From fighting for the right to education to advocating climate change, these children—yes, you heard that right—have done incredible things that will continue to inspire generations.
People often say nobody is ever too old to pursue their dreams. Well, it turns out you’re never too young to make an impact and inspire millions through your story, either. Highlighting such incredible endeavors and journeys, here are 20 inspirational stories of children who did the unthinkable and became heroes.
Photo of Nkosi Johnson and his adoptive mother. | Source: Getty Images
Although he passed away at the tender age of 12, Nkosi’s story is one that will continue to inspire people for generations. Nkosi first attracted attention after being denied admission to a public school in Johannesburg, South Africa, because he had HIV.
The incident caused political issues in South Africa, resulting in laws getting changed and anti-discrimination policies being adopted. And Nkosi was eventually admitted to the school. However, after experiencing discrimination, he established Nkosi’s Haven, an NGO to assist mothers and children impacted by HIV and AIDS. As a result of his efforts, in 2000, Nkosi was a keynote speaker at the International AIDS Conference.
Photo of Iqbal Masih. | Source: Getty Images
Iqbal, a Pakistani boy, was four when the worst happened to him: he was forcefully taken into bonded labor and made to weave carpets.
However, it wasn’t just Iqbal who was stuck in child slavery. Several kids were suffering, so once Iqbal found an escape from the clutches of bonded labor, he became their voice, starting a movement that would rescue over 3000 children.
He also went to speak at schools in the US and Europe as an international campaigner for children’s rights. Tragically, he died at the age of 12, but he will forever be remembered for his fight to end child labor.
, an unfortunate incident happened that profoundly affected the then 13-year-old Trisha: A girl just a year younger than Trisha named Rebecca Sedwick was cyber-bullied to the point that she took her own life.
When Trisha learned about it, she knew she had to do something. She herself had been a victim of mean messages on the Internet, and she decided she would do something that could prevent cyberbullying—and that’s how ReThink, an app aiming to reduce cyberbullying, was born.
Online bullying is perhaps one of the biggest, most underplayed banes of this internet-obsessed society, and Trisha only deserves praise for how she acted against it.
At the young age of six, little Ruby Bridges fought against racism and prejudice and became the very first African-American to desegregate an all-white elementary school.
As one of the black students to clear the challenging exam, which was designed to keep black kids out of school, Ruby gained entry into the school, but some angry white adults didn’t like it and hurled insults at the little girl.
However, that didn’t deter Ruby from attending school. 18 years later, she graduated from a fully desegregated high school, altering history.
While Anne Frank died at the tender age of 15, she will always be remembered through her stories of courage and hope she left behind.
Anne was at a Nazi concentration camp when she passed away. After her death, her father published her diary, which brought the history of the Holocaust before the eyes of the world.
Translated into over 70 languages, Anne’s writings teach us to remain strong in the face of adversity.
When we talk about young minds making an impact, there can’t be a better example than Malala, who has always advocated for educating girls, even questioning the motives of those who forced girls to stay at home, such as the Taliban.
Ever since she was 15 and survived a massive brain injury, she has been inspiring millions. And at the age of 17, she became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is now a global icon, and she has fearlessly spoken her ideas even in the United Nations, insisting that education is a human right.
In 2016, the Taliban dared to fight Breshna’s indomitable spirit but failed miserably. Back then, she was attending evening prayers at her university campus mosque when a deadly school shooting happened, leaving her with a broken leg and two missing toes.
The Taliban, which doesn’t support educating girls, got a fierce reply when Breshna survived the incident and went on to complete her studies two years later. Also deemed the “Afghanistan’s Malala,” Breshna symbolizes hope, inspiration, and courage.
Six-year-old Walker proved that not all heroes wear capes when he selflessly rescued his little sister from a dog in 2020.
The little boy had to undergo 90 stitches after he jumped in to save his sister from a German Shepherd. He had been bitten by the animal on his cheek.
Walker’s story earned him appreciation from the locals and even some celebrities, such as Anne Hathaway and Chris Evans, who couldn’t help but praise what the young boy did for his sister.
Jordan was merely 13 when he made a decision that would save his younger brother’s life but endanger his own: when his family car, which also had his mother, Donna, and younger brother, Blake, besides Jordan, was stuck in floodwaters, he made a selfless choice by asking the rescuers to help Blake first.
Donna had called the emergency services by then after the trio clambered onto the vehicle’s roof. A passer-by had also stopped to try and rescue the family, but unfortunately, the 13-year-old and his mother were swept away in the waters.
Jordan confronted one of the biggest fears of his life to save his brother, and he will always be remembered for the courage he showed during those life-or-death moments.
In order to save the life of his fellow schoolmates, Aitzaz, a 15-year-old Pakistani boy, didn’t think twice before confronting a suicide bomber.
Aitzaz and his friends were outside their school in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated region in Pakistan, when they spotted a man in a suicide vest. They quickly realized what the man’s intentions were and even advised Aitzaz not to get any closer to the man.
However, Aitzaz decided he couldn’t just leave his innocent schoolmates to their fates and confronted the bomber in order to stop him, but unfortunately, the man detonated his vest, which took Aitzaz’s life.
A symbol of bravery and selflessness, Aitzaz will live on in our memories.
Photo of Easton LaChappelle. | Source: instagram/unlimitedtomorrow
Easton LaChappelle had an encounter with a little girl at a fair that would change his life forever—the seven-year-old girl, as LaChappelle recalled, had a prosthetic limb that was worth $80,000!
Realizing it was too expensive and out of the reach of many, LaChappelle knew at that moment that a change was needed, so, at just 14, he made his first robotic hand.
However, LaChappelle lacked proper equipment and space for implementing his idea, so his first creation was made out of LEGOs and fishing wire in his bedroom. Today, he proudly runs a startup that develops affordable prosthetics.
Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia
Not caring about what the consequences could’ve been, in 2013, two brave teenagers named Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia didn’t think twice before chasing the car of a man who had kidnapped a 5-year-old girl named Jocelyn Rojas.
The two teens, along with their friends, went in search of Jocelyn as soon as they learned she was abducted, and they chased the man’s cars on their bikes until the kidnapper stopped the vehicle and released Jocelyn.
Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, was just 15 years old when she became famous for her protest. Greta was holding a sign that read, “School Strike for Climate,” as she stood outside the Swedish Parliament. Her goal was to put pressure on the government to meet carbon emission targets.
Greta’s action created an impact globally, and several young people started protests, becoming a part of her campaign. Not long after this, in the next year, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism.
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny
Also known as “Little Miss Flint,” Mari Copeny first gained attention from the public at age eight when she wrote a letter to former President Obama about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Her letter resulted in the former President visiting the city and approving $100 million in relief. Despite her young age, she made a significant impact and highlighted the reality that victims of state negligence face.
Little Zion was just two when he suffered from a life-threatening infection which resulted in him losing both his hands and legs below the knees. Unfortunately, the infection also affected his kidney, and he underwent a kidney transplant.
Ironically, all thanks to the transplant and the immune-suppressing drug he was tolerating well, he could get both his hands transplanted. At the age of 8, little Zion underwent an 11-hour surgery for it, and while the surgery was successful, for a little man like him, the journey to recovery wasn’t so easy.
Zion’s medical journey is nothing but inspiring.
Mayra Allevar Neves
Tired of the violence and constant attacks that deprived her and many others of fundamental human rights, Mayra, who grew up in a slum in Brazil, became a voice against the wrong.
Thousands of lives were being lost every year due to the children becoming either victims or participants in the fight between the police and drug cartels in her slum, and the condition worsened to the point where 11-year-old Mayra couldn’t even attend school due to the violence.
However, she didn’t give up. She successfully claimed her right to education and later went on to organize protests against extreme violence and to ensure children aren’t deprived of their right to education.
Aiden was only six years old when he died in a road rage accident while riding in the back seat of his mother’s car on their way to kindergarten. The perpetrators of the crime were taken into custody.
The unfortunate demise of Aiden quickly reached media outlets, and several across the nation were shaken by the 6-year-old’s untimely death. It also led to increased attention to road safety and gun violence.
Little Aiden’s story will always be a reminder that violence is a big NO, and those who support the wrong deserve to be punished. He taught the world that we must speak out against injustice.
Photo of Jessica McClure. | Source: Wikimedia Commons/Pubic Domain
A story spine-chilling yet inspirational in terms of demonstrating the power of prayers, faith, and backbreaking work is of Jessica, who was rescued 58 hours after she fell into a well as an 18-month-old baby.
Stuck 22 feet below the surface, Jessica was rescued by emergency responders who dropped a microphone into the well and heard her voice. She was hospitalized for over a month after her rescue and lost her toe to gangrene.
Sometimes people spend their entire lives living in the shadows of their traumatic past, but that wasn’t the case with Jessica, aka Baby Jessica, who went on to live a regular life away from the spotlight, convincing the world that she was stronger than the scars inflicted on her by her past.
At 9, he read about the E-waste crisis in the “Wall Street Journal,” and at 16, he led a team to recycle electronic waste, removing over 300,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills.
Alex Lin became a teen activist who was as young as 10 when he started his journey of recycling E-waste. His efforts have helped the environment, and he was also recognized for his actions. Lin received the Brower Youth Award for his dedication to E-waste issues.
Olivia, then 11 years old, used her artistic abilities to collect more than $110,000 for the 2010 Gulf oil spill that harmed birds. She initially wrote a letter to the Audubon Society, telling them she had a fundraising proposal, but no one expected her inventive efforts to net such a large sum! Her efforts and thoughtfulness are worth admiration.
These children are only a few of the many who brought a positive change in the world and highlighted societal problems. While the adult minds were still thinking about tackling the issues, they came up with solutions and set examples, proving that sometimes we should listen to children too. Next time you see a kid doing something that could create a positive impact, encourage them!