Circle of Youth: Young Changemakers Network for the Planet by Melati Wijsen
My name is Melati Wijsen, I am a 19-year-old full-time changemaker from Bali, Indonesia. In 2013, I started my first organization Bye Bye Plastic Bags with the goal to protect our island home, Bali, from plastic bags. We started when me and my younger sister Isabel were 10 and 12 years old. Can you imagine? It feels like a lifetime ago.
We first started by going to speak at events and gatherings in our local community to spread the word. We organized beach clean-ups and gatherings at schools. We hosted a “Plastic is not Fantastic” Festival and we held workshops. We brought together the community to address the problem of plastic pollution in as many different and creative ways as we could think of.
Many of our friends became our first team members. Eventually, without planning, we became the largest youth-led NGO in the country.
The best part about our journey with Bye Bye Plastic Bags was to meet more young people and share the different ways about how they could really make a difference. To date, we have spoken to more than 75,000 students around the world where we now have 50 global teams in 29 countries all led by other incredible young leaders.
It was so much fun, but also so much work! We learned very early on that this was no small task, our entire team of young people continued giving their 100% of energy, passion, ideas, and commitment.
Fast forward 6 years later, finally, as of June 2019, our island home of Bali became plastic bag free. Our team was so excited! We celebrated and jumped with joy the whole summer.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags continues to grow and we are still active in changing people’s mindset and to help actively implement the ban on single-use plastic bags here on our island.
But what the journey of 7 years of campaigning being teenagers really taught us: Change does not always come easy, it does not come fast, and a whole lot of people need to be involved in order to really make change happen. One thing we knew for sure is that we are not alone. There are so many amazing kids and young adults out there that either is already on the frontline of change or who want to be changemakers but don’t know where to start.
Through our work, we were on many different stages in big cities like New York and Tokyo but also got on boats and traveled to faraway islands throughout Indonesia. We would go to all corners of the world and share our message. Mostly to an audience that was our age so you can imagine that we spent a lot of time in classrooms. Can you guess what the most frequently asked question is?
Kids from all age groups, from all different backgrounds and passions, asked us the same question, over and over and over again. The question was:
“How can we do what you do?”
And this is why our new project YOUTHTOPIA has been created. YOUTHTOPIA provides space that brings young people together, ignites their passions, and grows their skills by creating short & meaningful peer to peer content made by frontline young changemakers for the rising young changemaker.
We know that the potential of our generation is there. We know the hunger for change is there.
But currently, the systems of support and guidance are not there for young people to think and do things differently. How can we ever begin to motivate our generation to be part of the change if we don’t empower them with the relevant skills, tools, and lessons?
With this takeover on Reach Not Preach, we would like to share the voices of those young changemakers within our network of YOUTHTOPIA. As our goal with YOUTHTOPIA is to become the world's largest active youth network and HQ of young changemakers we would like to use this time to uplift their work and their vision. We call them our Circle of Youth.
After all, we believe that young people can accelerate the change we so urgently need to see in our world.
Without further ado, stay tuned for the upcoming articles of YOUTHTOPIA’s Circle of Youth members!
About the Author
Melati Wijsen is a 19-year-old Indonesian activist and change maker. She has founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags with her younger sister and has been leading the movement driven by youth since 2013. She has also started the people movement One Island One Voice and the social enterprise, Mountain Mamas. Melati has spoken on world stages such as TED and the UN and has also been selected as FORBES top ten most inspiring women in the country. She graduated from high school one year early at the Green School and has since been honored by TIME as part of the annual list of most influential teens in the world along with CNN Heroes Young Wonders and FORBES 30 under 30. Today, Melati is excited about her new youth empowerment project; YOUTHTOPIA, empowering youth through meaningful and short peer to peer programs and providing them the tools they need to be change-makers.