Avery McCall has bigger problems on her mind than most of her peers.
The 14-year old from Winnetka is a Teen Advisor for the United Nations’ Girl Up initiative.
“It’s a campaign that is mobilizing teen girls in the United States to raise money and awareness for girls in developing countries so that they can have the opportunity to be educated, healthy, and safe,” says Avery.
Her role involves raising money, (you can help her reach her goal of $50,000—she has already raised more than $35,000 through myriad bake sales and walkathons—through her website)
engaging peers, hosting events, and speaking at Girl Up functions. She recently spoke at the United Nations in New York for the Social Innovation Summit.
And indeed, Avery can execute her job with alacrity. Like a road-toughened salesman, Avery lists off statistics and sells the importance of her initiative.
She tells me that only $13 will fund a year of schooling for a girl in the developing world, and that educated girls will marry four years later and have two fewer children. She also explains that donated money will help fund clean water initiatives, which will have a huge impact on girls who currently walk up to 15 treacherous hours a day just for clean water.
Moreover, the Girl Up initiative hopes to end or at least ameliorate child marriage. She mentions that 1 in 7 girls in the developing world is married by the age of 15, (only one year older than Avery) often to a man twice her age. To help, the Girl Up foundation is going into villages and explaining the importance of investing in young girls. And for those already married, Girl Up provides programs that lay out a support system and teach income generating skills so that girls can support their families.
And where did the inspiration for this magnanimity come from? Her interest in social justice began at the age of twelve, after reading the book, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
She says, “The book has truly changed the path of my life,” suddenly and harshly opening her eyes to the world outside of the North Shore bubble. She explains that, “I had never heard about issues like obstetric fistulas and sex trafficking, let alone how prevalent they were in many countries.” Once she learned about these things, she says that she wasn’t comfortable sitting by and letting it happen; she had to stand up and make a change even if that change was microscopic.
And her change, both on the world and herself has been anything but microscopic. Globally, she has raised huge sums of money that have directly impacted the lives of countless young girls.
But probably the biggest change can be seen in Avery herself. “I have transformed in ways that I never could have imagined. I used to be the shy girl in the corner of the classroom who would be terrified of being called on. Girl Up has totally changed that. I now understand the power of my voice. If I do not stand up and speak about the issues that I feel passionate about, who will?”
Interested in how your child can get involved in an issue and change the world? Check out: “Your Child Can Change the World.”
Photo: Avery speaking at the UN Social Innovation Summit in May of this year