It’s easy to think all anyone cares about are cat videos and duck-pout selfies. But not so. There are some awesome young adults (and one brave teen) who are changing the world and filling us all with hope for a brighter future. And Muhammad Ali wants us to know who about them.
Known as one of the greatest sportsman in history, Ali is a strong advocate for humanitarian work. So much so, he’s created the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards to acknowledge young adults and teenagers who are building peace and working towards social justice.
The award centres around six core principles – confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality – and we couldn’t be more inspired by the recipients this year.
At just 14 years old, Hadiqa Bashir is an advocate against forced and child marriage in Pakistan. After her younger sister was about to be married off at the age of seven, Hadiqa spoke out against the marriage. Her bravery postponed the marriage, and gave Hadiqa the hope that through her advocacy and voice she can help save at least some girls from child marriages. Hadiqa, who hails from the Swat region – where Malala Yousafzai is originally from – is spreading awareness among girls and their parents about child marriage and the benefits of education for girls.
Tanyella Evans, 28, is co-founder and COO of the Library For All, an organisation that provides digital libraries to schools in the developing world. Tanyella has a resolute belief that quality education will enable the poor to lift themselves out of poverty, thus paving the way to an essential building block of peace. From makeshift classrooms in Haiti to the jungles of the Congo, students and teachers are using the library platform to read culturally appropriate books. The innovative solution (which can be accessed offline) comes at a time when more people have a mobile phone then they do a toothbrush!
Christopher Ategeka, 31, can proudly lay claim to having improved access to healthcare for more than 10,000 Ugandans. Through his organisation, Ride for Lives, Christopher’s work means locally-manufactured transport systems (think bikes and motorcycle ambulances) are now used by local hospital, NGOs and government clinics to give rural Ugandans access to life-saving medical support. This is a personal passion for Christopher, who grew up in rural Uganda. At the age of seven, he had lost both his parents to HIV/AIDs and became caretaker to his four younger siblings. Now a college graduate and recipient of multiple internationally recognising awards, Christopher’s story is nothing short of inspirational!
Veronika Scott, 26, founded The Empowerment Plan as a solution to homelessness caused by employment. By providing homeless women with jobs as seamstresses, they create thermal, waterproof coats for other homeless men and women. Based in Detroit, Veronika’s idea came to her during a college assignment, when her professor told her to “design to fill a need”. That assignment became an organisation which now employs homeless women as full time seamstresses helping them to earn a stable income and find secure housing. Top marks, we say.
Kyla LaPointe, 24, is a leading advocate for child rights nationally and internationally. Kyla helped found the New Brunswick Youth in Care Network, and is part of the North American Council of Adoptable Children. Kyla’s own experiences living in foster care have motivated her to advocate for vulnerable children and youth.
Sasha Fisher, 26, founded Spark MicroGrants right out of college. The organisation supports poor communities throughout east Africa to create and implement their own social impact projects. Sasha first saw the need when she travelled to the region in school, and has since moved to east Africa to manage the organisation. Spark is a refreshing move away from foreign NGOs implementing projects and leaving with no community buy-in. Sasha’s clever model works directly with the community, empowering them come up with and own solutions themselves.