Hassanatu Blake, chosen from a from a pool of more than 1,500 candidates nominated through the White House web site, was selected as a Champion of Change for the positive impact she is making in her community.
Wide eyed with enthusiasm, young faces await a virtual meeting with their peers from another country in front of a computer. Two sets of teenagers in the US and an African country are armed with many questions for their counterparts overseas and ready to explore ways to address a critical issue that plague both of their communities. This image is what ran across my mind when I was brainstorming about what to say in my White House Champion of Change blog. I thought about writing what others have in the past – to describe how honored I am or provide a story about why and how I co-founded Focal Point Global. Though I am extremely honored and love to share the story of Focal Point Global’s humble beginnings, I’d rather take this time to highlight the youth who partake in Focal Point Global’s initiatives and showcase their wonderful work bringing about change in their communities. I would like to share with you my Champions of Change.
Focal Point Global is a 501c3 organization empowering the world’s disadvantaged youth through global education and technology to address social issues in their communities. Since 2010, we’ve had nearly 50 brilliant teenagers from the US, Cameroon, and Namibia participate in our HIV and child trafficking initiatives. Our US-Namibia HIV Education Initiative linked youth from Mondesa, a township of Swakopmund, Namibia, and Baltimore, Maryland in a 3-day video conference via Skype to discuss HIV and its implications. Youth participants shared their thoughts about the conference and next steps to improve current conditions in their communities. A youth participant from Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust reflected, “Great experience. Learning about our global HIV issue, seeing how it affects different cultures in different ways, I feel inspired to inform others about this cause.” A youth participant from Mondesa Youth Opportunities expressed that “There are quite a lot of solutions...We can start campaigns to educate people.”
Likewise, early this year, Focal Point Global launched its US-Cameroon Child Trafficking Awareness Project, bringing together Atlanta-based teenagers with youth in Bamenda, Cameroon. This 3-month project was an interactive event where youth discussed child trafficking and assisted local organizations combat trafficking in their community. Cameroon youth conduct peer outreach with Global Welfare Association (GLOWA) in Bamenda, Cameroon. A student participant from Atlanta’s Young Fit and Fly described her experience on the first day as having learned about different people in “different circumstances but how they can be similar… and how it [child trafficking] can happen to anyone of any color, any race, any religion.” She was excited to work with Street Grace to raise money for services they provide to child trafficking survivors in the Atlanta area.
These are just some of the many wonderful activities conducted by Focal Point Global youth participants. These participants motivate me to continue the work I do with Focal Point Global. They illustrate that being educated is more than what can be learned from a book, rather what can be learned by doing and being involved in one’s community. They serve as a constant reminder of how important it is to utilize available resources to become more informed and foster partnerships through global engagement that bring about real change. I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change because of them.
Hassanatu Blake is the Co-Founder of Focal Point Global