Ashwil Bell, 12, of Jericho, Vermont, a sixth-grader at Mater Christi School, raised money to buy solar cookers for refugee families in Chad, designed and staffed a food concession stand for Special Olympics bowling events, and organized a campaign to promote awareness of the effects of plastic bags on the environment. “I have always been around individuals who contribute to the community,” said Ashwil, whose parents operate a school for kids with disabilities. “I recognized from an early age that it takes effort to make a difference.”
When Ashwil was 5 years old, a teenager she knew was working on a project to help women in Darfuri refugee camps. It was difficult for them to get firewood for cooking fires, so the girl was trying to raise money to buy solar cookers. She asked Ashwil to donate her artwork for an auction, which raised $400 for the cause. Later, Ashwil operated a concession stand at every home game of a local Special Olympics Unified bowling team, raising $400 to buy a beehive and bees for a school bee curriculum. In addition, Ashwil, inspired by a group of southern California teens who made a video about the environmental problems caused by plastic bags, started a campaign to ban their use at her school. “The school no longer allows plastic bags for lunches or garbage,” she said. Currently, she is working to organize a conference to promote women’s empowerment and confidence.