This Kid Changemaker is empowering other kids to follow his lead
2019 National Honoree | Caleb Oh of Gambrills, Maryland
The pain starts out dull, then becomes sharp and pulsing. Light and sound make it worse. The only option is retreat to bed, away from the world. Caleb Oh spent much of the last 10 years suffering from painful migraines. Though often missing school, he found much-needed solace in books – one in particular, the biography of Jane Goodall.
Her story inspired Caleb to get out and give back. He sought opportunities to volunteer but kept discovering dead ends. Repeatedly, he was told that he was too young. Many groups require volunteers be at least 18 years old. He was disappointed and felt there was no room for him to create an impact, not with adults in charge. He became more determined than ever to make a difference.
Caleb started small, gathering neighborhood kids to make bag lunches for the local homeless shelter. It was the beginning of his own nonprofit, Kid Changemakers. He reached out to local organizations and partnered with a local church to regularly help homeless shelters. He then created a network of good, working with other organizations and local businesses. They hosted food and toiletry drives. The more groups Caleb worked with, the more he learned about challenges faced by people in the community.
“We also worked to help the foster care system by volunteering and partnering with the Blue Ribbon Project. Children who age out (turn 18) are the most vulnerable population for homelessness and unemployment,” Caleb explained. “They are an important underserved group in the country.”
Caleb learned that many kids struggle with food insecurity. Throughout the week, they depend on free or reduced-priced school lunches. That is why Kid Changemakers provides money to local schools to pay off lunch accounts and works with local pantries to provide food to needy families in the community throughout the year. Local women’s shelters also benefit from Caleb’s work. He coordinates collections of toiletries and baby food that help many women and children. And they have contributed meals to the local homeless shelter.
Little kids, large impact
When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Caleb and the Kid Changemakers organized their first donation drive for natural disaster victims. They sent cases of books, toiletries and food to the Houston Food Bank.
In the last seven years, Kid Changemakers has raised over $60,000 of in-kind donations, grants and cash. Caleb wants to empower other children to pursue their goals. His peers involved in Kid Changemakers are a comfort to him when migraines flare up. The growth of his nonprofit allows him to delegate responsibilities so he can rest and recover knowing people in need are still being helped.
Kid Changemakers has accomplished so much that two years ago Caleb was invited to speak with his inspiration, Dr. Goodall. It was an incredible experience, one of many along his journey to give back.
“There is an inexplicable feeling when you see your work help those in need,” described Caleb. “It affirms that the work we are doing is important and that kids can make a difference in an adult world.”