Josh Moshenberg is a very admirable young man.
Seemingly much wiser, and more conscientious, than the average 17-year-old, Josh Moshenberg is setting out to change the world – or at least a part of it – five fingers at a time.Individual fingers are weak. When put together, and made into a fist, they become strong. Unbreakable. Click To Tweet
As the founder of Project Fingers to Fist, Josh has set his sights on a lofty goal – raising enough money to build a school for the children of Kenya.
Literally following in the footsteps of We.org founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger, Josh recently returned from a life-changing trip to Kenya as guests of We.org.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh about his eye-opening experience in Kenya, and about his quest to make a difference in the lives of some of the young people of Kenya, with Project Fingers to Fist.
In a world that tends to focus on bad news, and the perceived selfishness of today’s youth, Josh’s selfless quest to help total strangers half way around the world is both inspiring, and heart-warming.
An Interview With Project Fingers To Fist Founder Josh Moshenberg
Tell us a bit about yourself – as a kid growing up in Toronto.
I have some very fond memories growing up in Toronto. From a very young age, I quickly became interested in the art of travel.
I remember being in the bath at about age 5, and using my action figures to tell my parents stories about travelling. I’d say things like “I’m going to fly a small plane to here, and then sail over to here and live here for a bit” and on and on it went. I was always about going out on adventures. When I started school, It really wasn’t my favourite thing, so doodles and day dreams of my big plans to go far away got me through it.
You recently returned from Kenya. What an incredible trip that must have been. What brought you to Kenya? What part of Kenya did you visit?
Yes, Kenya was one of the greatest journeys I’ve ever been on. We first flew to Nairobi, and then took a small charter plane to the Maasai Mara.
What brought me to this beautiful land, was an offer from the organization WE.org, to take one of their trips, and see the work they are doing first hand, and really experience whats going on there, poverty and education wise.
Your goal with Project Fingers to Fist is to raise funds to build a school in Kenya. If you succeed, and raise the money you need, what is the next step? Do you have an actual plan on how you will go about getting the school built?
If I’m successful in raising the funds to build a school in Kenya, I’ll work with WE.org to complete the project and build the school, as they have all the necessary contracts and contacts in that country, like builders, and materials.
How much do you hope to raise in order to meet your goal of building a school in Kenya? How will the money be allocated? How much goes to building the school, and how much will go to administration expenses?
I don’t have an end goal to be completely honest. Right now the main goal is ten thousand dollars, but that’s just temporary. Once I reach that goal I will just keep going. I don’t want to stop until I’ve raised about one hundred thousand dollars though, even if that may take some time.
The funds are allocated in a very generous way. WE.org takes only 10% of the donation funds for administrative purposes. The other 90% of the funds goes to cover all costs of the school. In the future, WE.org hopes that because of their sustainable business model, they will be able to take 0% for administrative costs!
What was the best thing about your time in Kenya? The worst?
This is such a hard question to answer. I’d say that one of the best parts about being in Kenya, was seeing how much WE.org is doing for all the people of the Maasai Mara, and then seeing how much they give back, even though they don’t have much to give! It shows how kindhearted and thankful those people are. They truly have such pure hearts, and understand the true meaning of love.
On the other hand, the worst part of being there (aside from leaving) was seeing firsthand, how many kids have such big dreams, but seeing just how many of them aren’t able to succeed and fulfill them, due to their current conditions. Every child deserves the gift of education, which ideally leads to their success.
I love the meaning behind the name “Project Fingers to Fist”. How did you come up with this idea?
The story behind the name “Project Fingers to Fist” has a long history.
I remember when I was younger, I read an old Native American saying somewhere, that talks about the concept that alone fingers are weak, but when put together, into a fist, they become stronger than ever! This resonated a lot with me, so while eating lunch with my mom in Kenya, I thought of the name for my project.
The name speaks the truth, as there is no way I am going to create the change that needs to happen, alone. Everyone needs to come together to support the cause, and work together to create not only a change, but a movement! There is no shame in needing help, but there is shame in being too proud to ask.
So, at 17, you’ve already been to Kenya. Where else have you traveled? What destinations are on your bucket list?
Travelling is definitely a passion of mine, so I’m very lucky to have been to so many places already.
Aside from Kenya, I’ve also travelled to Iceland, New York, The Dominican Republic, a few places in Europe, Arizona, and a few other cool places!
On my bucket list, I definitely want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, travel through Europe (I was very young when I first went, and would like to experience it through different eyes), explore Japan, experience Indonesia, and of course, travel back to Africa for a longer period of time. I could go on and on! I’m so interested in the different cultures of the world.
Your mother, Erica Ehm, and your grandmother, Evelyn Hannon, are two very well-known, and well-respected Canadians, both offline, and in the digital world. I know they both provide great advice. What is the best piece of advice each one has given you regarding your project?
As people whose job is basically part giving advice, you can be sure their advice was pretty good.
My mother’s advice was this: Your project isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. Take it slow and you will reach your goal. This was great advice because sometimes I would turn it into a race, and focusing on taking it slow really helped to maximize each thing I did.
My grandmother’s advice on the other hand, was “This African project requires patience and perseverance. In the end there will be many happy hearts, including your own.”
I thought it was interesting how similar the two pieces of advice were. It showed me how important it is to take it slow and not race, and it reminds me to do this project for the right reasons. For all the happy hearts.
You’re only 17 yet you are already an accomplished photographer, and now you are starting your own organization, with a goal to help kids half way around the world.
Most kids at 17 are contemplating what post-secondary school they will attend, not how they can change the world. What drives you? What makes you different from many of your peers?
I think there are a few things that sets me apart from my peers. One of the biggest things is having the guts to do something big. I think most kids think that because of their age, they aren’t able to make a change, which isn’t true, it just takes some heart.
I also think that seeing the issues first hand motivated me to do something, because of how much contrast it showed me in my life. It showed me that I had to step up and do something or nobody will. We all have to be passionate about something, and for me, this touched me.
Who, or what. got you interested in photography?
What got me into photography was my amazing grandmother.
When I was about 5 years old, she would take me on “photo walks” through downtown Toronto. While on these walks, she’d hand me her camera and tell me to take photos of anything I want. We did this for a long time, and I slowly got better and stuck with it. I have loved it ever since we started. My grandmother is one of my favorite photographers.
What photo are you most proud of and why?
This is a bit of a hard question, but if I had to choose one, it would be the photo I took of two brothers I met in Kenya. It may not use fancy photography techniques, but I’m proud of it because I believe this photo conveys the most emotion, and story, out of all the others I have taken. I think it’s such an interesting photo.
This may be a silly question but, did you take the photo of the two young Kenyan boys on your website? Are these boys you got to know while in Kenya?
Yes I did take that photo. That is the photo I just spoke about above. Those are the two young brothers I met while visiting Laila public school in Olulunga Village. They were sitting watching their brother go to school all day long, which I loved. They were enthralled with watching him at school.
You traveled with We.org to Kenya. Craig and Marc Kielburger have done some pretty amazing things with their organization. What have you learned from them?
Out of the many things I’ve learned from Marc and Craig, what stands out most, is that they’ve showed me that you can’t do anything alone. They have helped me to realize that needing help isn’t something to be ashamed of, because this is bigger than all of us, and we can’t tackle it alone.
What do you see yourself doing by the age of 25?
By the age of 25 I see a few things. I see myself doing a lot of travelling, working on my photography, and working to continuously help the world. I don’t think you can stop once you start.
If you were given a million dollars to help people in Kenya, how would you spend that money?
If I were given a million dollars to help people in Kenya, I think I’d have to do a lot of work researching to figure out what is most needed, and how can I provide that sustainably.
As WE.org says “Instead of giving a handout, give a hand up.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I spend a lot of time playing guitar, which is one of my favorite things, and hanging out with my friends. I also spend a lot of time working on Project Fingers to Fist.
I love sharing fun facts about people. Share with us a fun fact about Josh Moshenberg – something that few people know.
A fun fact about myself is that I have always had interesting music taste. I was listening to Native American tribal music when I was very young, until I got into classic rock. Now I listen to everything. Right now I listen to a lot of African Tribal music, and rap.
Where can we find Josh Moshenberg online? Are you on social media?
Yep. A big part of my campaign, as well as my everyday life is social media.
To stay updated on my photography, and Project Fingers to Fist, you can find me at:
For more information on Project Fingers to Fist, and to help Josh raise enough funds to build a school in Kenya, please visit Josh Moshenberg’s website.