At the age of 12, author, fundraiser and Unicef Children’s Ambassador Bilaal Rajan is asking people of all ages to kick off their shoes and go barefoot in support of his latest campaign for change.
Rajan is leading his own initiative during National Volunteer Week (April 19 to 25) by living life without shoes for seven days to raise awareness of underprivileged children worldwide, many of whom cannot afford shoes, let alone attend school.
"This initiative is a call to action," he says. "And when people ask me why I don’t have shoes, I’ll tell them because far too many children around the world don’t either."
Rajan’s Barefoot Challenge is expected to be one of the largest celebrations of volunteerism in North America. Participants include Nigel Fisher, President of Unicef Canada, and the idea is growing fast in countries as far away as Australia, Afghanistan, Canada, England, Kenya, Malawi, Switzerland, Tanzania and Thailand. A video about the initiative is located at www.makingchangenow.com.
Rajan is already beginning to understand what so many children in underdeveloped countries experience. "I almost stepped on a nail on the sidewalk yesterday," he says. "And trying to play sports without shoes is a whole new experience."
Rajan is already an influential force. At 4, he sold clementine oranges door-to-door, raising money for victims of the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India. Since then, he has raised almost five million dollars for various children’s programs. At 8, he founded Hands for Help, an organization dedicated to heightening awareness of children’s issues and fundraising for those in need. In 2005, Rajan was chosen as an official Child Ambassador for Unicef Canada.
His recently-published book, Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever (160 pages, Orca Book Publishers), explains how people can get involved and make a difference – no matter what their age. Proceeds from the book are used to fund programs for children around the world.
"During this Volunteer Week, I am asking people to go barefeet and help raise awareness about underprivileged children everywhere," says Rajan. "Together, we can make a difference."