Dylan Mahalingam: The 9–year–old Lil’ MDGs Founder
What’s so amazing about this organization is, since its inception way back Dylan was only nine years old, the foundation has grown so large that it now has over 24,000 regular youth volunteers who actively participate in furthering the goals of Lil’ MDGs.
Through his foundation Lil’ MDGs, Dylan was able to reach out to thousands of children from over 41 countries all over the world and encourage them to actively engage in helping societies worldwide through giving financial aid to relief operations, and raising money for the construction of several establishments that are key to a community’s growth. In fact, through Lil’ MDGs, Dylan was able to raise over 780,000 dollars to provide relief for tsunami victims, and has raised over 10 million dollars for hurricane victims all across the world.
Building a Dormitory in Tibet and a Playground for Children with AIDS
By mobilizing thousands of children online, Dylan was also instrumental in the construction of a dormitory in Tibet, a school playground for the AIDS orphans in Uganda, and a mobile hospital for the citizens of India. In an interview with Dylan, he summarized the work of Lil’ MDGs in this statement:
“Our work has focused on transforming entire communities in sustainable ways, and our work has the ability to have a positive impact on both the current and future generations. Our work sets the foundation for children in each community we work with, but we also present the opportunity for every child to be born into the community to become beneficiaries of our work. Our approach on building self-sustaining communities involves the communities taking ownership, thereby creating the potential for the community to become independent and confident to create a better future for itself with the resources provided to it.”
Green Your Lives
If you think that Dylan has his hands full with his work with Lil’ MDGs due to his young age, you will be surprised that this boy wonder is actively engaged with other philanthropic organizations. Aside from Lil’ MDGs, Dylan also founded Green Your Lives, a project focused on environmental care and awareness on the current state of our environment.
Joining Nestle Youth Foundation, Kodomo MDGs, and Under the Acacia Foundation
He currently serves as a board member of the Nestle Youth Foundation and as the president of the Japanese youth organization Kodomo MDGs. Dylan is also the Chief Strategist and Project Ambassador of Under the Acacia Foundation, a non-profit organization whose work is focused on communities in Africa.
Dylan also goes around the world, speaking in various conferences and charitable events, constantly encouraging and empowering children to do their part in changing not just their society, but the world. He says often during interviews:
“I would have to say that the main message is to use our success with Lil’ MDGs as a source of inspiration to learn that they too can make a difference in a global way. I want them to realize that they are never too young to make change.”
Named One of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World
Due to his continuous work in making the world a better place to live, Dylan has been a recipient of numerous awards, honors, and accolades from big names in the philanthropic industry. Several times he has received a presidential award for his efforts in promoting child welfare and environmental care, and he has been invited in numerous occasions to be honoured by the very foundations that he has supported, which simply shows the kind of influence that Dylan has.
Dylan has also been included in several lists of young people that have made a huge impact on the world, such as the Youth Service America’s list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World.
Lil’ MDGs, Inspired by the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals
One reason for Dylan’s success in running Lil’ MDGs has been his perspective in helping people. Whenever he goes out to speak on stage, he always reminds his audience that every small action has a big impact in some way, and that even the smallest effort from a little child can help make a huge difference in the life or lives of people not just in his community, but even on the other side of the world. This is what encouraged Dylan to do what he is doing today. He knows that everyone wants to help; they just don’t know where to start. Dylan said in an interview:
“After seeing how small actions on our part can help the most marginal and vulnerable kids worldwide to realize their full potential, I am inspired to continue to provide the tools and resources they need to make their dreams come to fruition.”
Another extraordinary trait that Dylan possesses is his amazing ability to look into something and see the great potential that it has for helping others. Since Lil’ MDGs inception, Dylan has constantly utilized the vast, almost unlimited potential, of the Internet to help people from all over the world become involved in helping citizens of countries plagued by poverty, tragedy and sickness.
He capitalized on the influence of online social media and digital media, and used them to educate people about the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. When he is asked during interviews about the help of the Internet on what he does, he answers:
“I have always been fascinated with technology and the power of the Internet. Our organization has been fortunate to capitalize on the fact that the Internet is an excellent communications medium and we have used Facebook, Twitter, secure online forums, and YouTube, to name a few, to develop dialogs between our organization and our target audience. We began using these social media platforms to spread awareness to our target group. In addition, we have also shared facts about global issues, including childhood poverty, at conferences that we have attended in various countries.”
But apart from all the things that Dylan has been able to accomplish, one thing that sets him above the rest is his outstanding humility and great esteem for other people. In many of his interviews and speeches, he constantly makes it known to his audiences that the reason behind the success of his organizations and projects is not him, but the people who have responded to the call and gave their time, effort, and money in making sure that the goals are achieved.
Dylan also places great honour on the people who mentored him, often stating that he would never have reached the status he is enjoying today had it not been for the people who supported him and taught him. In an interview, Dylan stated:
“I have had several mentors who have helped me over the past six years. None of what I have been able to do and what Lil’ MDGs has been able to accomplish would have been possible without the selfless mentorship of individuals from various countries. Without this support system, Lil’ MDGs would not be where it is today.”
Dylan Mahalingam’s Birth and Influence
Dylan Mahalingam’s amazing success story has its humble origins from the time he was born. Dylan was born Krishna Mahalingam on August 2, 1995 in New Hampshire, to Indian parents who migrated to the United States to seek for a better life. Dylan has an older sister, Ammu Irivinti, whom he has always looked up to as his example. In fact, many years later during an interview, Dylan said of his older sister:
“She is many things; she is exceptional, bright, talented, compassionate, creative, brave, funny, determined, and has accomplished so many things I am very proud of. Without a doubt, she is my role model, and ideally, I would like to become the kind of person she is when I grow up.”
Belonging to a middle-class family, Dylan grew up in an environment where life was comfortable and convenient. Dylan has what he needed and was in many ways contented because he did not experience lack. And despite his ethnicity, Dylan also grew up with having less experiences of being racially discriminated due to the fact that the neighbourhood he grew up in was comprised of his fellow Hindi people.
As a young child, Dylan was what some would say, a prodigy. He was a person of many talents, something that his parents were very proud of. Even at a very young age, Dylan displayed his prodigious skills by engaging in extracurricular activities such as playing a wide range of instruments like guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet, the mrdanga (a barrel-shaped Indian drum), and the kartals (traditional Indian hand cymbals). Dylan also indulged himself into a lot of sports activities such as basketball, tennis, swimming, snowboarding, and karate, where he earned a black belt.
At school, Dylan impressed a lot of his teachers due to his outstanding intellect and ability to quickly catch up whatever was discussed. Dylan’s favourite subjects were (and still is) Mathematics and Sciences, and was often praised by his teachers for being a bright and intelligent student.
Dylan was also a born leader. In school, he had this charismatic personality that enabled him to make a lot of friends and be an influence in their lives. Dylan, being an outgoing and cheerful fellow, loved playing outdoors with his friends.
Dylan’s compassion and desire for helping other people was developed even at a very young age. This can be largely attributed to his parents influence, showing him and others kindness, compassion, love, and charity. In fact, as early as three years old, Dylan remembers an instance when his parents told him that the food on his plate that he was wasting could feed an entire family for a week in some countries. That statement really concerned Dylan, and as he grew up he kept on pondering what he can do to help. He recalled this incident in an interview made with him many years later:
“That really surprised me, and I was wondering how I could get the food on the plate onto the plate of someone in a completely different country.”
Discovering UN’s Eight Millennium Development Goals
When Dylan was around seven years old, he went with his parents to Chennai, India where he got an opportunity to see poverty up close. There, Dylan witnessed and started to understand the kind of life that his parents were talking about: families lived in small, recycled homes and children wandered the streets begging because they did not have any money to buy food. Seeing the terrible life of the poor families in India left a yearning in Dylan’s heart to do something to ease their suffering.
When he returned to the United States, Dylan did further research and found out that hundreds of millions of families from across the globe suffer from poverty and sickness, with millions of people dying every day because of these hardships.
Dylan also saw that the United Nations already had plans of bringing people out of suffering through their eight Millennium Development Goals, (which included reducing poverty and hunger, providing treatment for diseases, and improving gender equity and education, among others) which was signed by one hundred eighty nine heads of state and governments. The problem was that there were so few who were even aware of it.
Knowing about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals encouraged Dylan to join their crusade. When he discussed the MDGs with his friends, Dylan realized that his fellow youths were eager in participating to make the MDGs manifest, they just did not know where to start.
And while there were a lot of charitable organizations that already existed during that time, Dylan felt that they were not working partly due to the founders eventually losing interest in running them or because they were not as exposed as they should be. And so, in spite of Dylan eagerly wanting to help out in promoting the MDGs, he became very careful in pledging help. He wanted to make sure that he has enough passion to stay committed to the cause. He gave this advice to other children who might be interested in organizing projects:
“In my limited experience what I have observed is that it is important for us to be sure that the project that we are working on is something we are truly passionate about. It is hard to stay committed to a project that does not interest you, so I would suggest that anyone interested in starting a new project or their own charity to first dabble. By dabbling I mean that they work on the project for a few weeks or a few months to see if they are excited enough to sacrifice their leisure time for it or get up early in the morning to support the project.”
Lil’ MDGs’ History
In 2004, Dylan found his opportunity to help when a great earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a huge tsunami to wreak destruction on cities along the coast of Southeast Asia. When he started organizing relief efforts for those who were affected by the disaster online, Dylan also began to see the amazing potential that the Internet had in furthering the goals of the United Nations. Armed with this knowledge, Dylan began experimenting and researching more about the power of online digital and social media as a means of spreading the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
The following year, in 2005, after discussing everything he learned with his family, Dylan, accompanied by two of his friends, launched Lil’ MDGs, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the MDGs (the Millennium Development Goals) of the United Nations. Utilizing the vast potential that the Internet offers, Dylan witnessed how eager children are in changing the world. He stated in an interview:
“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 to accomplish this. Lil’ MDGs is making it possible for them to do both.”
Seeing how youths from all over the world also had the same passion of helping others, Dylan began to extensively work to promote the goals of Lil’ MDGs. This work did not go in vain and soon enough, the foundation grew as more children began to pledge their support in helping spread the Millennium Development Goals in their societies.
Lil’ MDGs’ Members Numbered 24,000 and Still Counting
Aside from actively promoting the MDGs, Lil’ MDGs, through the support of the growing number of people, was able to give financial aid for relief efforts and the construction of community facilities in many places around the world. Today, Lil’ MDGs boasts a number of about 24,000 child supporters from around 41 countries worldwide, which shows just how much success the foundation has achieved all throughout these years.
In 2009, Dylan started Green Your Lives, a project that aims to not only increase public awareness about the potential dangers that the environment was facing, but also to encourage people to do something about these problems through taking care of the environment. The Green Your Lives project was a successful venture, and even resulted in Dylan receiving several recognitions, including a Presidential Environmental Youth Award for his efforts.
Soon enough, Dylan’s name started to rise among the ranks of the young philanthropists in the United States and began to attract big time charitable organizations. From that time on, Dylan started receiving numerous invitations to speak in various events and conferences to share his experiences in helping people through Lil’ MDGs.
Receiving Harris Wofford Youth Award from YSA
Dylan also began to receive invitations to partner with some of the biggest charitable foundations; in 2009, Dylan was appointed to the board of the Nestle Youth Foundation due to the success of Lil’ MDGs. He was also appointed as the Project Ambassador and Chief Strategist of Under the Acacia, a large organization that focuses on African community projects.
In 2011, Dylan was given the Harris Wofford Youth Award by the Youth Service America in recognition of all his accomplishments through the organizations and foundations he established and supported. In an interview made with Dylan after the award, he said:
“Being selected by Youth Service America (YSA) as a Wofford Award winner is a huge honor. The recognition opened up new doors and opportunities for me. I was able to network with executives from several organizations and businesses who have funded some of my projects in different countries. I was also fortunate to meet youth from all corners of the USA who are passionate about some of the same things as me. This has helped me build new connections, allowing me to further expand our organization’s reach toward meeting the UN MDGs.”
Recipient of the National All-Around Student Scholarship
More recently, Dylan was also awarded the National All-Around Student Scholarship that will help finance his education.
Currently, Dylan continues to work with several organizations to promote and fulfill the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. After seeing how powerful and significant technology has been in making the world aware of the projects that charitable organizations throughout the world has been doing, Dylan continues to further develop ways to use technology for the benefit of mankind. When he was asked in an interview about his future plans, he answered:
“I am interested in technology so I see that as a potential career choice for my future. I am hoping that I might enroll for a degree in Computer Engineering, Game Programming, or something along those lines. I also have a strong interest in Math and I have considered Actuarial Science as a possible career path. I anticipate continuing my work with Lil’ MDGs and hope that I can find a program that would provide me with an opportunity to combine my intrinsic strengths with my interests.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Lil’ MDGs
- Green Your Lives
- United Nations Millennium Development Goals
- Under the Acacia
- Jayme’s Fund for Social Justice
- The 7 Campaign
- UN Global Forum on ICT and Development
- Nestle Youth Foundation
- New Eyes for the Needy
- Build-a-Bear Workshop
- We Are Family Foundation
- Kodomo MDGs
Awards and Achievements
- 2005 Received the Daily Point of Light Award
- 2005 Inducted into the Kids Hall of Fame at the Huntington Townhouse in NYC
- 2005 Received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Bronze Level)
- 2005 Received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Gold Level)
- 2005 Named as the Radio Disney Kid of the Month
- 2006 Received the Presidential Call to Service Award (Lil’ MDGs)
- 2007 Received the Global Perspectives Award in ThinkQuest International
- 2007 Included in the 20 Teens Who Will Change the World by Teen People
- 2009 Received the Environmental Leader of the Future Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency
- 2009 Received the Environmental Merit Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency
- 2009 Received the President’s Environment Award from President Barack Obama
- 2009 Received the World Summit Youth Award
- 2009 Named as the Very Best in Youth by Nestle USA
- 2009 Honored by the We Are Family Foundation at the 7th Annual WAFF Celebration
- 2010 Received the Daily Point of Light Award
- 2011 Received the Harris Wofford Youth Award
- 2011 Included in the 50 Most Influential People
- 2012 Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America
- 2012 Received the National All-Around Student Scholarship
- Inducted into the National Junior Honor Society