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Talking with Kids Doing Good—Chicago 9-Year Old Starts Non-profit to help the Homeless

Jahkil Naeem Jackson began Project I AM, a non-profit dedicated to distributing “blessing bags” of food and other necessities to the homeless in his hometown of Chicago, when he was 8 years old.  A year later, he’s expanded the scope of Project I AM and works on enlisting others to help out as well. Kids That Do Good talked to Jahkil about how his project started and where he’s headed in the future.

TELL US ABOUT PROJECT I AM

Project I AM is designed to help the homeless and those in need. i began my project a bit over a year ago.  When I first started, my parents, grandmother, cousins and a few classmates helped me out. I asked my friends and family to help and donate items, and luckily have helpful people around me who wanted to support my vision.

WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA?

I often saw homeless people on the streets and this made me sad.  I did not understand why they had to sleep on the street.  In a perfect world, I would give them all homes but since I can’t do that right now, I chose to help the best way that I could.

WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU RUN INTO?

My biggest challenge right now is not having enough money to purchase the items for the blessing bags.  While I do receive cash donations for purchases as well as toiletry item donations, I still sometimes don’t have enough to create all of the bags.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE IMPACT YOU’VE MADE?

I have given out over 3,000 blessing bags since I started a year ago.  I have also been successful at getting other kids to think about others and to want to give back.

HOW HAS YOUR PROJECT GROWN?

Over the past year, I have worked with over 50 young people to donate time and create blessing bags.  I have also been speaking at local schools to spread the word. Also some of the schools take up a donation of toiletry items from all of the students.

Last year I had a goal of 1,000 blessing bags distributed and I went over that at 1,627.  This year I have a goal of 5,000 blessing bags and I am a close to 2,000 bags distributed so far.

I had a website built to let everyone know about the project.  I also fundraise through the website by selling shirts and I have been on some local media news shows to let the city know what I have going on.  With the donations, I have been able to keep the project going.

In the future I will complete a plan to work with young people across the country on their own giving projects.

HOW DOES HELPING OTHERS MAKE YOU FEEL?

It makes me feel great.  It makes me happy to see others happy.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER KIDS WHO WANT TO DO SOMETHING GOOD?

I would say they need to find and focus their passion, regardless if it’s sick children, finding homes for animals, literacy for kids, summer camp scholarships or feeding the homeless, find out where you want to make a difference.  My message is not to wait until you are an adult to start your own organization or business, you can do it now!