More than 100,000 people in Ukraine have some form of visual disability; yet the public transportation system - including buses, trolley cars, and metros - makes no allowances for those whose vision is severely impaired. To create an accessible environment for those with visual disabilities, Anastasiya co-founded NOTIS in 2009. Among its activities, NOTIS researches the needs of the visually disabled, increases public awareness of the challenges they face, develops and manufactures audio signal facilities, and works with partner organizations to influence policies and install audio devices at street crossings and public buildings. NOTIS also links those with disabilities to employers - placing lawyers, accountants, and economists with limited vision, for example, in jobs with nongovernmental organizations. Already, NOTIS has positively impacted the lives of 3,000 visually-disabled persons in Kharkiv, who now are able to travel safely at ten major street crossings. Anastaysiya estimates that more than 150,000 people are now more sensitive to the needs of the visually disabled as a result of exposure to the city's new audio-signal devices.
While attending high school in the rural Matungu district of western Kenya, Benard Wakoli grew acutely aware of the disparities between girls and boys his age when it came to having the freedom to direct the course of their lives. Benard also realized that women and girls living in Kenya's male-dominated society were ill-equipped to change the situation. During his second year at the University of Nairobi, Benard launched the Yaya (Kiswahili for caretaker) Education Trust (YET). Its mission: to empower women and girls through education and property ownership, while engaging young men as advocates for women's rights. Among its activities, YET provides scholarships and educational materials to girls in need, links young women to mentors, equips out-of-school girls with vocational skills, and supports women and youth-led households in launching income-generating ventures. Also important is sensitizing the community to the importance of girls' education and advocating for the abolition of traditional practices, including FGM, wife inheritance, polygamy, wife battering, early forced marriage, sexual violence, and lack of property ownership.
Through the YOURS Project at the People's Music School, the only tuition-free community music school in the United States, Deborah Wanderley dos Santos shares her love of music with low-income children living in inner city Chicago. For two hours every day after school, children receive orchestral music instruction. For Deborah, who moved to Chicago from Brazil to pursue her university education, it's not so much about the music, but its impact on young lives. Performing in the orchestra empowers children with the self-determination to pursue their dreams. Through performing music together children learn responsibility, teamwork, listening, and other key life skills. Through dozens of public concerts held each year - including one held at the Chicago Symphony Center - the children gain confidence and create community connections. Modeled after the el Sistema Method developed by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela, the YOURS Project currently engages 160 students and 25 teachers.
"The biggest obstacle to development in Bangladesh is poor quality leadership across different sectors," says Ejaj Ahmad. To address this issue, in 2008 Ejaj launched the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC). Its goal: to create a more inclusive, tolerant, and just society by training the next generation of leaders. At the core of BYLC's approach is a month-long program: Building Bridges through Leadership Training. Offered to youth, ages 16 to 21, the program includes training on leadership development, public speaking, and volunteer mobilization. A similar program, targeting secondary school students, is taught by program graduates. A key aim of BYLC is providing opportunities for diverse segments of the nation's youth population to interact. "Lack of interaction among students from different backgrounds is a threat to peace and progress," says Ejaj. To address this need, BYLC incorporates individuals from diverse religious, educational, and socio-economic backgrounds into its programs.
In the aftermath of the 2007 Presidential election in Kenya, waves of political and ethnic violence swept the country. Over 1,500 people died, with 500,000 internally displaced. Seeking to prevent such violence from erupting again in the future, George Gachara joined with two other young leaders in launching the Picha Mtaani (Swahili for Street Exhibition) initiative. With the majority of the nation's population under the age of 30, Picha Mtaani equips young people with the tools to serve as agents of change and reconciliation in their communities. Says George, "For us, peace cannot be just an interval between wars which is why we're driving a much needed cultural transformation." Picha Mtaani creates safe spaces where youth dialogue on critical issues facing their country's future. More than two million young people have joined its Pamoja tunaweza (Together we can) movement, a network of young social activists and peace volunteers. To spark reflection and dialogue, Picha Mtaani hosts photography exhibitions of the 2007/8 election violence.
In 2006, Jithin Nedumala joined with two friends in launching Make a Difference (MAD), a nongovernmental organization that recruits outstanding college students to teach part-time in under-served communities. With a young person's chances of landing a job increasing by 400 percent if they can communicate in English, MAD emphasizes quality English language instruction. Among its activities, MAD delivers the Cambridge University English for Schools curriculum to children living in street shelters and orphanages. Leveraging the power of technology, MAD uses a state-of-the-art web application to further enhance students' exposure to spoken and written English. Also offered are visits to various workplaces so that program participants are aware of potential opportunities and can establish goals to work toward. Says Jithin, "We seek a world where every child gets to choose their destiny based on their ability and not on their parent's financial capacity."
Through Revista Iguanazul (in English, "Blue Iguana Magazine"), Judith Santopietro works to celebrate and preserve Mexico's indigenous languages. Since 2005, seven multilingual editions of Revista Iguanazul have been published - in print and online. Each issue centers on a specific theme such as urban life, women and art, cultural identity, and the indigenous languages of various regions within Mexico. Given its online presence, the magazine is now appreciated by readers as far away as Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru, and the U.S., as well as in parts of Europe. The success of Revista Iguanazul led Judith to launch Radio Nomada (Nomad Radio) in 2008. The program features poets, novelists, and storytellers who share their work and reflections on the nation's indigenous cultures. Distributed through community and university radio stations, as well as commercial outlets, the show reaches an audience of over one million listeners nationally and internationally.
Project: Children’s Chance International Age: 24 Website:N/A
For more than two decades, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized northern Uganda in what is one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. "The situation severely eroded the quality of life in northern Uganda, where children women, youth, and adults have almost no hope for the future," says Kenneth Odur, who founded Children's Chance International (CCI-Uganda) to protect and care for the most vulnerable members of society. Among its activities, CCI-Uganda promotes children's rights, rehabilitates war-affected children, protects women against violence, educates disadvantaged youth, and promotes the peaceful resolution of conflict. To sensitize local communities about the importance of protecting individual rights, CCI-Uganda trains law enforcement officials and opinion leaders to speak out for and uphold human rights, forms child protection committees, and works with the local media to get its message out. It also provides material and moral support to the most vulnerable children and youth, including child soldiers and street children.