Cramm This Cause: Hannah Alper
For our very first Cramm This Cause, we're spotlighting ultra-inspiring activist Hannah Alper. Read her interview (conducted by Viveca Stucke) below to get all the inside scoop on how to change the world.
Since you launched your blog at the age of 9, was there a specific moment where it really began to become recognized and your voice was heard?
I launched my blog because my family travelled to Philadelphia for a digital family summit. My dad went to this three-hour blogging workshop and I decided to tag along and start a blog!
My mom told me I couldn't write about how much I love myself and my dad told me I couldn't write about how much I loved Justin Bieber (don't worry, my music tastes have since changed). They told me I had to write about something I was passionate about. Now, I was 9. I had no idea what the word "passionate" even meant. So, we talked it through. What do you love? What do you deeply care about? What do you want to change in the world? All I knew was that I loved animals. I started learning about deforestation and animal habitat loss. I was devastated, but motivated to do something. So, my blog became surrounded around the idea that it is the little things we all do in our everyday lives that add up to make a big difference. I think one of the first moments I realized my voice was heard was when I started seeing all the positive feedback I received from making my voice heard. I was writing about making eco-friendly cleaning supplies, an eco-friendly cleaning garage and more. Getting comments from people saying they were going to start doing the same thing was awesome and encouraged me to learn more about other issues and share more solutions.
With your focus on making change in the world, do you ever see any areas to be more difficult to progress in than others?
I feel like the bigger the issue, the more difficult it is to motivate people to do something about it. Take an issue like climate change, global education or homelessness. It can seem like such a big, daunting and overwhelming issue that can sometimes make people think "I'm just one person. What can I do?" But I truly believe that with every issue, there are people tackling it that you can be inspired by and learn from. I try my best to share the things that I am doing to be a part of the journey to a better world so people can think "If she can do it, I can do it too".
In your book Momentus - which activist that you worked with taught you the most and touched you in the largest way?
I was honoured to talk to 19 of my role models for my book that have influenced my journey in one way or another. Malala Yousafzai was probably the one that touched me the most because she was one of my first role models and that was a huge deal for me. When I learned that she had stood up for her and her friends education even with the huge risk. And after she got, she was speaking out more than ever. She made realize that as a young person and a young girl, I could change the world. I even spoke about her in front of 20, 000 people at WE Day dozens of times. Interviewing her and meeting her in person was incredible because while she was this force to be reckoned with, she was also just a teenager and a normal person.
What people in your life have directly pushed you to succeed and keep moving forward with your mission?
There are so many people in my life who have inspired me to continue what I do in my journey, but the biggest is probably the people in my generation fighting for a better world. There are so many young people out there, passionate about so many different issues and putting in the work to tackle them and it truly gives me hope for the present and the future. Young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow. The young leaders of March For Our Lives inspire me so much. They turned a tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Valentines Day in 2018 into a movement that has changed policies, laws, hearts, minds and the world. They are a prime example of the truth that youth have the power, capacity and responsibility to change the world.
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
My parents have always been my biggest champions, both keeping me grounded and truly believing in me. They support me no matter what and it means the world to me. We also have tons of conversations about things going in the world so we are all aware, which is super important. They are also both such hard-working and dedicated people that it motivates me to continue what I do.
In what ways did working as an activist growing up help better prepare you for the outside world?
This is an awesome question. It has made me a much more compassionate, empathetic and connected person to myself and the world. I have been lucky enough to travel to so many places around the world, particularly to Kenya. I got to see for myself the issues that I had been raising money and awareness about for so long, and then also see the positive impact I had made along with my generation through building schools, wells, hospitals, farms and visiting with women's empowerment groups. It truly has made me a much more worldly and connected person. As well, throughout my life, I have had to balance so many different priorities and things going on in my life. It is safe to say I have become basically an expert at all things time management. Lastly, I feel like in order to be an activist, you have to be somewhat of an optimist. You have to believe that there is hope for a better world and that you can be a part of it. You have to be able to look at an issue and think "This sucks. What can I do about it?" All of my friends would describe me as probably the most positive and optimistic person they know. So I guess me being an optimist helps me be an activist and me being an activist helps me be an optimist.
Was there a specific “first” moment in your journey as an activist that showed you that what you were doing was making a change on the world?
When I was around 9 or 10, I launched a campaign at my school called WE Create Change. It was all around the idea that $25 in pennies (Canada was saying goodbye to the penny that year) was clean water for one person living in a developing community for life. It was the first every speech I gave and I remember saying things like "What can you buy with $25? A mario kart game! A pizza! You can also buy clean water for a person for life. We can do it!" We ended up collecting 97,500 pennies, which provided clean water for 37 people living in a developing community for life. It was amazing seeing what happened when people came together for one common cause. It became apparent to me that you can make such a bigger impact together than you can alone. It was then that I saw my voice meant something and motivated me to continue not just taking action, but empowering others to do the same.
In 2018, I was nominated by Lilly Singh (AKA Superwoman) for Bloomberg's 50 One To Watch. I travelled to NYC for the gala and I was in a room full of prestigious and accomplished people. Selfless brag: I was seated at a table with Martha Stewart and Neil Blumenthal, CEO of Warby Parker. I specifically remember people coming up to me and asking, "Who are you parents?" because they thought my parents were on the list and I was a plus one. To which I replied, "Actually, I'm on the list!" and started telling my story and message. I was the only Canadian but more importantly, the only young person on the list. It signified the fact that the voices of young people were being heard and adults wanted to listen to what we had to say. I was honoured to help be a part of that.
Through your path as a motivational speaker have you had anyone reach out to you in regards to the impact you made on them at one of your presentations?
That is kind of why I do what I do. So that at my presentations, there can be even one person that was impacted by what I had to say and the stories I shared and was motivated to actually go out there and do something. If that happens, I'll be happy. I love getting dm's with people asking questions or saying they are learning more about an issue or taking action on it. I have even received packages filled with letters from schools, and I feel so honoured to help be a part of that persons journey. It reminds me why I do what I do and to not stop.
What is your favorite quote and how has it inspired you in regards to your mission?
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African proverb
I truly believe in the power of community and the idea that you can't make a difference alone, you have to do it together. That is the amazing thing about social media. You can connect with people and organizations passionate about the same issues you are.
"Issue + Gift = Change"
A formula I use to change the world!