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One Is Greater Than None This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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In the spring of 2007, when I was 14, I saw an episode of “Oprah” titled “The Boy That Oprah Couldn't Forget” and was shocked to learn that children from Ghana, Africa, were unknowingly being sold for as little as $20 by their families into a life of servitude. I was heartbroken that this could be happening.

Ghana seemed very far away, but then I found out that the International Organization for Migration helps sponsor rescue missions to save trafficked children. With a group of seven friends, I decided to try to raise the $4,300 needed to save one child, who would be provided with rehabilitation and then reunited with his/her family. This cost includes counseling, career training, education, and health care.

With the help of our parents, we started a nonprofit charity that we called “One Is Greater Than None” because we thought that saving one life was better than doing nothing at all. Also we began to realize the impact that one person can make.

We decided to make bracelets and package them on cards to educate people about what was happening in Ghana. We designed a necklace with eight wooden beads – representing me and my seven friends – surrounding a recycled glass bead made in Ghana that represented the child we hoped to save. We sold T-shirts with our logo, 1>0, and our tagline “Be Part of the Equation.”

Although we wanted to raise money, we were equally determined to raise awareness. Do anything. Do something. This is such a simple premise. How easily the world could change if everyone embraced that philosophy.

Two years later, we have sponsored the rescue and rehabilitation of 24 children through the International Organization for Migration and have donated over $120,000. We also gave $14,000 to help pay for the care of orphaned and exploited children.

Last summer I was fortunate to travel to Ghana and volunteer at an arts camp, where I met many of the children we helped. To see the scars on their backs as they put on the T-shirts we gave them was an experience I will never forget. They wanted to know how many shoes I owned, if I had two parents, and if lived in a house. They couldn't believe I had my own room. They asked how old I was and when my birthday was. When I asked them, they could only guess their own ages. I learned so much from them. Their appreciation of life was palpable.

Recently, in response to our national health care crisis, my friends and I decided to try to make a difference in the United States as well. We were excited to learn about an organization called Remote Area Medical (RAM) that supplies free medical care to impoverished rural areas. RAM schedules weekend medical clinics that serve hundreds of families. One Is Greater Than None has committed to sponsoring these weekend expeditions and bring awareness and support to their valiant efforts.

RAM relies on the generosity of volunteers for labor, supplies and equipment. A $5 donation can provide medical, dental, or vision treatment for one person. How exciting to know that a lemonade stand manned by an 8-year-old has the potential to help someone in desperate need of glasses or to alleviate the pain of a person who needs an emergency tooth extraction. This reinforces One Is Greater Than None's mission that “any contribution, no matter how small, has value.”

I have spoken at dozens of schools, churches, temples, town meetings, and camps to teach young people how we can make a difference in the world. I have been featured in Newsday, “ABC News,” NBC, CBS, “The Martha Stewart Show,” The Washington Post, and dozens of other publications and shows. I have met with town supervisors, congressmen, and senators to show them the impact teenagers can have.

There are problems everywhere. In many cases there are solutions. We are asking everyone to look around and then look inside. The answers are there. Now more than ever, it's time to ask how you can “be part of the equation.” Please visit our website at www.oneisgreaterthannone.org.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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