By Mary Teresa Bitti
Hannah Taylor is one busy preteen. When CF talks to the 11-year-old Winnipeg native, it's during a break from a four-day conference she's taking part in at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Youth in Motion's Courage to Soar event brought together 40 of Canada's most accomplished up-and-coming young leaders this summer. Many of them, like Hannah, were Top 20 Under 20 recipients — recognized for their efforts on behalf of others.
Hannah has already spent half her life helping the homeless. "When I was five years old I saw a man eating out of a dumpster," says Hannah. "I was in the backseat of my mom's car, and I asked her what he was doing." That encounter stayed with Hannah, who could not get the image of the man out of her head, and who could not sit idly by.
"I was sad that he had to live that way, but I was also angry that people like me, who had a home, food and a bed to sleep in, weren't helping," says Hannah. "We all have the power to help people who need it, but a lot of us don't. So I thought we should start."
She started by speaking to her class about homelessness when she was six, and organizing a bake/yard sale at school with all the money and donations of blankets, coffee and food going to Winnipeg's Siloam Mission. When she helped deliver the donations and met with the people she was helping, the mission asked the six-year-old to give a speech. "I talked about what I did and about how we all have to care about each other and share what we have," says Hannah.
She did more than just talk. When she was seven, Hannah founded the Ladybug Foundation, an organization devoted to aiding the homeless. "I wanted to help as many people as I possibly could."
Today, the Ladybug Foundation supports 35 missions, shelters and organizations that help homeless people across Canada. Hannah has become a regular on the talk circuit, speaking at schools, business conferences and events to crowds as large as 16,000. Through her foundation, she has helped raise $1 million for frontline services meeting the needs of Canada's homeless.
In 2008, Hannah and the Ladybug Foundation will be launching a national education project called Make Change. "It teaches children from kindergarten to Grade 12 how they can make a difference," says Hannah. "What we do at the Ladybug Foundation is just one way."