STORIES OF THOSE CHANGING THE WORLD
My Future My Voice Ambassadors
Environmental Beauty Queen
Maricres Valdez Castro
If we look for a true ambassador for the environment, we have one in Maricres, our youth ambassador in the Philippines. This well-known beauty queen uses her huge social media following and the many prestigious media platforms she is called to be on to inspire a call to action for the environment.
At many beauty pageant platforms (her latest as Philippines representative for Ms Universe 2020), her green messages come through loud and clear with statements such as, “My environmental advocacy is a focus on sustainability and sustainable business practices.” Inspired by her time spent working with village women in East Africa, she started a movement in the Philippines called Mothers for Earth. This movements works with women of different ethnicities to inspire them to turn their villages eco friendly.
Maricres says, “I want to empower our people with the skills and inspire their hearts to find innovative and sustainable ways to practice business like creating bio-charcoal from leftover coconut husks, composting techniques, sustainable agriculture techniques, and aquaponics. These practical and sustainable skills are methods.”
A great believer in the power of environmental education, she says, “I want to teach to inspire the next generation of Philippine’s green leaders in protecting our Mother Earth in a way where both God’s creations are protected and the needs of God’s people met.”
Leader in Zero Waste Art
Udari Anuththara Mohotti
Udari strongly believes in a no-waste policy. “Most of what we discard can be crafted and upcycled into items that people would like to own,” she says.
A designer by profession in Sri Lanka, Udari creates stunning ranges of specially crafted portraits, jewelry, and other products, all made with discarded products. Every piece of hers produced by her enterprise, Umo Designs, showcases her concept of “trash-to-treasure.” Discarded vehicle tires are upcycled into beautiful jewelry. Udari creates portraits out of waste paper and packaging material. All this helps reduce the burden on already choking landfills.
To widen the trash-to-treasure concept among other artists, she aptly displays her concern for the environment and her exceptional leadership qualities with her latest venture Umo Unites. Udari set up this social enterprise to encourage other artists to get inspired with her no-waste philosophy and to use their artistic talents for the same purpose.
We Have a Dream
Mya-Rose Shanti Craig
Mya-Rose is a British Bangladeshi ornithologist and activist. In 2020, she received an honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of Bristol and is said to be the youngest British person to receive such an award. Mya-Rose founded the non-profit Black2Nature to run nature camps for Black and ethnic minority children. Her efforts as a bird ringer (that helps in the identification of birds) won her the National Biodiversity Network’s 2018 Gilbert White Youth Award for recording terrestrial and freshwater wildlife.
Mya-Rose champions equal access to nature, global climate justice, the importance of reducing biodiversity loss, and a halt to climate change while keeping in mind the rights of Indigenous people. Her book We Have A Dream highlights 30 young environmentalists of color worldwide, including 11 Indigenous people. According to Mya-Rose, “media in the Global North rarely mention(s) efforts of Indigenous communities.” Her book amplifies their voices and fantastic work that most started from a young age.
Mya-Rose is called upon to speak at important climate forums and to write articles. She is featured regularly on TV and other media and her blog, Birdgirl, has a huge following.
Xin Hui Woon
Xin Hui is currently a Singaporean diplomat covering the ASEAN and Australia portfolios. Before her present role, Xin Hui made concerted efforts to understand the international environmental governance regime and how different players from across the globe could share best practices and collaborate on solutions.
In 2019, she was selected to represent Singapore at the U.S. Department of State’s Environmental Issues and Natural Resources Management Programme under the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. There, she presented Singapore’s environmental challenges and solutions in discussions with U.S. government, industry, and civil society representatives and fellow Southeast Asian youth delegates. She was also selected to represent Singapore in ClimateForce 2041’s expedition to the Arctic along with representatives from 21 other countries. As the only Southeast Asian country represented on the expedition, hers was the voice for the region. In 2018, she organized the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum and spearheaded the conference’s publication focused on the links between climate change, regional food, and energy security, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Xin Hui believes that judicious and equitable policy cannot be enacted without a firm grounding in science and understanding the perspectives of all stakeholders, especially of hitherto marginalized communities. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (First Class Honors) in Geography and Political Science, and studied systems modeling in her own time. Her stints as primates research intern at the Jane Goodall Institute and research assistant at the Institute of Water Policy allowed her to hone critical science communication skills and produce policy-relevant research on climate change, biodiversity loss, water, and natural resources.
Xin Hui was also a varsity football player and symphonic band musician for over ten years. She continues to enjoy fieldwork in Singapore’s forests and intertidal areas teeming with biodiversity, and is working on developing educational resources to augment eco-literacy in Singapore for different age groups.
José Luis Enrique Arrieta Gutierrez
José is a country coordinator of the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16). He is also a Climate Ambassador of the Global Youth Climate Network (GYCN), an initiative of the World Bank Group Youth Community (Y2Y). José is the President & Co-founder of SocialGood Peru, part of SocialGood, an international community of changemakers convened by the UN Foundation. SocialGood Peru is a member of the UNEP Major Group for Children and Youth; YOUNGO – Youth NGOs in UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).
A Climate Reality Leader trained by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project, José is also a chapter Leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a TEDx Licensee and Managing Director of TEDxBarranco. He has taken part in several critical national forums, including as a Mentor Lead in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps: Virtual Training Latin America organized by Climate Reality.
Representing his organization, José took part in giving contributions during the Local Plan for Climate Change of the Province of Lima. José continues to contribute to the working of the National Strategy on Climate Change by 2050 (an initiative led by the Ministry of the Environment of his country).
Climate Education in Europe
Jan Michał Dąbrowski (Johnny Dabrowski)
Johnny Dabrowski aims to ensure that climate education is part of the school curriculum not just in his country, but also in other European ones. He is a co-founder of the Climate Education Team of Fridays for Future (FFF).
Started in 2021, the Team presently comprises members from across Europe. Under his leadership, the Team has published Climate Education Demands and forwarded these to ministers of education in 15 European countries. Johnny has personally met the minister of education in Poland. He is a student representative in his High School.
This year, he organized a virtual Earth Day where several environmental experts addressed the students on issues related to climate change and water. Johnny is also the co-founder of the Szkola Net 0 (Net Zero School). It is a hands-on guidebook for students to learn how to make their schools net zero. This means that the school must match its energy requirements with what it produces.
Ardent Nature Lover
25-year-old Nana Deisadze from Tbilisi, Georgia worked as a researcher with several non-governmental organizations. This experience helped her work on several environmental issues: waste management, fighting against dirty energy, and protecting natural wealth, in particular.
Her work is built on an inborn interest Nana has in the natural world. As an ardent nature lover, she makes it a point to participate in protests and campaigns against climate change. One of the biggest protests she attended was in Berlin in 2018. Recently, she campaigned against the setting up of a hydroelectric power plant in Kutaisi, Georgia.
Nana collected funds to green a playground for children with plants and trees in the Okami village, which is situated just 5 km from the Occupation Zone. Nana has a master’s in social and political science with a major in human geography.
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Making a Difference for Biodiversity
Shanna Chantel Challenger
Shanna Challenger is a natural communicator with a great sense of humor and ingenious ways of engaging audiences. Take for example her donning a Barbuda warbler costume to teach school children about the island’s sole endemic bird. Combining her oratory skills, a passion for the environment, and her rigorous scientific training, Shanna is very effective in popularizing the need for environmental protection among not just the inhabitants of Antigua and Barbuda, but across the several islands of the Caribbean.
Shanna has worked on the well-known biodiversity project to tackle climate change through the restoration of habitats, saving species from extinction with the removal of invasive species on the one-mile-long island of Redonda. Surrounded by unstable cliffs, the island was crumbling into the sea, seeming unable to sustain life. It is considered a Key Biodiversity Area — a site of global importance for wildlife conservation — because all of Redonda’s reptiles are critically endangered and live nowhere else.
For three years, Shanna coordinated the Redonda Restoration Program. Using ground and aerial baiting techniques, she spearheaded the relocation of feral goats and eradication of over 6,000 black rats that caused a catastrophic decline in the island’s habitats and native wildlife. The island was declared rat-free in 2018, and today is almost unrecognizable with its grassy habitats and thriving reptile and bird populations.
Jenk is a 16-year-old social entrepreneur, public speaker, and social change activist who recently received The Diana Award 2021 Honour Roll, one of the highest accolades a young person can receive for social action and humanitarian efforts. Jenk is the Founder of the social enterprise ‘Thred Media,’ a publishing, consulting, media, and production company focused on social change news and insights aimed at teenagers and young adults. His work has reached Generation Z across the globe, with young people from over 140 countries having visited Thred.com.
At a young age, Jenk has already given three TEDxTalks, including ‘Can a ‘Like’ change the world? The power of clicktivism,’ and has spoken at Oxford Global’s Model United Nations, Vox Youth Marketing in NYC, and Amazon AWS Summit, to name a few. Jenk is featured in 250+ articles, including Forbes and Business Insider and has several notable awards to his credit. Jenk sits on the marketing board for several companies, including Founders4Schools, and is an ambassador for Climate Science, Impactr, Bite Back (Food), Force of Nature (Climate), Youthify (Climate), and Youthtopia (Climate).
Noémie Thibout is a 14-year-old from French Polynesia located in the middle of Pacific ocean. She sang the song titled “Dear Mister Presidents,” urging world leaders to step up their climate actions and commitments. She also recently met President Edouard Fritch of French Polynesia a few days ago, who agreed that her song will be played and broadcast during international summits regarding climate.
Noémie believes that music is universal and can touch peoples’ hearts. She sang the song “Dear Mister Presidents” in October 2020 during the online event Gaia World Tour, where scientists, artists, and citizens came together to discuss climate issues. In December 2020, her song was played during the roundtable Kainaki II to Cop26, which brought together 18 countries from the Pacific. Noémie has also received support from several top environmental organizations and ministers including New Zealand’s minister of climate change.
The Power of Movement
Vidya Patel is a Birmingham-based dance artist, performer, and choreographer. Her training background is in the Kathak art form, and her practice is fueled by collaborating across arts and raising awareness of the power of movement.
Most recently, she choreographed the dance piece “Hey Honey,” which draws upon the influences of nature, specifically honeybees. It premiered at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House in June 2021, commissioned by Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance for the third-year students. In 2015, Vidya represented the South Asian Category in the Grand Finals of the inaugural BBC Young Dancer 2015 at Sadler’s Wells, where she is currently a young associate choreographer.
Since the pandemic, a lot of her work has taken place outdoors, inspired by the global ecosystem we live in. Vidya has toured nationally and internationally and has worked with a range of artists including Sir Richard Alston, Gary Clarke, Thick & Tight, Akademi, among others. She has worked collaboratively with artists across the arts.
29-year-old Aima is a freelance illustrator from Maldives, working mostly with civic education materials and awareness campaigns for various organizations. As one of the founding members of Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society (MACCS) that works to promote and revive traditional handicrafts made from natural fibers, she has been fundamental in documenting the designs and weaving process of the traditional mats. Her love for the environment and culture can be seen in many of her works.
Aima stresses on the need for climate education for all to better educate the future generations about climate change issues and equip them with tools to build resilience against them. She believes that climate education ignites the minds of our children and youth to keep the environment at the focus in all discourses. Through her video message, she appeals for climate education to be made mandatory in school curriculums around the world.
Mentoring Youth in Timor-Leste
Dircia Sarmento Belo
Dircia Sarmento Belo is a citizen of Timor-Leste, an island nation that is highly vulnerable to natural hazards. Dircia has a bachelor’s degree in environmental management and planning. She has worked in the past with UNDP Timor-Leste as an environmental and solid waste management consultant under recycling and youth actions projects. She has provided technical and advisory supports in the area of awareness and behavior change activities.
She also supports youth in areas of leadership, innovation, youth voices and opportunities at one of the youth hubs in Dili. In addition to this, she is the co-founder and vice-coordinator of a Timorese Youth Initiative For Development (TYIFD) youth group, where members volunteer to provide mentoring, lead environmental awareness activities and manage a leadership development program. As a young leader, her aim is to work together with fellow youth to promote awareness-raising campaigns and behavioral change to increase sustainable practices across the country.
Storytelling and Climate Strikes
Nanticha Ocharoenchai (Lynn)
Nanticha Ocharoenchai is an environmental writer and climate activist who is the founder of the climate strike movement in Thailand, referred to as Climate Strike Thailand. Nanticha is a consultant for the WWF-Greater Mekong project. This is a six-year trans-border initiative that aims to protect and regenerate over 250,000 hectares of unique forest in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Central Annamite Mountains.
Nanticha is well-recognized for her very effective communication strategy — story telling. She puts this means to great use whether via the written word, or through films, or photography, to widen awareness in the Thai public about conservation, nature appreciation and environmental science. Lynn also lends her expertise to other NGOs such as SOS Earth, Mongabay.com, 350.org, to name a few.
She is in the forefront to petition government for positive action for the environment. Nanticha led a campaign to Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, that demanded the government declare a climate emergency in Thailand and commit to a net zero carbon economy by 2040.
Youth Are the Present
Bindu is the Program Associate for Climate Interactive. She has received several awards and recognitions for her campaigns for sustainable communities and for youth empowerment. These include: The Inspiring UN Volunteers Award, Collegiate Ambassador for Peace, Young Achiever by Nepal TV and Eco-generation’s Best Regional Ambassador, to name a few. She was recently listed as one of 25 female climate leaders shaping 2019 by the Ecologist.
As an Asia Regional Officer of CliMates and also a World Climate Ambassador of Climate Interactive, she has facilitated many World Climate Simulations in Nepal, India, France and Morocco. Bindu works with the Climate and Energy team at the Climate Interactive, contributing to international diffusion of the interactive tools developed by her organization. Motivated by the philosophy that “youth are the present,” she leads by example and has coordinated several grassroots campaigns in Nepal and beyond.
14-year-old Alisha Arora from Canada is on a mission to leverage exponential technology to solve some of the world’s largest problems. As an ardent philanthropist, she founded her own non-profit organization, The HopeSisters. Alisha also orchestrated countless volunteer opportunities and initiatives for the environment, including:
- Brought together over 200 youth leaders to pick up garbage in her community and advocate for climate change
- Advocated on climate issues by speaking to 1000+ youth and media outlets
- Worked with Brita Water Filter on their youth campaign to spread awareness and start conversations in regards to access to clean water and water pollution
- Developed a youth advisory committee at her local school board, specifically in regards to climate change
She is an advocate and activator for mental health, and is currently researching at MIT’s AI lab to diagnose and prevent suicide with machine learning. Given her vast experience, she has also been selected to speak at many internationally recognized conferences, including UNICEF, UN Canada and DX3 Canada.
Clean Air Ambassador
Identified by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as amongst the foremost emerging youth environmentalists internationally, EARTHDAY.ORG Youth Ambassador Abhiir Bhalla has been a climate advocate for eight years.
Abhiir’s work is focused primarily on air pollution and waste segregation. Working with several environmental non-profits in India and England, Abhiir continues to emphasise on the need to reform emissions policies and standards to address the issue of air pollution. Through his climate change podcast, ‘Candid Climate Conversations,’ he seeks to build awareness on all things environment — waste segregation, renewable energy, food systems, air pollution, global warming and more!
As an Earth Day Youth Ambassador, Abhiir pledges to build awareness around air pollution and to influence policy-making to achieve cleaner, safer air for us all.
Recycle My Battery
12-year-old Nihal Tammana is the Founder of Recycle My Battery, a non-profit organization started in June 2019 and dedicated to promoting and facilitating proper battery disposal. Recycle My Battery installs free-to-use battery bins and runs large-scale education campaigns to spread its message.
Nihal started this initiative since he found that every year, around 15 billion batteries are thrown in the trash. Of these, billions end up in landfills where they commonly cause catastrophic fires and pollute the environment with dangerous chemicals. Only around one percent of people actually know about proper battery disposal, so through the initiative, he is trying to change this.
Since its formation, Recycle My Battery has recycled over 75,000 batteries and grown to encompass over 70 volunteer staff, dozens of schools, public libraries and offices of many businesses. As claimed by him, the awareness campaigns have also already reached about one million people. For the work, he has received personal letters of appreciation from US Senators and other public figures, won several international awards and also been invited to give a TEDx Talk.
Marine Plastic Activist
Eleftherios-Lampros Arapakis is the Co-Founder and Director of Enaleia and recent addition to the #MyFutureMyVoice campaign. Arapakis is acknowledged as the European Young Champion of the Earth for 2020 by the UN Environment Program. In his own words, “I am a social entrepreneur, with a vision to make marine life sustainable.”
His organization Enaleia is aiming to tackle marine plastic pollution, applying a systematic approach that engages the local fishing communities and integrates the collected marine plastic into the circular economy. Their projects, called the Mediterranean CleanUp, have collected more than 120,000 kg of marine plastic from the bottom of the sea. They currently operate in 21 ports in Greece and Italy with more than 220 fishing vessels and 1000 fishers, and will expand their actions beyond Europe very soon.
Bead and Proceed
Bridget is the founder of the social enterprise, Bead and Proceed, which exists to educate people about the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inspires action towards them through creativity. Her passion for sustainability and using creativity as a tool for innovation has made her a recognized SDGs expert, assisting businesses and organizations with SDG strategic alignment and target reporting.
Madhish Parikh is an active Youth Leader and is associated with many social changemaking organizations. He has worked extensively in social sectors like health, environment conservation, blood donations, digital literacy, education, youth empowerment, women empowerment and much more.
Madhish has been recognized for his work with several awards. For instance, his outstanding community welfare service was honored with “Indira Gandhi Award” by Honourable President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee on November 19, 2014 at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi.
Guardian for Life
Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares
My name is Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares. I was born on July 18, 2009 and I am 11 years old; I am an activist defending life in Colombia. I founded the movement Guardians for Life which is made up mainly of boys and girls, am part of Fridays For Future and Citizens’ Climate Lobby platforms in Colombia and am a partner of Earth Day 2020.
In December 2019, I made a presentation in the plenary session of the Senate of the Republic of Colombia where I made a call to the congressmen of my country to legislate for life and to adopt environmental policies because there is no planet B.
I have done political advocacy seeking the prohibition of spraying crops of coca with glyphosate in Colombia’s anti-drug policy; the ban on fracking, single-use plastics and animal testing; and the declaration of a climate emergency in Colombia.
As the founder of the Guardians for Life Movement I have led cleanups, tree plantings in different territories of my country, advocated for seedlings and promoted days to use bicycles as a means of alternative transportation.
Finally, education is very important to me. I was panelist in academic spaces of the National Pedagogic University, Industrial University of Santander, Externado University of Colombia and the V Low International Forum Carbon City. I was also a speaker on the TedUExternado platform.
Combining Science and Natural Heritage
Kaylee Giramur graduated in 2018 from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. In August 2018 she was hired at the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF), Palau and currently works with them as a marine lakes research assistant. Some of her duties include: assistance in the monthly monitoring of the jellyfish population in Jellyfish Lake by measuring the water quality of the lake and collecting water samples for analysis.
One of the current GEF SGP projects in 2020 that Kaylee is working on at CRRF is bringing students aged 11- 25 years to explore and experience the Jellyfish Lake and enabling the children and youth to appreciate their natural heritage and develop a sense of ownership to Palau’s environment and culture. Kaylee, along with the experienced staff of CRRF, are providing lessons, tours, and giving the children and youth an incomparable “tour” that is both science and heritage-based for the Palauan children.