"Protecting animal rights is my purpose in life and I am here to make a difference. I won't stop until I do." - Thomas Ponce, age 12, The Pollination Project's 100th Grantee
With all the problems facing us as a society, and all the challenges in our world, it is easy to lose sight of the possibility of making a difference with our lives. It is easy to feel impotent and hopeless in our ability to be a force for change against large forces that incline stagnation and indifference. All too frequently we vacate our hearts and live entirely in our heads, rationalizing our choices, ignoring our gifts, and disregarding our wisdom and our purpose.
Since January 1st, 2013, it has been my purpose to give away $1,000 in seed money, every day, to an individual change-maker like Thomas Ponce. People with a directed vision, a heart full of kindness and a practical idea for manifesting a more environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually fulfilling human presence on the planet. The Pollination Project has now made 100 grants in 100 days to 100 startup projects led by inspiring, committed people who are using our seed capital to launch or enhance their efforts.
Thomas Ponce is a wonderful representative of types of people who apply for grants from us. Thomas has been committed to animal protection since he was 4 years old and attended his first animal rights protest at age 5. Now, at age 12, with help from his mentor, animal rights attorney Jessica Astrof, Thomas launched Lobby for Animals, an online lobbying and education resource for animal rights activists to come together and make their voices heard. This kind of citizen lobbying work is even more important as new anti-whistleblower legislation ("Ag Gag" bills) are attempting to criminalize whistleblowing on factory farms. Ten states have introduced these Ag Gag bills in 2013 alone.
"Lobby For Animals' goal is to educate activists about the need to represent animals in the political arena. Lobby For Animals provides the tools and resources to speak to your representatives with authority. I know that offering video instruction will make an impact as well as having a website where interested advocates can gather all the information they need to become civilian lobbyists." Thomas continues, "We have to remember, we are speaking up for those who can't speak up for themselves; we are the voice of the voiceless and we need to be heard!"
In the short time since we told Thomas that he was receiving our 100th grantee award, I've seen first hand how dedicated he is to speaking for those who can't speak for themselves. Our P/R team created a press release about Thomas and, in the interests of keeping it short and media-friendly, left out specific detail about his passion for protecting sharks who are cruelly killed for their fins. Thomas adamantly insisted that we mention the sharks. He explained, "it would make a big difference to the sharks and the few supporters they have." Suffice it to say, the sharks made the cut.
Thomas' age demonstrates that we are born with an inherent sense of justice and kindness for all. His project embodies the principle that all beings -- humans and animals -- are worthy of our compassion. Thomas's success demonstrates that we don't need to have a certain age or wealth, or to be in a position of power to make a difference.
Having the privilege to support people like Thomas Ponce, I am reminded of the goodness that resides in us all, the importance of nurturing it, and how impactful our lives really are. I am reminded that if a Florida pre-teen can be this clear, this powerful and this unwavering in his efforts to change the world, then perhaps there is hope for us after all.