Click on a candle on the map, or scroll down, to meet a young transformer.

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Add your light to the world!




Iqbal - Freer of the Enslaved Kamkwamba - Bringer of Light Severn - Eco-Activist Alli - Cancer Warrior Mattie - Peace Poet Ryan - The Water Bearer Craig - Poverty's Voice







Seven Cree youth and two guides are walking from Whapmagoostui, on the shores of Hudson Bay, to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Their 1,100 kilometre journey, which started on January 16, 2013 in temperatures below -40, is a call for peace and unity among First Nation Peoples, and is a reflection of their burning desire to return to the spiritual laws of their ancestors, to a way of life which centres around respect for Mother Earth and all its creatures. Let's show our support by following them on Facebook and Twitter and wishing them well!





13 year old Robyn Hamlyn is on a mission to educate Canada about the basic human right to potable water without a huge price tag attached. Her emphasis is on protecting freshwater resources. She captivates people with her carefully researched presentations, inspires with her passion for protecting the environment, and provokes her detractors into snarly comments like, 'Don't bottle 13 year old Water Wisdom'. Hers is a formidable task because there is more profit in promoting alternatives than protecting our lakes and streams. You can help her! To find out how, visit:





Chelsea Prescod has probably been a community activist all of her conscious life. From a very early age, she didn't just dream of making a difference one day. Her young innovative mind was constantly finding ways to be the change she wanted to see. Today, she is the founder and CEO of The Adva Effect - a digital media agency with a strong focus on producing short films and featurettes to highlight pressing social issues. Here is her story:





Caribbean youth have stood up and decided to be the change they wish to see in the world! The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) has been operating since the early 1990s, but more recently, a workshop, hosted by the organization, has been inspiring youth advocates to take their message to the world. For more on these enterprising youth, see Caribbean Youth Call for Action on CYEN has members and affiliates in 15 Caribbean territories, and has been spearheading projects as diverse as introducing International Climate Change into school curricula, 'Turning trash into treasure - promoting reuse', educating students about 'green' careers, and organizing coastal clean ups, and eco-tours. You too can find a voice through CYEN.  To find out how, visit:





Kimmie Weeks has pledged to spend his life helping children who are caught up in civil wars. He’s been doing it since he was 14. At age 9, during the Liberian Civil War, he was nearly buried alive. At age 16, he lobbied for the disarmament of 20,000 child soldiers, exposing his government’s role in training these young children to kill. Several attempts were made on his life, but he made it safely to the US where he was given political asylum. Once there, Kimmie Weeks created the non-profit organization, Youth Action International (YAI), which helps families living in post war countries. To date, YAI programs have benefited over 100,000 youth in war-torn Africa. To find out how you too can transform your world, visit:





"I was moved by the poverty and despair all around and was determined to help address similar needs back home in the Jackson area," Ashley recalls, referring to a trip she took to Africa when she was 12 years old. Five years later, Ashley Gunn of Jackson Preparatory School, Brandon, Mississipi got a chance to turn her words into action. She started the non-profit organization, Students Aiding Indigent Families (SAIF), which buys, renovates and sells abandoned homes to families in need. The 200 student volunteers, who are the organization’s backbone, are from the Jackson area schools and churches. Within a year, Ashley was able to help five families, pay back her initial investors, and raise $100,000 for other charitable causes. Real estate agents helped her find the families in need – families who wanted to buy homes but couldn’t obtain loans. One way you too can do something, is to get involved through:





WHEN ALLI SHAPIRO AMAR WAS JUST NINETEEN YEARS OLD, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. For 7 years she fought to stay alive. But she did not stop there. In 2006, Alli launched the non-profit organization, Alli’s Journey, to help save the lives of others. In her own words, “I do believe that it is very important for me to be a participant in assisting other young adults get through this terrible ordeal. Now that I have learned how much strength I can draw from the people and resources around me I want to do whatever I can to make sure others get the support they need, not only to live with cancer but to fight it as well." Alli lost her courageous battle, but her work lives on. To support AJ, visit:





From the moment young William Kamkwamba read the book, 'Using Energy', he dreamed of building machines to bring electricity and water to his drought-plagued village in Malawi. The villagers teased him, called him crazy, but William refused to give up this dream. He'd already had to put on hold his dream of studying science, when famine hit in 2002, decimating his family's farm and forcing him to drop out of school to forage for food.

Armed with amazing determination and a motley collection of old science textbooks, William contrived to build, out of scrap metal, tree limbs, and bicycle parts, a windmill that provided his home with electricity, and a solar-powered water pump to suply drinking water to his rural community. From village joke to resident genius, William became a global beacon of hope. To get involved in William's Moving Windmills Project, visit:





At nine years old, Janine and her friend, Aislin, vowing to save the rainforests and the Titi monkeys of their homeland, Costa Rica, started selling painted rocks on the roadside to raise funds. A year later, KSTR was born. To participate in one of the organization's projects, visit:





Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, known to the world simply as, Mattie, lived a full life for the 14 years he was here on earth. Never for one moment did he let his debilitating illness, Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, stop him from gifting his heartsongs to a world in need of his message of peace and unity.

His poetry wrings the truth from our hearts and then gives us permission to be our best selves. He lit up the lives of millions with his engaging smile and artless style. Since he left us, the ripples of his message have been gathering strength. More and more youth, and adults, are stepping into the light he created, and becoming the change the world so desires.





'MESSENGER' BY JENI STEPANEK, Mattie's mother, is a must read. I couldn't put it down. If anything can galvanize us to do (or continue doing) what we were meant to do in this life, this book can!! You may have laughed and cried with Mattie on Oprah, CNN, and Larry King, or read his Heartsongs and peace poetry, but nothing will prepare you for the intense suffering and the miracles this young boy experienced before his death in 2004 at aged 14. He is beyond inspirational!! See what Dr. Maya Angelou has to say about this young hero in the Foreword!







13 year old Richard Turere of Kenya is a remarkable boy. Like many other cattle herders on the edge of Nairobi National Park, he has had to face the enormous challenge of keeping his family's livestock safe from predators of the feline kind. Lions, a top tourist attraction at the Park, roam the area at night killing the neighbourhood cows and sheep and goat. Richard tried setting fires and rigging up scarecrows, but the lions were not deterred. One night Richard was walking around the shed with a torchlight when he discovered that the lions avoided moving lights. Cleverly, he devised a system of flashing lights to simulate a person walking around the shed. He used discarded flashlight bulbs a switchbox (blinkers) from a motorcycle, and one solar panel to power his invention. His invention soon spread to other homes, and then countrywide, because it had the added value of saving the lives of these endangered animals from the wrath of farmers. Watch Richard Turere at the TED's Young Talent Search Event:





Compassionate Cities are springing up everywhere! But Khairo Dero, a rural farming village of 6,000, in the Sindh province of Pakistan, is special — it is on the way to being named the first official “compassionate village” in the world! On Compassionate Living Day, it was the children of Khairo Dero, who took the lead... Read their fascinating tale, and find out more about the Compassionate Cities Movement by clicking on the links below:






Dennis Gyamfi is a 19 year old social activist, who at age 15 was faced with the same choice millions of youth the world over must make at some point in their teen lives: hate or create, street gang member or agent of positive change? Dennis opted for the latter, and is changing the world through inspirational films and a new online magazine called Endz2Endz. Go Dennis Gyamfi! To find out how to get involved, visit:





7th Grader, Chase Greer, learnt the Heimlich Manoeuvre as part of his Boy Scout training, but never expected to use it. When his friend began to choke on his lunch, however, the 12 year old Smith Middle School student of Cypress, Texas did not hesitate. Springing into action, he performed the manoeuvre 28 times before achieving success. Once his friend was breathing again, Chase realized the enormity of what he had done: he had saved a person's life. To hear him tell the story, and to learn how to do the heimlich maneuvre yourself, visit:





Canadian high school teen, Marshall Zhang, has discovered a great new way to drive the development of drug treatments for diseases. Using computer modelling on the SCINET supercomputing network at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Marshall discovered that one plus one could equal three under certain conditions! His goal was to find a way to treat cystic fibrosis (CF), a potentially fatal condition caused by genetic mutation, which results in mucus build up in the lungs and elsewhere, and his hard work and dedication paid off. He discovered two drugs each of which interacted with different parts of the mutant protein, and then worked together in a whole new way as well. The drug cocktail is yet to be tested on humans, but it gives great hope to the thousands of people living with the condition. Marshall took first prize in the 2011 Sanofi-Aventis Bio Talent Challenge. Well done, Marshall!

 To chat with Marshall Zhang, follow him on Twitter.

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WHEN HE WAS NINE YEARS OLD, Jacob Komar founded Computers for Communities, a non-profit organization which refurbishes computers to give to the needy. Jacob first got the idea when he found out that one of the local grade schools was planning to discard 30 of their old computers. Knowing that there were kids in his area whose parents could not afford to buy computers, Jacob, who taught himself to program at age 5, decided that they could be put to good use. With the help of fellow techies, he refurbished the computers. Then he got a list of homes in need from social services, and proceeded to install a computer in each one. He even made sure that the users were properly trained.

Ten years later, Computers for Communities has distributed over 1,000 refurbished computers, and expanded to include other IT community projects.  If you would like to start your own CFC, visit:





AT AGE NINE, Canadian Severn Cullis-Suzuki founded the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO, so  children could learn, and teach other youth, about environmental issues. Three years later, she and other group members raised money to attend the Earth Summit in Rio. After her impassioned speech there, she became known as 'The girl who silenced the world for five minutes'. Today, at age 30, Severn continues to be an environmental activist. You too can become the change you seek. Add your voice to those saying, "I care!'





AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, 150,000 children worldwide voted for the first ever recipient of the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child. Iqbal Masih, a young Pakistani boy, was chosen for his selfless struggle to free enslaved children like himself.

In 1987, when Iqbal was just four years old, he was sent to work for a carpet manufacturer to pay off a debt his impoverished family owed. For years he toiled, leaving his home at four in the morning and returning at seven in the night. Just when it seemed Iqbal would have to spend the rest of his life in the factory, a law was passed in Pakistan banning bonded labour and cancelling all such debts. At age 10, Iqbal fought for and gained his release from the carpet manufacturer, then went on to help other young children. "Come with me and be free," he urged those who were still working for unscrupulous merchants who were ignoring the law. Two years later, Iqbal was shot to death. Since then, other youth the world over have taken up the fight for children's rights because, in their words, 'a bullet cannot kill a dream'. Read about this incredible young activist, and be inspired, at:

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When Ryan Hreljac heard that there were people in developing countries dying because they didn't have clean drinking water, he set out to raise money to help them build a well. He did extra chores around the house and raised $70 dollars, but when he took his donation to the WaterCan, a non-profit agency in Ottawa that funds well building in developing countries, he soon found out that it would cost $2,000 to drill a well. If he could raise $700, then the Canadian aid agency, CIDA, would put the rest. Unfazed, the six year old said, "I'll do more chores then."

His parents, realizing that their son was determined to make a difference, enlisted the help of family and friends. Once the local paper took up his cause, funds for Ryan's well started to roll in. In two months, Ryan raised $7,000 to build his well in Uganda. Today, Ryan's Well Foundation has helped to build over 560 water and sanitation projects in 16 countries. To pitch in and help Ryan's foundation, visit:





On November 20, 2009, thousands of children around the world became silent. Their silence was their commitment to raising awareness of children who have no voice because of poverty or exploitation. They are part of Free The Children, an organization founded in 1995 by the then 12 year old Craig Kielburger.

Free the Children is a powerful movement of children helping children, and has built over 500 schools worldwide. Their aim is to 'free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect a positive change in the world'. Today, children are some of the most powerful, persistent and effective change agents on this planet of ours! Get involved! Visit:




* IN REAL LIFE:  'Swan Children' are young people who care enough about the world we live in to want to be agents of change. Every person deserves to be allowed to fulfill their dreams in a world that is safe and healthy. Let's celebrate the extraordinary achievements of real life 'Swan Children', who are bringing this freedom to others - and inspiring those of us who are committed to doing the same!


IN 'LEGEND OF THE SWAN CHILDREN': Swan Children are youth with special abilities born in fulfilment of a prophecy made long, long ago. For centuries, the Guardians of Light kept the sacred bowl of flames and the Wisdom of the Child-Swan hidden, until . . . For more, read Legend of the Swan Children.


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All content copyright © 1996 - 2017 Maureen Marks-Mendonça unless otherwise noted.

'Swan Children' stories are the property of the respective websites.

Freeform Mouse Drawings Animation copyright © 1996 - 2017 Maureen Marks-Mendonça.  All rights reserved.

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