As I sit here reflecting on all the privileges I have experienced as a teenager, I wonder if it had not been for the life changing moment that I saw the news coverage on TV of the terrible and devastating 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia, would my life have taken a different path? Would I have been given another opportunity to learn how age really is just a number and we can all make a difference? A small one maybe but the seed was set for me.
I was four years old at the time, almost five, a real avid Marvel fan (still am) and for as long as I can remember, I would act out stories of Spiderman and my life-long friend Emily would be Mary-Jane. We would act out "saving the world". It was the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that changed my outlook on life - I wanted to help those suffering in some way. Not as Spiderman but as me, Charlie. I said to myself "There must be something I could do", so I pleaded with my mum to help me with my plan. As we lived near a main road, I thought we could stop lorries and see if they were going near the worst affected areas to take our tents and camping gear for the people who were now homeless. It was a start - I had all of these ideas, but they kept falling on deaf ears. Sometimes heard but not understood.
That was when my mum explained to me how charities worked. She said, "Sometimes lots of people give little amounts of money which when put together enable people to go and help out and provide what is needed." It was then I came up with the idea not to have presents for my forthcoming birthday, but instead ask for donations to help the tsunami victims. It took a lot of persuasion for my mum to truly understand why I wanted to help (remember I was five). She finally heard my voice though and understood I was trying to act and help with the devastating situation, be that superhero. My mum, even today, admits that she, like many others, got caught in the busy pace of life, but now admits how I've changed her outlook on life. My mum says she never thought it possible that a four year old could be so determined to get involved.
My passion for charities and helping others only grew from there. It was aged six I found out about Mary's Meals who feed children in 12 of the world's poorest countries. At seven I decided they were going to be my main charity that I supported, as I learnt that you can feed one child for as little as 1.5p a day! I was shocked that so little could keep hunger pains go away, and that feeding a child on the other side of the world who had never asked to be born into such poverty. I wanted everyone to know about Mary's Meals. Please, just take a moment to look around at what you have, and realise that not everyone is born with the same basic privileges such as access to food as we are. This is what hit home the most for me, so I did a series of fundraisers to spread the word. This included entering a team into the Brighton Mini Mile in 2010 and every year since.
Since then my mum has promised never to walk over a penny in the street as even 1p could go towards helping to feed a child. As I write this, I hope that you can understand just how far something like this can go. You may think it is small but it will have a huge impact on others. Let us stand together as young people in solidarity to help those who need it most. An act of kindness and the cost of helping a charity is so low that even a 16-year-old like me doing GCSE's can make a difference. I have now fundraised for a kitchen to be built with Mary's Meals in North Malawi feeding 850 school children every day.
Yes, the challenges have grown as I have got older, including cycling over 550 miles as part of my fundraising efforts, but also with life getting increasingly busy. However, I still have made time. Why are we merely observing the problems, watching them spiral into irreversible consequences? Let's get out there and help! It doesn't mean flying thousands of miles to see this first-hand just addressing the issue and doing what you can to help. As it's nicely been put before, every little helps after all.
For now I want you to remember that age is just a number - not something that defines you. Anyone can make a difference, no matter how young they are or how small an action.
Charlie will be celebrating his social actions with 12,000 other young people at WE Day UK. WE Day is a celebration of young people making a difference in their local and global communities. WE Schools is the yearlong programme that nurtures compassion in young people and gives them the tools to create transformational social change. Together they offer young people the tools and the inspiration to take social action, empower others and transform lives - including their own.