Nathaniel Crossley has a lot going on. The grade 7 student from Fort McMurray, Alberta is a competitive curler, a huge U2 fan, a gamer, painter, tenor saxophone player, photographer, and absolutely loves Lego (his Twitter handle is @theLegofly). In fact, he’s in the process of building a Lego robot complete with complex programming that he will showcase when he heads to Edmonton for an upcoming competition. And it was Lego that helped him realize another goal: to see the impact of his fundraising efforts. Yes, at age 12, Crossley is also a philanthropist who has raised more than $9,000 to build four water wells in Tanzania, Africa. Each well supports some 30 schools in the region. “Philanthropy is part of my life,” says Nathaniel. “I always find ways to give back.”
He first learned about how different life is and how little children in Africa have, compared to children in Canada when his father, Blake Crossley, returned from spending a month teaching at a school in Moshi, Tanzania.
Inspired by his father’s experience and by the story of another young philanthropist, Ryan Hreljac, who at age seven funded his first well in a Ugandan village, Crossley decided he too could make a difference. In 2011, he began selling his own artwork to raise the $2,000 necessary to build a well. He ended up raising enough to build four water wells as part of the African Well Fund for the WASH project and helping provide safe drinking water for some 2,100 children.
”I want people in Africa and other countries to have the same amount of services and level of care that we do. I want to help make that happen.”
Determined to see firsthand the wells he helped build and what life is like for kids in Africa, the young redhead with white frame eyeglasses and a toothy smile started Lego4Africa! This time the fundraising featured a single custom Lego man that Crossley traded up for higher value items. After several trades and a silent auction, he once again outperformed, raising enough for the trip and what he describes as a side project: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his dad in support of the Heart & Stroke Foundation. “My dad has a heart condition and I wanted to help raise money for research that will make heart disease more rare,” he says.
Father and son spent two weeks in Tanzania this fall, with seven days dedicated to the climb. “I almost summited but had to turn around at 5,000 meters because of the cold and headaches,” says Crossley. Still, he made the most of the opportunity. In addition to raising money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, he donated most of their gear to Shaky’s Tours and bought new hiking boots for the porters. He is determined to go back and complete the climb.
And, after meeting with the children benefitting from the wells, he is motivated to do even more. “I was able to see the impact the wells had on the schools. A lack of sanitary bathrooms has prevented girls from going to school. The money I raised helped build bathrooms and now more girls are going to school. I didn’t think I would have that big an impact. The schools treated us like gold.”
That experience has already started Crossley on his next mission: to raise money to buy soccer balls for the schools. “There’s not a lot of sporting equipment over there. A school might have one or two soccer balls. I want to help change that.”
His commitment to helping others has never been stronger: “I want the world to be equal. I want people in Africa and other countries to have the same amount of services and level of care that we do. I want to help make that happen.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Nathaniel is currently working on finishing a documentary about his trip to Africa – much of it filmed on a GoPro camera given to him by the founder of YouInc, Arlene Dickinson. Nathaniel will also begin blogging for Huffington Post (Alberta) next month. Please click here to visit his site and learn more: http://www.lego4africa.ca/