Activists Budi and Peggy Soehardi, Zach Hunter, and Shane Claiborne This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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A hero is a person of distinct courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. Many Americans view a hero as someone who is well known for these qualities – like Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. While they changed the course of history, some among us today are taking a stand to change the world. They may not be famous, but they are our modern-day heroes.

In 1999, residents of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. After the election, the militia launched a campaign of violence. Hundreds of people were killed and 250,000 became refugees and were forced to live in cardboard boxes with only rags for clothing.

Budi Soehardi, a pilot from Singapore, and his wife, Peggy, saw a news report about the East Timorese and decided to take action. The couple cancelled their planned vacation to raise money and support for the refugees. They collected more than 40 tons of food, medical supplies and toiletries and delivered them to East Timorese refugee camps.

To many, this would be enough, but they did not stop there. The Soehardis decided that West Timor needed a home for orphans. Eleven months later, Roslin Orphanage was built. In April of 2002, the orphanage provided housing and care for four children. Today, the orphanage cares for 47 children of all ages. The Soehardis give the orphans the same food and housing they gave their biological children. This couple gave up a comfortable life so these children would have a chance to live without deprivation. Most importantly, these children were allowed to experience hope.

When Zach Hunter was 12, he learned a startling fact: 27 million people around the world live in slavery. About half of these people are children. Zach launched a campaign called Loose Change to Loosen Chains. American households contain an estimated $10.5 billion in loose change. Zach challenged his peers to donate their change to his campaign, and he donated the funds to organizations working to end trafficking around the world. Three years later, Zach was still going strong. He became the global student spokesperson for The Amazing Change, spread Loose Change to the United Kingdom, Australia, and Africa, wrote three books, and even made a speech at the White House. Zach is now 16.

Last year, 39.8 million people in the United States lived in poverty and 14 ­million of these are under the age of 18. In addition, 49.1 million people live in households without the security of a steady supply of food. Shane Claiborne lives to change these statistics. Claiborne is the leader of the Simple Way ministry, a group of people who survive by faith alone. They live in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, feeding the hungry, running a community store, and planting neighborhood gardens in vacant blocks. He could have a regular job, but instead he asks others to give money to the Simple Way ministries. He wrote a book called The Irresistible Revolution. All of the money he makes from it goes to other organizations.

Budi and Peggy Soehardi, Zach Hunter, and Shane Claiborne are average, everyday people. But they are true heroes. They realize what must be done, but not only do they realize it – they act on it. They do not simply wait for the world to change – they change it.

There will be more orphans, more trafficking and more poverty, but these heroes are willing to do whatever it takes to fight these injustices. Budi and Peggy Soehardi, Zach Hunter, and Shane Claiborne are unlikely heroes. And these unlikely heroes are the ones who will make all the difference.

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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FayFay said...
Jun. 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm
This was brilliant, managed to get strait to what we all know but cant express in such a moving way.
 
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