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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Inspiring Videos of Young People Serving the World

last updated October 31, 2020

posted by Catharine Hannay

Here are videos about children, teens, and young adults who've made a difference in their own communities or communities in other parts of the world. 

I don't think there's anything here that would be offensive or inappropriate for most classrooms. However, as always, please watch the full video before sharing it with your class. 

Use your own best judgment about which videos are appropriate for your particular context, as well as what type of support your students might need in order to understand an unfamiliar accent or unfamiliar culture.

14-year-old William Kamkwamba created a windmill out of spare parts and scrap metal. This brought electricity and water to his village in Malawi during a time of drought and famine.

Olympia Auset is the founder of S√úPRMARKT, which provides low-cost organic groceries to neighborhoods without access to fresh food.

Jaylen was bullied because he has Asperger's and Tourette's Syndrome. At age 8, he started a nonprofit to help other kids stop bullying.

Inspired by 100-year-old Captain Tom, five-year-old Tony Hudgel
l raised £1million for a children's hospital.

Ryan Hreljac was only 6 years old when he started raising money to build wells for communities who didn't have clean water.

Jimmy Akana was one of the children who benefitted from Ryan's Wells. Now Jimmy and Ryan are friends who work together to help bring clean water to communities around the world.

Mattie Stepanek was a poet and philosopher who died at age 13 from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Former president Jimmy Carter called him ‘the most extraordinary person I have known in my life.’

Engineer Ryan Patterson talks about a sign-language translator he invented while he was in high school, with help from an elderly mentor.

Update 6/4/20: I'm studying American Sign Language (ASL) and want to clarify a couple of things about this video: 

Ryan Patterson's design only translates fingerspelling (the signed alphabet), not the full range of signs, movements, and facial expressions necessary for communication in ASL. 

If you use the above video with your students, please be sure to explain it in context. It's a well-intentioned project, an impressive achievement for a high school student, and a good example of youth and elders working together. But it's also part of a larger issue of communication between d/Deaf and hearing individuals, and who's making decisions about what's useful and important.

There have been several other high-profile sign-language gloves that have been criticized by linguists and the Deaf community. This article from the Atlantic has a useful explanationWhy Sign-Language Gloves Don't Help Deaf People

Edgar Edmund Tarimo won the Children's Climate Prize for turning discarded plastic bags into a durable building material.

Peter Kariuki and Barrett Nash created an app to help reduce road accidents in Rwanda.

Eleven-year-old Tilly Smith saved the lives of dozens of people because she recognized the signs of a tsunami.

12-year Campbell makes teddy bears for sick kids. 

17-yr-old Alfonzo Williams started a teen-run bakery using healthy, home-grown ingredients. You may also be interested in "Grow Food," a youth-produced rap song about growing and cooking your own food, from Appetite for Change.

One mother's insistence on her disabled son's right to learn inspired an innovative school where a diverse group of kids and adults learn from each other.

Students in Berlin get rid of offensive graffiti by turning Nazi symbols into whimsical street art.

Kid President (Robbie Novak) explains How to Change the World. 

Two girls convinced their father to provide a place to live for a man in their neighborhood who'd been sleeping on the street.    

[Update 9/10/18: A member of the Mindful Teachers community just told me about a couple in her city who helped a homeless woman in a very similar way. Unfortunately, the situation did not turn out well: the woman attacked them (possibly while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs), and they are now in the hospital. Our colleague asked me to share this as a cautionary tale, but also to mention that she knows many other homeless individuals who are lovely people.]

Teen Lee Falconer helps the elderly members of his community.

Malala Yousafzai talks about her children’s book and heading to university.

Yash Gupta, 17, has collected and donated thousands of pairs of eyeglasses.

Girls in remote villages talk about how the World Children’s Prize program has empowered them.

Singers Colby and Awu (and some young friends) call all youth to get down with the movement for peace, hope, justice, courage, and service. 

You can find more inspiring stories of young people in the book Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • How are you similar to the people in the videos? How are you different from them?
  • How is the situation in your community similar to and different from the situations depicted in the videos?
  • Would you (or do you) prefer to help people in your own country or in other countries?
  • What can adults do to support young volunteers?
  • Do you consider any of these young people heroes? Why or why not? What does a 'hero' mean to you? Who are some of your heroes?
  • List the skills and qualities used by these helpers. (For example, engineering, fundraising, empathy, physical strength.) What skills and qualities do you have that you could use to help other people?


related posts:

Videos About Kindness, Compassion, and Service (includes videos of young people from different backgrounds)

Change the World song playlist (songs about diversity, unity, love for humanity, and making a difference)

Community Service Projects, pre-K through college

Thought-Provoking Videos About Empathy, Compassion, and Service