Image: Oli-Bo-Bolly Dilly 

Editor’s Note: Read the Matt Webb of One Year Road Trip interview here to learn about his family fulfilling a dream to travel the US and film a documentary about a Generation of Generosity. Also, be sure to check out their monthly column here on featuring their Generation of Generosity stories.

In a previous article about our One Year Road Trip: Generation of Generosity project, Conscious Magazine asked us to give one bit of advice for young change-makers. Eva said, “Pinpoint something you love and are passionate about, and find a way to use that passion to show compassion to others, to benefit them and the world.”

As we’ve been researching, visiting and interviewing young change-makers around the US, we’ve found many have some passionate connection to their work that helped make social activism a part of their social lives (to borrow a phrase from LemonAID: Warrior, Lulu Cerone). Below are just a couple examples of such incredible kids, as well as some thoughts on how our own family, the Webbs, is learning to do the same.

We all know someone who is passionate about the environment, resourceful and conscientious about recycling. But few people are as actively engaged as 13 year-old Erek Hansen (Eco Erek) of Ohio. Since 2009 Erek has been avidly recycling denim, and was the largest single donor to the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Collection of Clothing to Recycle”. What’s perhaps even more exciting is learning where all Erek’s recycled denim (as well as shoes) go.

Erek partners with Blue Jeans Go Green.® who shreds the denim into cotton fibers that is then remanufactured into housing insulation to benefit communities affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. He also works with USAgain to recycle used shoes. Shoes that are in good condition are re-directed to those in need, and shoes in poor condition are ground to make raw material for sidewalks, running tracks, carpet underlayment and playground mulch. Erek’s efforts have redirected dozens of tons of clothing away from landfills and into useful recycled goods that benefit humanity and the earth.

Olivea Borden was already an entrepreneurial businesswoman at age 15 when she traveled to Nicaragua and had an experience that turned her work into a social entrepreneurial business. At 12 years old Olivea started Oli-Bo-Bolly selling clothing and accessories made with recycled and repurposed fabrics. While in Nicaragua with her family Olivea noticed that the children in her rural community had few if any toys to play with, and in school, attempts at creative expression (think blue trees and purple skies) were squelched by teachers. She realized that she could redirect her sewing business from clothes to handmade dolls made of recycled and repurposed materials, and could implement a buy-one-give-one approach, providing a doll for a child in Nicaragua for every doll purchased in her home state of Colorado.

It wasn’t long before business was booming and her Oli-Bo-Bolly Dolly orders were outpacing her capacity to build them. At first she brought on friends and family to help, but soon had an epiphany that evolved her business model again. She knew that in Nicaragua the average daily income was $2 a day, and it occurred to her that she could take a percentage of the proceeds out of every doll sold and pay a woman in Nicaragua a fair wage to make the matching doll. So she could she headed back to Nicaragua to train and resource women in the community to use sewing machines. Now Olivea’s business motto is “buy a doll, give a doll, give a woman job, and the women have a new trade to empower them into the future.

And it’s not only these kid change-makers who are turning their passion into social action. Our family is being shaped in these ways too. As a filmmaker, Matt has spent the last six years creating environments that shape the filmmakers he works with, nurturing and encouraging them as people, as well as artists, no matter what story is being told. Today the story itself is the catalyst for social action, inspiring kids to be change-makers. Since she was a kid, Eva’s passion for travel and experiencing new people and cultures has taken her across America, Europe and even a 3-year stint in Haiti. With the One Year Road Trip project, she’s in a new community every week learning, growing, and inspiring children and adults to make the world a better place. The Webb kids, Jack, Solveig and Evie, can never get enough time with friends. On this adventure they are making new friends constantly, some of them change-makers who are inspiring us, and some of them new friends soaking up the stories we’re gathering.

In these first weeks we are already being transformed. At the beginning when our girls were asked what they looked forward to most they said, “Hawaii and Alaska.” This week, they said, “Meeting more awesome kids.” Every day we are given opportunities to tell our story and the stories of the kids we are meeting. Every day we are learning to adapt to new people, places and situations. Every day we are recognizing new ways to serve and reach out to others in need. The lesson we’ve learned: It’s impossible to be exposed to compassion, empathy and generosity like we’re experiencing and NOT be more generous ourselves. If we are already learning to be more generous just two weeks into our adventure, how much will we be transformed after a year of living like this, and what kind of impact could these stories have on the hundreds or even thousands of kids who will read and watch them? We can’t wait to see!

Learn. Connect. Act.
Learn more about One Year Road Trip and their quest to usher in a new Generation of Generosity visit
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From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and subscribe to Conscious Updates.