Young Changemakers: Aya Hoteit

We are glad to introduce our brand-new monthly column, Shoot for the stars – Stories from Young Changemakers! We will gather stories of young social entrepreneurs from all over the world that have launched innovative solutions to solve social problems in their communities.The idea emerged by a local meeting of the Italian branch of the Youth Press Agency, to stimulate youngsters to pursue their dreams by sharing inspiring stories from their peers. We strongly believe that new generations are a massive source of creativity and energy, so we decided to show them that everything they set their mind on is possible, if they know how to do it and can master the necessary skills. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and shoot for the stars! It’s a great pleasure to introduce you our first Young Changemaker: her name is Aya Hoteit, she’s 23 and lives in Beirut, Lebanon. We won’t give you any spoilers, as our reporters, Laura and Giulia, interviewed her for you. Enjoy!

NAME: Aya Hoteit
COUNTRY: Lebanon
AGE: 23

SUPERPOWERS: perseverance, courage, resilience
WHY DOES SHE WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE?

Aya believes that mobilizing community members on social issues is the greatest way to help communities solve their problems. Her attitude towards the problems her community is facing is: React, don’t Give Up!

HOW DOES SHE MAKE A CHANGE? She is currently working on two projects:

DEEDS: a community mobilizer that stimulates civic participation of the youth by involving them in campaigns and local events. Moreover, it increases the general efficiency of the ecosystem by matching volunteers’ skills with the needs of non-profit organizations, fostering social engagement among the youth to make #GoodDeeds
CIVVIES: by recycling PET with an innovative process, Aya manages to create sustainable fabrics that use only recycled plastics for their synthetic portion (usually 20-30%)

Aya, since high-school, started working for her community in different volunteering activities, and these experiences enhanced her understanding of the reality she lived in. Through volunteering she realized the true entity of the problems her city, Beirut, is facing. Growing up, she felt the urge not only to take action, but to actively change the system in a disruptive way: unfortunately, there weren’t many compelling opportunities from local NGOs. This is mainly due to the lack of resources, people and community engagement these organizations face. There was a need for connection between those organizations and potential volunteers, donors and influencers “hidden” in the local community.

Facing these barriers, she didn’t give up and decided to take action. In 2014 she founded Deeds, a community mobilizer that stimulates the local community to take action on pressing social needs. Deeds aims to connect volunteers and NGOs both in digital and physical spaces: while the platform is still under development, Deeds is managing to reach its goal through events, communication products and by helping local NGOs to broaden their impact with consulting services on communication and fundraising campaigns. Judging from the results they are succeeding! As an example, for the Muslim annual festivity of Eid El Fitr, that takes place after Ramadan, Deeds collected hundreds of home-made cakes and sweeties from local families, so NGOs could deliver them to poor kids in marginalized areas of the city.

As of today, Deeds involved more than 3000 people, 150 volunteers and 8 important NGOS in Lebanon.

Aya also noticed another important problem for her city: waste collection and disposal. This issue is a big deal in Lebanon as it is perceived by the local population as one of the most pressing emergencies of the country. Nonetheless, government seems not to care much about it, mainly because of corruption and mismanagement. Indeed, there is no evidence of nation-wide separate collection and recycling programs. Thanks to her background in Chemical Engineering, Aya thought she could use her past experiences to help solve this problem, by finding a creative solution that put all the pieces together: a deep understanding of the problem, technical knowledge and her previous, unique, life experiences.
So, she gathered a team and created a fashion brand, CIVVIES, that uses only recycled plastics for the synthetic part of the fabrics. With an innovative process, they are able to recycle PET from bottles and other sources in order to create sustainable fabrics. All the clothes they create are wearable in any condition and have an ethical value within them at an affordable price. Even though they are in a start-up phase and are looking for funds to start production and commercialization, they are still helping their community to solve the problem by providing an excellent example of what creativity can do if propelled by a strong will, even in a disabling environment.

WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP AYA IN HER PROJECTS

You can help Aya in her journey towards social change! She recently took part in a contest for new ideas in Lebanon with her brand-new project CIVVIES. To help her we can go to www.reimaginelebanon.org and vote for her project. With our help she could have access to the necessary resources to launch the activities and start changing Lebanon. We have access to such a powerful instrument as the internet, not only for entertaining but to connect with changemakers such as Aya and help their impact grow! We, the young people, are the future hope for this word, so it’s up to us to take care of it when our institutions don’t. Remember that every contribution, no matter how small, it’s very important. One more thing we can do to help her is to promote her activities to potential mentors, partners and founders all over the world. For example, she is now trying to connect with sports-wear brands that uses recycled plastic for their products: if you know them, please write us at info@youthpressagency.org. We will share the information with Aya!

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HER EXPERIENCE

If you feel like you prefer to REACT instead of GIVING UP, here are some useful tips from Aya:

Validate your idea with as many people as you can
Do a lot of research on the problem
Find expert mentors that are willing to help
Build a strong network of contacts
Find a trust-worthy team of amazing people

But remember, practical issues are nothing without the right attitude. Each one of us can master the right characteristics in order to shoot for the stars and succeed. For Aya, the three ones she could never give up to are:

Resilience, the ability to adapt ourselves and our idea to an ever-changing context, without losing your core values. Planning is important but knowing how to improvise is essential!
Perseverance, the will to not give up on hard times
Resourcefullness, that means being always present and quick to find solutions with what you haven

One final tip: always keep your long-term goal at sight, but learn to cheer small victories!

If you, such as Aya, have an innovative project or solution that can help solve a social problem of your community, contact us at info@youthpressagency.org. We can discuss with you about your idea and connect you with local partners that can help your action grow. Remember that everyone can shoot for the stars!

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