Give in to Hope Day 33: Sophie Cruz

Spending time with family seems like a pretty normal experience for most of us, but when a child has parents who are living in a country as undocumented immigrants (which means they don’t have the papers that they need to be in that country legally) it can be extremely scary, as you never know if your parents will get taken away, deported back to the country they came from. For 5-year-old Sophie Cruz, she worried about this all the time. She was born in the United States, but her parents were from Oaxaca, and she did not want to be separated from them. When her family had the opportunity to see the Pope (the leader of the Catholic church), she broke past security to attempt to give the Pope a letter she had written, pleading with him to save her parents from deportation. The Pope saw Sophie, stopped his motorcade, and accepted her letter. The next day, at his meeting with members of the US Congress, he urged more compassion and acceptance for immigrants and refugees. Since this historic meeting, Sophie has also met President Obama, spoken at the Women’s March, spoken out against the Trump Administration, and continued to work on behalf of undocumented immigrants and helping them stay legally in the US. This tiny activist is someone who people want to pay attention to, and her passion to keep her family, and thousands like them, together, keep her focused on change.

To learn more about Sophie:

To see Sophie’s meeting with the Pope:

What would it feel like if you were worried the parent/guardian that you live with would be sent away? How would this affect you at home, at school, with your friends? If you had to write a letter to someone important, telling them why families should be able to stay together, what reasons would you give?

Closing Prayer: Dear God, Every voice, no matter how small, can make a big difference. Help us use ours. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 32: Autumn Peltier

We have already touched on access to clean water being a human right, as well as the young activists who are working to center Indigenous communities in environmental justice work. Autumn Peltier, a member of the Anishnabek Nation in Ontario, Canada, is a young climate activist who is not afraid to go toe to toe with powerful people in her fight to protect the water. She criticized Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his face for his support of oil pipelines that run through First Nations lands, and challenged him to have more Indigenous voices included in conversations about Canada’s environment. She is considered the Chief Water Protector of her people, a title she was passed down from her aunt, another climate activist and Water Protector. As comfortable talking with world leaders as she is to her followers on Instagram, Autumn is charismatic and committed to reclaiming our sacred connection to water, the source of all life.

To learn more about Autumn:

Save the date! Plymouth will be doing our own Water Pilgrimage, to Lake of the Isles, on Sunday June 6th. This will be an intergenerational event focused on reconnecting ourselves with the source of all life, water. This event will be co-sponsored by the Plymouth Contemplatives, the Board of Spiritual Formation, and the Committee for Children, Youth and Families. Stay tuned for more info!

Let’s make a list of all of the things we do from the time we get up until we eat breakfast that use water–I bet almost every activity involves water in some way! What would it be like if the water we drink, clean with, cook with, and bathe in wasn’t safe. How does it make you feel that not everyone has access to safe, clean water?

Dear God, We thank you for water, which everyone and everything needs. We are all connected to the water. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 31: Sonita Alizadeh

Today’s hero is very brave, and her life has been very hard. In the country where Sonita Alizadeh grew up, it is very common for girls to be sold away from their families as brides, even when they are very young. This practice is unfortunately common in many places in the world, where daughters do not have the same value placed on them as sons. Sonita’s family attempted to sell her at age 10, and again at age 16. The sale at 10 did not happen, and at 14 her family escaped from their home country of Afghanistan to Iran, where she connected with a youth non-profit and started writing music, including her rap that went viral, Daughters for Sale. After her family again tried to sell her at 16, she was able to escape to the US to attend school on scholarship. She was lucky, but she knows many other girls are married away from their families when they are still just children, and Sonita has devoted her life since then to speaking, rapping, writing and advocating to end the practice of child marriage. She knows that all girls deserve to be children, not something bought and sold.

For more about Sonita, plus a simple explanation about child marriage:

To hear Daughters for Sale: (content warning: in the video, Sonita appears to have a black eye and a bloody nose (makeup for the music video) and the contents of the song mention suicide. The song is EXTREMELY powerful, but viewer discretion is advised).

Sonita used music to help spread a message about an extremely important topic that is hard to talk about. Why do you think people use arts (music, dance, theater, painting, sculpture, poetry) to talk about hard things? Is there something creative that you do to help you process big feelings?

Dear God, Sonita speaks for all of those who can’t. Help us do the same. Amen

Give in to Hope Day 30: The Greensboro Four

As we know, the road to racial justice is a long one, and still going on today. Many key events in the Civil Rights movement were started by young people, such as Claudette Colvin’s refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger, or Ruby Bridge’s integrating a all-white school. Another part of Civil Rights movement was sit-ins, where Black people went to “whites only” spaces such as pools, parks, or dining counters and sat there in peaceful protest. One of the first sit ins took place in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, when four Black college students, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and David Richmond, inspired by Ghandi and aching to make a difference in the fight for Civil Rights, went to a local Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter and asked to be served. They were denied service, but did not leave. Police were called in, but could do nothing, as the young men were causing no disruption. The 4 returned the following day, and the day after that, each time asking to be served, being denied, and then staying there. Over time, more college students, Black and white, joined their cause, and staged sit-ins at other local businesses. During this time, the peaceful protestors were relentlessly verbally abused, heckled and even assaulted by white customers, but they remained impassive, quietly studying and working on coursework. From February until the end of July, the sit-ins continued, until finally, stores began serving Black customers at the same counters as white customers. The sit-ins, started by the brave Joseph, Franklin, Ezell, and David, had done their job.

To learn more about the Greensboro 4:

How do you think Joseph, Franklin, Ezell and David felt sitting at the lunch counter? What do you think helped them be so brave? What do you do to help yourself be brave during hard times?

Closing prayer: Dear God, The fight for racial equality is not finished. Let us be strong and continue to fight. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 29: Joshua Williams

Many of us have heard about hunger, poverty and homelessness. Children hear about these things and want to help, but often there are not opportunities for the very young to get involved and make a difference. When Joshua Williams was only 4 1/2 he already cared deeply about ending hunger, but he was frustrated that there weren’t organizations that he could volunteer with because of  his age. So he started a nonprofit (with the help of his family) that allowed children, even tiny ones, to get involved in helping others! His nonprofit Joshua’s Heart, is totally youth-run and collects toys, food, school supplies and more, and delivers them to people in need in the community. Now in college, Joshua continues to participate in his program, and remains committed to “stomping out hunger,” but has raised and trained other young leaders to take on the work too. He has always been passionate about helping young people find their voice, find their passion, and make positive changes in the world.

To learn more about Joshua Williams:

To see what Joshua’s Heart is up to now:

What are some of the ways that you could help out in the community? Let’s brainstorm them together. What are some of your favorite foods to eat? Could we go to the store together, buy some of them and bring them to our local food shelf to share our favorite treats with those in need?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Everyone deserves a full stomach and a full life. Help us feed those in need. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 28: Sidney Keys III

If you checked in with yesterday’s Hope hero, you know that in books, representation matters. Marley Dias wanted to see more black girls and women in stories, so she created #1000BlackGirlBooks. Sidney Keys III was also looking for more representation in books. He was fortunate to have an African-American children’s book store in his city, and when he went there he was amazed to see many titles featuring characters that he could relate to. He wanted to connect with other Black boys who loved to read, and asked the book store if he could start a book club specifically for Black boys. He started Books n Bros, a monthly book club for young men specifically in his community, which quickly grew far beyond his city. He now has over 150 boys in the club, from across the United States, and the club meets online so kids from anywhere can participate. It also has a non-profit side which allows people to sponsor memberships to the book club so that anyone can participate, no matter their income. Sidney is such an inspiring young person that Disney+ included him in their documentary series about real-life superheroes! Like Marley, Sidney is committed to ensuring that young Black men see themselves in stories, because he too knows that representation matters.

To learn more about Sidney Keys III:

If you could have a superpower for a day that could make the world a better place, what would your power be? What are some of your favorite stories featuring characters of color?

Closing prayer: Dear God, We all have the potential to be superheroes. Help us find our super powers and use them for good. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 27: Marley Dias

Most of us love stories. We love reading, or being read to, or writing our own. And for white children, particularly white boys, it is easy to find books with characters that look like them. But there are many kids who have a much harder time finding themselves represented in stories, and representation matters. So Marley Dias, only 10 years old at the time, started a program called #1000BlackGirlBooks, to collect stories about girls and women of color. She collected nearly 11,000 in her first drive, and sent them to schools in the US and Jamaica to help diversify their libraries. In the years since the campaign started, Marley wrote her OWN book and has even produced and hosted a show on Netflix about the importance of Black voices and Black stories. Marley knows that seeing people that look like you in books, tv, movies, politics, everywhere really matters, and she has made it her mission to use her love of reading to help Black girls feel seen.

To learn more about Marley Dias:

Have you ever read a book with a character in it that looked like you and reminded you of yourself? How would you feel if you could never find books with characters in them that were like you? What do you think it feels like when a kid finally has a book with a character who is like them?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Representation Matters. Let us find ways to help people feel seen. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 26: Virgil Smith

One of the things that many of us take for granted is learning how to swim. But knowing how to swim (or having access to places to learn) isn’t the case for everyone, and it can be a big problem in parts of the country that experience hurricanes, tropical storms, and floods. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey attacked Louisiana and Texas, flooding communities across the states. In many predominantly Black communities, many of the residents do not know how to swim, and this was true in Hitchcock, Texas. But quiet, video-game-loving teen Virgil Smith did, and when a friend contacted him for help during the storm which had turned into a flash flood, Virgil sprung into action. In an act of incredible bravery, using an air mattress as a flotation device, Virgil swam through his flooded community and rescued 17 people who were stranded in their homes and unable to swim. Tirelessly, Virgil helped the elderly, a mother and her infant, his friend’s entire family, and more. Virgil doesn’t consider himself a hero, he just “felt it was the right thing to do,” but certainly the 17 people whose lives he saved feel otherwise.

To learn more about Virgil Smith:

To learn more about why Black people are less likely to know how to swim (which has to do with racism, classism and segregation):

Where do you think Virgil’s bravery came from? Have you ever done something that felt really brave to you? Is there something you say or do when you need to feel brave?

Closing prayer: Dear God, When times are tough, may we have the bravery and determination of Virgil Smith. Amen.


Give in to Hope Day 25: Aryaman Khandelwal

Have you ever heard the saying “there’s an app for that”? Well, there seem to be apps for many things, but sometimes we realize that we need an app that doesn’t exist yet! When high school student Aryaman Khandelwal visited India with his family, they noticed that there were many sick people who did not have access to medical care, because of how few doctors there are in certain regions, and that there were people suffering from illnesses and injuries that could be simply treated if the person know what to do! Aryaman, who is quite good with computers. designed a simple app that allows community health workers to collect information from patients, even those who can’t read, put it into the app, and get a recommendation for treatment, or further care from a doctor. This service has now helped hundreds of thousands of people, have easy access to medical care and treatment. Aryaman saw a problem that he felt he had the tools and skills to solve, and created something that can benefit people everywhere!

To learn more about Aryaman:


In the second video, Aryaman talks about a little boy, Thipu, who had to go to work  because his father was ill and couldn’t work. What do you think it would be like if you had to be the person in your family who had to work to make sure your family had enough food to eat? How do you think Thipu felt when his father got better, and he could play and go to school again?

Closing prayer: Dear God, When we travel, let us remember that are all more alike than we are unalike. Amen

Give in to Hope Day 24: Avi Schiffman

Lots of us love playing around on computers, and a few of you have probably already done some coding! Programming a computer is a really cool and useful skill, but how many of us could say we created 30 different websites and apps before we turned 16? Well, Avi Schiffman can! Extremely savvy with computers, Schiffman started coding at age 7, and in January of 2020, created a Corona-virus tracker that keeps up-to-date statistics about Covid-19 and other variants worldwide! Within only 3 months, 600 million people had visited the site, and news outlets and governments around the world were using it as the most accurate, timely tracker for the virus. Even epidemiologists (the doctors who study diseases) use it to predict how and where the virus will spread. Avi’s site is still in use, he now has 12 high school students from around the globe who help him run it, and Dr. Fauci considers his site vital to ending the pandemic. Avi could have sold this program and become a millionaire, but he is passionate about the site and wants to keep improving it. For Schiffman, it is all about doing something he loves that can also help others.

To learn more about Avi:

What is something you would like to invent that could help us during the pandemic or other challenging times in our world?

Closing prayer: Dear God, whether we love computers or cooking, art or animation, something we do can improve someone’s life. Help us find and use our skills and strengths. Amen