9-Year-Old Vows to End Slavery

Vivienne at her Lemonade Stand

Devin Thorpe

Devin Thorpe, Contributor

“I saw a picture of two boys with big rocks strapped across their heads. To feel better, they were holding hands. I learned that these boys are brothers … and slaves. I thought slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln. But it still happens. I wanted to do something about it, because compassion is not compassion without action. It’s just feeling sorry for someone,” Vivienne Harr said after seeing the Lisa Kristine photo her father Eric Harr gave her after visiting the Sonoma Gallery.

“We need to help these boys,” she told her parents.

Vivienne set up a lemonade stand to raise money to end slavery on June 25, 2012. With her parents’ help they went to Doc Edgar Park and set up the stand.

Eric says, “People who came were brought to tears that this child was trying to end child slavery.” By the end of the day, she earned so much money for the fight that she wanted to do it again. And then again and again.

Vivienne said to her father, “I want to help a lot of these kids. I want to raise a whole $100,000.”

Eric realized then that the only way to have the impact Vivienne wanted was to let the world take part.

Vivienne hit upon a new pricing strategy. “Why not let people pay what’s in their hearts?” From then on, her lemonade was officially “free because every child should be free.” The average amount collected for the lemonade jumped from $2 to $18 per cup. One person paid $1,000, Eric says.

On day #173, Vivienne reached her original goal and wrote a check to Not For Sale for $101,320. When her parents said: “You did it, honey! You’re done!” Vivienne said: “Is child slavery done?” Her parents shook their heads. “Then, I am not done,” she said.

Their campaign gained real momentum when, on day 52, Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky,tweeted the story. Eric recognized that that this would potentially put Vivienne in a challenging place with increasing media attention.

He asked her if she would rather quit or “find her voice” to share the message broadly through the media. She told him, “I want to find my voice.” Vivienne went all the way to day #365, at which point she announced the production of her “bottles of hope” that moved her from street corners to grocery aisles!

Since then, Eric has trusted Vivienne to define her own limits and make her own decisions. Above all, he’s completely set aside tactics and strategies for the campaign. Instead, he says the only strategy is to be absolutely authentic so that her voice comes through.

Vivienne selling "The Taste of Freedom"

Vivienne selling “The Taste of Freedom”

One of the things they began doing was to tweet Vivienne’s thoughts. While they also used Facebook FB -1.1%, Eric says, “Twitter was the key.”

Vivienne began using the tagline “Make a Stand.” It turned out, however, that a cyber squatter owned that domain name. When he heard Vivienne’s story, he donated the domain to her. He said: “You inspire me. You are giving your lemonade to people, so I am giving this website to you. Thank you, Vivienne.”

Over the course of the fall, the Harrs moved Vivienne’s campaign from a physical lemonade stand online. Using Fundly, they raised roughly $400,000 by March 1, 2013. The money is being used, in part, to launch a commercially-bottled lemonade, allowing for an infinitely larger scale to combat the problem of child slavery.

Video was key to their success. Eric says they were fortunate to have professional filmmakers volunteer to produce short videos about Vivienne’s campaign at no charge. Diane Lam produced a short video of about a minute and Patrick Gilles produced a longer video, over six minutes. The combination of a short video and a longer one proved powerful.

Eric notes that there are nearly 30 million slaves today, about half of whom are children. In terms of absolute numbers, he says, there have never been more slaves on the planet than there are today.

The Harrs have identified five organization to which they will donate their proceeds: Free The Slaves,Nepal Youth FoundationUNICEF, the International Programme On The Elimination Of Child Labor—and an organization that focuses on this issue right here in the United States: Gems: Girls Educational & Mentoring Services.

Vivienne, whose goal is to end child slavery in her lifetime, has a magical way with words for one so young. She says, “Gandhi was one person. Martin Luther King was one person. Mother Teresa was one person. Why can’t you be someone who helps?”

The story here is adapted  from my forthcomingbookCrowdfunding for Social Good, FinancingYour Mark on the World. This spring, I had the opportunity to visit at length with Vivienne’s faher, Eric Harr to prepare this story. Please help me continue this conversation by commenting below, on Twitter at @devindthorpe and on FacebookGoogle+ and my personal website yourmarkontheworld.com.

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2 responses to “9-Year-Old Vows to End Slavery

  1. What an amazing girl. 🙂

  2. Way to go, Vivienne!!! May you inspire many others your age to realize they have a voice and they, too, can make a stand. I am survivor of trafficking and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making a difference!!! Huge hugs to you 😀 ~kathy bryan

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