President Obama and Young Americans

Guest Post: For the Win

Dylan Mahalingam headshot

Dylan Mahalingam is a Daily Point of Light Award winner and a member of the 2011 PARADE All-America High School Service Team

In 2006, something that I had been wanting for what felt like forever finally happened. It was the year my family got a dog. After debating several names we settled on Nestlé. I had known that there would be changes when Nestlé joined our family, but there was one change that I never anticipated.

Before we brought Nestlé home, I read tons of books. My family wanted to know how to take care of our new (and first!) puppy. These books told us that we should assert our role as master right from the start. It made perfect sense, until Nestlé actually came home with us. I found myself attending to Nestlé's every little need. I was filling and cleaning her food bowl, making sure she had clean water and taking her out on walks. I started thinking about other relationships in my life, and realized I’m always serving someone in my life. I also realized that is true of us all. Parents serve children and children serve parents, siblings, and friends. Heads of big corporations serve employees, teachers serve students and principals serve teachers and students. Presidents serve the entire country!

The point I am trying to make is that it does not matter what our title is, what qualifications we possess, which country we are from, or how we view ourselves in comparison to others. Our position, no matter who we are or where we live, is and will always be one of service. In fact, as we get older and gather more experience and respect our capacity to serve and help others grows.

If we can accept and realize that our role is always to serve like Nestlé taught me, then I think we will have what we all are hankering for: peace. Nestlé is one of the many reasons I decided to create Lil' MDGs and get involved with Under the Acacia. This realization enabled me to establish Lil’ MDGs with the goal of leveraging the power of the Internet and digital and social media to educate, engage, empower and inspire children in all corners of the world. We have youth in 41 countries and 40 states in the USA working together on projects forwarding one or more of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Since Lil' MDGs was launched, the youth we mobilized have raised funds and resources to build a dormitory in Tibet, a computer center, library and mobile hospital in India, a playground for a school serving children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Uganda, provided funds to support a school serving children rescued from the slums in Cambodia and more.

I’ve since worked to support the Loita Hills Academy. On opening day in January 2010, 156 students showed up for school. Since then, we have engaged individuals from all corners of the world to increase the school's capacity and offerings and Loita Hills Academy now serves 300 students! What started as building a school for the Maasai tribe in the remote Maasai Mara has turned out to be the story of how a school changed an entire community.

Also, we are currently working to galvanize individuals throughout the United States and abroad through 15,000 Bottle Caps for Africa to collect recycled bottle caps to help create a decorative siding for the Greystone Learning Center at our school in Kenya. The Greystone Learning Center will also boast a library with 4,000 books. The local Maasai women are known for making exceptional beaded jewelry and they will be engaged (and empowered!) to paint and decorate the jewelry walls for the center. These are a few of the exciting programs that I am working on at the moment!

What I have discovered is that children want to help and get involved, and most of them find it fun, fascinating, rewarding, and less intimidating to use technology. My goal is to make it possible for them to do so through Lil' MDGs and Under the Acacia. Campaigns such as bottle caps collection are simple and easy ways for youth to get involved, because with every cap they collect they are making a difference!

Since Nestlé showed me that all relationships are in some way service-oriented and that we all have the natural propensity to serve, service continues to be a huge part of my life. I encourage all to see what an incredible and positive impact it can have.

About Dylan: Dylan Mahalingam is a Daily Point of Light Award winner, a program administered by Points of Light Institute and is a member of the 2011 PARADE All-America High School Service Team, an award recognizing outstanding young service leaders presented by PARADE Magazine in partnership with the global youth service movement generationOn.

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