Tuesday, April 2, 2013

'We have to start with something.' One 12-year-old's head start at leadership

"There's a lot to do. We can help in many ways. We have to start with something."
Twelve-year-old Joana is determined to change lives one young person at a time. She took a trip to Bolivia nearly five years ago, which sparked her interest in community service and defined her personal mission and vision to provide basic resources to children in need. Her project affectionately known as "The Creative Children of Bolivia" provides school supplies and gently used clothing to an orphanage located in a small-rural community in Bolivia.
With the support of family, friends, neighbors and her school community, Joana collects donations from classmates and friends and later sends them to children at the orphanage. "I started by going to my teacher," explained Joana, who began her project when she was in fifth grade. "I asked if I could present to the class and provide a donation box for school supplies."

Within weeks, Joana's friends were making and selling duct-tape wallets, bracelets and breakfast meals to raise additional funds for the project. She writes:
I was inspired to help children in Santa Cruz, Bolivia by sending and distributing a shipment of educational supplies. I was born in Miami, Florida but of Bolivian descent, I started my project, “The Creative Children of Bolivia”, in the fifth grade.
Determined to change the lives of these children, I began my endeavor by presenting my project to my classmates in the fifth grade. Over the course of two months, my classmates and I collected several boxes of educational supplies, such as paper, pencils, paint, crayons, and markers for a school in Bolivia who desperately need these supplies to continue learning.
I didn’t stop at just collecting these school supplies. With the help of my friends Nicole and Lucia, we made duct tape wallets and bracelets and sold them to neighborhood friends and family members. Lucia, who lives in Bolivia, used this money to organize a large breakfast for kids who reside in an orphanage. I not only collected school supplies and money for these kids, but also collected boxes of clothing for the kids as well. I asked for support from my neighbors, friends, and family. With their help, I was able to collect several boxes of clothing- all for the children of Bolivia.

The Creative Children of Bolivia is a project I created to help children who are in need for simple things. Whether it’s school supplies, a warm and satisfying breakfast, or clothes, this project is aimed to help them in any way.
Joana’s project not only provides school supplies and basic resources to children in need, but also inspires social entrepreneurship among students who want to get involved and give back just as she does. She sees hope in the future for the rural community in Bolivia as well as the kids who live there.

Joana hasn't stopped developing her leadership skills. She and her mother are proud participants of the Children's Leadership Training Institute and Parent Leadership Training Institute at Catalyst Miami, which teaches participants ways to engage in advocacy in their communities.
If you have an interesting story to share with Catalyst Miami, please contact Sarafina Robinson at sarafinar@catalystmiami.org.

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