At just 8 years old, Hannah Taylor founded The Ladybug Foundation, a charity that promotes awareness and assistance for homeless individuals. Now 22 and a student at McGill University in Montreal, Hannah has spoken to more than 400 schools, organizations and events. She believes that everyone deserves a roof over their head and enough food to eat, as basic human rights. We got the chance to ask her a few questions about her idea.
DESCRIBE THE IDEA OR PROJECT YOU ARE WORKING ON.
The Ladybug Foundation is a registered charity that raises money to assist projects across Canada providing shelter, food, and safety for homeless people. I've visited many of the shelters The Ladybug Foundation supports.
I am also the founder of a second, separate charity, The Ladybug Foundation Education Program Inc., through which we have inspired the development of “makeChange: The Ladybug Foundation Education Program”, a K-12 resource for use in schools across Canada to empower young people to get involved and “makeChange” in their world.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR IDEA?
When I was 5, I saw a man eating out of a garbage can on a frozen winter day. I was immediately filled with sadness and questions. “Why, why, why?” I asked. “If everyone shared what they had, could that cure homelessness?” Since that defining moment, I have learned about hunger and homelessness. Where society sees a problem, I see a person.
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM?
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED SO FAR AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM? HOW CAN WE SUPPORT YOU IN THIS?
Passion is like breathing, it just doesn’t stop. And I am deeply passionate about making change in the lives of those who are homeless, hungry or living in poverty in Canada. I think sometimes when you care so much about something, it is hard to understand when someone doesn’t feel the same way. Throughout my work I have come to realize that not everyone is passionate about Ladybug’s cause, but of course my hope is that they care about and work for something or someone else. Sometimes those who hear you want to be a part of what you do, sometimes they don’t and sometimes what you say changes their minds and their hearts. I think that overcoming this challenge came from accepting that and then talking to anyone who would listen about what I am passionate about anyways.
WHAT ARE SOME GOOD THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR IDEA?
There have been so many great, hopeful, amazing things! We are entirely run by volunteers and every day I have the chance to see people give from their hearts. We have been able to reach more than 65 different shelters, missions, foods banks, and soup kitchens across Canada. There have been so many beautiful students and young people I’ve met who have the most hopeful souls and innovative minds. The people that I have had the chance to learn from through this work have changed my life: from Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel to Sir Bob Geldof to Jane Goodall and Gail Asper to those who run the organizations we support and those who go to those organizations for support to every fellow jury member I came to know through the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (worldschildrensprize.org). My incredible friend, Rick, who lived a homeless life for years joined our Advisory board a number of years ago. He is now retired and has a place to call home. Our education program is now available to anyone who has an internet connection in the world! I could go on and on.
But there is one story that sticks out in my mind as one of the moments that I felt the most hopeful, the moment where I felt most that this work matters: I was 10 and was being given a tour of a youth shelter in Toronto that was seeking Ladybug’s support. As the tour went on, more and more of the young people who go to the shelter for help joined in. They told me stories about which dinner was the best and which piece of art in the art room was theirs. By the end we had a pretty big crowd and I was giving every one hugs before I left. Right as I was about to head out the door, a girl who had been very quiet and had hung back during the tour, stepped through the crowd. She had tears in her eyes. She gave me a big hug and said: “Before today I thought nobody loved me, and now I know you do.”
WHAT DO YOU STILL NEED HELP WITH FOR YOUR IDEA? HOW CAN WE SUPPORT YOU?
You can donate online to The Ladybug Foundation or share some of your clothing, food, money or time with an organization that helps those who are homeless, hungry, or living in poverty that we support near you. But above all, you can support Ladybug by helping us connect as many hearts as possible in caring for others. And all that takes is being kind to those around you.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR MANTRA?
“Share a little of what you have and care about each other always” has always been The Ladybug Foundation’s guiding motto.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG GIRLS THAT WANT TO MAKE THEIR IDEAS HAPPEN?
First and foremost, no matter how old you are or where you come from, remember that your voice matters. I was lucky that I grew up understanding that a 5 year old voice is just as profound and important as a 50 year old voice, but unfortunately not everyone has that growing up. Please know in your bones that what you have to say and how you use your brilliant hearts, matters to the world.
Second, once you have learned as much as you can about what makes you passionate, talk to as many people as you can about making a difference. You are never alone in what you care about. Often people just need a place to start! Talk to anyone who will listen and you will find that many people are just as excited as you about making change. It is true that one person can make a difference, but together we can make an even bigger difference.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES?
I love film photography, dogsledding and playing the banjo. At the moment alongside my work for The Ladybug Foundation Inc. and makeChange Online; I am a coordinator for F Word (an intersectional feminist art magazine in Montreal) a photographer for an organization called Photofund, a member of the McGill University Photography Student Society and involved in a number of on campus publications as a writer/photographer.
If you know a girl with a story like Hannah's, nominate her to be our next featured idea girl using this link.