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Little Kids Making a Big Difference Through Community Service


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson.

Today, we play music from a CD that brings together more than one hundred musicians from around the world.

But first, we report about some special young people who have taken on some big causes.

Kids With Causes

While many American children are climbing trees and playing at the pool this summer, a few others are helping people in need. Mario Ritter has our report about kids with causes.

Asperger's syndrome is a kind of autism, a brain disorder found in children. People with Asperger's have limited communication skills. They may have trouble relating to others on an emotional level.

Amanda LaMunyon lives in Oklahoma. She is fourteen years old. She was identified with Asperger's syndrome at the age of eight. She had been having trouble at school. Her teachers said the little girl knew all the rules but could not seem to follow them.

Then, Amanda says, art changed her life. When she started painting she discovered she could express herself with color and canvas. Her art teacher discovered that Amanda had great skill.

Amanda decided to use her art to help children with learning problems. She wants children to know that "their challenges may also become a gift."

Amanda created a Web site to sell her art. She donates the earnings to organizations that help sick children. She also speaks at events to increase information about Asperger's and other autism disorders. Amanda says she does not want children to ever give up because they do not know what they can do until they try.

Zach Bonner knows just how far trying can get you. Earlier this month the eleven year old completed his biggest charity project to date. He walked almost two thousand kilometers from his home in Florida to Washington, D.C., to raise money for homeless children in America.

He called his project "From My House to the White House." He carried a message to President Obama and lawmakers. He asked for help for the more than one million homeless children in the United States. The walk raised tens of thousands of dollars for Zach's cause.

His mother says Zach has always enjoyed community service work. She says it began when Hurricane Charley hit Florida in two thousand four. Zach decided to help victims by walking around his area with his little red wagon collecting and giving out bottles of water. He got the nickname "Little Red Wagon Boy."

Now, "Little Red Wagon" is the name of Zach's foundation. It has raised money for playgrounds and shelters for homeless children. Zach also gives out thousands of backpacks. He fills each "Zachpac" with a toy, personal cleaning supplies, socks, sewing supplies, a first aid kit and food.

Zach has won many awards, met several presidents and been on television. But that is not why he wants to help people. Zach Bonner says if you have a good heart you have to use it. And, he says, charity work is a lot of fun.

Eighteen year old Christina Johnson and her older sister Geneva started their project, "Bring It On," in the Bronx area of New York City in two thousand four. They wanted to improve the place where they lived. The area was so dangerous their parents would not let them play outside.

The girls started a program to empower children in their community. "Bring It On" organizes environmental "jams" to clean up waste in the area. The group also holds classes and talks on health, leadership, how to set up small businesses and other issues. "Bring It On" receives money and other support from local businesses and other sponsors.

These young people are not alone in their efforts. The Corporation for National and Community Service released a report this week. It said young people are leading the way in volunteering in the United States. The study said community service by young adults increased by four hundred thousand volunteers last year, more than any other age group.

Playing for Change

Who knew a single idea could result in a musical world union. Mark Johnson's idea, "Playing for Change," is now a CD, a DVD, a documentary film, a nonprofit organization and a company.  Faith Lapidus has more.

Mark Johnson is a Grammy Award-winning musical producer and engineer.  Over the past four years he traveled around the world with recording equipment and video cameras in an effort to unite people through music. He used modern editing technology to combine voices and instruments into a global music experience.

His idea started when he heard two religious workers playing music for free in New York City's underground transportation system. He was surprised by the large number of busy people in the subway who stopped to listen.

Mr. Johnson decided to record musicians around the world to unite people with different instruments and cultures. He believes music has the power to break boundaries.

Here is part of the American song "Stand by Me." It includes over thirty-five musicians from countries including the United States, South Africa, Brazil and Russia. The video of "Stand by Me" has received more than eleven million views on YouTube.

The CD "Playing for Change" has ten songs performed by a total of more than one hundred musicians from five continents. Mark Johnson made the songs by recording one part of the song at a time. Then he added more musicians and instruments from other countries.

Bob Marley's song "War/No More Trouble" includes musicians who have lived during wars and conflicts. The musicians are from Israel, India, Zimbabwe and other countries. The famous Irish singer Bono from the group U2 also performs on this song.

Many of the songs on "Playing for Change" are versions of famous older songs. But this song, "Don't Worry," was written for the album by Pierre Minetti of Spain. It includes over twenty musicians from four continents who are connected through the message in the music.

Playing for Change is not just about sharing music with the world. Mark Johnson wanted to help the musicians and their communities. So he created a non-profit group, the Playing for Change Foundation two years ago. Last year, he established Timeless Media, a for-profit company that pays for and extends the work of Playing for Change.

Mark Johnson writes on the CD: "As a human race we come together for birth, we come together for death. What brings us together in between is up to us. Stop and listen to the universal language of music and bring that positive energy with you everywhere you go."

We leave you now with Bob Marley's "One Love" from "Playing for Change."

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program. It was written by Kim Varzi and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


"American Mosaic" in VOA Special English
www.manythings.org/voa/america

Source: Little Kids Making a Big Difference Through Community Service
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