From local activists to global ambassadors: Canon Young Champion award winners tell their story

Louise O’Driscoll
Louise O’Driscoll

Sustainability Communications Specialist at Canon EMEA

Applications for the Canon Young Champion of the Year category at the 2022 Global Good Awards (GGAs) have opened, giving qualifying changemakers the chance to be recognised for their campaigning efforts towards a social or environmental issue. The award not only gives finalists the opportunity to share their story with a new audience but also offers a Canon EOS 250D DSLR camera as a prize.
Last year, siblings Mishal and Mir from the UAE (now 15 and 11 years old), were recognised as Canon Young Champions of the Year in the Under 16’s category. They were awarded based on their involvement in campaigns that address topics including fair access to education, recycling, and deforestation.
The pair have been dedicated to making change in their community for several years. Their journey began when they noticed how people separate their rubbish into the multi-coloured recycling bins in their community. Their parents taught them about recycling, food waste, and other environmental issues spurring Mishal and Mir into wanting to help. They began to volunteer for the Emirates Environmental Group’s recycling campaign and for six consecutive years, they were two of the highest recyclers taking part in the campaign. Together they have gathered a total of 18,000 kgs of paper, 600 kgs of plastic, 200 ink cartridges and 610 kgs of used batteries. 
Since winning the Canon Young Champion of the Year Award, Mishal and Mir were invited to take part in an interview at Expo 2020 Dubai, a global event that links innovation, technology, art and culture. The World Expo has brought 192 countries together to showcase and celebrate sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
During the interview with Studio Expo, the pair shared their inspiring story and encouraged others to do their part for the planet. Aishwarya Ajit and Tom Urquhart expressed their amazement as Mishal and Mir spoke informatively, using an impressive dialogue to express their focus and determination to make the world a better place.

Aishwarya Ajit and Tom Urquhart at Expo 2020 Dubai
Mishal and Mir being interviewed on Studio Expo with Aishwarya Ajit and Tom Urquhart at Expo 2020 Dubai

They recall feeling incredibly excited by the chance to discuss their journey so far and be part of an event that’s hosted some of the world’s greatest social and environmental thinkers. “It was such a super awesome feeling to be invited to Expo 2020 Dubai as winners of the GGA Canon Young Champion of the Year Award. One of the main themes of the Expo is sustainability, and to be there as ambassadors of GGA, which is doing tremendous work to shine a spotlight on the most pressing environmental issues around the world and the Sustainable Development Goals, is truly the honour of a lifetime.”

They described speaking at Expo as a “dream come true”, since it led them closer to achieving their goal of creating a ripple effect and getting more people involved in these causes to create a larger impact. Their commitment delivers a powerful message that making a difference isn’t defined by age and young people can play an important role in the sustainability story.

Aishwarya Ajit and Tom Urquhart at Expo 2020 Dubai
Mishal and Mir being interviewed on Studio Expo

As well as standing for social justice and doing their part for the planet, Mishal and Mir have also founded a charity called ‘Win shares’. It’s a first-of-its-kind platform in the UAE that provides young people with textbooks and uniforms for school. They also started ‘Educate and Empower’, which raises money for students whose families cannot afford digital learning devices. Alongside these campaigns, the duo also joined humanitarian organisations including Emirates Red Crescent Society and Dubai Cares, to help inspire others to take similar action. They even became the hosts of the weekly radio show called ‘Making Minutes Matter’!

Protecting the environment and making lives better is a global quest for Mishal and Mir. They strongly relate to the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and have built a global network of like-minded people with similarly inspiring projects and passions. It’s this sense of collaboration that inspires and drives their work.

Looking back over the past year, being nominated for the GGAs was a huge moment for them. On recollection, the pair said that “being recipients of this award is like being a part of a global family of like-minded individuals” where they can continue to inspire, and be inspired, by global activists.

With this year’s Global Good Awards now open, we asked Mishal and Mir why they think young people should enter: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for young people to showcase all the work that they have been doing before a distinguished and knowledgeable jury” they said. We genuinely feel that GGA is a powerful platform for young people,  to amplify their voices, their messages and to inspire change. So, we’d like to tell every young person who’s passionate about the environment, the planet, the UN SDGs, to come be a part of GGA.”

If you’re under 21 and want to apply to this year’s Global Good Awards please click the link here. Good luck!