When I was 10 years old, I started learning about some of the sad realities of the world.
I heard stories of abuse, hunger, and pain. At the time, I didn’t understand how the world could be so cruel, but I knew I wanted to help.
As much as I wanted to pack my things right at that moment and travel to communities in need, I knew I had to start with my own community. At 10 years old, I made some promises to myself that shaped the way I look at change-making forever.
Since then, I’ve started The Love Your Natural Self Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building self-esteem. My nonprofit has spread to 28 countries, fundraised $10,000, and has curriculum in over 45 schools. When I was 10 years old, I could have never imagined making this much of an impact. It’s the simple lessons and basic truths, however, that got me here. I think sharing these ideas can help everyone find a way to get more involved within their communities.
1. Start in Your Community
When I was 10, I decided to start an “anti-gossip” club to stop some of the hurtful rumors going around in our school. Soon, my district adopted the curriculum and encouraged other schools to enforce anti-gossip movements. A few years later, when I was 15, I decided to start the first Natural Day at my school. Natural Day has now spread to 28 countries around the world.
I share these stories because I believe they truly highlight how change really starts within your community. One simple project can blossom into something beautiful if you put your heart and passion into it. If you want to tackle a global issue, start by educating your community about the issue so you can fight it together. It will be much easier if you have a strong support system behind you.
2. Find A Cause That Sets Your Heart on Fire
While the world of nonprofit work and change-making is exciting, it can often be stressful. If you have a cause that constantly inspires you, however, you will remain motivated to make a difference. Find a cause that keeps you up at night and sets your heart on fire. Once you find what you are passionate about, your service will become one of the most amazing and rewarding parts of your life.
3. Be Present
Not everyday is perfect. While balancing school, work, and a personal life, giving up your time to serve someone else can often be challenging. In these moments, however, I think it’s important to remember what “service” is all about.
To me, service means completely devoting your heart to a cause. Even if it’s for a few hours, when you’re working to serve your community, make sure your heart and mind is 100% dedicated. You and the community you are serving will get the most out of your service if you completely invest yourself. Helping others is one of the most rewarding things you can ever experience. Enjoy these moments, be present, and truly make the most of your experiences.
4. See the Light in the World
From negative news stories to difficult situations, it is often easy to give up hope. It’s easy to lose faith in people, it’s easy to forget the positives, and it’s easy to want to give in. One of the key things I’ve noticed about fellow change-makers and nonprofit owners is that they are able to create their own light through this darkness. Even when everything seems hopeless, they never fail to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s this light that drives and motivates them to work towards a better future.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a perfect journey. As a nonprofit owner, I’ve learned that life is full of ups and downs. There will be difficult days. You will face challenges. Not everything will be perfect. I think the key to making a difference, the first step, is to acknowledge the pain, work to heal, and to choose to look at these challenges with hope and positivity. Once you learn to do this, all of your actions will contribute to a better world.
Making a difference doesn’t mean starting an international non-profit or dedicating every second of your life to others. Making a difference means looking inside yourself, finding a cause that means something to you, and doing the best you can to better the world. I believe that every individual can make a difference– It all starts with what is inside your heart.