As we approach the 2021 JCI World Congress we are not only approaching outstanding keynotes speakers, programs and training but also JCI’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) award! This award honors ten incredible young leaders under the age of 40 each year who have exemplified the spirit of the JCI Mission in a wide array of fields whether it’s individual development, business and entrepreneurship, community action or international cooperation.
Currently, the JCI’s TOYP competition has been narrowed down to a pool of 20 applicants. Here is where we need your help! A big part of the points system for who is chosen as an official TOYP involves vitale votes from the public.
Public voting for our 2021 JCI TOYP Honorees begins 6 August. Make sure to follow this link, and it will take you to the appropriate page for official public voting.
Below you can find the brief biographies of each TOYP honoree and their diverse accomplishments. Make sure to read them all and contemplate who you truly believe best exemplifies the JCI values. TOYP nominees who win will go on to become positive brand ambassadors for JCI to enhance JCI brand awareness, boost JCI membership growth and retention and generate financial sustainability for JCI. It is important to think about who you want to represent the JCI name and all it stands for.
Share the voting link with your friends and family and let’s discover together who the 2021 TOYPs will be!
AMINE CHOUAIEB – Tunisia
At the age of 27, Mr. AMINE CHOUAIEB began reading reports on smart grids and the “Internet of Things.” This marked the beginning of his interest in the virtualization of object management on the internet and home automation. Subsequently, Mr. Chouaieb noted that the number of Internet users on the net is no longer growing, while the number of objects/devices connected to the Internet is itself increasing. He went as far as predicting that in 2020 there will be 10 objects per person, connected to the Internet. Hence came the inspiration for his startup “Chifco.”
With this company, AMINE is able to assist his clients in numerous ways. His innovative solutions allowed its users total control over their energy consumption, safety and comfort. Chifco offers personalised support for client’s strategic and innovative projects, designs digital visibility tools that allow rapid business development and customer loyalty and helps companies define their innovation strategies, set up, manage and coordinate their various R&D projects.
Thanks to his enterprising solution of connected objects, the concept of “the Connected Home” where heating, air conditioning, lighting, flow management and security are managed by a computer system was born. For his project to measure household energy consumption, AMINE CHOUAIEB was received in 2015 by the former and current presidents of the French Republic, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron, in the presence of the 23 international startuppers, winners of the Paris French Tech Ticket prize to present his project for measuring domestic energy consumption. Through this project, AMINE won the prestigious award and was able to benefit from its support in terms of monitoring, coaching, and funding for his enterprise.
AMINE contributed to the preparation and adoption of the startup act, a set of laws to promote a more suitable environment for startups.
In 2019 Following a strategic merger between Chifco, the company he founded, and the Cellcom group, AMINE CHOUAIEB became, at the age of only 33, the youngest CEO of a company listed on the stock exchange in Tunisia. Since then the group returned to profitability and thus saved many jobs. He launched in 2020 his own mobile virtual operator.
Chadi Khatib – Syria
Dr. Chadi Khatib is a Syrian pharmacist who holds a PhD in Medical Science History and Traditional Medicine. He’s a doctoral student in Pharmacognosy and Medicinal Plants. Among his achievements, he holds 11 patents, serves as the Head of the Syrian Society of Complementary Medicine and is a member of the Syrian Pharmacist Association. He is a role model for anyone who aspires to scientific achievements, and he has displayed an overwhelming ambition for his field of research. Dr. Chadi graduated from Aleppo University in 2003, received his first postgraduate degree in 2004, his second postgraduate diploma in 2006, his first Master’s Degree in 2010 and his second masters degree in 2018.
He received his Syrian pharmacist board certificate from the Syrian Commission for Medical Specialties and the Syrian Ministry of Health, specializing in drugs and medicinal plants in 2019. He is about to get his second PhD in drugs and medical plants from Damascus University. Dr. Chadi’s interest in medicinal herbs was kindled early on by the ancient manuscripts of Arab scholars who excelled in pharmacology and medicine. Inspired by these scholars, Chadi has focused on developing natural Syrian herbal and cosmetic products, eventually leading to his 11 patents.
What’s more, Dr. Chadi has not held on to this knowledge, but works hard to share this gathered expertise internationally. He has served as a lecturer in the pharmaceutical scientific conference accompanying the meeting of the executive office of the Arab Pharmacists Union in Movenpick-Cairo, Egypt in 2017, and has spoken at other conferences in Tunis, Dubai and Paris.
From 2015 to 2019, he was the head of the scientific committee at the Syrian Pharmacist Association where he organized several local, regional and international scientific conferences supporting creativity and innovation in the field of pharmacy and drug industry. He was awarded a gold medal in the 8th International Exhibition of Innovations for China for his invention to treat Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, served as a member of the IFIA General assembly in 2018, was awarded the Shield of Appreciation from the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and the University of Babylon in 2020 and served as an international jury member at the 2nd Beirut International Innovation Show in 2021. Dr. Chadi has authored many scientific publications in the field of phytotherapy, is a current member of Everest International of Invention and many more accomplishments.
Through innovation and careful attention to his own culture, Dr. Chadi has proven to be a dedicated young leader that can overcome many different challenges.
Chee Sian Kuan – Malaysia
Chee Sian Kuan’s research in biomedicine has led to important revelations about the nature of disease and preventative care that have aided the health response in Asia during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.
Dr. Kuan obtained his Bachelor of Health Science and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Science Malaysia, where he made the dean’s list and graduated with honors. His doctoral study focused on human ethanolamine and choline kinase – proteins that play a key role in phospholipid metabolism and are involved in cancer pathways. Dr. Kuan’s research work has been presented and shared with the scientific community in many conferences and webinars. One of his works on genome analysis of Bipolaris papendorfii was awarded with the Best Poster Presentation Award at the Infections 2015 Conference.
Throughout his career, Dr. Kuan has developed various molecular diagnostic platforms for illnesses and continues to evaluate the most effective models for treatment. His areas of expertise include syndromic panel-based testing, genetic panels that can influence predictive medicine, precision medicine, and personalized medicine, among others. His works are widely published in international peer-reviewed journals and cited by many. This information serves as a guide for medical practitioners and laboratory operators in selecting the most suitable technique for diagnostic purposes.
In 2016, Dr Kuan founded NeoGenix Laboratoire, a laboratory providing the highest quality molecular diagnostic tests. NeoGenix was selected as one of only five companies in Malaysia to sign an MoU with the BD Summit in Doha, Qatar as collaborative partner for the healthcare sector in the Middle East.
NeoGenix was awarded by the Ministry of Health in Malaysia for providing Covid-19 PCR tests to 59 government hospitals in Malaysia during the early stage of the pandemic in 2020. Kuan also led the team that provided the first PCR tests from a private laboratory in the country. NeoGenix has recently landed a contract with Pure Health Medical Supplies L.L.C. to screen all travellers from Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates for Covid-19. The lab is currently working with the Johor state government to help with Covid-19 screening and assisting with plans to reopen the Malaysia-Singapore border. NeoGenix is collaborating with MaRii and RZAC ImmuneSAFE Sdn Bhd to provide antibody testing to assist people in making informed clinical decisions about their health and help verify the effectiveness of vaccine protection.
Christopher Arida – Lebanon
Christopher is an entrepreneur and environmental activist who always focuses on social contribution. During his university studies, he was the Vice President of the Air and Waste Management Association student chapter. In 2020, he led two beach cleanup events with over 65 volunteers in five different Lebanese areas. In collaboration with Empower, a company in Norway, and as a response to the crashing Lebanese economy and sanitary crisis, they made 400 USD from selling plastics collected from the cleanups and donated the money as medicine to the elderly.
Despite economic challenges, Christopher was able to start a recycling business with the municipalities in Lebanon. In January 2020, working with three municipalities and over 750 households, he invested in a small waste sorting facility and provided door-to-door waste collection service for over a year. However, when it became clear that the current situation and COVID-19 pandemic would make this venture a very challenging one, Christopher set out to develop a new business that was scalable.
Through automating many activities within the waste management sector with AI software, Christopher knew he could operate at better margins and run a more optimized facility. However, it would be too costly to pay for someone else to develop the software, so instead Christopher learned the programming himself, developed a proof of concept and led a team through Berytech (an accelerator for Lebanese startups). After adapting to many challenges, his concept – Diwama – gained international recognition and traction, and now it is in the top eight startups in the final phase at the Berytech Accelerator, and it has been supported and funded by various organizations around the world such as Plug and Play, Alliance to End Plastic Waste, Veolia Middle East Spark Accelerator, Makesense, Ma’an Social Incubator, Astrolabs, Global Incubator Network in Austria, and many others.
Daniel Tricarico – Argentina
Daniel is an impact-oriented entrepreneur with the main goal of unleashing Latin-America´s potential through the democratization of innovation and entrepreneurship as well as supporting entrepreneurs of all types and stages. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he has always had a fascination for technology, innovation and the social disruptive changes that come as a result. With the desire to pursue said goals, Daniel graduated in 2008 with a Business Administration Degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. His education journey did not stop there however. In 2019 he was selected for the International Visitors Leadership Program held by the US Department of State and obtained his Masters in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2020 from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Also, in 2021 he graduated from the Global Competitiveness Leadership Program from Georgetown University. Currently, he is founder and CEO of IMPACTLATAM, an acceleration platform for impact startups in Latin-America.
Daniel has always believed in the power young leaders have to transform reality by working together with transparent governance, strengthening grassroots movements, and technology. That is why he has devoted the last seven years of his life to promoting and sustaining entrepreneurs. Currently, Daniel is co-founder and board member of the Latin-American Association of Entrepreneurs (ASELA), a non-profit organization that aims to foster entrepreneurship in each country in LATAM, giving a “united voice“ for entrepreneurs to influence public policies (creating optimal conditions and assessing current and future policies), as well as creating hands-on programs to support entrepreneurs regardless of their sector and stage. He is also co-founder and former executive director of the Argentinian Association of Entrepreneurs (ASEA).
Daniel is an ecosystem builder and continually generates community exchange experiences as well as trainings, university programs and benefits such as “entrepreneur’s breakfast,” online webinars, meetups and two programs focused on diversity, one for female entrepreneurs and the other for 40+ year old entrepreneurs providing soft and hard skills as well as access to digitalization. Scaling ASEA originally from 100 founders and now at +40,000 members to date currently, Daniel’s mission towards democratizing impact innovation and entrepreneurship has not stopped growing with an undeniable impact on young entrepreneurs.
Edmund Heng – Malaysia
Edmund has been a hard-working learner and he has never stopped acquiring knowledge in several fields to enrich himself. Born to an ordinary family in Melaka, had his childhood turn towards a path of difficulty at the tender age of 10 when he was diagnosed with non-congenital physical disorder. He suffered from swelling in his left wrist and also he dealt with a bacterial infection in blood and this caused abscesses and pus to develop on his body. He was allergic to many foods and experienced severe pain.
In 2008, Edmund’s father declared bankruptcy and their textile factory closed down. In order to start another company, his parents use Edmund’s name to obtain a bank loan. The atmosphere at home was pressing and tense. Edmund decided it was time to take his life into his own hands, despite his painful disabilities. He went on to pursue numerology, NLP, social science, psychology, and emotional intelligence. Holding a Bachelor in Business and Marketing, Edmund worked as Marketing Manager for Adonis Beauty. During that single year, Edmund acquired knowledge in the supplement and skin care industry that brought him lucrative income in his future years. He understood that to build a strong business empire, he needs to work the entire business ecosystem in a way where every part of the system is linked and supports each other.
Edmund has since overcome the physical challenges, and worked his way to be a serial entrepreneur with a strong and persistent mindset, reaching 200,000 people directly and millions of people indirectly.
Appointed as Chief Marketing Officer of ZGC in Malaysia, Edmund brought in investors from China, to seed and nurture potential businesses in Malaysia. In 2019, he brought in more than 60 Million USD of seeding funds for several businesses. He also owns the OEM Manufacturing for Food and Nutritional Products, a manufacturing arm that has developed more than 2,000 products for various renowned brands sold in South East Asia. And even beyond that, one of his brightest accomplishments is innovating LIFECO technology, a company that applies the positive selection marker genes responsible for cell repairing into the Ageing-Related Gene (ARG) clusters, which cause ageing in human body, to delay or stop the expression of ARG. Preserving the biodiversity in botanical extraction, LIFECO magnifies the benefit of natural plants by extracting the best source of potent phyto-active, and developing sustainable high performance natural ingredients, for dietary supplements and functional food.
He is an extraordinary entrepreneur, and a trendsetter who has innovated LIFECO and successfully led his young and multiracial team through cultivating the right attitude and inspiring them to push beyond boundaries.
Fatih İnci – Turkey
Since his childhood, Dr. Fatih İnci has always been fascinated with science and technology, and demonstrated exceptional determination and dedication to providing innovative solutions to real-world problems in medicine. Dr. İnci’s core research focuses on the design and applications of “unconventional technologies” harmonizing sensors, microfluidics and specialized surface chemistry with an emphasis on the clinical diagnosis of maladies.
The success of treatment for maladies relies heavily on our ability to detect diseases at an early stage. Regrettably, it is significantly hampered with bulky, expensive and lengthy existing systems that cannot be adapted to the point-of-care. During his Ph.D. studies at İstanbul Technical University (Turkey), Dr. İnci invented platforms to create “molecular snapshots of artificial cells” for pharmaceutical applications, which were then validated with cancer cells at the University of New South Wales and University of Technology Sydney (Australia). At Harvard, Harvard-MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Stanford (U.S.A.), Dr. İnci adapted this concept to decipher biomarkers on a sensor that measures spectral color changes in a droplet of biospecimen and detects the early onset of infections and cancer. His current research at Bilkent University-UNAM continues bringing new translational innovations in precision health that can be incorporated into daily life with minimal disruption. Recently, he has recycled flexible materials and off-the-shelf plastics into a business card-sized sensor. With this discovery, he has been able to reduce costs ranging from a few pennies to tens of thousand dollars, as well as duration from two days to an hour while unprecedentedly detecting biomarkers down to 4 nm in size (~1/25,000 of a hair). All his inventions are perfectly designed for reducing existing inequalities in healthcare, thereby expanding their access to a level that everyone, regardless of the socio-economic group, can access.
Dr. Fatih İnci has disseminated his research in the flagship journals, along with eight patents and two viable products. He excelled in research, also culminating in many awards/honors from NSF, TÜBİTAK, JCI-Turkey, EMBO-ESF, Horizon 2020-European Commission, Science Academy, Harvard Medical School-BWH and American Chemical Society. Along with featuring on journal covers, his research has been highlighted by NIH, Science AAAS, Nature Medicine, American Institute of Physics, Journal of the American Medical Association, Newsweek, Popular Science, The London Economic, and so on. Most importantly, he is a very effective mentor of 60-plus students from four continents to help shaping the next-generation’s passion and commitment to innovation in Biomedical Engineering. In a nutshell, Dr. Fatih İnci is dedicated to serving for better health, life, and education, aiming to touch people’s lives around the world.
Hala Najm – Lebanon
Hala has always had a passion for adolescent health, specifically the SDGs Quality Education, and Good Health and Wellbeing. After leaving her career as a pharmacist to follow her passion, she now dedicates her time and energy through her work to public health as an expert in health promotion and adolescent and youth health in Lebanon and the Arab region.
Most recently, Hala has been a leading force in rehabilitation in the aftermath of the devastating Beirut Port explosion. Knowing she couldn’t sit back and do nothing, she developed the READY to Overcome program. The “R.E.A.D.Y. to Overcome” is an online psychosocial support (PSS) program targeting children aged 7-12 years who have passed through stressful events such as Beirut Blast and the COVID-19 pandemic. This adapted e-toolkit aims at building a Resilient, Empathic, Aware and Dynamic Young generation equipped with the knowledge and skills to overcome stressful events by using arts and crafts as a means to express themselves and cope with their emotions in a healthy way. The toolkit was developed for on ground implementation following the explosion, yet, the program was immediately adapted to its online version to cater for the situation. A total of 350 children and 100 parents took part in the pilot phase of the program which lasted 4 months.
Hala was appointed by the World Health Organization as a member of the steering group committee on the theme Non-communicable Diseases & the Next Generation. She is also a prevention specialist, and currently a certified facilitator on the International Evidence-Based Practice on substance use prevention course provided by the international Society for Substance Use professionals (ISSUP). Hala has worked on national mass media campaigns that aim at raising awareness about HIV and decreasing stigma against people living with HIV. Hala is also a trainer on several UNICEF and UNODC programs that are delivered to adolescent and youth on employability, leadership, and prevention from risky behaviors. Before the Beirut Port Explosion, throughout 2018, Hala co-developed the “Youth & Health” manual for the youth sector of the Lebanese Red Cross and has co-authored several scientific publications on adolescent and youth health. From 2016 to 2018, Hala worked with Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communtaire, as their senior project coordinator.
Hala showcases a great example of the youth working for the youth with the youth. Through her passion, expertise and experience she uplifts them by providing development opportunities as well as hope during tough times.
Hansley Noruthun – Mauritius
Hansley Noruthun has always been passionate about space and its ability to drive imagination, unite humanity and push the boundaries of the unknown. After all, exploration is part of human nature and Earth remains our home in this journey. Coming from the island of Mauritius, Hansley has made it his mission to transform communities and support developing countries using space science technology and applications.
Despite the lack of opportunities in his home country at that time, Hansley studied bioscience and became the first Mauritian to be awarded a joint scholarship to complete a Space Program by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Glenn Research Center.
Over the span of the past decade, Hansley has encouraged the participation of developing countries, specifically targeting youth in Africa, to explore and develop space technology and education in civil society, academia and the private sector.
He has campaigned for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and made it his goal to advocate for quality education and socio-economic growth while addressing global challenges using innovative approaches. His areas of focus include earth observation, disaster management, the blue economy and climate change.
Hansley has recently been appointed to a Program Management position within the Office of the Director for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna. He currently serves as the first elected National Point of Contact (NPoC) of Mauritius for the Space Generation Advisory Council in support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications as well as the IAF Emerging Space Leader for the Republic of Mauritius. Most recently, Halsey has been selected as part of the African Space Industry Top 10 Under 30.
With ongoing projects and contributions such as The Great Reset, Space Economy and support for several NGOs, Hansley has reached thousands of young individuals working directly with international organizations and global leaders and engaging more than half of African countries. His work is directly helping raise awareness about current challenges and promoting activities in terms of policy and program discussions by acting as one of the main communication channels between the local community and international network. Hansley rose to prominence as an innovator and multi award-winning Pan-African changemaker in the field of technology and has been named one of Forbes 30 Under 30. Hansley believes in his work and hopes to empower the next generation and continue to create positive change through his contributions globally.
Jasna Rokegem – Belgium
Jasna Rokegem is an award-winning digital pioneer combining innovative fashion with cutting-edge technology. After finishing college in 2016, Jasna founded her own company, “Jasna Rok,” the first FashionTech Lab in Belgium. Her vision is to blend advanced technology with interactive fashion to help decision-makers across different industries imagine sustainable solutions. Jasna’s expertise lies in the use of emotec (emotion capturing technologies) with the aim of unlocking the potential of ourselves and others by translating emotions into useful data.
After starting Jasna Rok, she began an international partnership with Nokia Bell Labs and created Innovative Sentient Wearables, items that expand the possibilities of artistic expression and technical innovation in clothing. This resulted in the creation of (Re)Connect, the first emotionally intelligent garment in the world.
In 2017 at age 25, she became the first and youngest Belgian person to deliver a keynote at NASA’s Cross-Industry Innovation Summit. In 2020 she presented at NASA Space Center as part of the Bionic Me exhibition. This project, like many of her previous endeavors, crafts clothing that reacts and changes depending on the wearer’s emotions by connecting to their brain waves and other biofeedback.
She has also worked with Volkswagen to explore opportunities that connect emotion tech and cars. Another one of Jasna’s main focal points is clothes that don’t require washing or that are durable enough to last a lifetime. Next on her horizon is developing a European Space suit with SCK CEN, a Belgian Nuclear research center, to help make these wearables more resistant to temperature changes and corrosion.
Jasna Rok’s current project is Opera on Brainwaves, a boundary-pushing artistic collaboration with singer Elise Caluwaerts. For this unique project, the two creators from different mediums join forces to create an extraordinary experience that links the emotions of the singer and the audience through neuroscience and heartbeats resulting in a groundbreaking emotional nakedness on stage.
Next on her horizon is developing a European Space suit with SCK CEN, a Belgian Nuclear research center, to help make these wearables more resistant to temperature changes and corrosion.
The innovation of Jasna Rokegem has contributed to the new frontier of fashion. From clothing that responds to our innermost feelings to items engineered to withstand climate and time, her work is an invaluable asset to a sustainable and smart future.
Jennifer Canaveral – Columbia
Jennifer Canaveral is the first non-hearing architect of the University of Columbia and a beacon of inspiration in her field and beyond. Although she cannot hear, Jennifer communicates with great ease, thanks to her mother’s persistence and faith and the education she received at the Institute for Blind and Deaf Children in Cali, Colombia. This nurturing environment led her to master lip reading in three languages and earn a masters degree in urbanism. Her dreams are divided between her projects and endeavors, love for society, motivation to be better and an inexhaustible happiness.
Jennifer is an inspirational entrepreneur, interdisciplinary advisor, and architecture and urban design consultant. She motivates others as a captivating presenter sharing her incredible story in roles such as the Inclusion and Disability Ambassador for Samsung Colombia and Peace Ambassador to the Friends of UNESCO Corporation. Jennifer’s kind spirit is seen in her volunteer work with people of all abilities through her mission to teach lip reading and create a more inclusive world for all.
In her capacity as an architect, Jennifer specializes in public spaces, bicycle paths and accessibility at the Urban Development Institute in Bogotá. She was the first non-hearing speaker honored at TedxBogotá; leader of the “Artists for an Inclusive World” project of the International Day of Disability and has been named an Alumni Shaper by the World Economic Forum community.
Her most recent endeavor is to become the first female non-hearing triathlete and she currently spends much of her time dedicated to the discipline required to reach such a lofty goal.
An entrepreneur, artist and leader, Jennifer has conquered more than 30 national and international stages and will continue reaching higher to accomplish her dreams and make the world a more equitable place.
Maya Terro – Lebanon
Known as the “Hunger Hero,” from a very young age Maya learned that the secret to self-fulfillment lies in being the change you want to see. Taking this self-given advice to heart, Maya has been leading by example since she was 14. She’s volunteered with hundreds of organizations in Lebanon and abroad and remained active in a variety of organizations including being a Mentee at the Mowgli Mentoring Experience in partnership with KAAYIA Dead Sea, a Peace Coach at the Peace Revolution Self-Development Program in Thailand, a Civil Society Leader with The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at AUB, a Leadership and Life skills coach and a TED speaker in 2018.
Maya is a graduate of the American University of Beirut, where she holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Masters of Public Health. She also holds a Master of Arts in Development Economics and International Cooperation from the University of Rome II. Then later In 2017, she earned a Master of Science in Migration, Mobility, and Development from SOAS University of London as a Chevening Scholar.
She has received recognition far and wide for her work including being named in 2021 as a “Trailblazing Activist” from 50 Next for People Shaping the Future of Gastronomy, a “Top 7 Women Leaders of Change” by UN Women, the 2019 Woman Humanitarian of the Year by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a Global Changemaker Award in 2018, a 2015 Spirit of Service Award by NGO Symposium and much more.
However, one of Maya’s biggest accomplishments is her labor of love, FoodBlessed, a pioneering community-based and volunteer-driven hunger relief and food-rescue organization led by a group of passionate volunteers driven by the need to reduce the number of people going hungry while also ensuring that no good food goes to waste. By diverting unwanted food from supermarkets, social events and landfills, FoodBlessed converts this food into free meals in communities across Lebanon. For nearly a decade, Maya and her team of volunteers have distributed almost 2.7 million meals and 45,000 food boxes to over 500,000 beneficiaries across Lebanon including vulnerable individuals, poverty-stricken families, refugees and hard-to-reach communities.
FoodBlessed believes that food is a vital tool to supporting our local communities, bringing us together and connecting us as human beings. By nourishing and uniting communities across Lebanon through the power of food, social responsibility and volunteerism, FoodBlessed aims to create a cultural shift that supports people’s right to food, raises community awareness about food waste, promotes social cohesion and community resilience, encourages responsible consumption and production for a healthier planet and provides an opportunity for community members to give back.
Last year, following the Beirut Blast, Maya set up community kitchens in Beirut by utilizing the kitchen space of restaurants that were damaged by the blast and forced to shut down. These community kitchens managed to serve 100,000 meals to individuals that were immediately impacted by the blast. While that is outstanding on its own, Maya strongly believes it’s not what we do, but why and how we do it. As Lebanon currently grapples with its worst economic crisis in a generation, and as the country attempts to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Beirut Blast, food has become a luxury for many and Maya’s work is more than ever a much needed help.
Meher Khelifi- Tunisia
Meher Khelifi, a technical supervisor at a cement company and student at IHES Business School, was inspired by a devastating personal loss to make it his mission to secure health insurance for women across Tunisia. In 2016, he experienced first-hand the debilitating consequences of being uninsured in his country when his mother died of cancer. After realizing that this loss could have been prevented with proper healthcare, Meher was convinced that no woman should ever go through the same thing, and he committed himself to making medical insurance accessible to Tunisian women in rural areas.
Meher is transforming Tunisia’s healthcare system through his company Ahmini, which means “Protect Me” in Arabic, by allowing women in rural areas to be enrolled in social security and thus receive medical and retirement benefits for the first time. As President and CEO of Ahmini, Meher partners with different stakeholders to make structural changes in laws and regulations, facilitating the enrollment of thousands of women. Using technology and mobile phones to link social security numbers and payments to SIM cards, rural women have access to insurance at a manageable cost.
Through advocacy sessions, Meher raises awareness about the value of health insurance to women across the country.With the help of hundreds of trained volunteers, Ahmini has facilitated registration opportunities throughout Tunisia’s rural area and registered 10,000 women in just two months. Meher’s work is far from over—he is looking to expand his idea to Morocco, Algeria and other areas of Africa, to ensure that all women have access to life-saving healthcare and treatment options.
Sinead Kane – Ireland
Dr. Sinead Kane is a Keynote Speaker, double PhD doctorate, double Guinness World Record holder, lecturer on disability law, policy and human rights, qualified lawyer, writer with the Irish Criminal Law Journal and visually impaired athlete. A well-accomplished individual, Sinead doesn’t let her disability hold her back and is living life to the fullest.
Sinead has made it her mission to serve others in a variety of roles and has advocated for disability law and policy issues all throughout her life. In 2008, she helped implement legislation in Ireland that allows visually impaired lawyers to have personal readers in court to assist them. Sinead has also challenged laws and policies where she has been discriminated against in sports such as not being allowed to have running guides to help her in competitions.
Sinead challenged the decision and the court found that Sinead had been discriminated against under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights and thus setting a new precedent in sport and disability cases. Sinead has many achievements in sport. One notable achievement was when she competed in the World Marathon challenge where she did seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Sinead came joint-first in her marathon in Dubai. This is all remarkable given that Sinead only did her first marathon ever in October 2014 and only took up running in April 2012.
Sinead uses her successes in sport to highlight the issues which she is passionate about, particularly disability. Sinead is a double Guinness World Record Holder. In February 2018, she broke the Guinness World Record for furthest distance for a female on a treadmill in 12 hours. She is also the first Irish female to do the world marathon challenge. Sinead and her guide runner completed their first Marathon of this challenge at Union Glacier, Antarctica followed by running a Marathon in Punta Arenas, South America; Miami, North America; Madrid, Europe; Marrakech, Africa; Dubai, Asia; and finally Sydney, Oceania.
Sinead’s vision is to be a World-Class Keynote Speaker and Athlete who advances knowledge about disability. Sinead to date has succeeded in this vision by delivering high quality professional speaking services to companies, organisations, schools and clubs, lecturing at third level institutions, continually competing in sports by running at the national and international level, committing to disability advocacy in her work and collaborating with companies, brands and organisations who want to create an inclusive and diverse society.
Sinead has also been involved with many different nonprofits including Sightsavers Ireland, Irish Guide Dogs, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, AbleVision Ireland, Childvision, the Clionas Foundation and many more. Most recently, Sinead has been asked to be an honorary ambassador for the Irish Girl Guides for a year where she will strive to inspire and empower young people.
Sinead has also raised in excess of €30,000 over the years for various charities. One notable donation was when she donated her sportsmanship award of €9,600 she won from the World Marathon Challenge to the Irish Guide Dogs.
The above achievements are admirable but are even more so when one considers that Sinead only has 5% vision and is registered as legally blind. Sinead has impacted society through monetary donations and through inspiring young people and adults and has spoken in many countries around the world – Spain, USA, UK, Austria, Switzerland, Russia to name a few. Sinead proves how those who persist in spite of a disability can develop determination, motivation, and creativity and can inspire on local and global levels.
Srikanth Bolla – India
Srikanth Bolla has always been a visionary and a trailblazer, despite being born blind in an Indian village that did not have the resources to support his abilities. Srikanth not only became an acclaimed student, he went on to achieve great success as a leader who lifts up underprivileged students and gives people the resources they need to succeed in life.
In 2005, Srikanth became a Youth Leader in the Lead India Program to combat poverty and unemployment. It was here that he started his social service as a trainer to more than 800,000 young people sharing knowledge of leadership, human values and employability skills. During his time with the Lead India Program, he met a great mentor, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former president of India. Inspired by Dr. Kalam, Sriknath continued working to improve the lives of the disabled in his home country, co-founding the Samanvai Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities in 2011. This center provides educational, vocational, financial, and rehabilitation services to students with multiple disabilities to allow them to lead economically independent and self-sustainable lives. He also designed and implemented a much needed Braille library in Hyderabad.
Srikanth attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received a grant to develop a computer research and training center promoting skills for educational and employment goals. In 2012, Srikanth started Bollant Industries, his current organization. Driven by the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to work, Bollant employs 2500 people of all abilities and hopes to overcome employment barriers for more than 80 million people in the future.
Srikanth strongly believes that protecting the environment is the only way to create wealth out of waste and build scalable businesses. His company produces eco-friendly disposable products and packaging solutions for manufacturers out of natural leaf and recycled paper. Bollant is a zero waste company that runs on solar power. Bollant Industries serves as a prime example of a company that succeeds in prioritizing both people and planet and works to create a more ethical world while supporting positive employment practices. Srikanth continues to prove that nothing is impossible and works every day to improve the future of India for all.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun – Nigeria
Temie Giwa-Tobuson is a passionate healthcare leader making African mothers safer. In 2009 she interned for the Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja, Nigeria. During the internship, Temie encountered a mother whose protracted childbirth labor sparked an interest in maternal mortality among Nigerians. In January of 2010, she completed a fellowship at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and later graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. After her studies, she moved to Uganda to do humanitarian work with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Her time at DFID, WHO, and the UNDP convinced Temie of the need to take action to prevent childbirth mortality among women on her continent and led to the foundation of LifeBank, a social enterprise that is saving thousands of lives across Africa.
Temie moved back to Nigeria permanently and in May 2012, she founded the non-governmental organisation “One Percent Blood Donation Enlightenment Foundation” or the One Percent Project. Her mission was to end blood shortages by educating people on the importance of donation and dispelling myths, prejudice and fears surrounding the topic in Africa. She also helped to establish an efficient distribution network of blood banks in Nigeria.
In February of 2014, while giving birth, Temie suffered a Postpartum Hemorrhage (PPH). Although the incident caused several complications, Temie received treatment and made a full recovery. Her own life-threatening experience pushed her further into her work of seeking health solutions to Nigeria’s mother mortality problem. She discovered that in addition to complications like PPH, many maternal mortalities are due to preventable causes such as a lack of oxygen or limited blood supply.
Temie developed a business plan to increase resources and reduce preventable deaths. She assembled a team of young men and women to start LifeBank, a social enterprise focusing on saving lives through quick delivery of blood to patients in dire need. Since launching, LifeBank, working with over 1,000 hospitals and healthcare facilities, has successfully helped save over 19,500 lives simply through the adequate distribution of vital medical supplies such as blood, oxygen, and vaccines in Nigeria and Kenya.
LifeBank’s ambitious mission is to save a million lives across Africa in 10 years and to eventually expand to underdeveloped hospitals in India, Southeast Asia and South America to deliver critical supplies around the clock.
Yukari Hara – Japan
Yukari is an entrepreneur with a passion to assist African and Japanese entrepreneurs in achieving their goals and delivering better value. After graduating from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, she immediately joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ United Nations Policy Division, and completed a Master’s degree in Global Health at Columbia University, right after which she served at the Embassy of Japan in Ghana. After leaving the Ministry she worked for Mitsui & Co., Ltd., a Japanese conglomerate stationed in South Africa. She gained experience as a diplomat and as a businesswoman working in various African countries and leading several initiatives related to health, education, aid and humanitarian issues, as well as trade and investment. In 2016 Yukari was included in Forbes Japan’s “List of 55 Women with a Sense of Mission” and currently works as a lecturer at Dokkyo University teaching Social Business and Social Entrepreneurship.
Yukari’s biggest accomplishments however are from her founding and leading both SKYAH Co., Ltd., and MY DREAM.org. As CEO of SKYAH Co., Ltd. Yukari helps assist Japanese companies to expand their footprint in Africa and, in turn, for African companies to expand their footprints in Japan and beyond. They help do this while promoting products through their on- and off-line platform “Proudly from Africa.” MY DREAM.org also focuses on helping uplift African leaders. A Ghana-based NGO, this organization has been running both income-generation and social-impact activities particularly in the areas of education and health in Ghana since 2012. The NGO aims at going beyond aid and be self-sustainable by 2022.
One of its success stories is the shea butter products that village women have been trained to produce by hand professionally. Through the collaboration between MY DREAM.org and the skincare brand SKIN GOURMET founded by a young Ghanaian entrepreneur, very high-quality, nutrition-rich skincare products are now exported to Japan, Europe and the United States. By supporting the need for successful leaders in Ghana’s immediate surroundings, children in the region of the country have begun to make efforts to realize their dreams after being inspired by MY DREAM.org role models. It is truly a “service to humanity” practice, and its achievements and role of inspiration in the community is commendable.