JoJo Rocks: rapping to end child poverty


“You can make a difference, I know it’s true
You can change the world – it all starts with you!”

                                           – JoJo Rock; ‘Amazing Grace’

JoJo singing carolsMany people have inspirational qualities but some simply are ‘an inspiration’: a living reminder of what it means to be challenged out of our preconceptions and propelled out of our apathy. JoJo is one such inspiration.

The Foundations for Success

JoJo rapping to end child povertyWhen he was only seven years old, JoJo from Sydney, Australia, started rapping to raise money for children living in extreme poverty. Almost four years later, the adventure continues and JoJo not only raises money himself but spends much of his time encouraging others to do the same.
Toby Mac was JoJo’s earliest influence along with groups such as the Krosswerdz who he was able to work with in person. JoJo says:
“They helped me develop a passion for rapping and gave me lots of opportunities to perform live and learn to freestyle. From Krosswerdz I met a mentor called The Profit . The Profit taught me a lot about performing and writing rap and helped me write Amazing Grace.
I also listen to a US rapper called Sevin and have toured with him in Australia. He has also had a big influence on my musical style.”

The Music

I asked JoJo how he would describe his music and he answered:
“I try to write songs that are inspirational, talk about my faith in Jesus and can be listened to by people of all ages.
My songs are recorded in my garage but Amazing Grace was recorded in a full studio with over 10 musicians. That was a big production.”
It was Amazing Grace that first caught my attention, with JoJo’s heartfelt rapping combined with the wonderful African vocals of The Sowers. The International Christmas Child team agreed early on that this song would open the charity album as it so perfectly encapsulated the sentiments of the project. Furthermore, it should be acknowledged – at the risk of embarrassing JoJo! – that he was the primary inspiration for the album. The concept of children helping children was very powerful and continues to challenge and inspire people.


Check out JoJo’s Music Video ‘Amazing Grace’

JoJo performing
JoJo’s most recent song and music video ‘Reach for the Stars’ was the theme song for his ‘make a difference’ tour and it encourages people not to give up on their attempts to help others. Like much of JoJo’s songs, it has some very profound lyrics:
“If you reach for the stars and you bring back the moon
Then you’re almost there, so don’t give up”
In a world where so much is measured by success and failure, I believe this is an important message for would be philanthropists to take on board. I think we are often afraid to ‘reach for the stars’ in our aspirations because we are afraid that we might never reach them and will be deemed – by others or by ourselves – to be a failure. JoJo’s point is that even if you don’t reach your goal, the act of trying can make all the difference:
“Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day
And you just might only make it halfway
But the change you make just might save the day
For someone in need so don’t back away”



 Watch JoJo’s inspirational music video, ‘Reach for the Stars’:

Fighting Giants

JoJo chilling

“The last few years I have had problems with two boys at school. Some would describe them as bully’s. It has made my life very difficult and I have started to enjoy school less and less.  I am being coached by my parents on how to deal with these difficult people but it is a journey. I am working on dealing with difficult people in my life and how to become stronger and more resilient. I believe I will overcome these issues with time and will be stronger through the journey. 

I have just written a new song called GIANT. I have not recorded it yet. It is about overcoming the giants in your life. The song is based on the story of David and Goliath and is based on my experience trying to overcome my giants. Everyone has a different giant they have to overcome. For some it is poverty, health problems, learning difficulties, racism and at the moment mine are bullies. I believe we can all overcome our giants just like David defeated Goliath.”

JoJo’s story touched me deeply as I know too well what it is to suffer prolonged bullying at a young age. The tragedy is that of the many incredible, talented young people I have either worked with or interviewed, a huge amount have to put up with this kind of harassment, usually from other children but often from adults too. In the case of boys, my experience shows that almost all will experience bullying of the kind that JoJo describes. There are various reasons for this, but that is another article! For now, suffice to say that boys like JoJo are on the front line in the struggle against bullying of many kinds, but we can help. Please don’t underestimate the effect that a positive comment or unconditional compliment can have for someone in JoJo’s position. Negative comments and insults are very strong and often need three of four positive comments to counter them. 
I know most of you reading this will think that what JoJo is doing is simply amazing – so tell him! Send him an encouragement; regularly remind him that he is in your thoughts or prayers; tell him that you are 100% behind him as he fights his giants. You can comment on JoJo’s videos or get in touch through his social media:

The Journey Continues

JoJo 2014JoJo told me where he draws his inspiration from:
“My sponsored child Charles in Uganda is what has inspired me in the past to write, record and perform my music. I have been encouraged by many people in my life including my parents, the rappers at Krosswerdz and many other musicians, teachers and friends. Also the people who follow me on social media and write comments of support on my Youtube and Facebook pages have inspired me to keep going.”
I asked JoJo if he had dreams or aspirations for the future and what advice he would give to other young people trying to achieve their dreams:

“I have spent some time speaking to school students over the years and I would like to do a lot more this type of thing. I also would like to be a doctor and a lego designer, so I could be a children’s doctor who cheers the sick kids up with my lego designs. That would be cool.

If you want to achieve your musical dreams, then you need to work very hard and never give up. I remember travelling for hours to a venue to perform for 5 people when I was 8 years old. Some would say that was a waste, but these events taught me how to perform and I did my best. I have now performed to very large crowds and have done very well because I practiced with the small crowds. The bible says in Matthew 25:23:”
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
 JoJo would like to thank the people who have helped him most on his musical journey:
  • Titus MacLaren – Titus directed and edited the music videos BIG and Reach for the stars
  • Raj Dhatt – Raj directed and edited the music video Amazing Grace and Oh Holy Night
  • Brenton Smith – Brenton worked on all the videos and was an amazing support
  • Angus Steventon – Angus wrote and produced the music for Oh Holy night and Amazing Grace
Everyone helped JoJo for free because they believed in the cause.
Make sure you support JoJo by subscribing to his social media and buying his music. You can find links to this on his Official website:
Also, you can donate to Charles, JoJo’s sponsored child in Uganda:
I leave you with some final lyrics from ‘Reach for the Stars’:
JoJo, Ozzi rapping to end child poverty“And let’s pretend that this story’s true
That what I just said, we can surely do
If we reach for the stars but don’t get through
We’re still changing a life if we’re touchin the moon”

“International Christmas Child” a Gift of Love That Keeps Giving

Christmas Decor 2014

It is unusual, but I think this is what it feels like to love the world; to place the hope for our future on our children, believing that they can succeed where we have failed.                                                            Matthew Todd


Matthew & Nathan Todd

 Each year when I ponder what the Christmas Article should contain, I always consider what will make the greatest impact or best benefit the young artists represented and promoted through this site.

With Christmas being a time of giving, I could not think of a greater example of young artists using their talents to help make a difference in the world than the INTERNATIONAL CHRISTMAS CHILD project.

This CD project spearheaded by a band of brothers from Scotland is a great example of adults helping “Children helping Children”. I asked Matthew and Nathan Todd to share a little about this project with Rivenmaster’s Place and provide insight about each participating young artists.

 Matthew shared;

“I’m coming round to the belief that, just as adults all have an unwritten responsibility to support and nurture children, children have an unwritten responsibility of reminding adults what is important in life. They do this, often, simply by being themselves.”

Guitarist 3D GuyBackstory:

Matthew and Nathan Todd have been running projects for a few years now, all with the goal ‘to inspire and transform’. What could be more inspirational and transformational, they thought, than an album of children singing to help children? What they could not know was, if any would join them in their quest……….

Matthew went on to explain;

“One word could sum up the whole month of October for us: “Apprehension”. The messages were sent out to artists and their managers on October 12 and we awaited the responses. We were asking for a track from about 16 artists which could be included on a compilation album raising funds for Operation Christmas Child. Then the drama began! After several weeks of language barriers, messages going to fake accounts, communications being lost in cyber-space and time rapidly running out, we arrived with 14 young artists buzzing with enthusiasm and ready to submit.”

2015 SantaThe process that followed getting the tracks mastered, artwork made, albums duplicated, website up and promotion started would take pages to describe but, suffice to say, Nathan and I spent many sleepless nights (and days!) at our computers in every spare moment. Nathan being a full time student and a partner in GN Todd (web development), was literally working around the clock, meanwhile I was trying to communicate with 14 different artists, often in languages I spoke very badly or not at all! Then our brother Phil came on board to make our promo video and our cousin Tom got involved with promotion. A generous friend of my fiancé agreed to translate our press release into French, and a professional media consultant got us an article in the Herald. This was becoming bigger every day!

I remember walking into our little Glasgow flat (aka ‘The Ladz Fortress’) about 11pm on a cold November night after a hard day of teaching and choir directing, and seeing Nathan working on the website, Phil (visiting) editing the promo video and Tom working on an animation for our logo. I sat down to answer a message from France and had to stop to think out loud: ‘this is awesome!’ “Nobody told me that making a difference would be this much work, but nobody told me it would be this exciting and fulfilling either!”


The Album:

Our biggest challenge is that people are so bombarded with advertising, especially at this time of year, getting someone to buy something is a real challenge. We in the Western world have also become quite emotionally numb, finding it hard to trust big charities or organizations and no longer believing that buying one CD or even one track on iTunes really can make a difference. To be honest, we are still a long way off our goal which was to raise £2500 (over $4000) for Operation Christmas Child though we are over half way there, but there are other goals which have exceeded our expectations. Every young artist on the album went out of their way to promote the album and some even made personal videos to recommend it to their fans.

There is no currency for inspiration and yet, without it, the whole world could one day just decide to give up. As I promote these young artists, watch them sing and see them sharing their gifts with such passion and enthusiasm I feel a strange tug on my heart-strings. How is it that I can feel a sense of pride and joy in children that are not related to me and, most, not even from my country? It is unusual, but I think this is what it feels like to love the world; to place the hope for our future on our children, believing that they can succeed where we have failed. And, like my God who loved the world so much he wanted to give the best Christmas present anyone could give, it inspires me to give my all to make the world a better place.”


Featured Artists on the Album in order of track placement
Introductions by Matthew Todd

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