Stereotypes out there deem the younger generations (millenials and Gen Z) as lazy, uninspired, and easily bruised. While perceptions have been steadily improving (finally!), there’s no harm in boosting this – and inspiring ourselves – a bit further. In this article, Digital Senior features 5 exemplary examples of youth passionate in driving change – change that first started on a small scale!
1. Melati and Isabel Wijsen
If you haven’t heard by now, Bali has made a commitment to go plastic-free by 2018 (this year!) Whether or not this will come to pass and how long it’ll take, this momentous declaration – and the fact that Bali Airport is now plastic bag free – can be credited to Isabel and Melati Wijsen.
The sisters, after being inspired by a lesson on inspirational figures, started a campaign to tackle Bali’s glaring plastic pollution problem at the ages of 10 and 12.
Called “Bye Bye Plastic Bags”, they started with a petition on Avaaz that garnered thousands of signatures from around the world. They also campaigned hard, even going on a supervised hunger strike to get the Governor of Bali, after 18 months of repeated attempts, to meet them. (And he did.) As a result of this meeting and other efforts, a declaration that Bali would go plastic bag free by 2018 would follow.
Today, with the help of many others that have joined Isabel and Melati’s campaign and moves to clean up Bali’s beaches, Bali has been made a little cleaner and brighter – but the girls are not stopping here. Their next goal? Pushing for a plastic bag surcharge! You go, girls.
“I do not think we ever saw our age as a challenge to do something, to effect change! We didn’t want to wait until we were older. ”
2. Christopher Yao
A personal encounter with a severe underbite moved young Christopher Yao to help others, after discovering that there were others with more serious conditions than him with no access to treatment.
Christopher founded the youth-led non-profit charity “Kids Change the World” at 11 (2007), helping to raise funds for the surgeries of youths in developing countries that suffered from cleft lips and palates. His mission soon expanded, however, to tackling societal issues – Kids Change the World (KCW) also distributes educational resources and book supplies to students and classrooms in need, around the world.
Due to his young age, Christopher faced a lot of skepticism from those around him. His perseverance and steadily increasing support, however, have since swayed any naysayers’ years on. Today, the non-profit organization has regional directors that help to coordinate fundraising efforts, and has received grants from corporations like Nestlé USA.
Today, Christopher continues his work as KCW’s executive director, all while studying for a Master in Public Health in the University of Pennsylvania, with aspirations to attend medical school[ii].
3. Venezia Wee
We have easy access to water in Singapore and it’s dreadfully easy to take this for granted. This was the case for young Singaporean Venezia Wee, who had been living abroad in Shanghai, until she stumbled upon an article talking about how 1 in 4 people have a lack of access to safe drinking water in China.
Spurred into action, Venezia started to advocate for water conservation and awareness in her high school through her own funds, before expanding her efforts across Shanghai and other cities in China. The Global Water Crisis Awareness movement has since became international, spanning Asia, Latin America and Africa, with Venezia and her partners/team raising capital to finance numerous water projects[iii].
Venezia continues her advocacy today through reading (and later on, practicing) law at SMU.
“I considered that if I had the privilege to become aware about this problem, then I had the same duty to act upon it.”
– Venezia, in an interview for the Social Space magazine
4. Zuriel Oduwole
Zuriel Oduwole is young, accomplished and determined to do more. The 16 year old American, of Nigerian and Mauritian heritage, already had 4 documentaries – all revolving around Africa and a desire to showcase a different side of the continent outside of war, famine, and negativity – under her belt by the age of 12. Woah.
(She has also interviewed over 20 heads of state[iv]!)
Zuriel taught herself how to film and edit. One of her documentaries, A Promising Africa, has made her the youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced work commercially screened to date. The teen is also a passionate advocate for girls’ education: she runs a side project with her sisters called “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” and has been invited to speak in countries such as Senegal and the United Kingdom.
Zuriel produced her first documentary at the young age of 9[v] for a school documentary-making competition – an example of how age is definitely no barrier to achieving amazing things.
5. Easton LaChapelle
Passionate about taking things apart and figuring out how they work, he made his first robotic hand at 14 out of Lego, electrical tubing, and electrical wire. Co-founding his own company at 17 and possessing NASA internship experience, amongst other achievements, Easton LaChapelle is a force to behold.
Easton, 22, was inspired to create more affordable and well-designed prosthetics after meeting a young girl born without her right forearm and hand, Momo, at his 8th grade science fair[vi]. 6 years of work in collaboration with Microsoft would follow before the first RoboArm was deemed ready and given to Momo, to the joy of both the gifter and recipient.
With a desire to empower the lives of amputees and those that need a lift, the first design of the RoboArm has been made available open source. Things Easton and Unlimited Tomorrow are currently working on include improving the RoboArm, as well as the development of an exoskeleton for paraplegics[vii].
These remarkable youth show how opportunities to do amazing things that drive change can be anywhere – so long you seize them and persevere! If you are burning with the desire to make a difference, don’t wait. Start today.
If you’re roaring to effect change and be a future maker, you might find initiatives such as PSB Academy’s PSBA-ASEAN Scholarship a perfect match! The scholarship was set up to encourage youths to be “a force for good for their community”, according to PSB Academy’s Head of Scholarships, Marcus Loh – while receiving quality education that helps you accelerate your way there.
In fact, applicants (the scholarship is open to ASEAN countries) are required, during the application process, to make a compelling case for creating social impact upon graduation – making sure that you’ll commit to seeing your goals through!
But if you’re reading this, we’re sure you already are. (;