Change Makers

Unexpected hidden heroes responding to the crisis in powerful ways

How unexpected heroes are responding to crisis in powerful ways

Americans are in turmoil — worried about the future —  but there are three things that COVID-19 didn’t cancel: empathy, kindness, and faith in humanity.

It’s how children around the world are responding amid the pandemic. Read their stories and take heart. 

Mason’s story: Making face masks more comfortable

Unexpected hidden heroes responding to crisis in powerful ways
Ten-year-old Mason of Florida kneels next to a 3D printer used to help make mask straps for healthcare workers. (Photo courtesy of Gwendy and Brian)

In Florida, 10-year-old Mason is putting aside his Legos and hockey stick to help healthcare workers as they care for the sick.

Mason’s mom, Gwendy, had learned about strap extenders that make face masks more comfortable. The strap goes around the back of the head, so the mask no longer irritates the wearer’s ears. Mason, who has a 3D printer, had read about the very same straps and was intrigued.

“When you log into the 3D app, it said to print these for hospitals,” he says.

Mason talked to his dad, Brian, who is Polk Market CEO for AdventHealth in Central Florida. “We asked if it was needed and if he would use it,” says Mason. His dad said yes.

Mason printed out the straps, and his father took them to work.

“They got to look at the concept,” says Gwendy. “They decided this would be helpful.” The company then ordered the product in bulk from a company that makes straps.

Gwendy and Mason are humble about his contribution.

“I like building things and making things,” says Mason.

Mason also has an unusually well-formed view of the world. His school, North Tampa Christian Academy, is part of World Vision’s Ignite program.

Ignite educates children to the needs of the world, helping to shape them into global leaders with a biblical worldview.

Through Ignite, Mason began to learn about life in other countries.

“What time it is there, the weather,” he says. “We got to see what dances they do. We got to see the food they eat.”

The program started him thinking about the world in a new way.

“Everybody isn’t as fortunate as people in the U.S.,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to catch COVID there. There is no healthcare.”

Mason considers himself an ordinary kid but feels that God chose him for this purpose.

“We are all put on this earth to do something,” he says. “Part of that was making mask straps.”

His advice for other 10-year-olds: “Don’t take what you have for granted.”

How unexpected heroes respond to crisis in powerful ways
Nine-year-old Junior washes his hands with soap and water. Together with his elder brother, Junior made two hand-washing stations with local materials and hung them on trees at their home. They made them when they heard that COVID-19 had spread into Kenya and that handwashing is a preventive measure against the disease. (©2020 World Vision/photo by Susan Otieno)

Junior’s story: The importance of handwashing

In Kenya, 9-year-old Junior is making sure his grandmother stays alive.

Junior and his brothers live with their widowed grandmother, Joyce, and other relatives in a homestead in Mwala, a two-hour drive from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

“Since the coronavirus came into the country, we stopped going to school and church,” says Junior.

He copes by keeping busy helping around the home, reading, and playing with his siblings. “I am reading my school textbooks I have with me and my class notes.”

Junior needs to keep his grades up. “I want to be a pilot when I grow up,” he says.

Together with his older brother, Junior made two hand-washing stations with local materials and hung them on trees at their home. The boys learned from World Vision how handwashing prevents disease.

They worry about their grandmother.

Joyce is not well. She’s the sole breadwinner in their home and food is running out.

“We only harvested one sack of maize recently and it is finished,” she says.

Junior knows that the coronavirus has caused many deaths and has been praying it ends soon.

“I have been praying we go back to school and for my grandmother to also get well,” he says.

And love for his grandmother has put those prayers into action.

Isabella’s story: Empowering a child through sponsorship

In Chicago, 9-year-old Isabella is reaching out.

How unexpected heroes are responding to crisis in powerful ways
At Soul City Church in Chicago, 9-year-old Isabella and her brother, 5-year-old Asher, signed up to be chosen by a child as their sponsor. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

She told her parents she wanted her to encourage a child who lives overseas — she wanted to pay for it herself — and she wanted the child to choose her as a sponsor.

Isabella signed up to be chosen at her church, Soul City, in Chicago. Her family already has a sponsored child through World Vision named Abina. Isabella writes letters and prays for Abina every night.

At Soul City, Isabella and her brothers, 5-year-old Asher and 4-month-old Titus, signed up together, with Isabella and Asher agreeing to earn money by doing chores.

Isabella mostly sweeps and mops.

Isabella’s dad, Jared, loved the chance to let a child choose them. “It’s empowering for a young girl or boy who gets to pick,” he says.

Isabella and her brothers had their photo taken and sent to Mwala, Kenya, to be displayed along with more than 400 other photos from Soul City at a large community event. The next week, they would find out who had chosen them.

In Mwala, a rural community of 40,000 people, the freedom to choose is an unfamiliar luxury. Nearly four out of five families are unable to provide well for their children.

At the community event, where photos of Americans were displayed for children to see, 10-year-old Sally chose Isabella and her brothers.

“You are happy and good looking,” she wrote in a letter to them. She also introduced herself.

“I am in class six,” she wrote. “I have one sister and one brother. I love my parents because they are kind to me.”

Back in Chicago at Soul City, Isabella and her brother Asher opened an envelope to learn that Sally had chosen them.

She looks forward to writing letters and getting to know more about Sally — once she’s finished sweeping.


Susan Otieno of World Vision’s Uganda staff and Andrea Peer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.

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