For one teen, desire to make world better sparks huge following

(CBS News) Dylan Mahalingham, who at the ripe old age of 9 set out to make the world a better place, is succeeding in ways that have attracted the attention of the world's most prominent grown-ups.

"When I was around 8 or 9 years old, my family went on a trip to India. ... I saw people begging for money on the streets and there were people starving in the alleyways, children working," he recalled.

That trip made an impression on him.

"Once I saw that it was real, I knew I had to do something, however small that would be."

But there's nothing small about what Mahalingham did. He formed a nonprofit organization called Little MDGs, short for Millennium Development Goals. Forty-one thousand kids from 43 countries are following this high school senior's lead to meet objectives set by the United Nations for improving lives of the impoverished around the world.

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"Children around the world raised $780,000 for tsunami relief in 2005 in Indonesia, and $11 million for Hurricane Katrina relief," said Mahalingham .

His efforts have been recognized by Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and three U.S. presidents.

Asked what project he's most proud of, Mahalingham said "creating a sustainable community in Loeda, Kenya. We provided them with an education system. We built a school in the community."

He's also become a sought-after speaker.

"As we grow older and gain more authority and experience and respect, our capacity to serve others increases," he told an audience at a TedXTeen talk he delivered while just a high school freshman.

Monday is graduation day for this young innovator from Derry, N.H. -- a remarkable young man who'd been asked by the U.N. to travel the world and spread his message of hope before he'd even turned 18.

"Well, I am humbled and honored by that happening but really I am a representative of everyone else who is involved with all this work," he said.

Maybe his biggest achievement is changing the way people are looking at what kids can do.

"If that's what I am doing, I guess I can say that I am doing something good," Mahalingham said with a laugh.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.