However small it might have been, I have made a mark on the hearts of children in Deipsloot, a squatter camp in South Africa. It was a smile, a funny dance, and a hug to tell them they are worth loving. I’ve made a mark, on Rita, 12-year-old AIDs orphan from Zambia. It was holding her in my lap, and crying with her as she shared her story with me. I’ve made a mark on the Esther school in Chongwe by cutting trees and moving cinder blocks for days in the African heat. It is by looking at where I have been, and the impact that I have made that I know I was put here for a reason. I was put here to change the world.
Often when I say that people are taken back, it’s not exactly something the average 16 year old expects to do. I can read the doubt on the faces of strangers who hear my claim, but those who know me are excited about my plans. Plans. That implies I have an outline, a roadmap to a destination, but I have nothing of the sort. I have no idea how I will be used to change the world or even what that change will look like. So how do I know I’ll change the world? Let me explain.
I have a passion for people, especially the people often forgotten or looked down on by society. The homeless, orphans, widows, abused and those trapped in poverty have all captured a piece of my heart. It is this passion that has led me to promoting hunger awareness in my own community by not eating for 30 hours, and has led me to the villages and streets of Africa. It is this passion that has forced me to question my society’s views of success. Why would I be happy with millions of dollars if I know other people don’t even have access to clean drinking water? It is this passion that will not allow me to settle with a “good life” but strive for a meaningful one.
My life will mean something by focusing on individual people rather then statistics or numbers. One child dies every 12 seconds from poverty related causes. That’s not just a number! That is a child that was carried for 9 months in it’s mother, breathed, cried and felt the pain of death. Alone I can’t end hunger, end poverty, disease or human trafficking, but I can help individuals who are trapped in these circumstances. I’m called to use my gifts and resources to help PEOPLE, not organizations or myself.
The beauty of not having a plan is that I get to dream. I still have a year until I graduate high school. That means I still have a year to dream and plan. I still might not have a plan when I graduate and that is okay. I might leave behind everything that is comfortable and that I know. I might end up in a rural village to open a school or a community center to teach English and sexual education. I might stay here and open a business in which all the money is donated to a humanitarian organization. I might simply join a non-profit focusing on homeless youth in America. These are things I think about and consider doing, but whatever I do, wherever I go, I will make a difference. I will leave my mark.