“78% of Africa’s population is under 30 and 60% of the global population is under 30: global change will only happen with the involvement of youth.”
As a child in Cobalt, a small Northern Ontario mining town, Mariah Griffin-Angus grew up thinking that everyone cared about social justice issues. “As a child I was brought along to strike lines, protests and blockades and I always thought this was a normal thing to do,” says Mariah. “As I got older and began reading about the world around me, I realized much of the world is fundamentally unjust, and this sparked my desire to make this a better place to be.”
At the age of 13, Mariah took part in a field trip to Nicaragua with Free the Children and began learning firsthand about the challenges faced by communities around the world. She brought issues of international social justice home to her community by starting a local Free the Children Chapter, but she also became committed to national human rights issues in Canada. She organized leadership workshops for students and at-risk youth in her community, and supported a successful campaign by the small Cree community of Attawapiskat to build a desperately needed elementary school.
After completing her graduate studies at the University of Bristol, Mariah wanted an opportunity to gain more firsthand experience and was selected for a Youth Challenge International internship with the Uganda Youth Network as a Governance Officer. Her work supported a small human rights organization that engaged youth in human rights and good governance issues.
Based in Kampala, Mariah also worked as part of a team to develop programs in the field, including skills training to empower ex-combatants in the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, and work safety training for workers in the gold mining community of Rupa that resulted in fewer workplace deaths and injuries and also improved efficiency, which helped to increase the economic output of the community.
While in Uganda, Mariah also wrote a column for the Huffington Post as a way to engage Canadians in international issues. She wrote on a wide range of topics: from the sexual assault of an opposition activist that sparked a debate about sexual violence, the anti-gay movement in Africa, youth in politics, and the devastating impact of poaching that she learned about on a trip to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
With so much experience under her belt at the age of 24, Mariah shows no signs of slowing down her interest and efforts to make a difference. “We may not be able to change the world overnight,” she says. “But it is so important to never give up.”
Youth Challenge International is a leading global youth development organization that promotes youth innovation to drive positive change. YCI places young Canadian and American volunteers in developing countries with local youth to work together on hands-on projects that address real needs, identified by local partners.
Read more about the other 2013 Global Changemakers here.
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