Combating violence with art or apps

By Mark Trainer-Jun 8, 2017
Ten young people recently visited the U.S. as recipients of a State Department award for community leaders. A few 2017 Emerging Young Leaders met with ShareAmerica to tell us their stories:

Changing course

Raj Kumar (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)
Raj Kumar (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)

Raj Kumar of Pakistan figured he would be a businessman after graduating from college in Islamabad. But he got sidetracked, and today he is busy using the arts and sports to promote peace.

After seeing sectarian violence firsthand at school, “I thought I needed to divert my focus,” he says.

One way he has done that is through his “Art for Peace” initiative, which brought together 500 young people and other community members from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to paint, draw and share messages of peace through art and music.

“We wanted to give a message to the parents,” said Kumar, 24. “When we’re kids, we don’t differentiate between each other in terms of color, caste or religion. When we grow up, it’s the society that molds us.”

Children sitting on rug with drawings and art supplies (Rimsha Ali Shah/DIYA — Art for Peace)
Children illustrate their versions of peace as part of Raj Kumar’s initiative. (Rimsha Ali Shah/DIYA — Art for Peace)

Urging youth activism

Amel Mohandi (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)
Amel Mohandi (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)

Amel Mohandi of Algeria was 18 when she created a volunteer group for children with cancer. Ever since, she has been creating new forums to help young people connect, most recently through online platforms.

Mohandi created in 2014 “VISION TV,” a web-based TV program that urges young people to get involved in social and political issues. In 2017 she launched “Young People in Communication,” an online forum to encourage learning among peers from different backgrounds.

Currently a journalist with Numidia TV, Mohandi, 22, told Voice of America her program offers a platform to speak to Algerian youth “about sensitive and different humanitarian causes like refugees, children, women, and young people.”

Taking on crime

Moisés Salazar Vila (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)
Moisés Salazar Vila (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)

Moisés Salazar Vila grew up in Callao, a province of Peru plagued by crime. He himself was several times a victim. But today he uses technology to push back against organized crime, human trafficking and domestic violence.

Without formal training, Salazar Vila, 25, developed an anti-crime app called Reach that breaks down barriers of language and geography.

He describes Reach as an anti-crime social network that supports multiple languages and uses geolocation to allow citizens and police to share information and reduce response times. The app earned him Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional award in 2015.

Emerging leaders

In the photo below, you see the entire group of 2017 Emerging Young Leaders. They come from Afghanistan, Algeria, Belgium, Jerusalem, Malta, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Vietnam — and they all make a difference in their communities.

People posing for camera (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)
The 10 Emerging Young Leaders 2017 (State Dept./Kelsey Brannan)