"The world is big but little people turn it around. A worm can roll a stone, a bee can sting a bear."
-- From "Little People," a song in the musical "Les Miserables"
You don't have to be a grown-up or somebody important to make the world a better place. Whether it's taking part in a huge international relief effort such as what followed the Dec. 26 tsunami or collecting old towels for your animal shelter, there are lots of ways -- big and small -- to help others. KidsPost's Marylou Tousignant has some inspiring stories about some young do-gooders.
Recycle could be Orion Dunbar's middle name.
The 10-year-old from Chesapeake, Virginia, hates waste. So, when her mom made some jeans into cutoff shorts, Orion decided to turn the leg bottoms into hats. Now she has a hat business called R.O.C.K. -- Recycle Our Clothes for Kids. She sets up at local festivals and lets kids decorate their own hats, using donated jeans and the beads, paint, feathers and jewels that she provides. The money she gets -- more than $2,000 in donations so far -- goes to a local children's hospital.
Orion also is writing a book about recycling. Her advice to others: "Go around the house and look for stuff that can be recycled. Be creative and have fun."
In tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka, the trees are thought to be inhabited by spirits that will help people in exchange for an offering. That's what prompted James, Max and Anna Wilson to tie thousands of ribbons on the trees in their Bethesda yard last winter.
The siblings were raising money for Room to Read, a charity involved in rebuilding 20 schools in Sri Lanka after the deadly December tsunami. For $1, the Wilsons wrote the donor's name on a piece of ribbon and tied it to a tree or bush. "It was very colorful," said Max, 13.
The kids' goal was $5,000. They spread the word on the Internet and in fliers around the neighborhood. They ended up raising $7,100. The ribbons, with 7,100 names on them, will be sent to the rebuilt Sri Lankan schools.
The Joyful Noise! youth choir raises its voice to raise money -- more than $1 million that has helped 700 kids around the world. The choir's home is Oakdale Emory United Methodist Church in Olney, but anyone in grades 7 through 12 may join.
The 90-member choir gives money to two children's charities, raising the funds with concerts and a brief summer tour. But choir members wanted to do something more personal, so they also sponsor five kids in Africa and South America -- paying for their food, clothing and school supplies (about $32 a month per child).
Choir member Meghan Hoopes, 16, notes that $32 is "about a dollar a day. That's pocket change for us." The Rockville teen is one of the choir's "Cow-Girls," so named because they have collected enough money ($800) to buy eight cows for people in Zimbabwe.
It's not necessary to raise lots of money or do something extraordinary to be a do-gooder. For some kids, it's as simple as making cookies or Kool-Aid. Others opt not to get birthday presents; instead, they ask their friends to help a worthy cause.
Rather than buying teacher gifts, Lynn Leavitt's third-graders at McKinley Elementary School in Arlington decided to pool their dollars and do something nice in her name. The kids donated the $330 they raised to the Hole in the Wall Gang, a camp for kids with serious illnesses. They also inspired another class to do its own project.
Julian Moss, 9, dipped into his piggy bank, where he keeps his allowance and chore money. Julian, who also has sold lemonade to benefit the Red Cross, thinks other kids would like helping as much as he does: "Even if it's hard for them, they should still do it because it will make them feel good."
School Girls Unite was started by Montgomery County seventh-graders last year to call attention to the lack of education for girls in some countries. The group sells school supplies. Some of the more than $7,000 it has raised pays for the schooling of 15 girls in Mali, an African nation where 64 percent of girls do not go to school.
This month the Maryland girls joined a worldwide campaign to make education a priority of world leaders meeting in Scotland. The girls made a few hundred doll-like cutouts and wrote messages on each. Overall, a million cutouts -- representing 103 million children who educators say are not getting proper schooling -- were sent to the world leaders.
On her cutout, Dandio Coulibaly, 10, of Silver Spring, pleaded with President Bush to "keep your education pledge to help all children," but especially those in Mali, where her parents are from.
Aysha Preston-Jones spent last summer volunteering at a children's health clinic. She filed papers, ran errands and read to patients as they waited.
Aysha, 14, volunteers a lot. She joined with other kids to clean up Congressional Cemetery in Southeast Washington and, as class treasurer at Jefferson Junior High, helped collect $2,000 for kids in Ethiopia. For her efforts, she got a 2005 Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
"Living life isn't always about you," Aysha says. "It's about helping other people."
Suzie Tipton, 11, is helping kids with special needs. She knows the obstacles they face because she faces them, too. Suzie was born with a form of cerebral palsy (the brain's signals to the muscles and nerves are disrupted) and needs a wheelchair and other special equipment.
When special-needs kids outgrow their equipment, replacing it can cost a lot. Two years ago Suzie started a program called Suzie's Closet to collect these items and lend them to others. So far she has helped about 100 people near her home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. In March, Suzie won a $25,000 award from the Volvo car company for her work.
Suzie says if you have a project idea, go for it: "There are people out there who really need your idea. I started out with a little idea, and it's become huge."