Caleb Oh, 14, of Gambrills, Md., an eighth-grader at Crofton Middle School, has spent more than 1,000 hours volunteering in many ways over the past seven years to aid people who are homeless, hungry or have other needs. For most of his life, Caleb has suffered from debilitating migraine headaches that have sometimes kept him from going to school. During one of his absences, he was lying in bed reading primatologist Jane Goodall’s biography and felt motivated to “follow in her inspirational footsteps” to make an impact in the world. At first it wasn’t easy. “I could not find my place,” said Caleb. “There was a fixed mindset that kids could not help. Most places require you to be at least 18 to volunteer.”
So Caleb decided to launch his own initiative, called “Kid Changemakers.” He started by recruiting kids from his neighborhood to make bagged lunches for a local homeless shelter, and then partnered with shelters, schools and a local church to conduct food and toiletry drives. During the school year, he provides weekend meals for students who receive free or discounted meals at school. He collects toiletries and baby supplies for a local woman’s shelter throughout the year. He clips food coupons for military families living abroad, and fills backpacks with essential items for children who are suddenly pulled from their homes and placed into the foster care system. After Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Houston, Caleb made public service announcements and coordinated the collection of food, toiletries and school supplies for hard-hit families. In addition, he won a grant that enabled him to pay off school lunch loans so students would not be denied food. Caleb estimates that he has collected more than $60,000 in cash, grants and in-kind donations to benefit others since he started volunteering.