The nonprofit is empowering children to make a positive difference in the world — and many of these kids are growing up to become activists

Even the smallest among us have it all figured out — or so goes the saying for charity: water's Tiny Heroes program.

Founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, the nonprofit organization has dedicated its mission to bringing clean drinking water to folks in developing nations.

As of 2022, the organization has raised over $640 million towards the cause and has funded over 91,414 projects in 29 countries.

In addition to solving the worlds’ ongoing water crises at hand, charity: water is also helping the next generation of Helpers through their Tiny Heroes program.

Charity Water Tiny Heroes written on yellow jerry cans used for carrying clean water
Illustration by Carra Sykes for The Water Edition of the Goodnewspaper

The organization celebrates young people (who are as young as six years old!) who are finding innovative ways to help their community, whether it be raising awareness through homemade t-shirts that say "I like bugs, but not in my water" or hosting five-minute tea parties, Tiny Heroes is an ode to the kids who are doing heartwarming and innovative work for clean water.

And it's paying off too. According to the Tiny Heroes website, the combined power of these inspiring kids has brought clean water to 45,000 people and counting.

These kids have also raised over $1.8 million towards clean water, making them some of this generation's youngest entrepreneurs, innovators, and all-around top-notch helpers. 

One of this year's Tiny Heroes alumni is an eight-year-old named Nanami, who spent her 8th birthday campaigning for clean water. The deal? Donate $8 or more and get a custom-designed tote bag.

Another hero is Neekta (based in Ontario, Canada) who spent her birthday in quarantine by doing a virtual recital; she played the piano and ukulele as a fundraiser for clean water. Through the power of music and empathy, she raised enough funding for clean water for 54 people.

Olive, who lives in the United Kingdom, hosted 5-minute tea parties after she learned there were kids who lived without clean water. Friends and family were invited to water and a snack, all the while conversing with Olive about the importance of clean water.

"I saw that other people don't have fresh water, and I felt sad. They must be thirsty. So I decided to raise some money to help them"

"I saw that other people don't have fresh water, and I felt sad. They must be thirsty. So I decided to raise some money to help them," said Olive. 

The impactful work doesn't end at childhood

For these Tiny Heroes, the work doesn’t end at childhood. Many of these alumni have continued on to do amazing work in the field even after aging out of their adolescence.

Supriya, for example, has been fundraising for charity: water since 2017. Last year, she and her brother partnered to perform a Carnatic music concert (a traditional form of Indian classical music) and raised $3,212. Her total fundraising in the time she's been with charity: water is over $13,000.

"Clean drinking water is not a privilege; it is a basic human right."

"Clean drinking water is not a privilege; it is a basic human right,” Supriya said. 

If the Tiny Heroes program was the start, it’s definitely not the end for many of these budding activists.

Many of the alumni have also gone on to do incredible work for other causes, such as climate change reform or anti-racism work. And many of them credit their current work to charity: water showing that it’s possible for anyone — regardless of size or age — to make a difference.

Just ask Riley Goodfellow, who was a Tiny Hero and now a student at George Washington University and still finding innovative ways to bring clean water to communities.

“Being a Tiny Hero alum and working on the Riley Project has shown me the strength of youth. When a young person speaks, others listen. There is also something very special about this new generation,” Riley told Good Good Good.

"Young people are underestimated, but charity: water has proven their strength through the Tiny Hero campaign."

“In my current campaign, most of my supporters have been from people my age (teenagers) who don't have a lot of money, but they dedicate services or small donations that add up to large sums due to the amount of people willing to help. Young people are underestimated, but charity: water has proven their strength through the Tiny Hero campaign.”

Their most-recent campaign is called “Not so little Tiny Hero” and aims to continue bringing awareness and funding to charity: water’s work.

“Many of us have no idea what it's like to be thirsty. We have plenty of water to drink — even the water in our toilets is clean! But many people around the world don’t have that luxury. Every day, about 1,400 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world,” Riley wrote on the campaign page, which can be found on the charity: water website. 

They added: “100% of the money will be used to build clean water projects, and when they’re complete, charity: water will send us photos and GPS coordinates so we can see the exact community we helped.”

Though the water crisis continues to be a dire issue for many communities around the world, there’s not a shortage of Helpers. And if the Tiny Heroes program has shown anything, it’s that young people can truly make a difference in ways beyond our (adult) greatest imagination.

When we invest in the youth, they invest back in the world.

Happy World Water Day!

This article was originally published in The Water Edition of the Goodnewspaper in October 2021.

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