Kids, News

Bilaal Rajan: Underage Overachiever

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Bilaal_RajanBilaal Rajan is an “Underage Overachiever,” just as the subtitle of his book suggests. The 14-year-old teenager from Toronto has devoted much of his life to helping people. He gave a speech at Ryerson University last Thursday to spread his message of “giving” to students. He hopes that by talking about what he’s done, he can inspire other kids to make a difference in their community.

Bilaal started his life of giving when he was only four years old. After feeling personally affected by earthquake victims in India, he started selling Clementine oranges door-to-door in his neighbourhood. He raised $350 dollars. He believes, “you have to be bold, you have to be creative and you can’t take no for an answer.”

Since then he has raised money to fight world poverty with other fundraisers: selling boxes of cookies, selling homemade plates for children with HIV, and starting a website to raise awareness for children in need (www.handsforhelp.org).

He wanted to start helping when he learned more about the poverty that exists in our world. “It can start with simple things like shoes,” says Bilaal. “We don’t think that every time we put on shoes there are people in third-world countries that don’t have shoes. Or that one in every three kids will never go to school.”

He raised a lot of money and gave it to a charity for children called UNICEF (The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund). They were so impressed with Bilaal that they asked him to join the charity and become the official child spokesperson.

Through UNICEF, Bilaal has become involved in many projects aimed to help kids across the world deal with poverty, HIV/AIDS, and natural disasters. After the tsunami in Thailand in 2004, he started a project called “UNICEF Canada Kids Earthquake Challenge,” asking Canadian kids to raise money. He raised nearly $4 million dollars!

He has vbilaal rajan's book Making Changeisited more than 30 countries across the world, and met many people who have given him great advice.

Bilaal Rajan speaks at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Bilaal Rajan speaks at Ryerson University in Toronto. Photo: Julia Mohamed

He wrote a book called, “Making Change: Tips for an Underage Overachiever.” In the book he talks about what kids can do to help people. Some of the tips include listening more and talking less, working with a group of people because there is strength in numbers, and giving yourself a tune-up once and a while since, “your body is like a car, and it needs an oil change when it’s overworked.”

He tries to live an average, teenager life, and attends a private school in Peterborough, Ont. He takes time off school to travel to schools across the world and talk about “making a difference.”

Any small act, like donating old clothes or toys to charity, can make a difference, says Bilaal.

Rather than going on vacation or sleeping in, Bilaal spent his March break touring the country to spread his message to kids.

He says that it’s often hard for adults to take him seriously because he is so young. “It’s a challenge to have adults hear your voice,” he says. However, this doesn’t stop him from creating change.

Despite all of the problems he has encountered and all of the sadness and poverty he has seen, he lives by a simple motto: “If we each contribute a few drops every day, drops make ripples and ripples make waves. So let’s make waves.”

Related links
Bilaal’s website.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

Writing/Discussion Prompt
One of Bilaal’s tips is: listen more and talk less.  What does he mean by this?  Can you think of any examples from your own life when you followed this tip?  

Another tip is: work with groups of people instead of by yourself.  Bilaal explains that you can do more when you work with people than you can by yourself.  Can you think of examples in your own life, in your school and in your community when this was the case?

Reading Prompt 
Bilaal’s motto is as follows: “If we each contribute a few drops every day, drops make ripples and ripples make waves. So let’s make waves.”  What do you think he means?  Use ideas from your own life and from this article to explain the motto.  

Primary
use stated and implied information and ideas in texts to make simple inferences and reasonable predictions about them (OME, Reading: 1.5)

Junior
use stated and implied ideas in texts to make inferences and construct meaning (OME, Reading: 1.5)

Grammar Feature: Verbs
Verbs are parts of speech that are action words.  Some examples are: run, speak, watch.  Find and underline all of the verbs in this article.

Bilaal is a very active teenager.  Rather than watching TV, he is out raising money and awareness for many causes.  Make a list of verbs that connect to Bilaal’s work.