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Turning the spotlight on our young activists

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In her 2018 speech at the UN’s climate change conference, Greta Thunberg said, “you are never too small to make a difference”. The 18-year-old Swedish climate activist’s passion, determination, and firm belief that it is in everyone’s hands to challenge the status quo have inspired many of us to make a difference too. Globally, ONE supporters voted Greta as their favourite activist, followed by Nelson Mandela.

But to mark International Youth Day, we want to turn the spotlight on a few ONE activists from around the world who also believe that no one is ever too small – or young – to make a positive impact.

Read about their incredible work to empower others in their communities and their advice for young people everywhere.

Roberta Cancelleri, a ONE volunteer from Italy

Tell us about yourself and your work.

My name is Roberta, I’m 24, and I’m still looking for my place in the world. In the meantime, I joined the Italian Red Cross. We provide monthly supplies for families in need and every night we do a patrol around the city to assist homeless people. I like to define us as the informal bridge between people in need and public institutions. It is not always easy to ask for help or even to admit that you need it, but the Red Cross is a sort of neutral territory. We build a trusted relationship over time [through our work]: we bring food, we chat with the people we help, and we try to understand their situations and their needs.

What advice would you like to share with young people everywhere?

I’d like to share one simple lesson that I learn every day, again and again: we can make a difference. Our dreams, our thoughts, and above all, our actions make a difference. As long as what you do has a positive impact on the life of even just one single person, it is definitely worth the effort.

Eseosa Iyagbaye, a ONE volunteer from Nigeria

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I am Eseosa Iyagbaye, a final year student in pharmacy and a highly motivated health activist. I have a passion for public health and I strongly believe in the power of youth-led initiatives. In 2020, I kickstarted CHRONmate, a social enterprise on a mission to fight chronic/non-communicable diseases also known as NCDs (like diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and mental disorders) in underdeveloped regions.

NCDs have joined the long list of preventable diseases which are increasing rapidly in Nigeria. Over 600,000 people die every year from such long-term or lifelong conditions, while others are subjected to disability, trauma, and financial stress. My organization works to solve this problem at the grassroots level to create healthier and happier families, who live longer to their full potential and contribute to the economic growth and well-being of the nation.

I am keen about advancing healthcare in Nigeria and Africa at large, through innovative and sustainable approaches. In my quest for health promotion, I also host a podcast called “Healthy Waves with Eseosa,” designed to simplify health issues and promote health to a larger audience through digital media.

What advice would you like to share with young people everywhere?

Own your lives and be the change you want to see. As young people, we must learn to take things one step at a time and celebrate our little wins, even with our big dreams, and treasure the lessons we learn when things are not going great.

Rafaela Policarpo, a ONE volunteer from Belgium

Tell us about yourself and your work.

My name is Rafaela, and I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
I truly believe science and activism can be connected in many ways, and both as a scientist and a woman, there are many social issues that I feel passionate about, including global healthcare, climate change, and gender equality. As a Ph.D. student, I get to be part of a highly international and diverse community that strives to empower women and other minority groups to increase their representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.

Additionally, if there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, it is what a crucial role science plays in our daily lives. So, there is a high chance you will very often find me – both in person and through my social media content — talking about science in an “easy way” to friends, family, and my network, sharing petitions, events, and raising awareness on climate change or vaccination campaigns.

What advice would you like to share with young people everywhere?

On this International Youth Day, I would like to encourage young people to speak their minds and to fight for what they believe in, no matter how small their contribution might be. Where we come from should not determine whether we can live a healthy and dignified life, nor should it define the size of our dreams. Big changes start with small steps, we simply must keep walking.

Carine Umutoniwase, a ONE volunteer from Kenya

Tell us about yourself and your work.

My name is Carine Umutoniwase, founder of Footprints for Change (F4C), a youth-led and youth-serving organization based in Mathare, Kenya. I’m passionate about young people and I’m the chief cheerleader for the young people I serve and walk with. At F4C we provide innovative mentorship platforms and programs for youth (especially in underserved communities) between the ages of 10-25 to inspire and awaken their potential and capacity to lead processes of change.

We mainly work to address social injustices and vices, youth exclusion, and poor leadership in our communities and society at large. We want to see authentic and accountable youth-led grassroots engagement whereby young people are leading the processes of social transformation and peace-building in their communities. Our work is equipping young people and others in the community with resilient mindsets and the skills required for social change and community development.

What advice would you like to share with young people everywhere?

My message to young people everywhere is to look out for each other and collaborate. We can only go so far alone, but if we leverage what little that each person can offer, together we can achieve great things.
I want young people to know that the status of tomorrow is in their hands; if we are consistent and committed to our cause and exercise patience with each other, there is nothing we set our minds on that we will not be able to achieve.

Arupur Charles Peyo, a ONE volunteer from Ethiopia

Tell us about yourself and your work.

My name is Arupur Charles Peyo, I’m from a marginalized indigenous community in the Lower Omo Valley, in the southwest of Ethiopia, and I am a graduate of economics and mathematics from the University of Kabarak, Kenya. In recognition of my efforts to empower vulnerable communities, I was selected to participate in the Young Africa Leaders Initiative, a program designed to help solve pressing societal issues in my community.

Currently, I am involved in implementing projects with the objective of empowering vulnerable groups with economic opportunities, as well as projects aimed at strengthening local cross-border conflict management in the Turkana-South Omo region across the Kenyan-Ethiopian border. With the “Initiative for Pastoralist Communication,” the organization I’m the executive director of, we aim at tackling the problem of inter-ethnic conflict along the border. We have enabled the communities living on the border to lay down a platform whereby the long-lived animosity in the two ethnic groups (Turkana and Nyangatom) was transformed.

What advice would you like to share with young people everywhere?

My message for today’s youth is that they can play a huge role in impacting communities, creating opportunities for, and bringing positive change to vulnerable societies. Together, we can serve and empower transformation!

Find out more about our Global Activists’ work. 

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