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Mahika Halepete, USA, 16

Project: AYANA International

Basic Human Needs: Education

As an active community volunteer from an early age, Mahika became aware of many human rights issues in the developing world. At 14, she began to further educate herself on international development and the fight to end global poverty. She was dismayed to learn that many attempts at foreign aid in developing nations were not only unsustainable, but often caused more harm than good to the very communities they sought to support. Mahika noticed that a common thread among these failures was lack of involvement by the target communities in the development and maintenance of their own solutions. As a result, Mahika founded AYANA International, a nonprofit organization working to engage communities in creating more impactful and sustainable solutions to their own issues. Through a research-driven curriculum, the AYANA Youth Innovation Lab enables young people in the developing world to discover their potential as changemakers by tackling local problems through the lens and framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Her program has empowered hundreds of students in Africa to design and lead their own community projects, which in turn has impacted thousands of more lives. Already established in seven communities across Africa,Mahika plans to expand AYANA labs to reach an additional 500 students in 10 countries in the upcoming year.