Advice from a 15-Year Old Nonprofit-Preneur
This blog originally appeared in sodexoinsights.com
Actively engaging young people in their community can result in positive and meaningful social change. Learn more about how to engage young people by reading Six Steps to Engage Millennials in Social Change and utilizing the complimentary Youth Engagement Toolkit.
“You will meet some remarkable young people who have seen the injustice of hunger and have taken the initiative….assumed the responsibility to make a difference. I think we can all learn a great deal from them.” – Stephen J. Brady, Founder of Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation
Joshua Williams is one of them. Just over 11 years ago, Joshua found his purpose in the world. At the mere age of 4 and a half, he began his own nonprofit organization, Joshua’s Heart Foundation (JHF), after being moved to action by witnessing homelessness in his community. Over the past decade, JHF has been recognized by many including the White House, Youth Service America, DoSomething.org, the City of Miami, and other notable companies. Joshua was even recognized in 2010 as one of our very own Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholars, where he met Steve Brady and instantly felt a connection—Joshua mentioned, “If Steve had been the same age as me, I just know we would have been best friends.” In 2013, Joshua returned to our stage to speak to scholars, some of which were even older than him at the time.
His passion, drive, and persistence to “stomp out hunger” are reasons we continue to champion Joshua and his foundation. Joshua believes that when society and the community make a positive impact it will lead to great change. The core of Joshua’s Heart Foundation “is to give love, show respect, and be kind to everyone.”
When I asked Joshua if he had any words of advice for other young leaders, he replied, “of course! I have three things, wait four . . . no, actually five!” Joshua’s willingness to help others and motivate them to be their best self is truly inspirational. It’s exciting when such young and driven leaders match my own passion in the fight against hunger. Take Joshua’s advice; as a 15-year-old President, Founder, and Head-Change Maker of his own nonprofit, his wisdom can help you in whatever path you are on in life.
1. Use YOUR passion to make a change in the world.
Whatever this may mean to you, find it and do it. Through his remarkable passion, Joshua has been able to touch the lives of hundreds in the homeless community and has inspired over a thousand youth to follow their dreams through service activities.
2. Never stop learning & share what you know.
Learn from books, experiences, and mentors. Once you stop learning, you lose self-fulfillment. Even the most successful people in the world, like Warren Buffet, credit their achievements to continuous learning.1
Joshua told me “Knowledge is power. Knowledge from books, experiences, and mentors is powerful, and I believe it is my calling to communicate the wisdom I have gained through JHF to other kids so they can make a difference too.”
This is why Joshua created a JHF Junior Advisory Board, which consists of 80 youth ages 9-18 in Southern Florida. He wants to make a true positive difference and can’t help but share what he’s learned with his peers. These kids gain invaluable leadership and project management skills as they develop and lead their own projects with the help of JHF. Joshua cultivates these young leaders’ ideas and projects to “stomp out hunger.” He not only inspires, but also is inspired by the abundance of youth engagement and passion for the cause all around him.
3. Learn who you are & be true to yourself.
Life is filled with greater joy when you are genuine. If you aren’t yourself, who are you?
Being true to yourself starts with knowing who you are and accepting yourself; knowing your strengths, passions, limitations and purpose in life and then living it. Find what works for you. What defines you and makes you whole.2
4. Learn to see the world in a different way.
Learn to be in someone else’s shoes. You will learn to appreciate the “little things.”
One of the core values of Joshua’s foundation is that he and his volunteers “don’t use judgments against people.” It is important to help these individuals gain a “jumpstart in life.” Simply showing people a little love and giving them the resources to not worry about hunger allows them to think about other things, like getting a job or caring for their family. A little love goes a long way.
5. Never give up!
Persistence will take you far in life. “When I originally had the idea to start helping the homeless, I was shot down, not only by my biggest supporter, my mom, but also my aunts.” Had Joshua thrown in the white flag and admitted defeat, his foundation would not be standing and he would not have inspired other youth to use their imagination and start their own service projects. “I think the easiest thing about being a kid and starting my organization is that anytime I received a ‘no’ it didn’t bother me,” Joshua says.
Youth have the amazing ability to shrug off answers they don’t want to hear and be persistent. If we can all be persistent with our dreams like Joshua, imagine where we could be after a few “no’s.”
In the words of Steve Brady, “Young people see the world in simple terms. People are hungry. That’s not right. It’s not fair. We must help.”
To learn more about Joshua and his foundation, visit http://joshuasheart.org.
Shondra Jenkins is the Executive Director of Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and a passionate advocate in the fight to end childhood hunger in America. Ms. Jenkins believes that eliminating childhood hunger is possible through the active engagement of young people. She is working with national non-profit organizations to empower youth to have a voice and take action in their local community. With fresh eyes, energy and a different perspective on many social issues, Ms. Jenkins believes young people are the key to ending childhood hunger.