When she was 9 years old, Jordan Freer swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise money to send more than 300 anti-malaria bed nets to families in Africa. Teenager Martha Zuniga has been an advocate to protect the rights of adolescent girls worldwide, even hosting a fashion show to raise money for the cause. And Maryland high school student Jack Andraka devotes his time (when he's not in school) to finding ways to use mobile phones to diagnose diseases.
Jordan, Martha, and Jack exemplify the passion and power of young people today to drive social change. Stories like theirs can be found across the country.
In fact, a recent study from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which was supported by the United Nations Foundation, found that nearly 9 out of 10 children ages 8 to 19 give to charity and more than half volunteer.
I'm not surprised. Every day, the United Nations Foundation works with young people who aren't waiting until they are older to make a difference; they are taking action and driving change now. Teenage girls from across the country have written to their elected officials to advocate for an end to child marriage. Middle school students have raised thousands of dollars to fight malaria. And around the world, young people have shared their priorities for a better future with the United Nations through the My World campaign.
Today's young people are motivated, creative, philanthropic, and interested in the communities and the world around them. They aren't just committed to charity; they are committed to change. They donate money, but they also lend their voices, ideas, time, and energy to the causes they care about.
As the world tackles pressing challenges of peace, poverty, and human rights, we need the ingenuity and involvement of young people more than ever. Right now, the international community, working through the United Nations, is creating a development agenda that will build on the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals. This agenda will lay out a shared vision of the world we want. While we imagine this brighter future, it is young people who will build it. They are the architects of the future. That's why it is so important to engage, encourage, and empower them now.
So how do we do that? The Lilly School of Philanthropy/UN Foundation report found that it is important for parents to talk to their children about charity. These conversations encourage children to give - more so than just role modeling alone. The report also suggests explaining to children specifically how charity benefits others. These small steps can make a big difference in supporting the next generation of philanthropists.
Despite the enormity of our challenges today, I am optimistic about our future because of the young people I meet. This report confirms what I already know from personal experience: young people care, and they are changing the world.