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December 22, 2010

Teen’s focus on Congo begins at home

http://www.jewishjournal.com/the_mensch_list/article/teens_focus_on_congo_begins_at_home_20101222

David Taylor

David Taylor

David Taylor doesn’t see the point in getting emotional about the evils across the globe.

“What do I accomplish by being sad about it?” he asks.

Rather, he looks at human rights atrocities and thinks about them methodically — where and how can he make the most impact?

And he doesn’t let the fact that he’s 13 years old deter him.

Over the past year, he has convinced the executive board of Kehillat Israel, a 1,000-plus family congregation, to commit to purchasing electronics produced with conflict-free minerals and has mobilized the entire student body of New Roads Middle School in Malibu, where he is an eighth-grader,  to work for a peaceful Democratic Republic of Congo.

Taylor, who lives in Pacific Palisades, first learned about conflict minerals in Congo through a Jewish World Watch presentation while he was researching a bar mitzvah project. Residents in villages at the entrances to the mines are subject to rape and violence by marauding gangs trying to gain control of the tantalum, tungsten and tin trade — minerals used in computers, cell phones and digital cameras.

Story continues after the video.

While conflict-mineral-free products don’t yet exist, Congress recently passed a bill requiring electronics companies to divulge the sources of their minerals.

Prior to his bar mitzvah last May, Taylor created a PowerPoint presentation — he’s a computer whiz, even by today’s digital native standards — that outlines the case for conflict-free minerals.

He presented to the executive board at Kehillat Israel, and then worked his way through the director, the rabbi and the president to secure a time slot to present to the entire congregation during High Holy Day services.

If these matters seem a little adult for a kid, it doesn’t faze Taylor, who retains his baby face but speaks more like a 30-year-old than a 13-year-old.

“I’m a pretty serious person,” Taylor says. “My bar mitzvah speech was very polished. I’m not a silly, goof-around person, so they realized I would not come to presentation without being well prepared, and they realized I wouldn’t waste their time,” he said.

He mobilized the student body at his school to sign petitions asking the 21 largest electronics companies to commit to conflict-free minerals, and he got a large team from his school to walk in Jewish World Watch’s annual Walk to End Genocide. He’s on the organization’s speakers list and also arranges his own speaking engagements at schools, synagogues and churches.

He has a few computer consulting clients, and he likes to read science fiction, go wakeboarding, play tennis and play with his dog. But mostly, Taylor is goal-oriented because he looks around and sees that people — like the women in Congo — need his help.

“I felt it was my commitment as a global citizen to make sure the odds were not stacked against them and that they had a chance,” Taylor said.

For more info, visit jewishworldwatch.org.

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