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 2023, the AFS Award was presented for the fourth time, at the annual AFS Youth Assembly.
Moemen Sobh from Egypt won the 2023 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens for his project for his initiative Visenleer. Visenleer is a regenerative initiative in the MENA region that creates sustainable textile materials using only ocean waste. Visenleer’s goal is to create a greener and more sustainable alternative to animal and faux leather, and in doing so, create a new revenue stream for the fishing community. Moemen will receive $10,000 to invest in their project and one year of mentorship from a representative of J.P. Morgan, helping him advance his impact.
Second place winners of the AFS Award will each receive $2,500 to invest in their projects. This year, they are: Olamiposi Ekuma from Nigeria for Genesys Tech Hub which provides technical education in software engineering and product design to young Nigerian women; and Ilan Enverga from the Philippines for Youth For Better: an SDG-Centered Curriculum for Global Changemakers who has created effective education for sustainable development for schools in the Philippines.
Special recognition was given to Khaled Abdulwahed, who represents an NGO called Molham Team and their “Until the Last Tent” campaign. This campaign was established after the earthquake in Turkey and Northern Syria in February 2023. With the objective of providing Syrian refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) with access to safe, long term housing. The project will receive $5,000, made possible with support provided by the Fund for the City of New York, that will enable the Molham Team to build one apartment to relocate a Syrian family from a tent into a permanent structure.
AFS Award Supports Sustainable Development in Egypt
“The AFS Award will support the future work of Visenleer by providing recognition and resources to further scale up and expand our restoration projects across Manzala Lake and eight other communities in Egypt, as well as three additional international communities across Africa and the MENA region,” shared Moemen Sobh after winning the AFS Award. Moemen’s project has already impacted over 1,000 people economically, socially, and educationally, and reduced fish waste in Portsaid by 65%, while also cleaning the shore of single-use plastics.
The focus of Visenleer is to save water resources, create the first sustainable fashion-line out of the ocean waste in the MENA region, support the local community, especially marginalized individuals, and help save and restore marine ecosystems in Portsaid and the wider Africa and MENA region. Visenleer is a multi-disciplinary project that works with the local community on education, services, and products, being the first regenerative initiative that only uses ocean waste in the MENA region.
“I really enjoyed the sessions at the AFS Youth Assembly, and how everyone is coming to help save their own small communities and how they are part of a global change,” Moemen added. His advice for anyone interested in following in his footsteps? This is what he has to say: “To young people worldwide looking to make a difference in their communities, the advice would be to start small, but start now. Take action and identify specific issues or challenges in your community that you are passionate about. Be open-minded and accept each other’s differences. This is part of the process of making a difference in your communities.”
Now Is the Time for a Breakthrough, Young Changemakers Say
The two runners up for the AFS Award were equally excited by their success.
Olamiposi Ekuma’s Genesys Foundation is dedicated to empowering young Nigerian women and youth through technical education and entrepreneurship. The project has graduated over 475 software developers and trained more than 1800 tech enthusiasts, helping secure scholarships for over 500 young Nigerians to learn a desired tech skill. The AFS Award will enable the Genesys Foundation to reach even more underserved communities and create new partnerships, critical to effecting lasting change in the tech industry.
“To young individuals around the world, I’d say: trust in your ideas’ potential. Never underestimate the impact you can have, no matter how modest your efforts appear. Collaborate, learn from setbacks, and remain steadfast in pursuing your passion. Positive change begins with small steps, and your determination can trigger waves of transformation in your community and beyond,” Olamiposi shared.
Ilan Enverga from the Philippines, who also received the second place award offered further advice to other young global citizens: “Society has a long way to go when it comes to meaningful youth engagement at the high-level, but I advise fellow young people to do what you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have. Positive change, no matter how small, creates ripples of influence that inspire others to do the same. Now, more than ever, we need even more youth to lead humanity to a better future for all.”
Ilan’s program uses SDG 4 to achieve all 17 SDGs. Through curriculum enhancement, teacher training, and student-led programs in an innovative K-12 academic program at ISBB school, in Lucena City, Philippines, Ilan equips teachers with evidence-based practices that empower students to practice “changemaking” through their academic subjects. This program has impacted an average of 7,000 individuals in the community in just one academic year, by leading over 100 community initiatives like fundraising initiatives, awareness campaigns, research symposiums, farmers markets, art and fashion exhibits, coastal cleanup drives, etc.
Khaled Abdulwahed and his Molham Team construct stable, long-term housing for refugee and IDP families. To date, they have completed the construction of 1,000 small concrete rooms and over 1,000 apartment units, benefiting approximately 15,000 individuals. In light of the special recognition they received, Khaled shared some advice: “In 2016 and 2017 we worked in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Aleppo. Despite this, we achieved significant milestones by assisting thousands of women, children, and elderly individuals. So YOU CAN DO IT, do not hesitate or wait, because you have the ability to make a difference!”
Awarding Those Who Are Making a Difference
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 2023 AFS Award. Among six finalists, judges looked for those who were best at meeting the following criteria:
- Demonstrates how their project is successfully addressing a pressing global issue.
- Shows how their project successfully engages others outside their own community/culture
- Has significant potential to be scaled up.
Past winners of the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens include:
- 2022 winner: Noel Alumona, Nigeria
- 2020 winner: Shah Chowdhury, Bangladesh
- 2019 winner: Luisa Romero, Colombia
Applications for the 2024 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens will open together with the registrations for the 29th Session of the AFS Youth Assembly, scheduled for August 2024. Stay tuned for more information at youthassembly.org.