When 12-year-old Joshua Williams hands you a business card, you take it. When Williams tells you he'll graduate with a double major from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology someday, you tend to believe him.
And when he spoke to a packed auditorium at Independence Charter Middle School on Thursday, the crowd listened.
It's all because the seventh-grader from Miami, Fla., with the bouncy Afro haircut and infectious smile, has found something many spend an entire lifetime searching for: a purpose in life. Williams shares his universal message with anyone willing to listen.
“World hunger is something that can be fixed,” Williams said. “We all have to unite as one and work together to actually solve this problem. If we each just donated one dollar, that's enough to help a lot of people and change their lives; to make the world a better place.”
Williams is the president of a nonprofit organization called Joshua's Heart. Its sole purpose is aimed at “stomping out world hunger.” With the help of family and countless volunteers, Joshua's Heart has helped 8,000 individuals in the Miami area by donating nearly 500,000 pounds of food since 2007.
His remarkable story has been featured on national news networks. Even the White House requested he blog about his mission. But had it not been for the Oklahoma City nonprofit Feed The Children, he might never have become one of the nation's youngest philanthropists.
At 4 years old, Williams began noticing those less fortunate around him. When his grandmother gave him $20, he gave it to a homeless man on the street. When he saw a television advertisement for Feed The Children a couple of weeks later, he wanted his mother, Claudia McLean, to adopt the starving African children on the screen.
“That's great that he wanted siblings,” McLean laughed. “But we couldn't adopt all the children.”
Williams then shifted his focus to donating food to the needy. After plenty of begging, he got his wish. But McLean might have been reluctant to dive in head first. After all, she was a single mother trying to make ends meet.
But she saw something in her son that was different. He was walking at 6 months.
At school, teachers raved about his maturity at a young age. His persistence and wise-beyond-his-years approach made McLean believe she was meant to help him.
“I just look at him as my gift,” McLean said. “I'm just here to help him in whatever he decides to do.”
So they started cooking and hand-delivering hot meals to the homeless in their area. When the city made them stop, they looked into starting a food distribution center. But they had no idea what that would take, until fate threw another curveball into Williams' growing passion.
World hunger is something that can be fixed. We all have to unite as one and work together to actually solve this problem.”
Joshua Williams, 12,