Youth Advisory Council
The World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council helps develop World Ocean Day as a unique opportunity to raise the profile of our shared ocean, connect and unite youth and others around our blue planet, and focus collective action on creating a healthy ocean and a stable climate in June and throughout the year.
Adeyemi "Yemi" Akanbi
Adeyemi "Yemi" Akanbi
Adeyemi “Yemi” Michael Akanbi (he/him) is an emerging leader and young researcher, with years of experience solving environmental related issues and food insecurity in Africa through mobilization of young people for action and innovation in science and technology. Yemi is currently in his penultimate year as an undergraduate student at the Lagos State University and is a 2022 ISEF Scholar and a 2021 Ellah Lakes Scholar.
Growing up in the riverine community of Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, Nigeria, he witnessed first-hand pollution of water bodies through open defecation and dumping of waste, which spurred his interest in Marine Conservation, Environmental Toxicology and Climate Action.
In 2019, having been selected as the Lagos State Youth Ambassador (Badagry Division Team Lead) out of 600+ youth, Yemi mobilized about 500 youth in Lagos to develop and implement environmental related initiatives such as campaigns, seminars, and community clean ups between 2019-2021 in partnership with various NGOs.
He coordinated a team of 12 students from the Lagos State University in 2020, who contributed significantly to the Book of the Marine World organized by Mundus Maris (Brussels, Belgium) and were given honorary diplomas. He also spearheaded the “Aje Olokun” Project in 2021, which won second place out of 61 entries from 10 countries and the Mundus Maris World Ocean Day Competition.
As a researcher, Yemi proposed a project SMK-17 in 2021 to reduce carbon emissions in the fish processing sector that was selected as one of the 34 finalists in Nigeria at the Naija Climate Now Competition organized by the Solution-17 Initiative. He co-founded a youth led movement, “The Lagos Plastic Revolution,” that won the 2022 Millennium Oceans Prize and seeks to reduce the amount of plastic that goes into the ocean annually in Lagos, Nigeria.
He has received several other awards and recognitions, including the 2021 Most Innovative Youth Ambassador Achievers Award, the 2021 Excellent Leadership Award by the Lagos State Ministry of Youths and Social Development, and a 2021 Commissioners Commendation.
Ajay Sawant (he/him) is a second-year undergraduate student studying Arts with Environmental Sciences. He is also a passionate animal advocate, pursuing another degree in animal sciences. This, he believes, brings him a better understanding of the intersectional nature of biological systems and their surroundings.
Water is a byzantine subject that fascinates and challenges Ajay. Since he was brought up by the ocean, the incessant death of marine organisms and overfishing has been a constant view to him. By advocating for marine and fresh waters, he hopes to bring a larger impact on his local water communities while helping in the conservation of the coastline species that are presently being overfished.
Over the years, Ajay has witnessed the golden seashores and coastal areas in his locality undergo radical changes. From sunny day plays with crabs back in the 2000’s to the mass-scale devastation of these beaches in the last decade, he has nearly experienced every stage of destruction of the waters in his community. It angers and disheartens him to see the place of his birth in such a condition. The constant view of overfishing and contaminated waters is a continuous reminder for him to work more for the ocean.
In the past, Ajay has volunteered and worked on various small and larger projects at WWF, Rotary Club, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Jackson Wild, Team Everest, and Humane Society International. At present, he serves on the Future Blue Youth Council of Bow Seat while being the program intern at Humane Society International of India. At HSI, he helps in coordinating the Humane Entrepreneurship Program, a flagship initiative dedicated to supporting viable alternatives to animal protein, fashion materials, and lab testing.
Ajay believes in the power of creating awareness through storytelling and interactive media. He is a strong advocate of ocean stewardship through art forms. As a writer with an interest in nature writing, essays, and poetry, his literary contributions appear in several renowned publications, including The London Magazine, Rattle Magazine, Cold Mountain Review, Xavier Review, Louisville Review, and many more. He was the honorable mention for the Christopher Hewitt Writing Awards and Dan Veach Poetry Prize and edits the Southern Humanities Review at Auburn University.
Ajay believes that only a multidisciplinary approach toward ocean pollution and climate change can help with the present condition. He is fiercely committed to reversing the ongoing plastic pollution and overfishing. Through his term on the panel, Ajay hopes to develop a better understanding of ocean conservation and come across diverse perspectives of what it means for others. He hopes that his term on the council will help him build a movement of ocean generation driven to combat marine plastic pollution.
Akhilesh Anil Kumar (he/him) is a 22-year-old climate change activist from Kerala, India, who has been working in the space of climate change and environmental conservation for the past 4+ years. He specializes in climate change education, sustainability, and youth mobilization. The first campaign he led was a state-level campaign to curb SUP straws in Kerala, which resulted in one of the most significant awareness drives against Single-Use Plastic straws in the state, with 15,000 signatures collected on a physical petition submitted to the chief minister. He later co-founded and is the current Director of the NGO, Bring Back Green Foundation, which works in public policy advocacy, climate activism, climate education, waste management, sustainable menstruation, climate research, etc.
Through his organization, he has worked with coastal communities affected by climate change and unscientific artificial constructions in Kerala, India. He has worked on field study reports analyzing coastal erosion and engaged with various stakeholders in policy advocacy and the community. Seeing the conditions of affected coastal communities, he has developed a documentary series highlighting the issues they face due to climate change, ecosystem degradation, loss of livelihood, and displacement. The documentary work and his work under SDG 14 were recognized by United Nations India while selecting him as one of the Youth Climate Leaders under their We The Change campaign.
He has served as a former Youth Ambassador to Break Free From Plastic and was one of the members of the 2022 cohort of Max Thabiso Edkins Climate Ambassador program by the Global Youth Climate Network (World Bank Group). He is a member of YOUNGO and was one of the young observers at the Subsidiary Bodies 56 Meeting (Bonn Climate Change Conference). He has also founded Prolove Fashion, a gender-neutral and sustainable fashion brand that aims to bring circularity to fashion while addressing gender norms and intersectionality.
Anika Shethia (she/they) is a senior in high school and a grassroots community activist based in Houston. Anika co-leads Houston Youth Climate Strike, a youth-led nonprofit in the Greater Houston region dedicated to calling for climate action and advocating for environmental justice. In this position, she has collaborated with other passionate youth across the region to host protests, educational seminars, and forums with public officials.
Additionally, Anika is a strong believer in the importance of uplifting youth voices and takes every opportunity to promote storytelling and artistic expression as a method of advocacy. As one of the leaders of Houston Youth Climate Strike, she helped launch the Stories From a City of Storms project that aims to elevate the climate stories of Houstonians.
Anika also leads the Youth Engagement Working Group for the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability in Houston. She works alongside young people in the city to plan and execute sustainable community projects and offer youth perspectives throughout the implementation of the Houston Climate Action Plan and the Resilient Houston Plan.
Furthermore, Anika is passionate about the connection of healthy oceans and healthy people. In early 2022, she worked to cofound the Climate Is Health Campaign, a grassroots project dedicated to reframing the climate crisis as a public health crisis through education, advocacy, and research.
Additionally, Anika was selected to be a member of the Gulf of Mexico Youth Advisory Congress and the U.S. Youth Advisory Council for UN Ocean Decade. In her free time, Anika enjoys reading and volunteering at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Saint Lucia, 17
Saint Lucia, 17
Anya-Marie Hilaire (she/her) is a first-year member of the council. She is a 17 year old student who graduated from high school in Saint Lucia and is now completing her senior year in the United States. As a national and recreational swimmer of ten years and counting, Anya’s passion for the ocean was sparked by the deterioration of marine life that she noticed at the beaches during her routine open water swims. This began her journey of raising awareness and finding solutions to marine life issues.
With a passion that grew beyond marine life, Anya became an active member of the save the environment club at her previous high school. As a member of this club Anya was able to assist with organizing and carrying out clean ups of community areas as well as coastal areas. After completing a 3-year biology course with the highest achievable grade Anya made sure to share this experience with the youth of her community through various presentations and activities. This was followed by a second college level biology course at her current school that was fueled by her membership in the school terrapin club. Being in this club further grew her love for marine life, teaching her patience and understanding of how important saving marine life truly was.
During the summer, Anya was determined to join her government's attempt to save marine life and learn more about the conditions of the oceans. In her attempt to achieve this, she became an intern for 6 weeks at her local marine department and took part in many fruitful experiences. Among all these activities, Anya was most intrigued by two experiences, her sargassum experience and coral gardening experience. With the continuous change of climate, ocean temperatures have dropped providing a major sargassum problem in her island. Through her internship, Anya was able to collect and measure the nitrogen levels of air samples from various coastal areas in an attempt to analyze the effects of this sargassum and the gases released. This experience is a part of ongoing research that the marine biology unit is following through with.
Additionally, Anya was able to become a certified coral restorer, learning the specifics on how to sample and plant coral trees to save the declining population of corals. Through her position in the youth council Anya hopes to spread awareness of the marine life problems in her island and other islands in the Caribbean to promote a healthier worldwide marine life.
Arwen (she/her) is a 16-year-old high school student from Kailua, Hawaii, and is currently the Activism team leader for Wild Kids, an organization that aims to promote environmental stewardship among high school students.
Her love for the ocean started at a young age. As a child, she would attempt to save the washed-up jellyfish she found on the beach, much to her parents’ disdain. In middle school, her passion for environmental activism started when she attended one of NOAA’s student science conferences. Since then, she has become involved in as many programs as she can, working on everything from native plant restoration to planning rallies to bring justice to victims of Red Hill.
Today, she works with the Hawaii Youth Climate Coalition, the Sierra Club of Hawaii, and most recently, Hawaii Green Fee, an organization working to pass legislation that would implement a “visitor green fee” in the islands. Arwen believes that the ocean is the unsung hero of the fight against climate change, and she is excited to bring more awareness to the public on our responsibility to protect it.
Bodhi Patil (he/him) is a 20 year-old ocean climate solutionist passionate about the interconnection between Ocean Health and Human Health (OHHH). As the founder of Inner Light and co-creator of Ocean Uprise, Bodhi believes in the power that young people have to create impact at scale. He is a second-year student in the BA + Master of Management program at the University of British Columbia studying oceans, environmental action, and business. He co-founded Sea Dragon Studios (SDS), a creative arts and digital media platform supporting youth-led, ocean-climate action and launched One World Breath.
With a team of 4 fellow young impact makers, he co-won the Forum with project INVASEA - Innovating with Invasive Species. Along with the 130 other incredible delegates of the forum, he is specially recognized by the United Nations as an esteemed ocean activist. He is the On Deck Youth Advisor, co-building sustainable fisheries. As an avid surfer, diver, kelp-lover, marine science nerd, ocean-climate solutionist, and hopeful realist, he loves mother nature deeply. Join us and help further integrate meaningful youth action into the 2030 agenda. Like the ocean, we are powerful creators that can make waves of positive impact.
Despite having grown up in a land-locked area, Caitlin Turner’s (she/her) family would regularly take her on trips to the beach on the West coast of Scotland, where she came to fall in love with the marine environment. ‘When she grew up’, she wanted to be a mermaid.
Now 22 and having recently completed her BSc (Hons) degree in Marine Biology, she’s close enough to that childhood dream. Prior to starting university, Caitlin flew to Sri Lanka to volunteer at a sea turtle sanctuary for a month. Here, she not only witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of plastic pollution on marine life, but also on the communities which depend on healthy seas for survival. As a result, Caitlin returned to Scotland with a determination to call for greater community involvement in marine conservation and policymaking: ensuring the sharing of vital local knowledge, preservation of stories and culture, and provision of stewardship for coastal and island communities over the use and protection of the marine environment.
In her 2nd year of study, Caitlin founded her university’s first marine conservation student society. The aim of the society was not only to contribute to marine conservation efforts through physical action – including beach and community clean-ups, participating in citizen-science projects, and fundraising – but to also engage the local community with protecting Scottish seas. In her 3 years serving as the society’s President, Caitlin oversaw the forming of partnerships with several environmental organizations, raising over £7000 for different charitable causes, and the removal over 120kg of waste from beaches and local areas. The society also joined the Our Seas and Transform Bottom Trawling coalitions, to support the call for stricter management of destructive fishing methods in Scottish seas. In 2021, Caitlin created Ocean Action Week: a fund and awareness-raising effort which aimed to celebrate the Scottish marine environment and engage the public with the issues impacting it.
In the same year, Caitlin also joined the Marine Conservation Society (MCS UK) as a Sea Champion Volunteer. In this role, she supports MCS campaigns through the organization of beach clean events – collecting vital data on the waste lifted to help inform waste management policy – and delivering educational presentations to schools and public events. Her voluntary work has resulted in her presenting on global and national conferences, as well as receiving multiple university awards, as well as being nominated on the YWCA Scotland ’30 Under 30’ List 2020 and was Highly Commended for the MCS’ ‘Young Ocean Optimist of the Year’ award.
Today, alongside continuing her voluntary work as a Sea Champion (and now also a member of the MCS UK Youth Ocean Network), Caitlin is also the youth representative on the Sea Scotland conference steering group and is a Trustee on a newly forming Scottish youth marine conservation organization. Caitlin wants to continue supporting community involvement in marine conservation, particularly in marine management, and hopes to exchange stories and knowledge with other members of the Youth Advisory Council to do this.
Chaofan "Frank" Chen
Chaofan "Frank" Chen
Frank Chen (he/him) is a senior studying Globalization and Development at Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College (BNU-HKBU UIC). Frank is the Founder and Co-Director of the UIC Sustainable Development Research Group (SDRG), which focuses on global environmental governance, global regimes on environmental issues and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Under his leadership, SDRG has organized numerous activities to raise awareness of environmental protection and preservation and promoted research on environmental policies and public education. Frank is also a proud member of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) network, a renowned and active China-based international non-governmental organization on environmental issues, through the “UIC GAD-CBCGDF Sustainability Leadership Platform”. During his service on the platform, Frank attended the UNEA 5.2 and other meetings representing the CGCGDF, as well as translated and written articles on the CBCGDF social media. Frank also writes articles regarding China and international environmental governance and policies for the BioGreen journal, held by CBCGDF, from time to time. He is a keen learner and activist in international relations, political sciences, and global environmental governance.
Apart from his environmental governance interests, he is also an active student leader and researcher. Frank is now a standing committee member of the UIC Student Court and was the Vice President of his program’s Academic Society, a leader of the Model United Nation Association and the Presidential candidate of the 14th Student Union Representative Council. Frank is also a contributor to two chapters of a forthcoming book Comparative Studies Pandemic Control Policies and the Resilience of Society, published by Springer Nature. These chapters introduce how the pandemic influences international relations with the G2 concept and the reflection on the state theory. Frank was also a holder of the UIC DHSS Student Research Grant.
Despite the learning experience at UIC, Frank has also spent two summers studying at Peking University (2020 & 2021) and Sciences Po (2021). Frank has also interned at the Renmin University of China, Local Government and UIC Centre for Teaching and Learning. All these experiences provide Frank with a broader chance to promote environmental and ocean protection within Chinese university communities and among Chinese youth.
Doreen Kaijage (she/her) is a 20 year old IT student and tech enthusiast, for the last 4 years she has enjoyed mentoring students in entrepreneurship, SRHR, IT, mental health and raising awareness on SDGs as well as contributing to improving Gender policies, and women and girl’s empowerment in Tanzania.
Understanding how the environment affects the way we interact with the world every day, Doreen has a profound passion in Climate Action specifically concerning ocean conservation and its biodiversity. She was selected as the only Tanzanian to participate in the SEAL Heirs to Our Ocean Summit where she participated in making a film that was used to raise awareness on issues associated with ocean pollution in relation to improper sewage and waste management in her community. Followed by her internship for National Geographic and The Nature Conservancy where she prepared an article that spoke on endangered species on the shores and oceans in Tanzania, as well as how youth can unite to promote environment conservation and protect our waters. Since then, she has spoken at different environment conservation events, organized local beach cleanups, and raised awareness about climate action. Doreen enjoys photography as her hobby, traveling, reading, she confesses struggling with French but loves exploring new languages, pet-keeping, teaching, and volunteering.
Favour Ayedun (she/her) is currently a final year of Forestry and Wood Technology at the Federal University of Technology Akure, Ondo state Nigeria. She is passionate about ocean conservation, climate change advocacy and environmental sustainability. To fuel her passion, she is currently a team member at Eden World Conservation Initiatives where she designs programs, develops content, and strategizes events to spark action for nature through youth engagement and social media.
She also has broad experience in volunteering for conservation organizations and projects such as Araromi Seaside Outreach and Bootcamp where she participated in ocean clean up, community education and sensitization programs, recycling, and upcycling trainings as well as negotiation meetings with community leaders. She also contributed to the video documentary of the project to attract several stakeholders that are involve in decision and policy making that can impact the blue planet in Ondo state.
The outreach and bootcamp has successfully raised about 100 young kids and youth in Araromi Seaside as ocean ambassadors and climate advocates and influenced the perspectives and knowledge of the community residence on ocean challenges and solutions through community actions.
Favour has been a great voice in promoting conservation effort and awareness in her institution through public campaigns and climate walks where she leads young people across the states educating and sensitizing communities on the impact of anthropogenic activities of both rural and urban cities on environmental sustainability and conservation. She is building a future career in the aspect of forest resource management and oceanography.
Fotios Kotzakioulafis (he/him) is a Master's in Renewable Energy Engineering student from Thessaloniki, Greece, and as a European Climate Pact Ambassador of the Directorate General for Climate Action of the European Commission, has worked on projects in Iceland, Greece and the European Union as a whole, and also actively participated in two high-level EU Policy Dialogues with the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans and with the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius. At the same time; he is involved in EU advocacy, which mainly consists of climate, energy and sustainability-related matters, while he is also engaged in Greek politics concerning International Relations & European Union affairs.
Concerning his professional experience, he is currently working for the European Climate Pact in Greece, the Public Affairs department of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Greece, and he is also a policy officer and energy analyst in several European and international think tanks and organizations that focus on topics like the European Green Deal, climate & energy, as well as the green and sustainable transition. Lastly, he has recently co-founded with other European Climate Pact Ambassadors from around Europe an energy and climate-related organization, EOS Europe, of which he was elected as its first president.
Grace Westgarth (she/they) is a 19 year old Master Scuba Diver, Advanced Freediver and ocean lover from London, UK who's recently moved to Falmouth in Cornwall to study a degree in Marine and Natural History Photography. This pathway will hopefully lead Grace to be involved in the making of media that will educate people on a large scale about critical issues and start her career as a natural history film maker.
Learning to scuba dive at the very young age of 10 years old, Grace discovered a whole new world which they completely fell in love with. Diving opened up many opportunities for Grace to travel and dive in many places such as Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Florida but mainly continuing training in the UK and becoming NASE Worldwide's youngest Master Diver at the age of 13. As she got older and learnt about factors such as climate change and plastic pollution that are threatening our oceans, Grace knew she would spend her life trying to preserve the environment that she loves in whatever way possible. Throughout her school career, photography also became a growing hobby, so she thought why not merge her two passions.
Grace then spent two years studying film and Television at the London Screen Academy where they were mentored by BAFTA award winning natural history filmmakers. During this time, Grace also became one of the first ambassadors for the world's largest female diving community, Girls That Scuba, which allowed her to create content and spread the message of conservation on a bigger platform.
Grace has just completed a gap year where she was lucky enough to learn how to free dive. Breath hold diving is a useful skill as it allows her to get closer to wildlife without scaring them with the bubbles that open circuit scuba creates. Continuing with her freediving qualifications she traveled to Egypt and got to revisit some dive sites they hadn't seen since learning to dive in 2013. Grace was disappointed to see the change that had happened over the short space of a few years, further motivating her to decide her next steps.
Recently, she has chosen a degree that has allowed her to move away from London and live by the sea. Hopefully making it more accessible to create content and further her career in conservation. Grace is super excited to be a part of the youth council this year alongside some incredibly passionate young people who can work together to come up with unique ideas ahead of World Ocean Day 2023.
As a toddler, Jasmine Rodman (she/her)’s interest in the ocean was already abundantly clear. Exploring the local docks in the early morning was where it all started. Carefully, she would lean over the edge, watching with wide eyes at the anemones, fish, and sea stars that greeted her each morning. As she grew up, ravenously devouring any books she could find, her love for the ocean combined with her love for stories. Simultaneously, as she grew up and understood more about the climate crisis and other problems facing our oceans, she became passionate about not only loving it, but protecting it too.
Now an artist, student, and activist from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, Jasmine’s passion for the ocean remains. Combining her love for the ocean and natural world with her interest in art and stories, Jasmine spends much of her time figuring out how to make the world a better place through beautiful communication. At age 15, Jasmine founded Ocean Child Creative, a sustainable small business making art of the ocean, for the ocean. Donating 10% of sales to a rotating list of BC-based ocean conservation NGOs, Jasmine loves using art to support people making a real difference. Ocean Child has also given Jasmine the opportunity to start conversations online, at markets, and at local stores about why the ocean is so important to our future.
She then joined Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Program’s Future Blue Youth Council, where we worked to create a brand-new granting program for young changemakers. Most recently, she was named a 2021 National Geographic Young Explorer and is currently on a grant for her project Turning Tides, which creates societal change by engaging youth in sharing climate narratives, catalyzing action, making connections, and protecting our oceans and our future. After spending her gap year working on the project, the eight-part podcast series will be shared with the world in Spring 2022.
She loves talking to people and presenting about these projects - over the few years she has presented at World Ocean Day’s Youth-A-thon 2021, the Massachusetts Marine Educators Conference, the Educating for Sustainable Seas Conference, and Bow Seat’s own Fellowship webinar series. In addition to this work, I love swimming in the ocean, exploring the land and sea around me, and reading about adventures in all forms. Jasmine aspires to be an authentic voice for her community and natural world while enjoying life to the fullest.
Lotta Baalerud (she/her) was born and raised in Norway, and has had plenty of opportunities to explore the country's extensive coastline and its biological wonders. Spending time by the coast, she has experienced first-hand how climate change and pollution affect marine ecosystems, including the effects of plastic pollution and invasive species, such as the pacific oyster. These experiences and the insight she has gained through her education have motivated her to work for the protection of marine ecosystems.
During the last few years, Lotta has been working with Passion for Ocean (PFO), a non-profit marine conversation and science communication organization looking to enhance people's sense of connection to the oceans. She started as a volunteer but has later progressed to become the manager of PFO's summer camps in Oslo. The summer camps are designed to give primary-school aged children an opportunity to explore and connect with the oceans through hands-on experiences such as freediving, beach clean-ups and microscopy.
Lotta strongly believes that it is essential to help children build a connection to the oceans to ensure they will contribute to their future protection – you are not likely to protect what you do not know, nor care for! She believes this connection is not only created through traditional education but even more so through having meaningful and exciting experiences in the marine environment. She is currently working with PFO to assess the possibility of expanding the summer camps to reach more children, including those otherwise unable or unlikely to access activities in a marine environment, such as those from families with limited economic means.
Currently, Lotta is in her final year of a BSc in Biological Sciences at Imperial College London. During her degree, she has specialized in ecology, conservation, and climate change. She has found herself becoming particularly interested in how conservation organizations can work with enterprises to ensure the protection of biodiversity while at the same time contributing to the growth of the blue economy. She aspires to continue her education with a master's in biodiversity management to enable her to work with businesses and governments to ensure the protection and sustainable management of marine biodiversity and resources in Norway and abroad.
As part of the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council, Lotta hopes to use her experiences with science communication to inspire even more people, particularly children and youth, to get involved with marine conversation.
Manar Elkebir (she/her) is an environmental activist from Tunisia. Growing up in Gabes, Tunisia, along the Mediterranean coast, Manar was always passionate about the oceans and keeping them free of trash. When she was 17 years old, she was designated a Global Leader of Solutions to Plastic Pollution by Algalita Marine Research and Education after leading a successful campaign that encourage local communities to opt for alternatives to plastic bags taken from Tunisian culture. In 2020, she was chosen as Conrad innovator for Conrad-Challenge, a multi-phase innovation competition, after developing a tracking system for derelict fishing gear and ghost nets in the ocean to help reduce ocean trash globally.
Manar is outspoken about the role and power of youth in creating solutions to global challenges. Raising awareness of plastic pollution and climate change, she has spoken at international events across the world and received not only recognition for her work but also delegation opportunity to represent youth in the MENA region at high-level conferences. She has used her influence to work with governmental leaders and business executives to make sustainable decisions. She founded EcoWave in 2019, a youth network in Tunisia to inspire and scale action in her local community. She is also the first Tunisian Young Explorer with National Geographic.
María Paz Dakota Ormeño Vasquez
María Paz Dakota Ormeño Vasquez
María Paz (she/her) is a seventeen-year-old aspiring environmental activist. Being born and raised in Lima, Perú, allowed her to have connections with the ocean from a younger age. Currently, she has an enormous passion to continue preserving the life of marine animals and helping indigenous communities who are severely affected by pollution.
She is a strong believer that to contribute to making a change in our world and the conservation of our oceans, we need people who are committed to moving forward despite the circumstances, inspiring others to join the cause, and being creative in the search for solutions.
For this reason, she has participated in many projects and programs to address the problem. One of them was being part of the founding team of the company "Mawka", which was born from the awareness that the high rate of pollution produced by the excessive consumption of plastic harms marine life. Their product was K'aspi, a collapsible straw inside a bamboo case, and a 100% Peruvian handmade pouch. They donated part of the profits to ORCA, a non-profit NGO that has been a pioneer in marine conservation in Peru for 20 years. In addition, they were selected as one of the "10 best companies nationwide" in the "Junior Achievement Peru: The Company 2021" program.
She is also the founder of a youth organization called "Incluye Pe'', its purpose is to enable entrepreneurs from indigenous communities to grow economically and to give their culture greater visibility in urban areas. The entrepreneurs are people whose beliefs are based on respecting the environment and the animals that inhabit them, therefore, they have alliances with other youth organizations that raise awareness about the preservation of the planet and oceans.
In addition to her commitment to protecting the earth, she as well advocates for peace and dialogue between people from different nationalities. That's why she received a scholarship to attend Givat Haviva International School, where she will be part of a powerful network of leaders who work together toward an inclusive society and a just future for all, and form enduring friendships that cross divides and connect communities.
As a member of the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council, Maria Paz hopes to reach more young people and empowered them to be involved in this fight against climate change. Also, she wants to let them know that their voices and actions are important and not to let their light go out, for it is those who persevere who achieve great things.
South Africa, 23
South Africa, 23
Matsobane Malebatja (he/him) grew up far from the ocean in the Limpopo province located in South Africa. His first exposure to a water body as such was on television that is when he was captivated by the beauty of diversity and overall marine life.
In high school he took part in the debate team as a beginner and with time was elected captain of the team. This opened up opportunities as he took part in the Model UN debate on sustainability and the several sustainable goals of development (SDGs) that took place at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
Representing different delegates under varying circumstances and the diplomacy approach to the different problems shed light on the need for countries to act as a collective when writing up resolutions as marine resources and services in different oceans are linked by virtue of sharing planet Earth.
He obtained a BSc in Marine Biology in 2021 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a member of the Golden Key Academy through which others are empowered in education and socially.
Matsobane is currently employed as an intern by the South African National Research Foundation – Department of Science and Innovation joint (NRF-DSI) and stationed at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) where he works on collaborative projects with organizations such as WildOceans collecting baseline data from a newly proclaimed MPA where future data collected will include that of fishermen to report on ocean user opinions and experiences next to science.
Furthermore, he is a member of Youth4MPAs, an NGO that made up of youth missioned to raise awareness on ocean health and educate young from school level to peers in universities across the country.
Matsobane’s future ambitions are to get into ocean governance on transdisciplinary terms where ocean users from different disciplines cooperate on how to interact with the ocean (resource use and transportation) sustainably and how best policies and regulations can facilitate stakeholders.
Mohamed Ali "Dali" Raddaoui
Mohamed Ali "Dali" Raddaoui
Dali (he/him) is the Founder and President of the NAFAS organization working on intersectional inclusivity and climate action in North Africa, the Middle East and Beyond. Currently, Dali holds several diverse positions in the international advocacy scene, a Negotiator and Party Delegate to the Tunisian Delegation in COP27, an Ambassador to the European Climate Pact movement, a National Gender Youth Activist with UN Women, and a member of the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council, Messenger to Climate Science organization.
Dali is a Communication expert and Project manager with 3+ years of experience in international institutions, the United Nations, European Union, Governmental Diplomatic Delegation, and civil society. He has worked and volunteered in local, regional, and international projects for gender equality, climate actions, sustainable development goals, and more.
Dali co-led international movements such as the Generation Equality Forum and believes in the intersectional Vision for climate action and beyond when it comes to leading an inclusive ecological transition and in the importance of building bridges between the intersectional global north and global south civil societies.
Myah Iyanla Greene
The Bahamas, 21
Myah Iyanla Greene
The Bahamas, 21
Growing up in the beautiful islands of The Bahamas, Myah Iyanla Greene (she/her) had no choice but to be in love with the outdoors. Now, a twenty two year old law student, her love for the environment continues to grow and she identifies as an ocean and environmental enthusiast.
Since the sixth grade Myah Iyanla realized that the Earth was in trouble, and she made it her personal mission to save it. Myah took on the life motto of “if not now then when, if not me then who”. Myah realized that so much seemed to be going on in the environment and nobody seemed to care. This realization fueled Myah’s interest of climate literacy, and the belief that everyone should have access to information about the environment.
Myah took a water management class from tenth to twelfth grade. She credits this class to truly fueling her love for the ocean. In this class she learnt about everything from sea grass to corals, and how the ocean is truly in danger. After achieving the highest GPA in her class, Myah went on to work at a government owned water management, maintenance, and disturbance company. Here, Myah assisted in the lab - testing for potable water and working in the field at the reverse osmosis sites.
Her hobbies include kayaking, reading, writing, tennis and visiting as many national parks as she can. Myah believes that it is up to each and every one of us to make a difference, because the problem started with us, and hopefully it ends with us. Fun fact: Myah has not been to the beach barefooted in two years, after she almost lost her toe to a crab.
Rada (Рада) Pandeva (she/her) is 20 years old, originally from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and is currently a second-year Marine Science undergraduate student at the University of Exeter in the UK. She has been a thalassophile (a lover of the seas and oceans) for as long as she can remember. Today, she has a clear idea of how she wants to contribute to the field. Rada dives headfirst at opportunities that allow her an insight into the marine world. She is currently a part of the Youth Ocean Network, created by the Marine Conservation Society, within which she works with fellow young people around the UK to protect the British coast. She is also a member of the Outreach and Education team of Falmouth Marine Conservation and feels that teaching and education is her other big passion, and one that she hopes to link with the love she has for the ocean.
She believes that for real change to pass, and for people, politicians, and corporations to change their behaviors they all must be aware of what there is to lose, and they all must know how important marine ecosystems are to all of us. And for this to happen, she says everybody must have access to the ocean, to ocean science, to the marine world in one way or another. Led by these ideals, she created her ongoing project-podcast; The Thalassophile Project. She strives to bring hope to people that not all is lost, to educate, and show people who live in land-locked areas how beautiful and worth protecting the Ocean is.
In July 2022, The Thalassophile Project was awarded Erasmus+ funding and Rada together with her partners will be working over the next two years on making Marine Science accessible to D/deaf and visually-impaired people by developing a central resource hub, curating what there already is and creating where there are gaps.
Rada is honored to be the first representative from Bulgaria on the Youth Advisory Council and hopes to make marine science and conservation more available to Bulgarian students, so the Black Sea and its inhabitants are protected better. She looks forward to joining forces with fellow Council members and making waves together in the next year.
Sena Chang (she/her) is a Japanese-Korean activist and creative based in Tokyo. Her creative work has been recognized by The New York Times, the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, and Sundress Publications, amongst others.
Whether it be the highly polluted environment of Seoul or the increasingly hot summers of Tokyo, Sena’s experiences living in highly urbanized, polluted spaces have informed her deep appreciation for the ocean and more broadly, natural environments.
Currently, she serves as an Organizer at her local Fridays for Future chapter, an initiative founded by Greta Thunberg. Promoting environmental conservation in Tokyo, she was most recently involved with the United Nations’ Climate and SDGs Conference hosted by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, which brought together 2,000 global participants and centered on the need for smoother integration of climate-focused policies and cross-disciplinary partnerships.
At 14, Sena also founded The Global Youth Review, an international literary and arts platform aiming to amplify youth voices in politics and bridge cultures together. Since 2020, The Global Youth Review has garnered hundreds of submissions and a readership (both print and online) of 100,000+ in 480+ cities across 100+ countries.
As a member of several advocacy groups, Sena has also presented policies to various ministers and officials at a variety of conferences and forums. As a result of her work, Sena was most recently named a 2022 Global Teen Leader by We Are Family Foundation and Three Dot Dash, as well as the President’s Honor Winner of the National Young Hero Award by the National Liberty Museum and TD Bank.
Using her platform and voice, she dreams of utilizing the power of storytelling and cultivating a generation that is open and empowered to engage in open political dialogue and creative advocacy, especially as it pertains to intergenerational issues such as climate and ocean degradation.
Hong Kong, 18
Hong Kong, 18
Having a passion for appreciating the beauty of the oceans began at an early age for Stephanie Hung (she/her) who was born in Hong Kong and traveled frequently to places such as Australia and South Asia where she saw beautiful beaches and waterways. During her formative years she was able see and enjoy places where the ocean is powerful and dynamic and others that were peaceful and serene. It made an impression on a young girl that began a relationship with the ocean.
When she traveled from her home in Hong Kong to her home in Hawaii to begin high school at the prestigious Punahou School where former President Barack Obama and many other influential people attended, she realized her calling. What started as a hobby turned into an amazing career launch pad for Hung. She loved to paint as her friends asked her to paint things such as clothing, water bottles, and sneakers, she monetized her art to raise funds to donate to non-profit groups that supported ocean clean-ups and environmentally friendly causes to help take steps to save the oceans she had fallen in love with.
In a place such as Hawaii, known for its beautiful beaches, famous surf spots and places to fish, sunbathe and play, Stephanie saw her work as being the vehicle to make a difference on a larger scale. With help from family and friends Stephanie created a U.S. Domestic non-profit 501c3, Artists Save Waves, and a U.S. Domestic for-profit corporation, Artists with Aloha (to support and protect the non-profit while providing opportunity for other artists with visions for advocacy for other subjects such as mental health).
The mission and vision is to find new ways to inspire, educate, and raise funds through her art on the importance of protecting the oceans, and allowing her to donate funds to organizations that fit that model. She would also look for opportunities to use her artwork as commissioned pieces while still doing smaller projects, but now looking at larger scale projects such as murals.
The community embraced her “artivism” and she found support in many ways. She did a magnificent mural at a waterpark in Hawaii that garnered lots of media attention and donations. She aligned herself with an entity called Sustainable Coastlines that supports beach, ocean, and environmental clean-ups that is also supported by Hawaii born actor Jason Momoa. Another big commission project came from a Credit Union in Hawaii that wanted to support her message, so she designed 5 new credit and debit cards for them with the intent that with each transaction, a portion of the proceeds would go to her charity and in turn to the ones she supports. More efforts are currently underway to take her mission and vision (as shown on her website and social media pages) to another level – nationally and internationally – all while she is attending college at Boston University with her double major of Environmental Analysis and Policy and Architecture. The world awaits her next steps to help our Oceans.
Tanya "Anya" Francesca Granados
Tanya "Anya" Francesca Granados
Anya (she/her) is the co-founder of Mission Isla, a youth organization centered on making environmental education accessible to everyone and safeguarding climate vulnerable communities in the Philippines. In the past, she has written articles on the climate crisis for ARGO Manila, served as the Asia Pacific Regional Head of the Youth for Our Planet global movement, and Head of External Affairs of Project Blue — a non-profit focused on coastal cleanup operations. She has also been selected as an ambassador for Earth.Org, and has earned a spot on Eco-Business’ 30 Under 30 line up.
Anya believes that everyone, regardless of their skill set, can do anything to give back to the ocean. She does this through the gift of words by writing and speaking at events such as the UNEP MGCY Youth Environment Assembly, the UNEP MGCY Science-Policy-Business Forum, and at various climate change forums. Anya hopes to contribute to protecting the ocean by pursuing a career in journalism and international relations, and calling for long term policy change.
Tom Ogalo (he/him) is a 22 year old sociologist and community developer from Kisumu Kenya. he is passionate about sustainability an envisioned a world that is self-sufficient to be able to eradicate poverty using various innovative skills and tools in promoting education and environmental actions through social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, mentorship, and good leadership.
Due to his passion for eco-philanthropy, climate change activism and sustainable development he has founded three organizations namely Jijenge Youth Organization an Initiative that seeks to ensure that communities are safe and hospitable for all young persons as it advances more environmental sustainability, Jitokeze Tupande Miti Kenya that seeks to restore mangrove in the coastline, protection of lake wetlands, water catchment areas and creating green spaces in communities and institutions and finally Us For Street Foundation that seeks to promote education at the right level with target being vulnerable children living in the streets.
He has a vast experience working with other organizations this includes being an Environmental Justice advisory board member at Global Student Forum, Youth Council Member and Youth Fellow at #Learning Planet Institute, World Cleanup Day coordinator in Western Region with Let’s Do It Kenya, co- founder of Homeless of Kisumu, Station Director at Jijenge TV, partner member at Global Waste Cleaning Network and a trained electorate educator.
He is also a member of Kisumu Environmental Champs a youth and Children led organization that currently are advocating for restoration of Lake Victoria through tree planting, Lake Victoria and Indian ocean conservation, organizing climate activism with the aim of influencing policies at local and international levels.
Ying Rui Neoh
Ying Rui Neoh
Ying Rui Neoh (she/her) is a third-year undergraduate majoring in Flight Vehicle Design and Engineering at Beihang University. As a youth growing up on the beautiful island of Penang, she witnessed the impact of climate change on the ocean and coastlines and feels strongly about the environment. She feels the responsibility to take action to address the situation and she hopes to create tangible impacts locally and internationally by joining World Ocean Day.
Ying Rui is currently part of the Malaysian Youth Delegation and Research working group, and a volunteer at the outreach team of YUFE (Youth United For Earth). In the past, she participated in the ASEAN Young Climate Leaders Program and led her group to implement a social project '4CleanWaves', which aims to empower ASEAN youths to act in addressing the marine waste issue. She also interned at China Youth Climate Action Network and volunteered at Climate Action Youth Alliance, The Green Spoon, and the YECAP Climate Hackathon.
As a K-pop enthusiast, Ying Rui also joined the Kpop4Planet Ambassador. She created content to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the K-pop industry, such as mass-buying physical albums, fast fashion, and mass-streaming digitally. Believing that this global issue needs collaborative action across countries, she is also involved in the international relations field to better understand global policies and decision-making. She was the Publicity Officer for ASEAN-China Young Leaders Summit and a delegate at China-ASEAN Youth Symposium on Blue Economy.
Aside from her passion for climate action, Ying Rui is also very active in STEM-related activities. She is part of the organizing team of the Space Generation Congress 2022 and volunteers as the Asia Pacific Regional Partnership Manager at Space Generation Advisory Council. She is also the Vice President of Young Malaysian Engineers, a student organization aiming to empower Malaysian youth in the STEM field. Above all, she hopes to inspire youth to unleash their potential and innovate for a better future for the environment and mankind.
- Adam Zhou, Philippines
- Arya Yurdacan, Turkey
- Belinda Tian-Wing Ng, Hong Kong
- Ee Jenn Lee, Malaysia
- Estefania Aphang, Peru
- Jade Cave, South Africa
- Jose Marie Eslopor, Philippines
- Kal Glanzig, Australia
- Laura Maisvoreva, Zimbabwe
- Lela DeVine, USA
- Marina Castello Rigo, Spain
- Matai Zamuel, Suriname
- Mhairi McCann, Scotland
- Muskan Lamba, India
- Nathany Roberta Herrera Aguiar, Brazil
- Paul Eweola Ayomide, Nigeria
- Prashant Mohesh, Mauritius
- Ruth Edma Mwizeere, Uganda
- Sam Fricker, Australia
- Shanjeevan Amalanathan, Sri Lanka
- Siobhan O’Connor, New Zealand
- Sruthi Gurudev, USA
- Syeda Areesha Fatima, Pakistan
- William Joseph Wilkins, Wales
- Yutong Yang, China
- Andrea Quintero Pérez, Mexico
- Ariana Wanvig-Dot, Switzerland
- Darcie Anderson, Scotland
- David Ludeke, United States
- Eimear Stephenson, Ireland
- Gabrielle Martineau, Canada
- Joana Da Rosa, Portugal
- Lydia Rysavy, Sweden
- Maha Fier, New Zealand
- Natalie Ashkar, Lebanon
- Ngolle Kingsman, Cameroon
- Nicola Tsiolis, Australia
- Toluwanimi Olubanke, Nigeria
2019 - 2020
- Aldrin Aujero, Philippines
- Isabelle Grace, Switzerland
- Laura Park, England
- Mae Paula Ross Clareza, Philippines
- Nicolas Chesta, Chile
- Olivia Livingstone, Liberia
- Portsea Turton, Australia
- Rebecca Loy, Singapore
- Shantana Barbe, Seychelles
- Sophie Handford, New Zealand
- Summer Snell, England
- Unelker Maoga, Kenya
- Yusuf Kavuma, Uganda
- Anna Zaske, Denmark
- Anushka Bhaskar, United States
- Cade Terada, United States
- Gabrielle Tan, Malaysia
- Ibrahi Rodriguez, Ecuador
- Kehkashan Basu, Canada
- Olivia Taylor, South Africa
- Patricia Zanella, Brazil
- Rufai Balogun, Nigeria
- Sofia El-Rass, Denmark
- Wenqin Zhang, China
2016 - 2018
- Baylee Ritter, USA
- Brandon Koots, Curacao
- Caitlin Philipps, Australia
- Eugenia Barroca, Portugal
- Gabriella Schauber, Canada
- La Tisha Parkinson, Trinidad & Tobago
- Melati Wijsen, Indonesia
- Mohammed Wahabi, Morocco
- Nehara Pandey, India
- Oghenechovwen Christopher Oghenekevwe, Nigeria
- Sang-Jin Kim, Germany