After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, then 10-year-old Talia Leman decided that she needed to do something to help. Leman was living in a small town in Iowa and was shocked by the media coverage of the hurricane’s disastrous effects.
She began reaching out to the country’s youths in hopes of getting them to fundraise for the survivors of the hurricane. She started a movement encouraging other children to decide to collect donations towards a relief fund on Halloween, rather than collecting candy. Leman called the project Trick or Treat for the Levee Catastrophe (TLC) and created a website.
The project gained media attention, with Leman and her younger brother Zander being invited to appear on The Today Show, resulting in children across the country participating in fundraising efforts. After that, Leman explains that, “kids were reporting their totals in this TLC website and we’d call and verify the amount and the effort. Along the way, kids didn’t all trick-or-treat; kids also wanted to sell their 4H sheep or they wanted to wash cars and do others things as well.”
All of these efforts resulted in a huge number of young people raising money and ultimately reported $10 million worth of relief funds for Hurricane Katrina.
When Leman saw how successful her efforts to inspire other children and young people were, she decided to co-found RandomKid, a nonprofit organization whose goal is mobilize efforts among these groups to bring about change.
Since then, RandomKid has been able to rally together about 12 million young people from 20 different countries to help people around the world. These efforts have resulted in the building of schools in Cambodia and play centers in Iowa as well as providing for water pumps in Africa and medical care, all working towards to overall goal of creating a more peaceful world.
As CEO and a founder of RandomKid, Leman has been an inspiration to young people around the world. She was appointed as UNICEF’s National Youth Ambassador and has been awarded nationally and internationally for her work. Leman has won the National Jefferson Award for global change, with the co-recipients of this award being Marlo Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back in 2008, she also received a World of Children Founder’s Youth Award.
RandomKid’s tagline is “The Power of ANYone,” which Leman credits to the organization belief in the “power of the in-, individual because it’s those small efforts along the way that lead to the biggest outcome.”
Today, RandomKid partners with other nonprofit organizations and services, with Leman running the organization with help from volunteers and her family and friends. Her mother Dana now serves as the Executive Vice President and has said in regard to RandomKid that, “There is nothing more fulfilling than helping a child to help another.”
Only 18 years old now, Leman has a long future of humanitarian efforts and projects ahead of her. When asked what she loves the most about RandomKid, Leman has said, “The moment when the random youth who come to us realize that we are here to work FOR them.”
Through projects like Leman’s, we can see that together, young people can fight a lot of the world’s issues, including poor conditions and global poverty.
– Julie Guacci