“Do More. Be More.”
Every year, new Young Global Leaders (YGLs) are named for their exceptional work in their industries and communities. And they accomplish so much before they even hit 40.
The global organisation of YGLs has an ever-growing membership, now with over 1,400 members and alumni of educators, activists, journalists, tech pioneers, business innovators, entrepreneurs, just to name a few. But they don’t get the title easily. The Forum of Young Global Leaders has to go through a painstaking process to select them, and of course when they’re chosen, these leaders are commemorated for their hard work.
This year they welcome 112 new members. They are people who advocate for gender injustice and human rights to leaders of business, healthcare and civil society. Every time, each is motivated to do more and be more, as the motto goes.
All these leaders are proactive, ready to make a difference and visionaries of our time; and today we focus on a couple of amazing social entrepreneurs. They are unmistakably selfless as they tackle social issues and exemplify what the world needs: empathy, drive and hope.
THE FUTURE OF HOPE FOUNDATION
Chido Govera grew up as an orphan.
At 7, she became the parent to her brother and her grandmother, who was virtually blind. At 8, she became a victim of abuse. And when she was 9, she dropped out of school.
"I remember I cried many days after that and I used to watch other kids going to school that I used to run around with, and it was painful. But it was more painful to go to school and spend the whole time thinking about what's going to happen when I get home.
“Getting back home to watch the hungry faces of my granny and little brother. It was unbearable." Govera recounted.
From then on, she promised herself that when she was older she would protect other orphans from suffering like she had. “This hope of helping made me stronger. It made me have something to look forward to every day even though I had no idea how to achieve it.” said Govera.
Her dream is to empower and inspire women and orphans to change their lives and help others for the betterment of society. The mission of her organisation is to ‘capacitate, collaborate with, support and mentor marginal and vulnerable members of society through entrepreneurial and self-development initiatives.’
“The reason why I go into communities, select groups of young orphans, empower those and bring them back into the communities to inspire change there is because we need to change the way change is viewed.” she expressed.
Her work has reached over 1000 women around South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Tanzania, Cameroon and Ghana, as well as communities in India, entrepreneurs around Europe and the US and aboriginals in Australia. “We are not victims. We are endowed with so much potential, provided we learn the tools and are exposed to the best examples.”
And one of the ‘tools’ she prizes using is the humble mushroom. She learned to farm them when she was 11 and realised the art of cultivating them was a way to aid and improve the situations in her community. She was able to use them to convert the agricultural waste at the end of a farming season into food as well as income.
‘We use all kinds of agricultural wastes to produce the highest quality mushrooms. From maize stalks, coffee waste, to baobab fruit waste, all can be converted into tasty mushrooms - good for health and good for nature!’ — The Future of Hope Foundation
“If we want to change things, we will need to go to the grassroots and teach them to stand up for themselves, because if we can empower them beyond being a victim of a political situation, then we are making change happen.” said Govera, who was named a Young Global Leader in 2017.
FOOD 4 EDUCATION
‘Hungry kids cannot learn or grow’
This Kenyan non-profit uses technology, such as Tap2Eat which is a wristband linked to a virtual wallet that subsidises costs for lunch, and logistics to deliver nutritious meals to primary school children in Nairobi, Kiambu and Mombasa.
“I see myself as a young person who has the responsibility and the power to create the world I want to see in ten years. I do not take that responsibility lightly.” said Wawira Njiru, Executive Director of Food 4 Education and a trained nutritionist.
She founded the organisation in 2012 so they could address the education and food supply needs in her community. But things got worse during the pandemic. Kenya had to close schools and beyond that the impact has left many of its people more vulnerable. They were at an even greater risk of undernutrition and undernourishment.
Food 4 Education mobilised funds to create a food bank and managed to provide food packages and cash transfers for over 2 million meals to families and children in Africa. Now their number is up to 5 million.
Njiru expressed that she “learnt a lot about the impact food has not only on health, but on political stability and security. Food insecurity drives many people all over the world from their homes to the streets to steel, beg and engage in other forms of violence.
“I grew up in Ruiru where many children were being forced to choose between staying in class to learn or going out to the streets to beg for food.
“Although I didn’t have immense resources as an undergrad student, I mobilised those around me to raise some money and start a feeding programme for school children that would enable them to stay in school and learn.”
They’re feeding the future.
“I define leadership as service. I believe that the greatest thing you can do as an individual on earth is to be of service to others. I believe the greatest leaders view their work as service.” said Njiru, named one of this year’s 112 Top YGLs. She also won the Builders of Africa Award 2018 and the Global Citizen Youth Leadership Prize 2018 by Cisco.
Did you ever think that baby diapers and cigarette butts could be recycled? Or what about chewing gum and laboratory waste?
When Tom Szaky was 19 and a freshman at Princeton University, he launched his company. A year later he dropped out to focus on TerraCycle. He’s now one of the top eco-friendly entrepreneurs in the world. “I started TerraCycle out of my dorm room with a passion for solving the critical issue of waste.”
TerraCycle’s creative and inspired approach has made “the coolest little start-up in America” rocket to success as a global business, operating in 21 countries; and a frontrunner when it comes to developing recycling and reusable packing methods.
They are completely doing away with the notion of waste. “About five years into our business we shifted our model to focus on garbage as the hero, and the solution is what can we make it into. Now we’re able to deal with hundreds of different waste streams.” said Szaky.
Their mission is to turn items we deem as unrecyclable and thrown into a landfill into something that can actually be recycled. Millions of cigarette butts and juice pouches have been made into goods like backpacks and fence posts.
“Over a few year period, we grew into a $6 million business with clients such as Walmart, Target and Home Depot selling products like worm poop fertilizer in a reused soda bottle. It was quite exciting.”
And they’ve partnered with big brands. When they wanted to work on a project involving shoes and didn’t know how, they partnered with Timberland. They replaced the sole of shoes with wine corks and 30% of the leather with coffee bags. Now TerraCycle has had over 202 million people collecting and recycling billions of pieces of waste which in turn churned out over $44 million for charities globally.
“We decided we were going to be an expert in one thing – and that thing is solving waste.
“If you scare people, like the world’s going to end, with all these negatives, you’re going to create no engagement… People will feel like nothing they do truly means anything.
“When you do it through delight and make people happy, then they will feel awesome, and they’ll want to make those incremental steps.
“This can be applied to anything, not just garbage. Whatever you work on, try and get people to smile and enjoy interacting.” said Szaky, named a YGL in 2018 and the “#1 CEO under 30” by Inc. magazine in 2006.