The AFS Award for Young Global Citizens is an annual recognition of young people for their commitment to improving the global community and their actions contributing to a more just, peaceful, and tolerant world. In 2022, the AFS Award was presented for the third time – but this year, it was the first time it was presented at the AFS Youth Assembly.
Noel Ifeanyi Alumona from Nigeria won the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens for his project Boys Champions, giving young boys the opportunities they need to become agents of peace. Second place winners of the AFS Award were Mariana Gabrielle Cangco Reyes for her project Daluyong: a Coral Restoration and Clean-up Project, and Larissa del Pilar Cevallos Perez for her Project Hub United Peruvian Youth. Special recognition was given to Rugsal Trading, a project from Sierra Leone, led by Alhaji Siraj Bah.
AFS Award Supports Ending Gender Based Violence in Nigeria
“Winning the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens has been the high point of our journey this year. This is another recognition of the importance of everyone’s involvement in the process of ending violence against women and girls,” shared Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, after winning the $10,000-worth AFS Award. Noel’s success has been featured on BBC, and more than 40 local and international media platforms, with celebrations taking over the entire country, including the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
Noel’s project, Boys Champions is a youth-led nonprofit organization committed to end violence against women and girls in Nigeria. It engages young boys and men, teaching them healthy masculinity and how to relate to women respectfully. Boys Champions was launched in 2018, to guide and support young boys through mentorship, sports, and peace education. The project has impacted the lives of over 5,200 young men since 2018.
“The Youth Assembly is a great platform that brings changemakers together. The connections I formed will be great assets for me, and having these incredible young leaders serve as mentors to our boys through our Virtual Mentorship program will be a measurable impact of the Youth Assembly,” Noel added. His next big step supported by the AFS Award is to organize the annual Boys Champions’ youth conference with more than 1,000 young people attending in Nigeria. The AFS Award will also help improve on the Boys Champions virtual mentorship program.
Empathy and Perseverance are Key, Young Changemakers Say
The two runners up for the AFS Award were equally excited by their success.
Mariana Reyes from the Philippines leads the Daluyong: A Coral Restoration and Clean-up Project, which has developed a scalable restoration and low-cost method for coral restoration based on various scientific methods. This project acts like a bridge between science and conservation efforts by local communities. It also works with local government units, police officers, coast guard units, local residents, and concerned divers to provide education about proper marine protection and conservation.
“My advice to young changemakers is to always look at things from a holistic perspective. Try to understand the problems we have in our communities by trying to walk in someone else’s shoes and from there understand the systematic underlying cause of the situation,” Mariana shared.
Larissa Cevallos from Peru, who also received the second place award offered further advice to other young global citizens: “Focus on what you are passionate about. I believe that young people have a huge responsibility in making changes, reducing gaps, and not just speaking up. The representation of youth is increasing – yet there is a lot to do. Thus, having a specific focus, creating an action plan and sensitizing friends and family will lead youth to be changemakers.”
Larissa’s project, The Project Hub is a platform for young Peruvians to design and implement education-related projects that will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically SDG4, SDG5, SDG8, and SDG13). The Project Hub is a platform that enables youth to share knowledge and have a direct impact on their communities through educational campaigns, SDG workshops and a social incubator that provides the training in design, implementation, and monitoring of an educational project.
Rugsal Trading, a project from Sierra Leone, led by Alhaji Siraj Bah received special recognition for their work as an eco-friendly company that combats deforestation, air pollution, plastic pollution and youth unemployment in Africa using biodegradable and reusable paper bags, and clean affordable and long-lasting bio briquettes from coconut shells.
Awarding Those Who Dare to Reshape the World
The international panel of judges had a difficult task to select the first place winner of the $10,000 award and two runners up of $2,500 each for the 2022 AFS Award. Among the ten finalists, judges looked for those who were best at meeting the following criteria:
- Demonstrate how their project is successfully addressing a pressing global issue, tackling one or more of the challenges outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and what this translates into in real-life impacts.
- Show how their project successfully engages others outside their own community/culture and how this aspect is crucial to advancing their work, with projects relying on intercultural understanding and global competence.
- Articulate how their initiative has significant potential to be scaled up and extended.
Past winners of the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens include:
Applications for the 2023 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens will open together with the registrations for the 28th Session of the Youth Assembly, scheduled for August 2023. Stay tuned for more information at youthassembly.org.