The Commonwealth Youth Awards or Excellence in Development Work aims to raise the profile and highlight the contribution that young people make to achieving development goals. Young people throughout the Commonwealth undertake projects and initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace building, in their diligent efforts at promoting and enhancing democracy and development.
The awards presented to Commonwealth citizens (age 15-29) whose contribution to development work reflects the Commonwealth’s Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment to:
- Promote youth participation in decision making
- Promote economic empowerment of young people
- Take action for equality between young women and men
- Promote peaceful and democratic environments in which human rights flourish
- Provide quality education for all
- Improve access to information and communication technology
- Promote health, development and values through sports and culture
- Engage young people to protect the environment.
2012 Awards Winners and Finalists:
AFRICA and EUROPE
Evans Wadongo: Kenya
Inspired by his rural upbringing in Western Kenya, Evans Wadongo founded the programme “Use solar, save lives”, which creates and distributes solar lanterns to poorer rural regions of Kenya. During his early years of education, Evans experienced the common difficulties attached to studying under kerosene lanterns. In particular, he developed eyesight problems and struggled with finding enough kerosene to provide for his studies. At the age of 19, Evans demonstrated his innovative leadership abilities and designed a solar powered lantern out of recycled materials to combat the challenges he was facing. After persevering and receiving a degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering, he founded Sustainable Development for All- Kenya (SDfA-Kenya), where he furthered his development activities. He now has produced and distributed over 27, 000 solar powered lanterns throughout Kenya. These lanterns have changed the lives of rural Kenyans in a variety of ways including initiating over 100 income generating initiatives brought on by the funds saved through no longer needing to purchase kerosene. The program has also aided children in pastoralist communities to access education by attending night classes facilitated by the solar powered lanterns. His programme has expanded to include building regional youth centres providing skills training for youth to earn a living, building the lamps and other metal work materials. Evans sustainable development work has improved access to education, a reduction in indoor pollution, safer lighting alternatives, income generation and savings and empowering youth.
Isaiah Owolobi: Nigeria
Isaiah Owolobi is the founder and project director of HACEY’s Health Initiative; a youth led organization focusing on capacity building, advocacy, research and education for young people, children and women across six states in Nigeria. Isaiah has helped establish a mobile library, freely distributing health education materials and instructions to rural areas. He has mobilized young people to extend HIV/AIDS health education to women across Lagos state. His work also extends into practical provisions of HIV counselling and testing services and anti-malarial mosquito nets.
Ellen Daphine Chilemba: Malawi
Ellen Daphine Chilemba is the founder of the Tiwale project; an initiative designed to supply poorer young Malawian women educational entrepreneurial workshops and start-up capital to start their own businesses. This project has empowered women and provided guidance for self-development. Ellen encourages these women to use their earnings to attend further chooling and help pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Additionally, the Tiwale project employs youth volunteers and encourages youth participation and community action.
Foglabenchi Lily Haritu: Cameroon
Lily Haritu is the youngest individual to reach the position of program supervisor in the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. She has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to reproductive and sexual health rights education and rights promotion particularly through her work with stationary and rural mobile clinics across Cameroon. This work has accelerated development efforts in maternal and child health promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Lily has empowered women to negotiate safer sex practices and has increased access to sexual education and counselling for young adolescent girls.
Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne: Sri Lanka
Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne is a local and regional eco-social entrepreneur in Sri Lanka. Featured on the Youth Services of America list of the most Influential and Powerful Young People, Anoka has received international recognition for her tireless efforts in youth engagement and environmental conservation. Not only has she assessed the importance of mangrove forests in Sri Lanka both environmentally and for the community, replanting more than 12, 000 mangroves in Sri Lanka, she has also combined her social and environmental entrepreneurship efforts in her “Growin’ Money” initiative. The programme was built out of Anoka’s recognition of the social issues facing Sri Lankan youth and the role she saw in environmental activism in addressing some of the problems facing youth. Identifying the frustration in her peers at a lack of access to further education and employment opportunities, Anoka designed a programme that provides youth with soft skills to increase their employability, offering youth-centred workshops training in eco-tourism and boat guiding, IT skills, resume building, designer handicraft manufacturing and organic mangrove replanting. The programme is youth-led, provides income to the local communities, and creates economic and social empowerment through sustainable environmental and poverty reduction strategies. The work Anoka has pursued has had positive ramifications locally within Sri Lanka and is creating changes regionally as well, as her project is being replicated in India and Bangladesh, inspiring positive social, economic and environmental change.
Sikander Sabeer: Sri Lanka
Sikander Sabeer works towards community development, youth empowerment and climate change advocacy on local, national, and international levels. He is a journalist, researcher, policy writer, activist and motivator, earning the title “Global Changemaker” from the British Council Youth Empowerment Program. The Global Changemakers are vibrant youth leaders who have initiated solid grass root level projects in their local community. He is involved in a wide variety of organizations ranging from grass roots local, to large-scale international which support his commitments to youth empowerment, environmental sustainability, and community development.
Hanan Ali Abbasi: Pakistan
Hanan Ali Abbasi works in the fields of youth development, literature, journalism, leadership and social work. He founded the National Youth Assembly, a symbolic youth parliament and is involved in developing a new generation of young political leaders in Pakistan. He is an award winning journalist and youth leader, involved with IT literacy centres, meal provision initiatives for poorer populations and started a nationwide tree planting campaign, “Go Green Youth”, mobilizing active participation in planting thousands of trees across Pakistan.
Gaurand Kishan Chauhan: India
Gaurang Kishan Chauhan is a grassroots community leader. He is the founder of the “Leher” initiative in Mumbai, which supports positive development for children and youth through community mobilization. The organization began as an effort to empower girls within his community to realize gender equality and offers education classes, study groups, career guidance, sports and social awareness. Gaurang encourages child and youth-centred development, promoting volunteering within his community and participation and action to build a responsible community. The programming of the Leher initiative has established engaged and active children and youth in their community, eager to learn and work together towards social change.
Kemar Saffrey: Barbados
Kemar Saffrey is a dedicated and determined young entrepreneur. He is an international award winning CEO, businessman and compassionate humanitarian, working tirelessly to improve the lives of homeless people in Barbados. Involved in charity work from the age of 18, Kemar founded the Barbados Vagrant and Homeless Society (BVHS) in 2008 and is currently the chairman and President. Kemar’s drive to fully understand the lives of homeless individuals brought him to personally undertaking and completing a rehabilitation program, where he grew a strong appreciation for the challenges and stigma attached to homelessness. Not only does he tirelessly work towards providing food, clothing and shelter for those in need, but he also strives to rehabilitate vagrant people across Barbados. BVHS offers life skills programs that are designed to give homeless people the faculty to find sustainable employment and shelter and to reunite them with their families and reintegrate them into mainstream society. His program sees to the needs of hundreds of people on a weekly basis and has helped eight individuals remain off the streets permanently. Kemar Saffrey has an empathetic understanding of the social stigma attached to homeless and vagrant individuals and seeks to make positive changes to the perceptions of homelessness in Barbadian society and wider Caribbean region through hands-on community work, motivation and inspirational leadership.
Gordon Swaby: Jamaica
Gordon Swaby is the creator of EduFocal, an interactive online learning application designed to provide an innovative way to move forward with technology in education. He is the CEO of the growing company and a recipient of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. Gordon’s inventive approach to online learning provides an enriching learning experience outside of the classroom for youth, promoting unique approaches to education and providing employment in the Caribbean IT sector.
Randy McLaren: Jamaica
Randy McLaren is a leader, an activist, a performing arts practitioner and a cultural ambassador. He is heavily involved in grass roots youth work using his creative arts background and talents to raise awareness for children and youth in care and protection and HIV/AIDS and sexual health education, to encourage youth to become activists and advocates supporting youth and child rights. He is the organizer of the International Kreative Aktivism Network, which encourages and facilitates youth to use artistic devices for activism in youth and development issues. Randy is Jamaica’s Youth Ambassador for Culture and Vulnerable Youth, and his work in the field has engaged young people in assuming creative approaches to sociopolitical and youth-centred issues.
Nadine Muschette: Jamaica
Nadine Muschette is dedicated to creating and improving projects and programs in Jamaica that encourage educational, cultural, social and personal development for youth. She has secured substantial funding and facilitated the successful operation of several youth based programs including a summer day camp, a dining culture education initiative, and establishing an international North-South school partnership designed to increase multicultural exposure and education. Her work has encouraged youth participation, volunteering, community development and social and educational growth.
Julian O’Shea: Australia
Julien O’Shea is an active and innovative leader in the international development community. As the director of the education, research, training and innovation sector of Engineers Without Borders Institute, Australia (EWB), he has established and delivered education and technology projects across South Asia, South East Asia, and within Aboriginal communities in Australia. He was named one of Australia’s 15 Most Inspiring Engineers and continues to inspire leadership in the field of international development. As the leader of the EWB’s Humanitarian Engineering Research Programme, Julien encourages engineering students to undertake local and international thesis and group oriented research projects, focused on creating technologically appropriate sustainable development. Furthering his inspirational work with young people, Julien has developed the “Regioneering Road Show”, a science and engineering outreach programme, partnering with universities, students, industry groups and Aboriginal community groups to demonstrate the value of science and engineering programmes in positively impacting people’s lives. So far, the Roadshow has impacted the lives of over 1000 rural students in Victoria. As the founder of the Journal of Humanitarian Engineering, Julien is an academic leader in the engineering and development field, using the journal to showcase innovative solutions to poverty. Julien is also a hands-on leader and has had personal involvement in several development projects including: a rights-based approach to water access in South East Asia; designing an improved sedimentation tank in rural Nepal; and improving efficiency and sustainability in Western Australian Aboriginal communities. As an engineer, leader and innovator, Julien has served his local and regional communities with his commitment to fighting poverty, promoting science, technology, and social engagement.
Chanel Tauveve: Samoa
Chanel Tauveve is an inspiration to young people through the dedication and hard work he conveys in his small plantation in Samoa. In the short time that Chanel has been cultivating his land, he has begun expanded his subsistence farming practice into a money-generating initiative and is exploring overseas markets. He demonstrates excellent leadership skills as an employer to young men and women and is a strong contributor to the development of the economy of Samoa. Through his work, he contributes to family, village, church and national development and the lives of the individuals with whom he works. He is an excellent role model for children and youth in his community and inspires other youth to utilize their skills and work ethic to build themselves and their communities.
Jill Wai: Vanuatu
Jill Wai began working at Youth Challenge Vanuatu over two years ago beginning as a volunteer cleaner, working her way into the position of monitoring and evaluation program manager. Jill’s passion and drive Jill engages youth in a participatory fashion to contribute to the development and improvement of programs and individual growth. Jill herself has overcome many barriers in her life to succeeding (unable to finish school, family illness and young motherhood) and she is a role model to young entrepreneurs and job seekers. She is perpetually optimistic and is committed to increasing her knowledge and experience in youth development issues so that she can continue to inspire and motivate other youth.
Melissa Edwards: Australia
Melissa Edwards has demonstrated a lengthy commitment to supporting arts organizations and programs for young people. Most recently, she has established the multi-arts youth festival Heyday. This festival is inspired by her desire to place the cultivation and development of the arts in the hands of young people. The festival supports community identity, engages youth in the wider arts community and bridges regional employment gaps by connecting young, creative artists with professional development opportunities and mentorships aimed at cultivating their careers. Melissa is a dedicated supporter of youth engagement in the arts and promotes youth-centred development of the arts community.