Spur Change is pleased to present the 2023 Youth Champions Program cohort! These youth are joining us from all over Canada and the world to participate in the program. They are skilled in public engagement, are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and are leaders in their communities. Each bring their experience and passion for gender equality and the SDGs, and a willingness to collaborate with peers and mentors.
My name is André Diasivi Flam, I am Congolese residing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am a doctor by training and since 2010 I have participated and worked as a volunteer in several vaccination campaigns and nutritional surveys organized by the National Nutrition Program (PRONANUT). Facing several pressing realities in my country, I advocate for SDG 2: Zero Hunger because the food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development and is at the heart of the eradication of hunger and poverty in the world. This mindset led me to create a company focusing on agriculture, particularly in food production.
I am also interested in SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being as health is a crucial element in human development. Giving everyone the means to live a healthy life and promoting the well-being of all, and at all ages, is essential for sustainable development.
My name is Boubacar Ba and I was born in Kafountine, a commune located in the south of Senegal in the region of Ziguinchor. I have a degree in governance and territorial development with a specialization in administration and management of local authorities from the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. I am a young leader who is very active in associative movements and has been President of school associations several times. I am also the initiator and founding member of the Union des Elèves Dynamiques et Solidaires de Kafountine and I am in charge of external relations for the steering committee of the Fédération des Amicales du Département de Bignona.
The first SDG that is important to me is the SDG 1: Eradication of poverty. Hunger is no longer a problem of insufficient global supply, but mainly a deficit in access to food and means of production. I am convinced that investing in local development, creating social protection systems, building bridges between cities and the countryside, and working to strengthen the incomes of key stakeholders can be a strong and sustainable alternative to reverse this phenomenon.
The second SDG that interests me is SDG 10: Reducing Inequality, as it allows the creation of a resilient community. It is becoming urgent that we, the young adults of tomorrow, advocate for equal opportunities to be represented, to be heard in decision making to implement innovative ideas to address these inequalities.
For SDG 13: Climate Action, it should first be noted that I am a native and resident of the natural region of Casamance, the green lung of Senegal, and issues related to the environment and agriculture are close to my heart.
I am Frédéric Tindano, journalist-communicator and specialist in the Management of projects and development program currently a doctoral student in Business Administration. I work at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Resources, and Fisheries in communications. I live in Burkina Faso, located in the western part of Africa.
The SDG that most resonates with me is Climate Action (SDG 13). Indeed, climate change has a considerable impact on the ecosystem and on people. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of countries in the face of climate hazards and disasters that we are witnessing. To do this, it is urgent to strengthen inter-community cooperation, particularly through the operationalization of the green fund, the development of national policies and planning, citizen awareness, and the establishment of early warning systems. In addition to this SDG, I would like to focus on gender equality and the socio-economic empowerment of women and girls, considering SDG 5. I hope to use my knowledge, know-how, and interpersonal skills to find appropriate solutions in order to achieve these goals as well as the other SDGs.
For the past ten years, I have been involved with associations that promote gender equality, the socio-economic empowerment of women and the fight against climate change and its repercussions. For a better world, I remain firmly committed to this. The Youth Champions Program is an opportunity for me to share my knowledge for the achievement of the SDGs.
I, Harveen Saini, live in Calgary, Alberta. I graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in Kinesiology, minoring in Psychology, with a Certificate in Leadership Studies. I work as a Research Assistant for the university and volunteer at multiple organizations around the city. One really important issue to me is breaking down the barriers to understanding and accessing mental health resources.
There has been a push for mental health advocacy in recent years, with services and education becoming more tangible. Although the influx of resources has increased tremendously, there is a lack of education surrounding what mental health means and looks like in diverse and ethnic demographics. I resonate the most with SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being, as I strongly believe in educating and supporting individuals from all backgrounds about mental health, especially those belonging to ethnocultural communities.
I am Jecinta Akoth Ochieng. I live in Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya. I recently graduated from St. Paul’s University with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication. I am a Gender equality ambassador and I am passionate about women and girls’ empowerment (SDG 5). I believe in giving equal opportunities to both genders to achieve vision 2030. I envision a world where girls’ rights are protected, respected, and heard. I spend most of my leisure time giving back to the community volunteer and mentoring my fellow girls, something I enjoy doing.
I believe that each person has a unique journey that deserves to be heard, told, and valued.
I am Julie Payet, born on Île de la Réunion and I have lived in Canada since 2006. I have had the chance to discover several provinces and territories but currently call Quebec home. I have worked in scientific research (applied microbiology), responsible communication, and community development. Sustainable development has guided my study and career choices. I am currently studying at Laval University, in digital project management. Similarly, I work at the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française on a community school program.
Volunteer work is very important to me: I am a mentor, administrator of Citoyenneté jeunesse and member of the executive of the Aile Jeunesse du Chantier de l’économie sociale. I have an artistic soul and I like to think “outside the box”; creativity is part of my daily life, both in my leisure time and in my work. The SDG that is closest to my heart is SDG 4: Quality Education. I am convinced that it is an essential tool for achieving all the other SDGs.
Hello everyone, my traditional name is Kwikws which means small. I received it in honor of my great-grandmother Elizabeth Alexander as I am named after her, thanks to my mom Carol Peters for that, who I am also named after. The English name that I go by is Eliza. I live, work, and play in my home territory of Lil’wat Nation on the west coast of what’s known as Canada, on a map we’re called Mount Currie, British Columbia. Our People have been here since time immemorial and we have proof that dates back to 6,000 BCE.
I am so grateful to do my part as a Climate Justice Coordinator and Knowledge Keeper in Training as well as a mother of 3 young children through the support of our Chiefs and my organizations (VIDEA & UBC). We’re here to support the next 7 Generations by honoring the past 7 Generations through storytellers and digitization as well as community energy planning and climate action plans including the continued growth of our own food sovereignty. These indicate that SDG 14: Life Below Water & SDG 16: Peace and Strong Institutions are dear to me because I come from a strong community that has always understood our responsibility as biodiversity stewards to this land and we carry that out every day with our peaceful and strong institution. It’s my goodhearted intention to support our neighboring communities to get on the same wave—everyone deserves a safe and sustainable home and long-term vision.
I am Lian Sayno, currently studying International Development at Centennial College. For over 5 years, I have been involved in uplifting the well-being of women, children, and other marginalized groups in various provinces of the Philippines. To date, I have already worked on several poverty reduction projects that touched the lives of over 7,000 households. I bring innovative ideas and translate them to project development and implementation tools.
Working on these projects, I have developed a passion for eradicating poverty (SDG 1) through Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent Work (SDG 8), and Quality Education (SDG 3). I actively seek learning opportunities to develop my trade in my spare time. My deep passion for learning and maximizing one’s potential extends to traveling, volunteering, networking, and actively listening to podcasts.
I am Michael Songiso and I currently live in Lusaka, Zambia. I have a bachelor’s degree in Agroforestry from the Copperbelt University, and am currently doing my MBA in Project Management at the University of Zambia.
When it comes to the SDGs, it is hard to pick one, because all of them are important and interlinked with one another, however SDG 13: Climate Action resonates with me the most because of all the impact that it has for humanity, I have seen how droughts brings food scarcity that negatively affect the wellbeing of people in my community, I have also witnessed the devastating issues of heavy rains and floods that leave the people displaced and homeless. In 2020 during the pandemic, I participated in the SDG program under the theme “Shock, System Change and Agency”, organized by the UBC Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (ORICE), in partnership with the BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), and hosted by the SDG Praxis Institute. The program intensified my passion and understanding of the SDGs. Outside of the SDGs, I love writing, especially poems and short climate stories, that is if I am not running because long distance running is my hobby too.
I am Nerissa Zhang, born and raised in a small city in China. This is my 7th year living in Canada. For the past 3.5 years, I have been living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, pursuing a Combined Honors degree in Classics and Philosophy at the University of King’s College. The year when the UN introduced SDGs was my first year studying in Canada. It has motivated me to serve not only my local community in Halifax, Canada during the Covid-19 lockdown but also the international community in Ghana and Peru in the past 5 years.
SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 5: Gender Equality resonate the most with me. They provide me with the reason for working at Books by Heart at the University of King’s College. This public humanities project explores the potential of book culture to affect patients and staff in a hospital by providing them with free e-books and audiobooks. I look forward to collaborating with other youth and partnering with an SMO working on an innovative program. Creating a project from scratch with my team members and watching people benefit from them fulfill my life.
I am Pere Kennedy, I live on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy), The Métis Nation (Region 3), and all the peoples of the treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta also known as Calgary, Alberta. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in Anthropology from the University of Calgary. I am a huge advocate for the equality of human rights, specifically for women and girls. I work towards helping to build the confidence of young women, enabling them to achieve their goals regardless of the systemic imbalance of power in our world. I recently had the opportunity to start a project that aims to reduce the stigma and shame surrounding periods in the hopes of addressing the global issue of period poverty.
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being & SDG 4: Quality education are most important to me because I believe that equal access to quality education and care is the foundation for international development. Education equips individuals with the knowledge needed to carve a path toward a brighter future and take charge of all that pertains to them, including their health. Equal access to quality education and care would ultimately help to address all other SDGs as general populations will be healthier and have the knowledge needed to advance our society. During the previous year, I was given a chance to join an intercollegiate group of students to partner with the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan Organization to help raise youth advocacy and engagement on the issues affecting young women and girls under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In the future I hope to pursue a masters specializing in maternal, child, and reproductive health in the hopes of helping to create social and medical support programs for women and young children, ultimately decreasing the burden of infectious disease on this demographic.
My name is Priscilla Ojomu and I am a Nigerian Canadian with big hair and dreams to tackle the big problems in the world. I am a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology at the University of Alberta. I lived in rural Alberta for four years, and I am currently based in Calgary, but connected everywhere through the internet. I am an advocate for justice in my communities, and I am passionate about expressing themes of equity through volunteering, writing, design, and photography. I am the co-founder of Canada Confesses and sit on the executive teams of the Undergraduate Psychology Association, Black Students Association, and National Collective of Women in Business. I was awarded the Michael Rawson Clark Award for Outstanding Student Leadership in March 2022 for my efforts to build a socially sustainable world and my strong demonstration of service to the UofA campus community.
Having seen the firsthand effects of inequalities, I am most passionate about SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. I am grateful to be part of the Youth Champions Program as I am able to engage with the global goals & other youth and receive guidance from experienced community members & SMOs. When I am not busy studying for Law School, you may find me reading graphic novels, listening to podcasts, attending webinars, or spending time with friends & family.
I am Sagar Koirala, a youth activist and climate advocate from eastern Nepal. I have been strongly advocating for Climate Action and youth mobilization from an early age. Born in 1997, I have felt the impact of Climate Change firsthand. I come from an agriculture-focused, middle-class family and spent my childhood in various places in eastern Nepal. I am more like a networking guy and love networking with youths from all around the world. I have been involved in several leadership roles before and believe in the Power of Youth for Positive Change. I also work as a freelancer and give training to farmers, secondary students, and youth activists on a regular basis.
My SDG interests are SDG 2: Zero Hunger, SDG 13: Climate Action, and SDG 17: Partnership for Goals. Agriculture is my field of study and Climate Action is my passion. I hope to initiate many more partnerships in the coming days to help Nepal achieve SDGs by 2030. I have worked with youths from over 140 countries and love mentoring youths in their career development and their advocacy. I come from one of the most vulnerable countries of the world due to Climate Change and I still believe that there is hope that we can reduce the impacts of Climate Change in our surroundings and help shape a better future for everyone.
I am Suwadou Kah, a 22-year-old Gambian who recently completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of The Gambia. I have attained my license and currently work at a charitable clinic (Westfield Clinic) as a registered nurse. I am very passionate about quality healthcare delivery and gender-based violence. I have always been ambitious about contributing towards national development which is why I’m very passionate about what I do. Also, I’ve closely interacted with organizations involved in the fight against gender inequity and health education such as The Nova Scotia-Gambia Association (NSGA) and The Girls Agenda (TGA).
Health is very important in any nation—be it mental, physical, or emotional health. However, The Gambia is a small country with a higher percentage of poorer people, and getting access to good healthcare services is rather difficult, which leads to a rise in unnecessary deaths. In addition, gender-based violence is very rampant within our societies depriving girls access to quality education. Most girls and women are still oppressed in our societies thereby making them live unhappy lives because they’re not allowed to reach their full potential. I believe there’s a lot more to girls and women than just the conventional belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
Therefore, I dream of a Gambia where good health and well-being are promoted and made accessible and gender-based violence is averted. Girls should be allowed to reach their own potential and contribute to their community development, national development, and the world at large. This should be a priority because they are important for the development of every nation.
I am Tinuola Olowojeunjeje, a Nigerian. I have a Masters degree in Rural Development (Community Development) from Brandon University in Manitoba. I am passionate about the empowerment of women and girls. My passion is to see a society without gender discrimination; I look forward to seeing girls and women in Africa and across the world fulfill their dreams without any form of discrimination and gender limitations. This made me start up a foundation (Totalgirls Empowerment Foundation). Our vision and objective is on women empowerment, mentorship, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The foundation was founded in 2015 and over 3000 women and girls have benefited from our outreaches and projects.
I believe everyone can be anything they put their mind to irrespective of their gender, locality, or background. I look forward to working with like-minded youths. I believe together we can make the world a better place