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Give in to Hope Day 37: Jazz Jennings

Jazz Jennings is not the first transgender activist we have talked about during our Lenten series, but she is arguably the most famous young person who is transgender (where the gender a person knows they are in their mind and heart may not match with their chromosomes or body parts). According to her parents, even though she was born with traditionally “male” body parts, Jazz identified as a girl as soon as she could talk. In 2007 (which isn’t that long ago, but is quite early in the fight for transgender visibility among young people), 7-year-old Jazz was interviewed by Barbara Walters, and families with children outside the gender binary got an incredible advocate, cheerleader and role model. Since then, Jazz has hosted tv shows, written a book, has a reality show, and continues to be one of the loudest and proudest voices in support of young people’s understanding of their gender identity. Jazz is an ally to all.

To learn more about Jazz Jennings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJw3s85EcxM

Jazz started telling her parents that she wasn’t a boy, she was a girl, as soon as she could talk. She always knew, and she was lucky her parents trusted her to know her own identity. Have you ever tried to tell adults something and felt like they didn’t listen to you or didn’t trust you because you were a kid? How did it feel? How does it feel when an adult does listen to you and believe you?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Let us listen to the voices of the young. They hold much wisdom. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 36: Katie Stagliano

When Katie Stagliano was only 9 years old, she grew a cabbage. But not just any cabbage, a gigantic 40 pound cabbage! She donated this cabbage to her local food pantry, who used it to make a meal that fed an incredible 275 people! Katie was inspired to grow more crops in her home garden to help feed people in need, but realized that she was only one person. The more people, growing more crops, in more gardens across the country, could help feed the hungry everywhere! She created Katie’s Krops, a program that taught kids how to create their own home and community gardens to connect with food pantry’s in their community. Katie’s Krops now oversees 100 gardens in 30 states, donating about 38,000 pounds of fresh produce to those in need every year! It is important to Katie that the gardens are developed and run by kids. She wants to keep her non-profit kid centered and kid-led, as she knows how passionate and creative young people can be, but often they are unable to volunteer at many places because of their age. She knows that age is not a barrier to caring and wanting to make change, and so Katie strives to give kids as many opportunities to serve as possible!

To learn more about Katie Stagliano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6aA7TAzdAs

Have you ever grown something? At school or at your house? What are some of the things that plants need in order to grow? What are some of the things that people need in order to grow?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Who knows how much good can come from something as humble as a cabbage seed. Let us not forget the big potential in tiny things. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 35: Melati and Isabel Wijsen

Cereal, snacks, and so much more–the amount of items that come wrapped in plastic seems to be growing every day. For Isabel and Melati Wijsen, who live on the island of Bali, they were horrified to see the “tides” of plastic waste that washed up on the beaches of the beautiful island nation, polluting the water and endangering the animals and sea life. When they were only 10 and 12, the sisters made it their goal to eliminate plastic bags from Bali, thereby making a dent in the amount of plastic waste in the region. In Bali alone, the amount of plastic waste that used to be created daily was the equivalent size of a 14 story building! Bye Bye Plastic Bags, the nonprofit founded by the sisters, was originally a small-scale effort, but the girls knew that real change would only occur if they had political power behind them. When the Balinese governor would not meet with them, they want on a doctor-supervised hunger strike (meaning they didn’t eat) until the governor relented, met with them, and committed to help with their goal. By 2018, Bali banned plastic bags, styrofoam containers and plastic straws, and the girls had started a new project, launching Youthtopia, “an online headquarters for young world changers” in 2020. These girls want to empower other young people, like them, to find projects that are meaningful to them, and to jump in to make a change!

To learn more about Melati and Isabel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7xPMxbdFbQ

To hear about Youthtopia from Melati: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEZ8Dmm8P8I

What are some of the common things that you see that come in plastic bags? Does your family already do things to use fewer plastic bags? Are there other things you could do to make less plastic waste? If your family still uses a lot of plastic bags, are there ways you could reduce your use?

Dear God, Help us remember that the trash we make doesn’t just affect us, but everyone around us. Let us be stewards of the Earth, for it is the only one we have. Amen.

Give in to Hope Day 34: Anoyara Khatun

When you hear the word traffic, you probably think of being stuck on a highway or busy city street, with lots of cars around you, and none of the cars seem to be moving at all. That is an explanation of traffic, but if you hear the word trafficking, it usually means to do something against the law, to move animals or people from one city or country to another without their permission. Often people, typically very poor people, are taken to another country to work as servants, maids, do childcare, pick crops, or other jobs, and they may not receive any pay for this, essentially making them slaves. Sadly, this happens to too many people, particularly children, every year, including our hero of today, Anoyara Khatun. When she was only 12, Anoyara was taken from her home and sent away to be a domestic servant (a housekeeper, cook, maid, etc.) for a wealthy family. She was rescued by an organization called Save the Children, and able to return home, but she realized that her case was not rare and that children all over India, and the world, were experiencing trafficking every year.  With help from Save the Children, Anoyara started discussion groups for children, run by children, all around the region where she lived to help kids have a better understanding of what trafficking is, how it could happen, and ways to prevent it. After getting these groups started, she wanted to do more. She has worked with Save the Children to rescue 185 other children from trafficking, helped prevent multiple child marriages, and registered hundreds of children to attend school, many for the first time! She has received India’s highest honor for her work to end trafficking, but she has said she will not stop until every child is able to have the childhood they deserve.

To learn more about Anoyara: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/child-trafficking-anoyara-khatun-women-power-award/

or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ_tx5q7890

What are some of your favorite things to do at school? How do you think those children who Anoyara rescued felt, when they no longer had to be a servant, and got to go to school for the first time?

Closing prayer: Dear God, Every child deserves a childhood and no one deserves to be trafficked. Bless Anoyara and others who help give children back their childhoods. Amen.

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPa464CEbuE

To see Sophie’s meeting with the Pope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7RIkeCgcz0

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A33XRMLBbOc

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: https://www.speaktruthtopowerinschool.com/defenders-map/sonita-alizadeh

To hear Daughters for Sale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxlMUy_m6xM (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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFQ3ZCAgAA0

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kq-aPDfU44

To see what Joshua’s Heart is up to now: https://youtu.be/n51z2uaEq7g

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_-ymoM2WJo

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.