Empowering Gifted Youth Who Feel Deeply About Global Issues

By Tina Harlow, L.C.S.W. and Rosa Medina, M.A.


It’s 6 a.m. in Australia when 13-year-old Anna, still lying in bed, sleepily clicks on the Zoom link to enter the group meeting. She is willing to sacrifice her Sunday morning sleep to connect with her fellow team members who make up the World Hope Project--an international children’s video troupe composed of gifted youth ages 8-17 from 27 countries whose mission is to share messages of hope and ideas for positive social change.


One-by-one they join—Belva from Mozambique; Marek from Slovakia; Marie from France; Joshua from Malaysia. Soon the screen is transformed into a moving, interactive, artful display of young faces. Some are smiling while others appear more tentative. Will they be able to understand what is being said? Will they be able to communicate their ideas? Despite their insecurities, they curiously and boldly embrace the challenges of language, culture and technology. Our videoconferences take place mostly in English, but we encourage the children to use their native language to fully express their ideas. We utilize translation software and are gradually adding volunteers to assist with interpretation. Two senior citizens have volunteered to interpret for our French and Italian members, adding a multi-generational layer to the meetings.


These virtual meetings are the “special sauce” that inspires us as co-producers of the World Hope Project. It is a window into a world of connection, hope and infinite possibility with internal dividends that no currency can replicate. These children represent the capability of human beings to come together for a common cause, greeting one another with curiosity instead of judgement.

The online meetings are the first step of preparation for each new video. The collaboration continues through email, surveys, shared documents, and a group chat. We encounter challenges along the way. After all, we are a microcosm of our greater world with all of its imperfection, suffering and beauty. Team members often have to re-record their clips several times and some have unreliable internet. Communication can be difficult to navigate, but the challenges alone are part of the learning and often catalyze solutions that enrich the process.


THE RIPPLES


This project seems to have a life of its own with unexpected ripples along the way; the first droplet being the making of the original World Hope Project video. It began in April 2020 when Tina wrote a piece of prose inspired by the solidarity expressed by individuals and communities around the world in response to the pandemic. She invited children from around the globe to provide input on the piece and participate in the video. During this process, Rosa enthusiastically arranged for children from three more countries to join. After two video conferences and a number of revisions, the first World Hope Project video was released.

What started as a single endeavor became an ongoing collaboration and Rosa agreed to join as co-producer. The ripples have continued with our videos being shown in schools, conferences, businesses and homes around the world.


The children’s efforts are not reserved for this project alone. In the height of COVID-19, 11-year-old Ryutaro from Japan started his own organization, raising money to support his community during the pandemic. A video interview about his project can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/wJ52ZnuAdvE. Alberto from Chile initiated a class “clean-up day” in a local park. In each of their own corners of the world, they are finding ways to make a difference.


As co-producers, we are also realizing the impact that The World Hope Project is having on our own lives. We have found ourselves being more proactive in our decisions in regard to purchases, waste, and advocacy. We are now writing to companies and those in positions of power to advocate for change. In giving voice to the children, we are finding our own.


THE ISSUES


Early in the process, each team member was asked to complete an open-ended survey. When asked what they wanted to share with the world, their responses focused on climate change and the environment, racial equality, mental health, gender equality, unity, concerns for animals, distribution of wealth, etc. Climate change and the environment were mentioned the most.


In honor of International Mother Earth Day on April 22, 2021, we released our second video, “Dear Mother Earth,” which is also available in Spanish and can be viewed here. In this video, the children express gratitude for the gifts that nature provides and demonstrate simple actions that we can take in our daily lives to nurture our environment.



We are now actively working on our next video on the topic of mental health. Over the last year, several of our team members lost extended family members due to COVID, and many are painfully aware of the social tensions present in most of the world. Our team recognizes the emotional toll that societal issues are having on all of us. For this reason, our next video will focus on avenues for self-care and mutual support.