Childhood experiences often shape the path one takes in life.
|"Girl, 9, brings message of love to Bay Street" (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2005/04/21/hannah-taylor050421.html?print) |
In Hannah Taylor’s case, it was not what she experienced herself, but rather something she saw, that altered the course of her young life.
At the age of 5, Hannah, for the first time, saw a homeless man eating out of a garbage can. She had never seen a homeless person, let along anyone go to those lengths to feed themselves.
The sight caused her great sadness, so much so that for the next year she found herself increasingly worried about the plight of the homeless, and constantly asking her family questions about homelessness in attempts to learn more about something she considered so very hard to believe.
Seeing how emotionally affected Hannah was, her mother suggested she do something about it…. never imaging what this would lead to.
The next day Hannah asked her first grade teacher if she could speak to the class about what she had learned about homelessness, and how they might be able to help. In response, the class had an art sale and bake sale, as well as a clothing drive, and gave all proceeds and donations to a local homeless mission.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Soon after, at the age of 6, Hannah created the Ladybug Foundation, in hopes to help end homelessness.
She selected the ladybug as her foundation’s mascot because ladybugs are considered good luck. She wanted this luck to transcend into her mission to help the homeless and into the lives of the homeless, who she felt needed better luck.
A Winnipeg, Canada native, she began making ‘ladybug jars’ to collect change during Canada’s “Make Change” month. With the help of her parents, the glass jars - originally her baby sister’s baby food jars - were painted red with black dots to resemble ladybugs, and were the first major fundraising campaign for her foundation. “Make Change” month challenges people to donate their spare change for charity, and likewise, The Ladybug Foundation continues to distribute their jars to local schools and businesses to raise funds during this special month. In turn, they give the proceeds to local missions and anti-homelessness organizations that they support.
Today at the age of 11, Hannah travels throughout Canada speaking on homelessness and spreading her message of hope. She has even spoken to the Prime Minister!
She also hosts luncheons with business and community leaders to encourage them to help in her endeavor. She first started taking out what she calls “big bosses” to lunch individually, but then decided to instead host larger gatherings where she could promote her foundation to a wider audience of “big bosses.” At her first luncheon she drew pictures and sold them auction-style. Thanks to a bidding war, one sold for $10,000! She now holds annual luncheons throughout Canada, inviting top executives from across the country to help join her fundraising mission.
|Hannah's Big Bosses Lunches (http://www.womencandoanything.com/content/view/167/)|
The speaking engagements, ‘Big Bosses” luncheons, and her well-known ladybug jars, continue to raise funds for the homeless, and to remind people that homelessness is still an issue within their communities. So far, Hannah has helped raise over $1 million for Canadian homeless charities.
Beyond fundraising, Hannah strives to restore a dignified humanity to the homeless population by educating the general public. She works fervently to take away the stigmas so often associated with the homeless. Through her foundation she has made friends with many homeless individuals, and works to spread the message that they are simply regular people who have fallen on hard times. She hopes that people will see them as members of their community, rather than as threats or as someone to avoid contact with or to outright ignore. She feels that homeless people who know that others care, are much likelier to want to better care for themselves, and that they are simply “sad hearts dressed in old clothes.”
|Hannah speaking at Canadian Mennonite University (http://www.cmu.ca/news/Hannah_Taylor.html)|
In fact, she considers homeless and hungry people her heroes, because of how hard they have to work simply to get through each day.
Hannah has an emergency shelter named after her in Winnipeg. Hannah’s Place is divided into separate areas – one for youth, one for women and children, and one for men, and offers many beds to sleep in. Winnipeg is very cold, and likewise, having a place to sleep overnight is crucial to the survival of the less fortunate there.
Yet despite all the work she does for her Ladybug Foundation, Hannah remains a normal kid.
Although she has several speaking engagements each month, misses school at times to attend various charity events, and focuses on her foundation all year long, she still enjoys other endeavors, like spending time with her friends. She is also very artistically enclined and enjoys drawing, making clay figurines, writing, and reading.
She feels it is important for others to realize that ‘regular’ people, regardless of how old or young they may be, can make a difference in the lives of others, whether they are able to invest a little or a lot of time. She offers practical ways that the public can help, whether that be volunteering at local charitable organizations and shelters, hosting bake sales or clothing drives, or simply donating money, clothing, or toys.
Hannah was recently honored as a 2007 Brick Award winner through the Do Something! Foundation, which honors young people making a difference in the world. Upon being asked what her plans for the future are, she responded: “I have lots of ideas. The Prime Minister of Canada. A marine biologist working with belugas in Vancouver. Dog breeder. An oceanographer, an archeologist, or a robotics engineer. And an author through all of that.” Having accomplished so much before even reaching her teens, it’s possible that Hannah may accomplish all these lofty goals, and then some.