For the Win is a guest blog series featuring the remarkable initiatives that young Americans are advancing to win the future for their communities. Each week we highlight a new young person and learn about their inspiring work through their own words. Submit your story to appear in the For the Win guest blog series.
Joshua Williams is a middle school student at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Florida. He is the Founder and CEO of Joshua’s Heart Foundation, which has distributed almost 500,000 pounds of food to those in need. Joshua was recognized as a 2013 Hasbro Community Action Hero Semi-Finalist, an award that recognizes outstanding young service leaders presented by Hasbro in partnership with generationOn, the global youth service enterprise of Points of Light.
Have you ever woken up late, rushed to school and only then realized that you forgot to eat breakfast? Your stomach growls all morning as you grow impatient for lunch period. Fortunately, many of us know that when lunch time comes there will be a full meal, but imagine if your growling belly was a constant – through breakfast, lunch, and dinner with no relief. Hunger is real.
Statistics show that 3.9 million households in America with children experienced food insecurity and 5.1 percent of all U.S. households accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times. Today, with our financial and economic crises, hunger continues to rise among communities in the US and the world.
It is my personal goal to end world hunger. I know I can make a difference, this is a huge task but with the help of others it is possible. I started my mission to stomp out hunger when I was five. One day, while on my way to church with my mom I saw a man who was homeless and hungry. I felt very sad for the man, wanted to help him but didn't know how. Suddenly I remembered -- I remembered the $20 that my grandmother had given to me to do with whatever I wanted. So, I did what I thought was right and gave him my $20 so he could by food or whatever he needed.
When I gave him the money I knew I did the right thing, that experience changed my life forever! I felt really good and I wanted to do this more, but I didn't know how. A few weeks later I saw a commercial about the work that Feed The Children was doing in Africa. Conditions there were terrible, and this organization was helping. I realized that food issues were a huge problem everywhere and that I could start helping in my own backyard.
I wanted to give food to the poor in any way possible. But I had to find someone, an adult to help me with this. I approached my wonderful mom and at first she didn’t take me seriously but I was persistent and eventually I got her to help me help kids in the community. Persistence is the key, if you believe in what you want. Although my mom resisted, I knew at that moment what I had to do and that’s when I knew I had found my purpose in life.
After two years and many food donations, we created Joshua’s Heart Foundation. We have distributed over 500,000 pounds of food to over 8,500 individuals, raised a quarter of a million dollars, provided food to 150 families monthly, hosted quarterly cooking demonstrations to teach families how to prepare healthy meals on a budget, and provided weekend backpacks of food to kids in need.
I will do this for the rest of my life and I hope to help out even more to stomp out world hunger. I know what my purpose is. Do you know what yours is? Whether big or small, opening of the door for someone or raising money, I urge you to take action.
I believe that I am in the world not to get something out of it, but to put everything I can into it. What about you?
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Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.