Twelve projects from across UWC Schools and Colleges and the African Leadership Academy entered Young Aurora with detailed plans to tackle a far-reaching breadth of issues in each of their school’s local communities. From providing preventative medical care plans in rural Mulshi-Taluka, India to helping patients in New Mexico, USA avoid harmful drug-food interactions through an App; From establishing a peaceful co-existence between villagers and elephants in Sanya Hoyee Village, Tanzania to establishing ways of building peaceful cohesion between refugees and the local communities in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Each of the projects were both a reminder and proof of the importance of the mission behind Young Aurora’s founding organization: the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. Founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to those who helped them, Aurora aims to empower modern-day humanitarians to help those who need them today through a number of programs. This includes Young Aurora which, now in its fourth year, encourages, showcases and supports student-driven projects addressing concrete humanitarian issues and offering solutions through innovative and sustainable approaches. 

This humanitarian spirit shone through clearly in each of the projects submitted, which were then evaluated by a pre-selection panel of humanitarians and entrepreneurs along seven core criteria: creativity, sustainability, quality of research, impact, commitment, self-reflection and format. Whether they made it to the final or not, each of the project teams received detailed feedback from the panel to ensure that all can go on to develop their projects further into fruition. 

Reflecting on the importance of Young Aurora, Juliana Bitarabeho, member of the Global Shapers Community Kampala Hub and of the Young Aurora 2020 Pre-Selection Panel, shares: “The Young Aurora Initiative is special because it teaches young people to look outside of themselves and their life bubble to impact others. Empathy is most effective when it transitions from a feeling into an action and I believe this initiative allows the student to participate in that process in a practical way. The project proposals this year were impressive and community centered. They touched on a range of issues -- some even opened my eyes to a few social issues that are not as widely spoken of. Young changemakers really are the future of the world --- I wish each of the teams of young humanitarians the very best.

The three finalist teams from UWC East Africa in Tanzania, UWC Mahindra College in India and UWC South East Asia in Singapore are now busy preparing to present their projects to the final jury for a chance to win a grant of $4,000 to help them further develop their project. In previous years this event was held in Armenia, however due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions it will be held online this year. You can read more about each of the finalist projects, and watch their project videos, below. 

The Three Finalist Teams: 

UWC East Africa with Beehive Divide  

Beehive Divide is a project that aims to establish peaceful co-existence between the elephants and villagers in Sanya Hoyee village in Siha District, Tanzania. Due to its location, Sanya Hoyee encounters a human-elephant conflict where lives are lost and crops are destroyed. The team intends to build two protective, elephant-repelling barriers between the fields and elephant corridors - a beehive fence and a chili fence. The beehives will be built by UWC East Africa students in their design rooms out of both wood and recycled plastic. This project will ensure the protection of the endangered elephant species while enabling the Chagga community to thrive in both crop farming and beekeeping to increase food security and reduce poverty. Reflecting on their involvement in the project so far, team member Mariam Jusabani from Tanzania says: “We started off with a very small plan and had never imagined getting to this stage, I have learned that with determination, even a small initiative can prove to positively impact countless lives.

UWC Mahindra College with MedRangers

The MedRangers project started when a woman from Sadhana village told the team about her challenges in receiving medical assistance in rural areas. Further inquiry, through surveys and local mentors, revealed that medical malpractice in Mulshi-Taluka, caused by a lack of health education and medical assistance was worsened by socioeconomic, cultural, and infrastructural factors: Despite housing 68.4% of India's citizens, rural areas receive only 25% of India’s health infrastructure. MedRangers aims to improve health outcomes in rural Mulshi-Taluka through preventive and diagnostic approaches. Primarily, this is achieved by conducting educational workshops on the science, symptoms, and treatments of prevalent diseases, basic first-aid skill training, and health-insurance schemes for school staff and villagers, and by facilitating further medical training for Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHA). For diagnosis, the team will organize health camps in Mulshi-Taluka to further increase access to medical assistance. Their aim is clear:  “We aspire to empower the local population to make independent and informed decisions about their health.” 

Speaking about what the team have learnt so far with the project, team member Priyanka Chahahria shares: “While working on this project, I had the realization that my will to contribute back to the community is not enough. We must work for what is desired by our stakeholders and not what we deem fit for them. We have to remain mindful that, when needed, sometimes the best thing we can do is to let our ideas go.”

UWC South East Asia with HER Journey

The HER Journey initiative aims to advocate for and empower Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) from Singaporean households. FDWs often face linguistic and cultural barriers, employment conflicts and labour rights violations. The team hopes to achieve this aim through a three-pronged approach: (1) In collaboration with local NGOs, they are developing educational videos titled ‘Know Your Rights’ for FDWs that feature solutions to common labor rights disputes. (2) In their efforts to educate the public (especially employers), they designed the Empathy Challenge card game, where players roleplay as FDWs and employers, and negotiate solutions to challenges in their employment process. (3) The team has also created podcasts based on interviews with FDWs, where they share their personal migration stories and advice for fellow workers. Looking back at the journey the project has been on so far, team member Xinchang Liu (Karen) writes: “Our project has come a long way since the first liaison with the Migrant Workers’ Center and the Center for Domestic Employees in May 2019. We set clear goals for ourselves and are open to adjustments according to our limitations. We go over feedback and constantly make revisions. Although we’ve been scattered around the world over the COVID-19 outbreak, we persist to operate remotely.

Photo: Teams from left to right: UWC South East Asia; UWC East Africa; UWC Mahindra College