Teen Activist Hannah Alper Inspired To Combat Homelessness

By David McPherson 2/27/19 | www.samaritanmag.com

When did you figure out your passion? After high school? College? I bet you weren’t in single digits. Unlike most 9-year-olds whose biggest decision is what to do after school, Toronto student Hannah Alper found her passion and has been at it ever since. The now 16-year-old activist, motivational speaker and best-selling author decided to start the blog Call Me Hannah after attending a digital media conference in Philadelphia in 2012.

"I had no idea what I wanted my blog to be about," Alper tells Samaritanmag. "My mom said I can’t write about myself and my dad said I can’t write about Justin Bieber. They both said I should write about what I was passionate about — I didn’t even know what the word passionate meant."

Alper’s parents used this teaching moment to simplify the concept of passion, breaking it down to two essential questions: "What do you care about?" and "What do you want to tell the world?

"The only thing I was passionate about was my animals, so I started a blog about the environment and animals becoming endangered with the whole goal of changing other people’s opinions and showing them that it’s the little things that add up and can make a difference," says Alper.

This blog about animals morphed into something more and has taken her to places she never imagined seeing.

Facilitated by her dad, music publicist and SiriusXM radio host Eric Alper, Hannah has appeared at over 35 We Days across North America, includingToronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Halifax. We Day was created by We Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger (then called Free The Children), which invites thousands of charitable students to participate in an afternoon arena-sized event featuring top musicians, activivists and other celebs.

She’s also travelled three times to Kenya, also with We, where she worked hand-in-hand with communities to help empower people with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. She has a Canadian best-selling book (5000-plus copies) called Momentus: Small Acts, Big Change (2017) that also charted on retailer Indigo’s top teen book list. If that's not enough, Alper speaks across North America to organizations, non-profits and schools -- using her voice and platform to motivate and empower people of all ages to identify their passion and take action for a better world.

Making a difference is now second nature to Alper. Her philosophy is simple: one person, one action, one moment can make a difference.

The teen's latest cause is right in her hometown, feeding the hungry.  Alper first took on homelessness in Toronto through the FeedTO initiative she created in 2015, launched as a way to give back to those in need during the cold winter months. She recently decided it was time to raise awareness again about this important issue.

"FeedTO grew out of the notion that giving back starts close to home and that to strengthen our communities, we need to give where we live," she says. "I love that at the touch of our fingertips, we can share what we’re passionate about and what we’re doing."

The original FeedTO raised $2,000, which Alper donated to the Toronto Food Bank. Since then, the teen has learned so much more about homelessness – especially as it affects her hometown. "In the past two months I’ve read so many articles about the issue," she explains. "What I’ve discovered is that it takes more than food to make their day and make them smile."

So, on Feb. 11, Alper and her parents hit the streets armed with 100 care packages to hand out. "My mom and dad can attest to all the smiles, thanks and hugs we received. That’s one of the best parts and made everything worth it. That’s why you do what you do."

The care-packages included a $10 gift card for Subway (enough to purchase a full meal), granola bars thanks to KIND Snacks, gloves (thanks to a donation from A&W), socks (courtesy of Canadian Tire), dog food as needed (courtesy of PetSmart), toothbrushes and toothpaste, and homemade cookies and sandwiches prepared by the Alpers.

Leaving the house in the morning Alper wondered if there was enough need and if 100 packages were too many. She quickly saw firsthand how many people in Toronto are living on the streets and in need of help.

"It was incredible," she says. "It went so much better than expected. Within two hours we had given out all 100 bags! I hope I’ve inspired other people to take action on homelessness."

Alper says during her travels homelessness is the one common thing she has witnessed everywhere around the world.

"People look at me and often say, ‘If she can do it, I can too.’ There are so many misconceptions about changing the world. Many people think, I’m just one person, what can I do? It simply starts with learning about – then caring about an issue – and then deciding to do something about it. You can create change. You just need to find your passion."  

One wonders how Alper’s classmates have reacted to her passion projects?

"I’m very lucky to have met many amazing people throughout my journey – online and in real life – who care about my issues," she says. "Sure, I’ve had my issues at school. Any person involved in activism faces some challenges. In Grade 8, I received some mocking and teasing about my activism. I just wrote a blog post about it called: Sticks and stones may break your bones but names stick forever and it worked.

"My motto in every day life is kill them with kindness," Alper adds. "I have so many friends who love what I do. I’m a normal teenager; I just do things a little bit differently. You don’t have to be activist on this big of scale. Anyone can find an issue they are passionate about and do something. It is totally worth it and best thing you can ever do!"

Watch a 9-year-old Hannah Alper talking about change and responsibility

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