Child Activists: Ten Stories about Inspirational Kids

December 1, 2016

by Nicole LaChance, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Most of us know the incredible story of Malala Yousafzai who, after being shot while trying to attend school, became a world-renowned activist for girls’ right to an education. Fortunately, there are several children like Yousafzai who do not let their young age get in the way of fighting for what they believe in. Here are ten stories of inspirational child activists from around the world.

Bryson Foster – MDA Goodwill Ambassador

Being diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at age five hasn’t slowed Foster down. While attending a fundraiser for MD treatments at age nine, he asked to address the crowd and shared about his journey with the disease. This led to him being named an MDA Goodwill Ambassador two years in a row. Now a young adult, Foster is still active in the cause, having raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Sophie Cruz – Immigration Reform Advocate
Cruz came to prominence at age five when, after slipping through security barriers, she was lifted up to Pope Francis’ motorcade and handed him a handwritten letter urging for immigration reform. As a United States citizen and the daughter of undocumented immigrants, she was invited to the White House by President Obama to share her story. Cruz continues to advocate for immigration reform in the United States.

Anton Abele – Stopping Street Violence
Abele became involved in political advocacy following the beating death of a 16-year-old on the streets of Stockholm, in his native Sweden. An active campaigner against violence in the country, Abele received commendation from Sweden’s king for his efforts, in addition to being named Stockholmer of the Year by two Swedish newspapers, all at the age of 15. Abele went on to become the youngest member of Swedish Parliament at age 18 and still campaigns against violence.

Iqbal Masih – Stepping Up Against Abusive Child Labor
Masih, who was born in Pakistan, was sold into bondage by his family at the age of four to repay a debt. He worked long hours as a carpet weaver until age 10 when he escaped, was captured and then escaped again for good. He went on to help over 3,000 Pakistani child slaves escape from hard labor and received international recognition for his efforts. His story ended tragically when, at the age of 12, he was fatally shot in his native Pakistan.

New York City Newsboys – Seeking Fair Compensation
In 1899, several New York newspapers raised the price newsboys (or newsies) had to pay for a stack of newspapers to 60-cents-a-bundle, meaning the newsboys often had to work late in the night to make a profit. This led to a two-week strike that drastically reduced newspaper circulation in the city. The strike was successful and papers agreed to buy back unsold copies or reduce their prices.

Zach Bonner – Helping Homeless Children
When Hurricane Charley hit his native Florida, then seven-year-old Bonner started delivering water to kids in his red wagon. Shortly after, he founded the Little Red Wagon Foundation, which helps advocate and provide resources for homeless children. In the years since, Bonner has walked across the United States to raise tens of thousands of dollars for his cause and was recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Claudette Colvin – Civil Rights Activist
Nine months before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin. The then high school student was riding a bus in her native Montgomery, Alabama when she and two other women were asked to move from their seats in order for some white passengers to sit down. Colvin continually refused, even after police arrived, and was subsequently arrested. She then went on to become one of the original plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court case that ended bus segregation once and for all.

Zach Hunter – Modern Day Abolitionist
After learning there are nearly 27 million slaves in the world, twelve-year-old Hunter decided to do something about it. He started Loose Change to Loosen Chains, a student-led movement where participants share the stories of modern day slaves and collect change in yellow cups to donate to anti-slavery organizations, such as the International Justice Mission. Now an adult, Hunter is still active in the anti-slavery movements, having written several books on the topic and frequently contributing articles to major websites.

Samantha Smith – Young Peacemaker
A child during the cold war, Smith wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov urging him not to go to war and instead make peace with the United States. Surprisingly, Smith received a personal reply from Andropov and was invited to visit the Soviet Union, which she accepted. She became an international symbol for peace and participated in peace-making activities in countries such as Japan, as well as writing a book about her visit to the Soviet Union. Smith died tragically at the age of 13 in a plane crash and was mourned throughout both America and the Soviet Union.

Ryan White – Standing Up for AIDS Patients
A hemophiliac, White had to receive regular blood transfusions, one of which transmitted HIV, causing him to be diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 13. When he tried to return to school after his diagnosis, he was initially denied, despite the fact that his doctor said he posed no threat to other students. (In 1985, when this incident took place, AIDS was still largely misunderstood in the United States.) White fought the decision and spent the rest of his life fighting against the societal stigmas attached to AIDS patients until he died from complications of the disease at the age of 18.

Which child activists inspire you?

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