Sherida’s one was much more dangerous as she could become blind.

The degenerative eye disorder didn’t stop Sherida from attending school. Even though her vision was impaired she kept studying. As her vision became worse and worse, two years ago, doctors decided that it was time to take action. Sherida had a double cornea transplant to help her regain her vision.

After the surgery, she was back to school and because of her poor sight she had to work much more than her classmates. She would arrive at school at 6am and would not leave until after 6pm. Even when her body started rejecting one of her cornea she kept going. Unfortunately, Sherida was not able to graduate in June but Hawthorne is a special place where the focus is on preventing students from dropping out of school. They  can complete course requirements at their own pace rather than a pre-determined pace.

Sherida in July took an extra computer class and was finally able to graduate and get her diploma. She is beaming with pride and ready to tackle her next challenge: becoming a cosmetologist. She will start classes in a community college within a few weeks but she knows that more challenges await her. She has now lost all sight in her right eye and could have to undergo more surgery. But that will not stop her from reaching her goal. Via

A Son with a Big Heart

by on August 7, 2009
in Family, Selflessness, Teens, USA


Zach McGuire is really a son with a big heart. The boy from Toledo, OH, has made himself a reputation as a great fundraiser. It all started in 2005 when hurricane Katrina struck. The principal of his school asked each student to do an extra chore over the weekend to earn $1 for victims. Zach thought he could do better than that. He set up a Kool-Aid stand and, at his father Tom’s suggestion, asked that people simply donate what they could. In two weekends he raised more than $400 for Katrina victims.

Upon hearing that feat, the mayor of city, invited him, lauded his his initiative and named him Citizen of the Month. In 2007, Zach did it again. This time, he set up his Kool-Aid stand to help victims from the flood in Findlay, OH.  Later he would use again his stand but replacing Kool-Aid by hot cocoa to raise money for California wildfire victims. He estimates that his fundraising efforts reached around $1000. Not bad for an 11-year-old.

Now though he is facing a challenge closer to home. His father, who taught him to help others has fallen on difficult times. The licensed contractor has not been able to find a job since last December and is financially liable for a large remodeling job he did last summer for which the customer never paid. His situation is getting extremely difficult with mounting bills and no job in view.

So Zach again took action to help his father. He has decided to put on sale all his childhood toys in order to bring some relief to his dad. The selflessness in his action is wonderful, even though the money raised will be just a drop in a bucket. But I am sure that Zach’s father is proud of his son and as a result, his level of persistence to solve his financial problems will shot up.  Via

Growing the Donation


Eighteen months ago Savannah Head took a big decision. The 11-year-old from Jackson, TN, had approached her parents about Locks of Love, a non profit I have already featured on The Florida-based organization provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

Savannah wanted to do something to help children with cancer and making a donation of her hair to Locks of Love seemed perfectly fitting. The thing is Savannah loves to sport short hair whereas Locks of Love requires the donation to be at least 10 inches long. There was only one way to participate and Savannah, eighteen months ago let her hair grow. It was also challenge for her because the longer the hair the more she needed to take care of it.

Savannah though, is no stranger to challenges. First, she has celebral palsy which requires her to walk most of the time with crutches and leg braces. Second, she has already made meaningful contributions throughout the years. For example when she was 7, helped by her mother, she started a small business, ”Boneyard Bakery.” She baked bone-shaped doggie treats and donated the proceeds to various charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation or to those helping the 2004 tsunami victims.

But last week was the moment she had been waiting for eighteen months: to finally cut, with the help of a hairdresser, her long ponytailed hair. Savannah hopes that by doing that she can encourage others to do the same. She says that it will make kids who need it feel good and the person who donates her hair too.

Via Picture by Devin Wagner

Finding Power Through Words


Tran Tra My is a young woman from Vietnam who was all smiles last month. She finally succeeded in getting her first book published. At the book launch at the Ha Noi University of Culture she could not keep the tears from rolling down her cheeks. Her book title, “Dream of the Angel’s Feet”, symbolizes her struggle and how hard her journey was until this launch day.

When she was a baby, Tra My got a bout of fever which lead to tumors in her feet. The surgery to remove the tumors damaged her feet and and also caused her to have difficulties moving her hands and speaking. That meant that she couldn’t go to school, move around easily or communicate with people. Not a great start in life but that didn’t stop Tra My.

When she was 9, her sister began her first grade school year. At night, while she was doing her homework, Tra My would sit besides her and imitate her sister. She would ask her questions and would keep studying with the school books left on the table. She slowly taught herself how to read, write and do basic math. That was enough to enable her to read books, especially fairy tales.

This reading opened doors in her mind. It lead her to teach herself slowly and painfully how to type on a computer. She then started writing poems to tell her story and reach out. Soon enough she was writing short stories and used emails to connect with others and share her creations. Her persistence finally paid off as she won several prizes in writing contests and caught the eye of the Labour Publishing House with whom she signed a contract.

Her amazing journey is not finish yet. Tra My has many dreams to fulfill. First she wants to study at the Literature Creation, Argument and Critic Department of the Ha Noi University of Culture. She is also thinking about writing scripts for TV and game shows. Finally she dreams of having a happy family. Why not? One of Tra My’s best short stories is “The Doors that Never Closed” which was written as an autobiography. She did open so many of those supposedly closed doors already that we can trust her to get much higher in Vietnamese literature. Via

Pushing the Limits


This is a guest post by Jaspreet Singh Sahni, a journalist from India. You can enjoy his writing at his blog, Star of the Day.

His movement may be restricted but his determination knows no limitation and that eggs him on to perform like a man on a mission, at times outshining his able-bodied counterparts, on the badminton court.

Tarun Dhillon is just 12 and he is visibly different from others, not because of his disability but his ability to overcome it. He was 8 when he met an unfortunate accident that seriously injured his right knee. His movement got restricted and ultimately the knee had to be operated upon, twice.  Though the first surgery was unsuccessful, the second seemingly went well. “The second surgery was slightly more successful as I regained movement, but my knee was still jammed,” Tarun clarifies.

It was a year later, at 9, when he turned to badminton. “I picked up the racquet because it exercises every part of your body. My coach Rajiv Mehra has helped me a lot. Although my movement is comparatively slower than the rest on court, I just love the game,” Tarun said.  His tenacity echoes in his statement: “I constantly like to challenge myself against those with no disability. It should never stop somebody from doing what they love.”

His resolve is there for everybody to see in his achievements as he began making his mark at the school and junior levels. At 11, Tarun was crowned India’s number one shuttler in the physically challenged category for juniors. Along the way, he became a gold medalist in the national championships in singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.

With success touching his feet, he landed into the hands of Prakash Padukone (former Indian international) at his academy to train for Asia cup for the disabled last December. While he finished third in the doubles event, he lost to a 35-year-old Malaysian veteran in the singles.

“When I first saw Tarun, I realised that he wanted to prove to the world that his disability is only physical. I have been coaching him since he picked up the sport. I have been training him mainly on his movements but his courage, skill and determination are extraordinary to say the least,” says his coach.

Via Star of the Day

What Is Motivation?


What makes some people take a specific road in their life? What makes them decide to take left or right? When you ask this question to teenagers, most of the time they mention their parents as having the biggest influence on them. Jillian Froelick credits her parents too. She said they always emphasized the importance of giving back to the less fortunate. Jillian is now going to apply this concept.

A junior high school student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Jillian quickly found her call. After years talking about going to Africa to help and after further research, she settled on a very detailed plan that will take her to Tanzania after her senior year. When her parents learned about the project, they had mixed feelings. Of course they were proud of Jillian’s spirit and selflessness but they still worry about their child spending 7 months in Africa.

Jillian has knocked down every objection to her project by laying down a very carefully prepared plan. She knows exactly what she is going to do. Back in May she started with a book drive “Give a Supply to Help Them Reach the Sky” on her campus where she could collect 373 books and three boxes of school supplies. She also had a book drive in her hometown high school of Weddington where she collected 400 books.

Jillian has other events planned to get more school supplies. She also will raise money and work part time to pay for her trip. She has already chosen a non profit, Projects Abroad, to help her with the logistics. Jillian knows she will teach English and care for AIDS patients while in Tanzania. Interestingly, her future is also already planned. After returning from Africa Jillian wants to attend college to become a surgeon. Her motivation? To later open a clinic in Tanzania. :)


A Passion That Doesn’t Fizzle


She is not yet 12 but Casey Sokolovic from Noth Carolina has an incredible vision of what she wants to do. It all started four years ago when she visited the the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, NC, on a family trip. There, she discovered the world of injured turtles being brought back to health by a team of dedicated volunteers. The visit had such an impact on Casey that she decided to take action. She chose to raise money for the rehabilitation center.

First she had to create an organization and “Help Them LAST” (which stands for Love A Sea Turtle) was born. Second she had to find a way to raise money. She decided to bake and sell turtle-shaped cookies. She participated in school fundraisers. She ignited the interest of everyone she could possibly find. And a few months ago, Casey was proud to hand to the center a check of $3,000 as a result for her efforts.

Although the money is good to finance the rehabilitation center, Casey’s impact on people is also surprising. Her family who had no interest in oceans is now devoted to sea turtle conservation. Her parents and her brother joined the cause and are fully helping Casey. The family even booked a trip to Barbados because she wanted to clean the beaches and talk to marine biologists working there. At school, Casey is sharing her successes and involves friends in her activities. They, in turn are very supportive and come up with new ideas.

Make no mistake, her dedication is serious because she knows sea turtles are disappearing fast and need our help. Casey who would like to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist, has other plans. She is creating a logo and setting up a website for “Help Them LAST”. The family has collaborated with coffee creator Joe Van Gogh to introduce a special Fair Trade Organic coffee blend called Sea Turtle Blend. You can buy it online and 10% of the net profits will go to the rehabilitation center. Via

What about you? Are you passionate about something? or are you hesitating among several interests?

Understanding the Power of Leverage


Dylan Mahalingam from New Hampshire is a teen with a mission: to spread the word about the United Nations eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and mobilise his peers into working on these goals.

It was after the 2004 tsunami  that Dylan decided to help. He fundraised $900 and the money was sent to Chennai, India, to help replace fishing boats and nets for a poor community. Collaborating with different kids on several more projects on the net, he noticed that they were not aware about the MDGs but as soon as they understood the eight goals, they wanted to do something about it.

So Dylan created a non profit, Lil’ MDGs, a collaborative effort to benefit various causes around the world. With his friends they raised funds and resources to build a dormitory for a school in Tibet and a computer center, library, and a mobile hospital in India. They provided school supplies for students in many countries and a playground for a school serving AIDS orphans in Uganda. Working with American soldiers, Lil’ MDGs mobilized children in America to send school supplies for students in various schools in Iraq. The non profit also collected and donated over 9000 books to a library serving disadvantaged youth in Washington, D.C.

You might wonder how Dylan, now 14, is handling studies, playing time and his non profit? His secret, something he learned right at the beginning of his fundraising efforts, is collaboration. 20 children from five countries volunteer approximately 15 hours a week to Lil’ MDGs. These 20 children, including Dylan, meet online weekly. Besides this, approximately 1300 children from 15 countries volunteer around 15 hours a month. Add to that thousands of kids participating to a specific project and you get an idea of the powerful leverage behind Dylan.

Knowing that one can achieve more through collaboration, what is your leverage power?

Lil’ MDG’s

Dylan’s facebook page

(Dylan was nominated by Angela Hughes. Thank you Angela! You too can nominate anyone you think is remarkable and inspiring. Send your mail to jp [at]

How Do You Stop Child Labor?

How do you get poor children out of the streets? How do you get them to attend school? The answer is difficult because even if you have a sound school system it doesn’t mean that all kids will come. The poorest families cannot afford to send their children, even if the school is free. Why? Because they need to eat and a child can work and bring an income to the parents. On the other hand only an educated child can break out of poverty. How do you break the vicious cycle?


Cristovam Buarque is a Brazilian politician and university professor who has been relentlessly fighting for education in his country. With a group of friends, in the late 80′s he came up with an idea to break this cycle. In 1995 he ran and was elected governor of the Federal District which includes the capital, Brasilia. That was the perfect opportunity to implement this program called Bolsa Escola (School Fund.)

The conditions to apply were simple. The family income had to be equal or inferior to half the minimum wage, all the children of the family had to attend a minimum of 90% of the classes and the father had to be enrolled in the national system for job seekers. In exchange, Bolsa Escola complemented their income depending on the size of the family. The money was given to the mother who culturally  shows more commitment and responsibility.

The results? During the four years of Cristovam Buarque’s mandate, the Federal District government managed to reach about  25.000 families, or 50.000 children, at a cost of less than 1% of the annual budget. Children became more confident about their future. Truancy fell from 10 to 0,4%. Employment and income through small businesses (food and clothing) rose by 30% in the communities involved in the program. NGOs noticed a reduction in domestic violence and an improvement of the parents’ level of schooling. The women’ s self-esteem rose and their power within the family too.

The program was so successful that other municipalities and Brazilian states adopted similar programs. Other countries like Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and El Salvador followed the same idea. Even New York started in 2008 a pilot program modeled on Bolsa Escola.

In Brazil this simple idea, which requires little funds, was implemented nationwide by Cristovam Buarque when he became Education minister in 2003  under the name Bolsa Familia.  It is now credited as one of the main contributing factors for the reduction in poverty in Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque twitter page

Give and You Will Receive. Really?

You have heard about it. It’s in the Bible, “The Secret” talks about it as a key law of the Universe. Here is one more inspiring example to show you that selflessly giving comes back tenfold… or more.


Anna James is a senior high school student from Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, Ontario. She just graduated and her last two years have been busy. Distressed by world poverty, Anna decided to take action and founded her school’s Humanitarian Club. She couldn’t accept that people in countries far away were starving or couldn’t study. So she spearheaded Project Love. The goal was to help schools in Tanzania while involving her classmates in Grey Highlands. She devised an inter-class competition which gathered and sent 800 school supply kits to Tanzania.

How can you increase awareness about hunger among your peers? Anna’s idea was to organize an overnight “30 Hour Famine” group and help plan African lunches, to expose her community to global cuisine and gather funds for charitable causes. She also wanted first hand experience. In 2008, for six weeks, Anna volunteered in Peru helping abandoned and disabled children while also assisting impoverished seniors in the Peruvian desert.

She was also active in other areas, so much so, that she became, to her surprise, one of the recipient of a scholarship, which recognizes 20 students across Canada who are making a difference in their communities. This windfall will cover her post-secondary tuition and living expenses. Says Anna, “All along there have been personal rewards. I would have done these things regardless of the chances of a scholarship. The reward is the people you meet and it’s nice to have this material reward too.” Via Bayshore Broadcasting

Do you still not believe in giving and receiving? Or have you had a surprising experience?

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