Rotary and UN honor trailblazing young leaders

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Meet 6 trailblazing young leaders

By Arnold R. Grahl

Six members of Rotary and Rotaract will be honored this November as People of Action: Young Innovators during Rotary Day at the United Nations in Naiorbi, Kenya.

These innovators — all under the age of 35 – are being recognized for their commitment to solving problems with measurable and lasting results, connecting local issues with global concerns. 

The six young innovators are:

Name: Albert Kafka

Clubs: Rotaract Club of Wien-Stadtpark and Rotary Club of Wien-Oper, Austria

Project: Intarconnect Mentoring and Generation Projects

Innovation: Pairing members of different generations in a one-year mentoring relationship where they learn from each other and participate in service projects

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Description: Kafka worked with Rotary clubs in Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina to launch an online program that pairs a Rotarian with a member of Interact, Rotary’s program for young people ages 12-18, or Rotaract, for ages 18-30. It also pairs some Interactors with Rotaractors. The effort includes leadership training, scholarships, social activities, and hands-on service projects. For one ongoing project, the generations work side-by-side to build houses for families left homeless by the Bosnian War.

Name: Charlie Ruth Castro

Club: Rotary E-Club of Sogamoso Global, Colombia

Project: Innovative New Beginnings

Innovation: Teaching vocational and business skills to incarcerated women and empowering them to create new opportunities for themselves

Description: Using her digital communications expertise, Castro leads a program that is teaching 170 incarcerated women in Colombia textile skills and how to assemble personal wellness kits with products developed from herbal plants grown on their own organic farm. The kits are sold online through the brand Alas de Libertad (Wings of Freedom). The women also attend empowerment workshops to reduce their sentences. Castro, a lawyer, has led large-scale events in Colombia and Mexico to promote women’s and children’s rights. She co-founded Digitally Connected, which unites 430 Latin American experts who are studying the challenges that children and young people face online.

Name: Christina Hassan

Club: Rotary Club of Calgary Fish Creek, Alberta, Canada

Project: FullSoul

Innovation: Training midwives and supplying safe, sterile childbirth equipment to hospitals in Uganda

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Description: Hassan, who holds a master’s in public health, launched FullSoul to address the lack of facilities for safe and sterile childbirth in parts of Uganda. The program provides maternal medical kits to hospitals, including childbirth tools (artery forceps, scissors, needle holders) that can be sterilized and reused, as well as training in using the tools. The kits are assembled by a supplier in Uganda to minimize costs and contribute to the local economy. Positive outcomes include safer births and decreased HIV transmission.

Name: Paul Mushaho

Club: Rotaract Club of Nakivale, Uganda

Project: Rotaract Club of Nakivale Refugee Settlement

Innovation: Organizing a Rotaract club in a Ugandan refugee settlement that conducts various service projects in the camp

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Description: Fleeing conflict in his homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mushaho arrived at the Nakivale refugee settlement in 2016. The same year, he entered a business proposal for a competition sponsored by the American Refugee Committee and the Ugandan government. His winning proposal earned him the right to present his idea to a wider audience in Kampala, where it was seen by Rotary members from Kampala, Uganda, and Minnesota, USA. Recognizing his leadership and charisma, the Rotary members worked with Mushaho to charter a Rotaract club in the settlement. The Rotaractors have taught farming skills, provided sewing machines for women’s groups, volunteered in maternity wards, organized tree planting and poultry projects, and mentored young people in the camp.

Name: Shadrack “Sheddy” Nyawa Mwadai

Club: Rotary Club of Kilifi, Kenya

Project: Water and sanitation for primary schools

Innovation: Traveling to remote schools in Kenya to find those most in need of toilets and hygiene education

Description: Waiting in long lines to use inadequate toilet facilities interferes with children’s learning in the more than 70 primary schools in the Ganze area of Kenya. Mwadai travels on poorly maintained dirt roads to conduct assessments for district and global grants that help his Rotary club select schools to receive new toilets and handwashing stations. He works with local contractors and makes sure that construction is completed and documented properly.

Name: Ludovic Grosjean

Club: Rotaract Club of Melbourne City, Victoria, Australia

Project: Ocean CleanX

Innovation: Founding a pioneering company that is developing new technology to monitor pollution and remove it from waterways

Description: Every year, 8.8 million tons of plastic waste get into the oceans, putting marine species at risk of extinction. Grosjean, a 29-year-old engineer, launched Ocean CleanX to develop automated pollution monitoring and removal tools that use artificial intelligence and drones to remove plastics and other pollution from waterways and detect their source. Grosjean, who has 12 years of experience in oceanography and mechatronics engineering, has persuaded clubs to support the effort, contribute financially, and volunteer for river clean-up events.