Martina Mifsud, Malta – 23 years old
These were the powerful words of Ms. Linda Torkhani, a Tunisian 17-year-old activist who uses theatre play as a platform for her stand about human rights.
Such were the speakers that we had the privilege of listening to at YouthMundus 2019. I am still in awe at the raw content we received, some of which included first-hand accounts which shocked all listeners to the core. It is truly today’s youth who will take the decisions of tomorrow, and below are a few of these game-changers, all of them under 20 years young, but who have already done more in their few years, than most people do in a lifetime!
17 year old Hannah Testa from Georgia, USA has been an activist since the age of ten, when she realised that one of the biggest problems which the current Earth is facing, is that of plastic pollution… and ironically, it is one which is (or was), completely preventable. In light of this, she made it her mission in life to raise awareness and influence others into reducing their plastic footprint, and use herself as the epitome of how such a life is actually viable. She has managed to single-handedly influence the state council to eliminate all single-use plastics from government properties; a fresh bill which was passed earlier this year. At this tender age, she has worked with NGOs to come up with a curriculum which constitutes a section on ocean health, something which had been unprecedented, and which ended up affecting over 110, 000 students! She has organised fundraisers in aid of ocean conservation organisations- which have ultimately resulted in a plethora of student led efforts to reduce single use plastic, the construction of a floating classroom in Bangladesh, and, impressively, the planting of over five thousand coral reefs!
Part of being an environmentalist is also being an animal lover… but Hannah goes a step beyond. She is a self-confessed, outspoken animal rights activist, and has also raised thousands of dollars in fundraisers for such. She has introduced state bills to ban the trade of valuable animal body parts, such as ivory, shark fins and rhinoceros horns. In this way, her fellow locals do not contribute towards the alleged $20 billion dollar worldwide wildlife trade, which is completely illegal, and of which the USA is a major contributor.
As a result of this love for her environment, both for the biotic aspect (the animals) and the abiotic aspect (the physical environment which is non-living, like the atmosphere itself), Hannah is a proud vegan; living a plant-based lifestyle, and tries to raise awareness; especially in those of a young age, about the implications of leading such a lifestyle. She uses her own platform of Hannah4Change to make people more environmentally conscious about all the decisions that they take, and tries to divide the steps needed for a grand change into smaller, more attainable ones. And I must say, at just 17 years old, she has done impressively well, and I personally look forward to all that she will become in the near future. The world would be in such a better place if everyone had just a fraction of her motivation and drive to change all that is not acceptable!
Lilly’s Plastic Pickup- https://www.natgeokids.com/au/kids-club/cool-kids/general-kids-club/lillys-plastic-pickup/
This ten-year-old bundle of joy has her priorities well sorted. In a 30 second interview, she managed to convince us as her audience to ALWAYS do our part; as it is the small actions which, if done by a lot of people, will ultimately make the difference. She is the best example of what I always say; that it is the people who do the little things constantly, which bring about the change. And in this case, it is the little people themselves! Lilly’s principle small action is that she picks up at least three pieces of plastic every time she is outside. In doing so, she is directly influencing others to follow her example, whilst also influencing those who dispose of rubbish incorrectly, to do that no longer. It is shameful that a ten-year-old has to pick up pieces of plastic and organise clean-ups to remove the rubbish of these disrespectful people! Her drive was evident when, during YouthMundus, FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education) organised a clean-up for cigarette butts and plastic… and this YouthMundie of the Year award winner was our forewoman, with her infectious motivation. We could all do one better for ourselves and for the world, and be a bit more like Lilly!
Watch our interview with amazing Lilly here: https://www.facebook.com/yre.global/videos/1405695932940488/
and with her equally cool friend, CB, here: https://www.facebook.com/yre.global/videos/2469710646647655/
Association Ado+ – http://adoplus14.blogspot.com/2011/03/presentation-de-lassociation-ado.html
This association “intends to create for 13 to 18 [year olds] spaces of expression and usability to strengthen their participation in cultural and social life in a meaningful and positive way”.
At YouthMundus, we had the privilege of meeting Ms Linda Torkhani; a Tunisian youth representative of this Association. There was not one moment throughout the whole weekend when she did not bear a beaming smile on her face;- she truly is the epitome of happiness itself, and the energy which she brought to every conversation was very contagious. Together with her adolescent group, they put up a theatre play about how important it is for everyone to fight for women’s rights, especially in countries where women are underrepresented. She has, in recent years, participated in UNICEF meetings, helped in putting up a play in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Family, Childhood and the Elderly of Tunis, facilitated a talk about the history of human rights, launched plays for UNICEF, participated during a radio program about the crises in education… the list is never ending. This 17-year-old overachiever does all this whilst still finding the time to help all the adolescents which seek the services of Ado+. To think that she has done so much, that she has given so much of herself for others, is something which I am sure motivates all those around her. I am so grateful our paths have crossed, and it is absolutely inspiring to have made her acquaintance!
Haile Thomas- https://www.hailevthomas.com/about
This 18-year-old is the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the USA. Ms Thomas is a positive lifestyle influencer, and is the living attestation to all the benefits which a vegan lifestyle can give you. She has converged all these positive efforts into her own non-profit organisation; HAPPY– Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful Youth. Through this platform, she attempts to address the aliment accessibility of vulnerable people, such as those in at-risk communities, who unfortunately, do not have access to the same resources as people in higher social classes. She targets the younger age group, because children are increasingly at risk of life threatening, but wholly preventable conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Since commencing her pursuit, Ms. Thomas has personally involved over 35,000 children in this fight! The published author is continuously striving to improve and help anyone who will listen, and she also does this through her YouTube channel ‘Plant-Powered Haile’, on which she provides lifestyle tips which are practical and relatively attainable. Within five minutes of speaking to Haile, you can immediately sense a beautiful aura of serenity and fulfilment- you can feel the ways which her lifestyle choices affect her. She is a wonderful role model with regards to small changes which everyone can try- laypeople and game-changers alike- and she has personally influenced me to keep striving for the lifestyle I would like- free from all cruelty and repercussions on the environment. In that way, I can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem!
Although a few years beyond 20, I would love to dearly say a few things about Ms Jamal Saleh and Ms Josette Khalil, both members of the Editorial board of Megaphone. Megaphone is a non-secretarian, impartial media platform, which aims to deliver digital content on Lebanese politics and amplify any marginalised groups rights. Before the foundation of Megaphone, both persons had been social and political activists for a few years. Lebanon, their homecountry, was undergoing a period of political instability, and the related corruption was beyond fathom. All media platforms available at the time were lacking, and so, Ms Saleh together with a few friends decided that the most logical next step in their activism would be to found Megaphone.
The main aim of this platform was to provide a counter narrative to what secretarian information and news were being fed to the public through the media platforms which were available at the moment. Thence, Megaphone was set up in July 2017, and up to this day continuously strives to provide unbiased information, untainted by politics and religious influences. Megaphone tries to present concise and attractive visuals which will engage the audience, and coax curiosity. This curiosity is what would ultimately result in getting more people on board, in making people realise what is wrong, and giving them the means and platforms to project what is wrong. I daresay, they do live up to their namesake! Reality in Lebanon is the total opposite to that in Western Europe, and in countries like my home, Malta. Malta is secure, safe… you know that the constitution will protect you and that nobody should be above that. But in Lebanon, it is a different story. Up to 2011, any murderers or criminal who hurt women in their family for ‘dishonourable actions’ were given reduced sentences. Up to 2017, rapists could marry their victims… without said victims having a say in it. Megaphone is doing its utmost to fight the war that needs to be won, and it was a privilege (in some twisted way) to have had the opportunity of listening to them, as it is such a different reality to ours; unless we experience it first hand, it is very difficult to accept is as the truth.
I could not have had the opportunity to attend and report on YouthMundus2019 without the unfathomable support of Ms. Audrey Gauci; on behalf of YRE Malta, and the immense help of Ms. Kristina Madsen and Ms. Nicole Andreou, on behalf of FEE and Eco-Schools respectively. This festival has regaled me the utmost honour to be able to listen to all the above mentioned speakers, and so, so much more.
Each and every one of them carried a story, a story of how they are changing the world, one small step at a time.
Each and every one of them was so inspiring, and their motivation so infectious, that it reminded me how privileged I am to be a Young Reporter, and to have once in a lifetime opportunities such as this. I am indebted.
Once a YRE, always a YRE!