Reader's Choice Winner: Joshua Williams
Typical nine year old boys spend the bulk of their time playing ball and video games or dreaming up excuses to not clean their room. Joshua Williams isn’t your typical kid.
Sure he hangs out with his friends and has plenty of fun, but more often than not, you’ll find the Miami Beach resident doing something about a very real problem—hunger.
Joshua was first inspired to help the hungry after seeing a TV infomercial for Feed The Children. But instead of helping families in Africa, Joshua wanted to meet the needs of those in the Miami-Dade area.
“God told me that I should do it,” Joshua told Beliefnet. “God said that this is my purpose. So I followed that.”
After bugging his mother and his two aunts for several weeks, Joshua, at the age of five, got involved by helping feed some families through his local church. Eventually, his grandmother joined the team as Joshua led the charge to feed the homeless and impoverished residents in downtown Miami.
When local ordinances created to cut down on litter got in the way, he started his own humanitarian non-profit organization called Joshua’s Heart. He was just seven at the time.
Since then, Joshua’s Heart has raised more than $140,000 and collected an estimated 300,000 pounds of food in an effort to feed over 7,000 individuals. Joshua is assisted by adult volunteers along with a slew of friends that are affectionately referred to as “Joshua’s Elves.”
They all work together to maintain several outreach efforts including a quarterly feeding program, a gardening program and a backpack program. The latter ensures that at-risk school children have enough to eat over the weekend and throughout the holidays. Joshua’s Heart is also developing a reading program and is simply waiting to fill some tutoring slots before officially launching.
Joshua’s bold determination and heartwarming spirit resonated with Beliefnet readers who selected him as the 2010 Most Inspiring Person of the Year.
“I’m excited and I would like to thank all the readers out there who voted for me,” Joshua said. “Also, I’d like to congratulate all the other nominees. Their stories were wonderful and very inspiring.”
In the future, Joshua wants to expand his operation to impact the entire state of Florida and eventually wants to get more involved in helping the international community. Even further down the road, he aspires to become a scientist so he can find a cure for disease.
Joshua is often asked how he does it at such a young age. He likes to paraphrase a famous quote by Mother Teresa in response: “If you can’t feed a hundred, feed one.”
“Never give up on making a difference no matter how young you are,” Joshua added. “You can always make a difference. Even when it’s hard, I think about all the kids that are starving out there and I just feel like I have this work to do. It’s nothing compared to what they’re going through and I can do it.”