Give in to Hope Day 12: Vanessa Nakate

Like many of us, Vanessa Nakate was inspired by the powerful young activist Greta Thunberg, and started her own weekly climate strike in Uganda, first for many weeks alone, and then with other young people who were inspired by her and joined her. Her focus on climate justice is inspired by her county’s agricultural backbone–climate change is terrible for people trying to grow crops, and crops provide food for the country, but also their major source of income through trade. In addition, she talks about climate change as a young, African woman, adding a new voice to the conversation, and ensuring that people do not forget about how climate change can even more negatively affect women, people of color, people in developing nations, and people in poverty. Raising her voice alongside other climate activists, she wants to be sure that Africa is part of the worldwide changes that must be made to solve our climate crisis.

To learn more about Vanessa:

How do you think Vanessa felt, when she was protesting all alone every week? What do you think helped her stay committed to her goal? Why do you think people were inspired to join her?

Closing prayer: Dear God, help us make sure that no one has to stand up for injustices alone. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 11: Greta Thunberg

When thinking of young people who changed the world, Greta Thunberg is a name that comes immediately to mind for many of us. At only 15, Greta began one-person weekly sit-ins outside of Swedish parliament, gaining attention and using the opportunity to spread the word about the need for more world leaders to take stronger actions to prevent climate change. Many other young people saw her passion and commitment and began youth-led climate strikes of their own, called Fridays for Future, with young people doing sit-ins weekly in nearly every country in the world. Greta is fearless when talking to world leaders about climate change, and passionate about ensuring that the responsibility for improving the world does not only fall on the young, but that the adults who currently are in power have a great responsibility to future generations. Even during COVID, when speeches, protests and gatherings had to go virtual, Thunberg continued to get the word out, reminding people that as we see the benefits of science and listen to scientists who are talking about and working on cures for COVID, so too should we listen to scientists who are researching climate change and offering suggestions on how to take better care of our planet.

To learn more about Greta:  OR

Do you ever get frightened if you have to talk to adults? How do you think Greta stays so brave and confident when she has to speak in front of so many different people?

Closing prayer: Dear God, let us speak important words, even when our voice shakes. Amen

Give in to Hope Day 10: Amanda Gorman

As a child with both an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment, Amanda Gorman focused attention on reading and writing–she figured out a way to harness the power of words, instead of letting them control her. Poetry and writing helped her paint a picture of the world around her, and she uses this gift to tell stories of what it means to be a human in very exciting ways. After being inspired by Malala Yousafzai, Gorman became a youth delegate to the United Nations, and then became the first-ever Youth Poet Laureate (the Poet Laureate is considered “the official poet of the United States” for a specific period of time, with a goal of helping increase appreciation of, access to, and creation of writing and poetry). While performing one of her poems at an event, Dr. Jill Biden heard her, and was deeply inspired. When it came time for the Biden/Harris Inaugeration, Dr. Biden selected Gorman to write and read a poem for the event. The poem, The Hill We Climb, was completed by Gorman the morning of the Inaugeration, and both poem and poet inspired millions of people around the world; her words giving hope to, but also expecting work from, all of us to help create the democracy we want to be a part of.

To learn more about Amanda Gorman: (May be behind a paywall if you’ve already read too many Time articles this month!)

In her poem from the Inaugeration, Gorman writes,

“When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Can you think of things around you that help you feel lighter and brighter if you are feeling angry or sad? How about ways that you help others feel lighter and brighter?

Dear God, Help us turn the things that challenge us into things that change us and can change the world. Amen

Give in to Hope Day 9: Nick Lowinger

Like yesterday’s hero Yash and his glasses, Nick Lowinger also had something many of us take for granted–lots of pairs of shoes. One day, young Nick visited a homeless shelter and saw how many of the children and teens there did not have shoes that fit or were practical for running, playing and going to school. The image of kids without shoes stayed with Nick and he did a shoe drive as part of his bar mitzvah (a ceremony that Jewish 12 and 13 year olds go through as part of their faith journey, like when our 8th graders do confirmation) that turned into a non-profit dedicated to providing as many pairs of shoes to homeless youth as possible. Nick’s non-profit is still running, and now has 2 partner programs–one providing shoes to veterans (people who served in the U.S. military) and another specifically providing athletic shoes so that kids can participate in sports.

To learn more about Nick and the Gotta Have Sole Foundation:

Think about your favorite pair of shoes–where did they come from? Were they a gift? What do you like to do in them? What would it be like to only have one pair of shoes to do every activity in–are there things you wouldn’t do anymore?

Closing prayer: Dear God, whether big or little, let me be grateful for all of the things that I have in my life, especially my shoes. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 8: Yash Gupta

Like so many kids, Yash Gupta wears glasses. One day, his glasses broke, and he had to go to school without them. He realized that it was impossible for him to learn without being able to see, and he wondered how many kids around the world were struggling to learn because they didn’t have access to glasses. Rather than just keep wondering, he decided to start collecting glasses and connecting these glasses with kids who needed them. His small project turned into a big deal, helping over 20,000 kids in 5 countries see better and find more success in school!

To learn more about Yash Gupta, and his organization Sight Learning:

Humans have 5 senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Which of these would be the hardest for you to live without? How would being without one of those senses affect your learning at school?

Closing prayer: Dear God, please let us look at others, even those who are different, and SEE that we have more in common than we think. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 7: Gitanjali Rao

When she was only 10, budding scientist Gitanjali Rao heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the entire city’s water supply was so contaminated with lead that none of it was safe to drink or cook with.  Even though Gitanjali does not live in Flint and was not directly affected by this, she knows that water is a requirement for life, and she wanted to help. Already quite accomplished in different areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Gitanjali was able to develop a tool that could measure lead levels in water and communicate that to people via Bluetooth, letting not only individuals, but entire communities know whether their water was safe to drink. Gitanjali was able to work with 3M to produce this product on a large scale, and because of her work, was named Time Magazine’s first ever Kid of the Year. Gitanjali has also created an app that can detect and warn parents and teachers of early stages of cyberbullying that their kids may be engaging in or victims of. Gitanjali is using her skills and talents to impact change in multiple ways!

To learn more about Gitanjali:

Gitanjali has used her skills and resources to create solutions for multiple problems! If you could be a part of solving 2 problems in the world, what would you want to work on?

Gitanjali is lucky to have access to lots of cool adults who believe in her and helped her ideas become reality. Who are some adults you know who could help you solve problems?

Closing prayer: Dear God, help us to always look for ways to make changes in the world, whether they impact us or not, for we are ALL connected. Amen.


Give in to Hope Day 6: Louis Braille

At only 3 years old, Louis Braille was accidentally blinded when a tool he was playing with poked him in the eye. This was over 200 years ago, and there were not very many resources for a blind person, but he managed to get accepted into a special school for blind children. While he was there, he learned about a special code that the military used to send messages back and forth, and figured out how to turn it into a series of raised dots that represented letters. By “reading” these raised dots with fingers, and understanding the code, blind people could read! With that, the Braille language was born!

To learn more about Louis Braille:

What would you miss most if you lost your sight? How do you think blind people felt once they learned Braille and were able to read?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Even if there are times where it feels like we are sightless, help us find ways to see. Amen

Give in to Hope Day 5: Jaylen Arnold

At only 8 years old, Jaylen Arnold set out to end bullying. Jaylen has Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is on the Autism Spectrum–diagnoses that cause him to act differently than his peers on occasion, have difficulty socializing, and be a target for bullies. Rather than let the bullies get to him, Jaylen stood up, spoke out, and formed his own organization, Jaylen’s Challenge, that travels around the country educating kids on how to stand up to bullies, how to not become a bully, and how to respect and celebrate the differences in one another. Now in college, Jaylen continues to educate thousands of kids each year, and is determined to end bullying in schools.

To learn more about Jaylen:

Have you ever seen anyone treated poorly because of how they looked or talked? At the time, did you do anything to help? What would you do now, if you could go back to that situation?

Closing prayer: Dear God, help us stand up for one another, and include people, rather than exclude them. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 4: Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg

On February 14, 2018, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Highschool in Parkland, Florida was the site of a horrendous tragedy–17 students were shot and killed, with 17 more injured, all victims of gun violence. Out of this horrific event, students from the school, including Seniors Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, became outspoken activitists and proponents of gun control reform. These brave students, in the face of incredible terror and grief, founded March for Our Lives, and their first demonstration, which took place in Washington D.C. only 5 weeks after the tragedy, drew 800,000 participants, and became the blueprint for other modern-day demonstrations including the Women’s March.

To learn more about Emma Gonzalez David Hogg and the other teen founders of the March for Our Lives: (content warning: does mention the school shooting and the large death toll).

Can you imagine talking in front of 800,000 people? That is a really huge number! What is something that you care about so much that you’d use all your bravery to talk about?

Closing prayer: Dear God, help us make our country safer for children and teenagers in schools. Amen.


Give in to Hope Day 3: Xiutezcatl Martinez

Now 20, Xiutezcatl (pronounced Shoe-TEZ-cat) has been passionate about protecting the environment since he was just 6 years old! With the encouragement of his activist mother, he gave talks in his home state of Colorado, before moving on to speaking to young people across the country and the globe about the dangers of climate change, and the role of young people in making the world cleaner and greener. Xiutezcatl also spreads his message as the leader of an environmental non-profit Earth Guardians, and writes and performs hip hop with a social justice theme!

To learn more about Xiutezcatl:

Xiutezcatl uses one of his talents, writing song lyrics, to help share information with young people about climate change. What are some of your talents that you could use to let people know about things you care about?

Closing prayer: Dear God, help us use our talents to fight for things we care about. Amen