5 Inspiring Kids That Are Making a Difference in the World

Be honest, how many times have you thought about making a difference and then done nothing because you felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems?

You’re not alone, most of us allow ourselves to be scared into inaction instead of just doing what we can.

It’s not a good enough excuse though. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”

That’s what CNN’s ‘Young Wonders’ are doing. From coding to literacy: they’re changing the game and leaving the world a better place because of it. They might only have a handful of years between them, but what they lack in age they more than make for with the bucket loads of ambition to bring to the table.

5 Kids That Are Making a Difference

1. Campbell Remess – Project 365

Campbell Remiss - Kids that are Making a Difference

Photo Credit: CNN Young Wonders

At an age when most kids are penning lengthy Christmas wish lists, all 9-year-old Campbell wanted to do was buy presents for the children at his local hospital. Understandably, his mother vetoed the idea, saying it would cost too much.

As one of nine children, Campbell was clearly used to figuring things out independently. He decided that if he couldn’t buy the children toys, then he’d make them himself.

By his own admission his first attempt was a ratty affair, but Campbell persevered. Using his mom’s sewing machine and patterns he downloaded online, his efforts quickly improved. Now a teenager, Campbell’s Project365 has touched the lives of children all over the world.

What can you do that will bring hope to one child or to many? Maybe you could initiate a toy collection of your own or just visit kids in hospital and spend some time with them.

2. Christina Li – Hello World

Christina Li - Kids that are Making a Difference

Photo Credit: CNN Young Wonders

STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) have always been male-dominated, but 19-year-old Christina Li is determined to bridge the gender gap with Hello World, her annual computer science camp for middle school girls.

Christina first started giving her free, week long classes while in junior high. Now a sophomore at Stanford University, where she is studying computer science and mechanical engineering, Christina’s camps host about 30 girls at a time.

With an upcoming internship at SpaceX on the cards, Christina’s own learning hasn’t taken a back seat either.

What about mentoring someone younger than you? Whether it’s by being a Big Brother or Big Sister or taking a younger colleague under your wing at work, see if you can find a way to share your knowledge.

3. Sidney Keys III – Books n Bros

Sidney Keys III - Kids that are Making a Difference

Photo Credit: CNN Young Wonders

Finding an 11-year-old who not only loves to read, but is encouraging others to read as well, is a rare find in today’s world. But Sidney Keys III is doing just that. What began as a problem —Sydney was struggling to find African-American characters he could relate to— ended up turning into a wonderful opportunity when he discovered a local bookstore that promotes African-American children’s books.

Inspired by his find and eager to share his passion for reading with his peers, Sidney founded Books n Bros. Aimed at boys between the ages of 8 and 12, the now 50-strong club focuses on African-American literature and culture.

The members meet monthly to discuss their featured book as well as to learn from older mentors. Sydney also started something called ‘Adopt A Bro’, which offers sponsorships for children who need financial assistance.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to start a club, you could simply collect books for your local library or school and make a difference that way instead.

4. Haile Thomas – The HAPPY Organization

Haile Thomas - Kids that are Making a Difference

Photo Credit: CNN Young Wonders

Haile learnt the importance of good nutrition and exercise at a young age. When she was just eight her father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. What could have been a negative became a positive when, along with his family’s help, Haile’s dad reversed his diabetes with a regimen of healthy eating and regular exercise.

Seeing the benefits this lifestyle had on her father, Haile was inspired to create The HAPPY Organization, which stands for healthy, active, positive, purposeful youth. Geared specifically towards 6 to 13-year-olds in underserved areas, the organization is teaching kids to cook and be nutritionally savvy.

Haile, who is now 16, is thought to be the youngest certified integrative nutrition health coach in the country. Pretty impressive for someone who is only just old enough to get her driver’s permit.

If you’re health conscious you could use your knowledge to inspire others to follow your example. You could start a healthy food blog, give talks at schools or make healthy snacks to sell at your local farmer’s market.

5. Ryan Hickman – Ryan’s Recycling

Ryan Hickman - Kids that are Making a Difference

Photo Credit: CNN Young Wonders

Young Ryan came to his purpose earlier than most. At age 3 his dad took him along on a trip to his local recycling center and the rest, as they say, is recycling history. At least, it was for this little guy.

The thrill of handing over cans and bottles in return for cash combined with the knowledge that he was keeping our oceans from being polluted had him hooked. Now 8-years-old, young Ryan has recycled more than 275,000 cans and bottles with the help of family, friends and the wider community.

Ryan’s Recycling (yip, he even started a company) is cleaning up area beaches and spreading his message of protecting the planet. (And these guys thought they were the youngest CEOs.)

If you live in an area where litter is a problem or recycling has yet to take off, why not make it your mission to clean it up? Even if you start by yourself, people will see what you’re doing and they may even elect to join you.

A Little Added Inspiration

If these kids have got you all fired up and ready to have at this ‘making a difference’ thing, you could also check out these books and TED talks for a little added oomph. You know, to really knock it out the park. After all, nobody wants to to be upstaged by a bunch of whippersnappers, right!?

I get that Gabe isn’t technically a whippersnapper, but his story is still super inspirational.

And if none of these ideas appeal to you, why not grab some pen and paper and write a love letter to someone who could use a little cheering up?

Volunteer (Lonely Planet)

Lonely Planet’s Volunteer edition is chockfull of ideas if you’re looking for a more meaningful travel experience. If you want to give back to the communities you visit, make a genuine connection with locals, meet like-minded travellers or build your skills, international volunteering is the way to do it and this book has all the advice you need to get there.

Amazing Adventures of a Nobody 

Amazing Adventure of a Nobody follows Leon Logothetis on his life changing journey across America. Tired of his disconnected life and uninspiring job, Leon set out to get from one end of the US to the other relying totally on the kindness of strangers. His next book: The Kindness Diaries, chronicles his quest to ignite goodwill and transform lives around the world.

Make a Difference by The Anonymous Helper

This short three-minute video clip depicts a young man as he goes through his day helping people. The gist of the story is that helping makes you feel good. Science agrees with this by the way, giving is good for you.

How Can I Make a Difference by Dan Parris

The founder of Speak Up Productions —a St. Louis based documentary production company that is creative for a purpose— Dan Parris believes we can make a difference in the world through our time, talents, and treasure. He says that when you combine what breaks your heart with what makes you come alive, magic happens. Check out Your Two Questions to find out how you can make a difference in the world.

Making a difference by Gabe Ferrick

Gabe Ferrick learned about the crisis in Darfur in his 5th grade humanity class at Sonoma Country Day School. He immediately felt inspired to take action and began organizing projects and walks to raise awareness and funds for refugees in Darfur, Congo, Rwanda and other places where genocide has ravaged the population. He was just 17-years-old when he gave this TEDx talk.