Inspiring Youth from Sierra Leone & Kosovo

Young innovators on what inspires them and why innovation is important

Children attend classes in a primary school in Waterloo Freetown, Sierra Leone
19 November 2015

Original article published on 17 November, 2015 on Voices of Youth. Written by KateVOY.

On the 9th and 10th of November, UNICEF together with the Government of Finland hosted a really awesome summit all about innovation for children and young people. During the summit, I was lucky to attend a session where a group of young innovators told us about their projects. So I asked them to share some of their thoughts with us on what inspires them and why innovation is important.


From Sierra Leone, meet Jasonta (18), Oswald (24) and Vandy (20)…and from Kosovo, Diona (18) and Altin (20):

1. What inspired you to get involved in innovation and trying to address some of the challenges in your community?

Diona: Living in a small town with quite a lot of social problems I realized that if the youth doesn’t take action, nobody else will be willing to and therefore social change will never occur. I believe that we, the youth, are the ones who should fight for a better society.

Oswald: My inspiration comes from problems around me and in my community; innovation is my passion.

Jasonta: People do massive tree cutting in every part of the country and there is nothing being done about it. This is an alarming issue as my country has recently being rated as the third most vulnerable country by 2025. I am greatly moved by the effect of deforestation on my country, and my country’s increased vulnerability to environmental disasters as we recently suffered from a massive flooding. It was terrible and that inspired me to do something that will help prevent this tree cutting action. So I brought up the idea of creating a substitute to the local fuels used – charcoal and firewood produced from cutting and burning trees – so as to prevent further trees from being cut down in the future and to be able to give my country a reduced disaster risk future.

Altin: I’ve been part of a lot of community-based projects throughout the last 6-7 years. Most of these projects, and probably few of the first ones were made possible with the help of UNICEF Innovations Lab in Kosovo. The involvement in these community projects, my experience in the US as an exchange student, the support that my friends and I got, and the fuel that such supporters were putting into our enthusiasm and will to change things for good, were what lighted sparks of interest in us, and opened doors to a whole new world. That’s what kept me doing what I do today.

Vandy: I got inspired to get involved in innovation by my mentor David Sengeh, a PHD student at MIT. In terms of addressing the electricity challenge in my community I got inspired by a young Kenyan who built a windmill device that completely solved the challenge of no electricity in his village.


2. What advice would you give to other young people like you who might be tempted to give up?

Diona: Never stop! Nothing good has ever come from giving up. If you have the passion for it then you most definitely have the power to do it.

Oswald: NEVER GIVE UP, stay focused, try and fail, try again and fail, try again and again and again.

Altin: I don’t want to sound like a philosopher…giving up is easy, it’s easy to have a normal life and just do what everybody else is doing, but fighting for what we believe in is what keeps us alive as individuals. We might start alone, but sooner or later a good cause will always bring good people together, your dreams will fuse with everyone’s dream and soon that’ll become your common mission to accomplish.

Vandy: Successful people only put a little extra effort to the ordinary that makes them extraordinary. They also have the mentality that if the best is not available, the available is the best. Most work fast in anything they want to do because while some things do change with time I also know that time itself changes nothing.

Jasonta: My advice to young people like myself would be to never give up, the future is always bright if you believe in yourself, work hard with perseverance and never let your dreams die. Everything is possible.


3. If you could invent one thing that would improve the lives of children & youth, what would it be?

Vandy: Having a social application that will be purely for mentorship. I’m 75% sure most children and youth just need a better mentorship for them to be like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, etc.

Jasonta: Most children in rural areas of my country, especially girls, have very limited or no access to education. I would love to invent an easy and accessible education system for children in these areas. Youths in my country are mainly unemployed so I would also love to facilitate skills-training programs for youths to equip them with skills and knowledge that will serve as a livelihood for them and benefit them. I would also invent a recycling machine that will recycle most waste in my country, especially plastic, as my country suffers from poor waste management and we lack recycling systems.

Oswald: I would like to invent a device that would change the way we travel…we now use planes, boats, cars etc…but I want to make something else.