Impact Heroes at the Ashoka Changemaker Forum

Earth Company and its Impact Heroes recently enjoyed a rare opportunity to collaborate at an exciting event co-organized by Ashoka and Singapore Management University’s Lien Centre for Social Innovation. The team hosted an experience workshop titled “Impact Heroes in Action: Integrating All Four Skills towards Social Innovation” with four of our Impact Heroes, Bella Galhos, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Wai Wai Nu, and Arief Rabik, at the CHANGEMAKER Forum, which attracted over 300 students, parents, and educators in total. 

The Impact Heroes not only shared their life stories and current challenges but also discussed the four critical qualities for changemakers: Conscious Empathy, Collective Teamwork, New Leadership, and Practicing Changemaking. 

Life-story interview with IMPACT HEROES

The event began with life stories by Impact Heroes focused on why they do what they do, what motivates them to do what they do, and how to create change at the national and global levels.

In the interview, Bella Galhos, Impact Hero 2015, stated “Leaders should speak on behalf of people without voices” and emphasized the importance of facing challenges head on.  Following Bella, Kathy, Wai Wai, and Arief each shared their riveting life stories.

Dialogue session with participants

After the life-story interviews, the participants were split into small groups for Q&A and dialogue with Impact Heroes in more intimate settings.

Below is a short write-up of the key points shared in each breakout session:


Bella Galhos’ group:

Having grown up as a girl soldier and defected to Canada, Bella is doing what no one else can. After serving as an advisor to the President, she has gone on to run her environmental school and shelter for LGBT children, providing grassroots support. Many participants were inspired by Bella’s one-of-a-kind elements of her work.  Without turning a blind eye to the poverty and education problems that Timor Leste is facing, they felt Bella’s energy and kindness to listen to the unheard voices of the people involved and help them to make changes.


Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s group:

Kathy is an exceptional change-maker, balancing her grassroots work supporting local youth through her NGO, Jo-Jikum, and her high-level work planning the country’s climate change strategy.  A participant from Singapore asked how a country like Singapore, which has been pursuing economic development, can transition to a green economy.  She told us that the first step is to make it a national policy to introduce renewable energy in areas with high carbon footprints, such as electricity and shipping. It is also necessary to deepen knowledge about the world;  a country like the Marshall Islands, which produces only 0.0001% of the world’s carbon emissions, will be devastated by climate change. 

Kathy also spoke about using poetry and art to address the issue of climate change, saying “poetry can help cultivate empathy.” 


Wai Wai Nu’s group :

Concerning the coup in Myanmar, Wai Wai and her team have reported on the damage and activities on the ground both domestically and internationally as well as conducted advocacy activities for international organizations.  Wai Wai, who aims to realize an inclusive democracy that includes all minorities, regardless of gender or ethnicity, emphasized the importance of having hope.  “No matter how difficult and painful the situation is, we, as changemakers, must not lose hope. We are the hope for the future.”  

Wai Wai responded to a question about skills needed among young people by offering her advice:, “listen effectively, proactively, and respond accordingly”.

We hope to continue to actively collaborate with Ashoka, SMU and other organizations that foster social entrepreneurship and changemaking to address the region’s most pressing challenges.