How are philanthropists created? Why do people decide to give of themselves? What motivates people to help those less fortunate?
The New York Times recently profiled five young people who saw a need, then went to work filling it. This simple momentum has yielded some amazing results, like the 19-year-old who is sharing the joy of being read to with the children of the incarcerated:
WHEN Elizabeth Jane Handel was a young girl, her mother would read books to her each night. A middle-school project — sorting old books to donate to other schools — made Ms. Handel realize just how lucky she was. She wanted to share the gift of reading, and a family friend mentioned that women at the prison where she worked had extremely limited resources.
Ms. Handel started A Book From Mom, a program to donate children’s books to the women’s prison in Framingham, Mass. “I thought if I put books in the prison, mothers could select a book when their child came to visit and it would help ease the tension of the visits,” says Ms. Handel, now 21 and a junior at Barnard College.
Or like the young man who believed that income should not prevent students from doing poorly on college entrance tests:
A FEW weeks after he took the SAT, Jason Shah realized something more vexing to him than algebraic formulas or word usage problems: that many students can’t afford or access programs to prepare them for the test, and college.
The epiphany came in a West Philadelphia middle-school classroom that his sister ran as part of her Teach for America commitment. Many students had trouble with reading and spelling, and Mr. Shah, then 16, wondered how they would be able to study for the SAT in a few years.
He returned home to New Smyrna Beach, Fla., raised $10,000 from family and friends, found Web developers and began INeedaPencil.com, a Web site that offers free SAT prep, including lessons that use conversational language and sports analogies and full practice exams.
“Certain students either don’t do well on the SAT because they don’t have the resources or don’t take the SAT because they think only rich kids take the test,” Mr. Shah says. “It just bothers me deeply that it’s such a simple problem that doesn’t have to exist.”
See a need. Fill a need. The rest is all logistics.