If you have a tween or teen, I have a gift idea for you. In fact, I think it should be required reading.
It’s the brand-new book Momentus, written by 14-year-old Canadian activist Hannah Alper. Not only is the book packed with interviews (Hannah speaks to many young people who are making a difference in the world, including some you and your kids will recognize) but also lots of information about Hannah’s own experience as a child activist, and a ton of great tips for children, including lists like how you can use your gift to create change, social media tips, and how to give without money.
(Fun tidbit: Hannah was recently announced as the youngest person, and only Canadian, on Bloomberg’s Ones to Watch in 2018 list!)
My 11-year-old daughter Olivia is also very passionate about making the world a better place (“How Kids Can Make a Difference” was even the topic of her public speech last year). She and I both read – and thoroughly enjoyed – Momentus, and Olivia even had the privilege of interviewing Hannah herself. Here is the Q & A!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in all of the work you have done?
Definitely skeptics who believe that because I’m young, I shouldn’t be making a difference and “I should be a kid playing with my friends” or “worrying about my math homework”. That and some of my own peers in my generation who have bullied me simply because of my activism because it’s not “cool”. Frankly, I think making a difference is one of the coolest things in the world. (FYI – these were Prince Harry’s words at WE Day.) Thankfully, I surround myself with positive people who believe that regardless of our age, we can change the world.
If kids haven’t figured out what their “issue” is yet, how can they decide? Do you think there are any issues that don’t get enough attention yet and need young voices behind them?
I discovered my issue when I was quite young. I was 9, I started my blog out of my love for animals. I have two dogs at home and I can’t walk by a dog without asking if I can pet it. My parents introduced me to issues like deforestation and habitat loss and I realized that animals rely on us to take care of the earth we all call ‘home’. It’s possible that something you love is connected to an issue. It might also be something that you experience or that you see. It might be something that you see in your everyday life, or it might be through exploring the world online. That’s where I learned about the issues that I care deeply about like education, poverty, anti-bullying and so much more. There are tons of organizations and resources that will help you learn more about your issue.
There are so many issues that do not get as much attention as others, one that I’ve been learning about in particular is Indigenous Rights and Truth and Reconciliation. The Indigenous communities are so impoverished with unsafe water, unstable education and extreme poverty. A lot of this is not only that we are not giving them the resources that they need, but that people’s cultures were stripped away during the era of residential schools and it’s a cycle that lasts generations. As a young person, you can educate yourself about these issues and spread awareness.
You share that kids at school haven’t always been supportive of what you do. What is your advice for handling negativity?
In every changemaker’s journey, there will be challenges and most definitely skeptics. Something that I would say is to surround yourself with positive people who support you for who you are, rather than people who treat you badly for what you love. As well, always kill them with kindness. This is something I had to learn to develop. Being positive will always have a greater impact than being negative. If they want to be negative, let them be negative. I often think about something that Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” Always, always, always go high.
How do you stay positive when you’ve had a chance to see so many depressing issues going on in in the world?
Knowing that there are 130 million girls around the world who are not in school makes me depressed. Seeing so many new statistics, research and stories about issues like bullying, homelessness, immigration and more makes me feel depressed and helpless. BUT, that feeling of hopelessness is very short lived because I immediately feel a motivation to act on it. Yes, there are so many overwhelming issues in the world but with every issue, there is always a solution. I always look for the solution and try to be part of it. Helplessness comes from doing nothing. When you feel helpless, DO something.
I love public speaking but I know a lot of kids who are really stressed by it. After all your experiences do you have any advice to share?
I still get pretty nervous for every single speech I do. But when I was 10, I had the honour of touring with Martin Luther King III during WE Day and I asked him for his advice. He said, “Nerves are like adrenaline and that adrenaline is like excitement. If you’re not nervous, you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing.” It’s also really important to note that everyone has a different gift they bring to the table and if yours isn’t public speaking, that’s okay.
When you talked to the father of one of your subjects (Vivienne Harr) he talks about how grown ups aren’t always supportive when their kids have ideas to make the world a better place. Do you have any tips to help kids convince their parents when they have an idea?
Sit down with your parents and simply tell them the issue you’re passionate about and what you are going to do about it. The things that you strive to do and the issues you’re passionate about will hopefully inspire them to support you. I’ve never had this challenge with my parents because they have never said “no” to any of my passions and never said “no” to supporting me.
Thanks, Hannah…and to my readers: I really hope your tween or teen will have a chance to read Momentus!
Disclosure: We were provided with this book for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, our own.