my journey

from me to we

philanthropy

 Noun  |  phi·lan·thro·py |  \fə-ˈlan-thrə-pē\

Definitions for philanthropy:
1.  Goodwill to fellow members of the human race
2.   Desire and active effort to help other people
3.   Something done or given to help people in need
4.   An organization giving or supported by charitable gifts

Our favorite definition of philanthropy is …

Love of humankind in the form of time, talent and treasure.

I became interested in philanthropy and projects that could help make a positive difference in my community and the lives of others when I was eight years old.  It started one day in the third grade when I was asked to write my weekly essay about what I wanted to do when I grew up.

You can read more about my unfolding journey as a social justice philanthropist in the slides below.

How It All Started: My 3rd Grade Essay

How It All Started: My 3rd Grade Essay

In the 3rd grade, my teacher asked us to write about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember thinking about it on the bus ride home from school.

When I got home, I asked my mom what do you call a person who finds money and help for people who need it most and gets it to them. She said, “Go look up the word, philanthropist."

I remember running back to where my Mom was saying, “That’s it! I’m going to be a philanthropist when I grow up! That’s exactly what I want to do!”

I did also think about being a Fireman or Superhero too, but what I most wanted to do was to make a meaningful difference in my community, like the people who I looked up to were doing.

Doing My Part to Help Save My Teacher’s Job

Doing My Part to Help Save My Teacher’s Job

My first opportunity to work towards making a positive difference in my community came later in the 3rd grade, when I found out that my teacher’s job was in jeopardy. We learned that there was a major gap in our school’s education budget.

When I understood that my teacher could lose her job, I decided to donate all the money that I had saved in my charity savings account. I went to school the next week and gave the $100 that I had saved, to the special fund set-up to help save my teacher’s job.

I also wrote a letter to my classmates and their families, asking them to join me in helping save the important educational programs and our teacher’s jobs that were planned to be cut.

Some Rockstars Change the World

Some Rockstars Change the World

Fast forward one year. My school has a tradition that the 4th graders have to do a research project, where we learn about a notable person who has made a positive difference for humanity.

I narrowed my choices down to Ghandi and Bono from U2. I ended up choosing Bono, because...well, Bono is cool!

As part of my project, I decided to demonstrate how Bono has made an impact in greatly reducing extreme poverty in the world. I created a philanthropy project to help raise awareness and money for Bono’s ONE Organization.

My community was very supportive and came out for my fundraising events, where I even dressed up like the famous Rockstar Philanthropist to raise over $1000.

One Son. One Mom. One Year.<br>Countless Kindness Acts.

One Son. One Mom. One Year.
Countless Kindness Acts.

At the end of the 5th Grade, as I was gearing up to start middle school, my mom surprised me with a couple of questions and asked me to consider an idea.

She asked ... what if we did something kinda crazy and took the focus off ourselves for a whole year? What if we put our things in storage, packed up our car, and set out for a cross-country journey -- where we each day we lived the simple message of kindness?

In September 2014, my mom and I left our home, on a little island just west of Seattle, and spent the next 12 months traveling through 30+ states, on what we called #TheKindnessJourney
doing community service projects and spontaneous acts of kindness.

My StoryCorp Interview

My StoryCorp Interview

Our year of traveling, community service and kindness activities opened up lots of opportunities. We learned that there's actually a name for what we were doing; it's called voluntourism. That's when you set out to travel and do some good along the way.

News about our year-long voluntourism project spread through social media. While we were in Austin, Texas, I was interviewed by a student at Cunningham Elementary School for StoryCorps. I was asked to share about my passion for philanthropy and about The Kindness Journey.

Our interview even ended up in the United States Library of Congress in Washington DC, which I later found the recording of during our stay there.

Why Spend a Year Focused on Kindness?

Why Spend a Year Focused on Kindness?

Why spend a year speaking about kindness and compassion, giving time to community service projects and doing spontaneous acts of kindness?

It actually came down to a personal question, “What can I do to feel more connected and caring in my own life to myself, to my family and in my community?”

And then a challenge: Could we pause our preconceived ideas of what we thought was going to make a difference in our lives and those around us?

The Kindness Journey was a great adventure, filled many life-change experiences, but the greatest gift was the personal exploration that being kind has to offer each of us in every moment -- and how kindness ripples and boomerangs in our own lives.

Overcoming My Fears & Finding My Way

Overcoming My Fears & Finding My Way

Part of the mission of The Kindness Journey was about was sharing the message of how kindness and compassion can make a difference in our lives.

When we started our travels,I was 11 years old and the largest group of people I'd ever talked in front of was my classmates and their parents, maybe 50 people total.

My mom asked me if I would feel comfortable talking in front of people about our project and I said, "Sure, maybe towards the end of the year, I'd feel okay about talking to 75 people."

So, when my first group was over 80 people and my largest group was close to 500 people, I learned that when you care about what you're talking about, you find a way through your fears.

The Water.org Project. It just feels good when we do good.

The Water.org Project. It just feels good when we do good.

One of the most important messages I wanted to share during The Kindness Journey is how we get so much more out of life, and we're more connected to the people around us, when we take good care of each other, our community and our planet.

It just feels good when we do good. We feel better about ourselves and more hopeful about our world.

And the surprise in it all is not only is caring cool -- it's fun too!

Through the community service projects I participated in, like my friend Jenna Harris's Water.org Project at Lincoln Middle School, in Chicago, I formed new friendships and had some of the most memorable experiences from our entire year of traveling.

Day of Service, in honor of Nelson Mandela

Day of Service, in honor of Nelson Mandela

During our stay in Washington DC, we were invited to participate in the Day of Service, in honor of Nelson Mandela International Day.

Mandela Day of Service was organized to promote community service, civic engagement, promoting volunteerism, civic activism and youth engagement.

The Mayor’s Office, The DC Youth Advisory Council and over 85 volunteers and community members participated in the removal of debris and in the street clean-up efforts.

It was one of my most memorable volunteer experiences all year, and when I was asked to speak spontaneously to a crowd of 100+ people, I felt comfortable and passionate about sharing how we can make a difference through caring and kindness.

Help for a Mom & Daughter Project

Help for a Mom & Daughter Project

You know what happens when you make the declaration that you're going to live your life with a focus on kindness and compassion?

Life presents you with all kinds of opportunities to see if you really mean it.

One night, my mom and I were walking through the streets of NYC and a woman tapped my mom on the shoulder and asked her for money. The woman had her 5 year old daughter with her.

Instead, we took them to get something to eat and learned about what it's been like for them to spend most of the daughter's 5-year life in a hospital.

Before we said goodnight, we let them know they would see us again and that we'd find a way to bring some ease and joy into your lives.

community service

because caring is cool

Missoula, Montana
Missoula, Montana

Day of Kindness Event
Ronan Boys & Girls Club
October 2014

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

Volunteer Day at
New Orleans City Park
April 2015

Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

Nelson Mandela
Day of Service
June 2015

Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon

Fundraising & Collection
Campaign for Portland’s Homeless
January 2017