by Becky Benoit
At only 11, Nathaniel Crossley is the youngest member of this year’s Top 40 Under 40 roster. Yet, in just over a decade, Crossley has already accomplished more in terms of humanitarian effort than many of us accomplish in a lifetime.
The Grade 6 student has raised an impressive $9,000 to construct four water wells in Tanzania as part of the African Well Fund for the WASH project. He’s the CEO of the ATB Junior Branch at his school, Sister Mary Phillips. Already an accomplished public speaker, Crossley has addressed students at his own school as well as St. Paul school, the YMCA, MacDonald Island Park, the Syncrude Sports and Wellness Centre and the Oilsands Rotary Group in support of World Water Day and to promote his African Well Fund project.
He’s been recognized as an inspirational ambassador by Ray Zahab, founder of Impossible2possible, a nonprofit which encourages youth to change the world. Most recently, he designed the new logo for the Fort McMurray Junior Curling Club, of which he is a member.
It’s an impressive resume by anyone’s standards, particularly for someone who is still in elementary school.
Crossley’s African Well project began when he started a Facebook page to support U2 singer Bono, who had injured his back in concert. Through the grapevine, he learned of the lack of clean water in African villages and the WASH project, and decided he needed to roll up his sleeves and do something.
“I wanted to raise money to build a water well so that kids like me in Africa have access to clean drinking water,” says the articulate and confident 11-year old. “I raised the money through selling T-shirts online and through donations. I also had a water well set up at the Sports and Wellness Centre so people could throw money in, and it had to be emptied twice!”
Crossley more than quadrupled his initial goal of raising $2,000 and since then, has embarked on a campaign to encourage other kids to get involved and give back to their community. Crossley believes that children are too often ignored when it comes to volunteer opportunities.
“People tend to overlook us kids because of our age – they think we’re too young and can’t really make a difference,” he says. “But we can! Kids like me make great volunteers because we make it fun and we like to help out.”
When asked why he gives so much of his time to fundraising and giving back while other kids are busy playing video games or surfing the internet,
Crossley’s answer is disarmingly simple and direct. “I like helping others who need help,” he says. “To me, it’s the right thing to do.”