It took just one trip to Jamaica for 10-year-old Kingston Marley to notice a big difference between his life at home and the lives of the children he met there. After spending the summer of 2016 at camp in the Caribbean island nation, Marley came home and asked his mom, Melayna Stephens, if he could collect all his excess “stuff” and send it to the children he had met. But soon it became about more than just toys or sports equipment. “I was really sad when I learned that some kids in Jamaica… don’t have shoes or lunch money or the books they need,” says Marley, a student Dr. Henry E. Perrine Academy of the Arts. “Without these things, they can’t go to school and get an education and become who they want to be.” Stephens and Marley saw an opportunity for change, and in May of 2017 Children for Change was born.
Being The Change
The organization’s first official event took place in September 2017 and focused on back-to-school fundraising for two rural schools in St. Ann, the birthplace of Marley’s grandfather, legendary singer Bob Marley. From there they expanded into additional initiatives that include providing workbooks to students; collecting books and curating library collections for rural schools; holiday toy drives; and the collection of used clothes, educational toys, sports equipment, musical instruments and more. This summer the organization will also launch a summer kindness series to spread kindness throughout the community and a “Helping Hands” distribution of backpacks filled with snacks, clothing, hygiene items, books, art supplies and small toys for children living in homeless shelters in our community.
While Stephens handles what Marley calls “the adult stuff,” Marley has recruited siblings Zedeke and Kalani to work on the project as well and credits an important inspiration in his desire to make the world a better place. “I want to help others just like my grandfather did,” says Marley. “He believed in One Love, which means we should love everyone no matter what color they are or where they came from or what they believe in. And he helped those less fortunate. That’s what I want to do too.” His vision includes building Children For Change into a larger organization that will allow kids to get together to brainstorm and implement programs that will help other children. “We can do community projects together and we can help children be kind to each other and stop bullying, and even help children who don’t always have food at home.”
While the summer off is giving him the opportunity to focus on the organization, Marley’s school year commitments stack up quite a list. In addition to being part of the school’s drama magnet, he belongs to the 5000 Role Models organization at school and plays two sports. But his own activities only fuel his passion for helping others find theirs. ”It’s important to me to make the time for the charity because I think it’s important for all children to have a special thing in their life,” he says. “If they want to play basketball then they should have a basketball to play with. If they want to go to school then they should have the books they need to go.”
Children for Change
(children4change.com / @children4changemiami)