Joshua Williams, the Youngest Philanthropist

In most ways, Joshua Williams is a typical 11 year-old. He attends middle school, plays basketball and video games, and, as he puts it, “just hangs out with my friends.” But he’s also spent about half his young life spearheading his own foundation, “Joshua’s Heart.”
While this surprises most of the world and has helped make Joshua into a national figure, in Miami this pre-teen, who peers out at the world from under his signature halo of curls, raises little notice. Everyone in his community is accustomed to seeing Joshua organizing food drives, appearing at glittery charity events (It is Miami, after all.) and garnering sponsorship from corporate big guns like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.
Joshua does it all in the name of ending world hunger, a dream that he hatched when he was just four-and-a-half years old seeing a “Feed the Children” ad on TV for the first time and began to cry.
I felt so bad for them, I wanted to adopt them all,” Joshua recalls. His mom, Claudia McNeal, told her son that was impossible, but she’d send some money to help one child. Joshua knew that wasn’t enough. Then, shortly thereafter, he spied a homeless man asking for help, and Joshua gave him the $20 that he had received from his grandmother for his birthday.
Still, Joshua knew that wasn’t enough. He sought help from his aunts, but they put him off, so he “fired them,” he says. He asked his mom, but, as a busy single mom with a full-time healthcare administrator’s job, she turned him down as well. But the young boy was undeterred. “Joshua kept after me every day and it was a good thing too. We had come from Jamaica and I thought everything was fine here in the richest country in the world. I couldn’t believe people were going hungry,” says Claudia now.
At first, they started feeding the homeless on the street on weekends, but Joshua realized that could be “dangerous,” so, he says, “I thought about it for awhile and I came up with the idea of getting people together and distributing food to them.” Hence, the idea of hosting monthly food distribution events at churches and other buildings in inner city neighborhoods was born. Then one of Joshua’s aunts pointed them in the direction of starting a foundation. In 2007, the Joshua’s Heart Foundation was established, with the six-year-old boy at the helm.
Joshua’s Heart has two primary goals: to “Stomp out World Hunger” and to “Break the Cycle of Poverty” in indigent and people suffering from debilitating diseases that affect their ability to procure food for themselves and their families.
The foundation hosts monthly food distributions and quarterly healthy cooking demonstrations around South Florida and provides food in backpacks for children on the weekends who otherwise would have no food.
To date, the foundation has raised $220,000, and has provided 380,000 pounds of food to over 8,000 people in need. Joshua has also garnered 37 awards for his work. In addition, a flag has been flown of the U.S. Capitol in his honor, he’s been included in the Fredrick Douglas Hall of Fame Caring Americans in Washington, D.C. and he received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. He also was named Beliefnet’s Reader’s Choice for Most Inspiring Person of 2010, has received an MTV Visionary Award and has already been awarded a four-year scholarship from Barry University, should he choose to accept it.
Joshua has also won the admiration of many, including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who calls Joshua “an incredible young man and a shining example of what one person, no matter how young, can make a difference in the world.
But, for Joshua, it’s not about awards but about spreading awareness of the hunger problem, a mission he believes is inspired by God. But one of his most important missions is inspiring young people as well. While the foundation depends on the over 600 adult volunteers, there are also 350 youngsters involved. They are called “Joshua’s Elves” and, to Joshua, they play the most important role.
There are a lot of adults helping out in the community but not as many kids. Kids don’t realize they can do something, so I want to show them that they can make a difference,” said Joshua, adding, “This is a kid-run organization. We have the adults help out, because that’s mandatory, but we’re run by kids, and I love it.
By Charlotte Libov

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07.10.12 | Posted in News | 0 Comment

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