Champions For Change

Champions For Change

Champions For Change

To mark its 20th anniversary in 2019, Channel NewsAsia will celebrate 20 individuals whose imagination, talents and efforts have uplifted their communities here in Asia. These are people who have seen a situation that they wanted to improve and have committed to the necessary action to do so. 

These individuals come from diverse backgrounds and work in diverse fields, affecting diverse groups. But what unifies them is the enterprising spirit, the innovative streak and the selfless trait, that is evident of a thriving and booming Asian region.

To mark its 20th anniversary in 2019, Channel NewsAsia will celebrate 20 individuals whose imagination, talents and efforts have uplifted their communities here in Asia. These are people who have seen a situation that they wanted to improve and have committed to the necessary action to do so.

These individuals come from diverse backgrounds and work in diverse fields, affecting diverse groups. But what unifies them is the enterprising spirit, the innovative streak and the selfless trait, that is evident of a thriving and booming Asian region.

Profiles

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Kevin Kumala

Avani Eco

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Alan Wang

Be Better Education

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Talita Setyadi

BEAU Bakery

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Rashvin P Singh
& Gurpreet S Dhillon

Biji-Biji Initiative

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Bicky Nguyen
& Nam Dang

Cricket One

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Daichi Konuma

Cross Fields

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Richard Yim

Demine Robotics

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Eric Kim

Dot Inc

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Stephanie Choo

Eden+Elie

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John-Son Oei

EPIC Collective

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Ankit Kawatra

Feeding India

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Badruun Gardi

GerHub

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Jamie Chiu

Good Brain Labs
& The Brightly Project

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Koi & Nim Piewthongngam

Gumpun Muay Thai

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Ricky Yu

Light Be

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Khin Hnit Thit Oo

Linkage

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Ria Sharma

Make Love Not Scars

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Ang Kian Peng

Samsui Kitchen

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Shu Tan

Sapa O’Chau

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Leandro Leviste

Solar Philippines

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Jamie Chiu

Good Brain Labs & The Brightly Project

In Asia, suicide is a leading cause of death among youths. All too often, warning signs are missed or worse, dismissed. As a teen, clinical psychologist Jamie Chiu, thought frequently of ending her life but hid it behind a facade. Today in Hong Kong, she is helping youths who are suffering, as she once did, from mental health issues, with her specially designed digital detection and screening tools.

Good Brain Labs design video games for use in hospitals and clinics that help catch early signs of depression while The Brightly Project’s digital mental health screening tool is deployed in schools to connect those at risk to in-school support.

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Stephanie Choo

Eden+Elie

Singaporean Stephanie Choo’s own line of high-end contemporary jewellery, Eden+Elie, provides employment for autistic adults, training them to become jewellery artisans.

Stephanie’s journey to helping autistic adults is an unconventional one. When Stephanie left her architectural job three years ago, she had no idea what or who she wanted to help. Stephanie drew upon her family hobby of sewing for inspiration and soon Eden+Elie was born. When the business achieved financial viability, Stephanie started sourcing for a disadvantage group that could become jewellery artisans. Unbeknownst to her, the characteristics she was looking for - creativity, detailed-oriented, good with their hands - perfectly matched a group of autistic adults. Stephanie hopes to provide her artisans with not just a job but a career that can last them a lifetime.

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Ankit Kawatra

Feeding India

A warrior against food waste, Ankit Kawatra has served up 15 million meals for the hungry in India. Ankit’s inspiration for his NGO, Feeding India, came after he gatecrashed a celebrity wedding. At the end of the celebration, he was horrified to see the caterer throw away the excess food, enough to feed thousands. Today, Ankit’s organisation collects excess food across India from weddings, restaurants and canteens, food that would otherwise be thrown away, and immediately, redistributes it to millions of starving people. Feeding India, which started out with just Ankit and a friend, now boasts 8,500 volunteers.

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Khin Hnit Thit Oo

Linkage

For Khin Hnit Thit Oo, affectionately known as Ma Khin (Sister Khin), life could have easily taken a different turn. Her parents were divorced before she was born. With just her mother’s salary, Ma Khin and her four siblings struggled with the daily expenses of living in Myanmar. From an early age, Ma Khin understood the importance of education as a means to break out of the cycle of poverty.

With the support of her relatives, benefactors and scholarships, Ma Khin completed her university and graduate degrees overseas. She returned to Myanmar with a sense of purpose - to help others like her. She started a restaurant called Linkage, which provides street children with an education, food, shelter, an apprenticeship in the restaurant industry and most importantly, a family.

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Eric Kim

Dot Inc

Since young, Eric Kim has had an ambition to change the world. As a fresh graduate, he found his calling. Inspired by what he saw at university in Seattle - blind and visually impaired people carrying their large and cumbersome Braille books and devices - he founded Dot Inc with some friends when he returned to Seoul. Dot Inc is a start-up with a focus on smart tech devices for the blind and visually impaired, not just only in Korea but around the world.

Its first product, the Dot Watch, launched in end-2017 as the world’s first Braille smartwatch, is already changing the way those without sight interact with their tech devices.

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Daichi Konuma

Cross Fields

After a life-affirming experience as a volunteer in Syria, Daichi Konuma returned to the distant and detached corporate world of Tokyo. Disappointed and driven by a desire to change his society and its values, he established Cross Fields, an organisation that bridges Japanese corporates and NGOs and social enterprises around Asia. By sending corporate volunteers into the unfamiliar and the unknown, Daichi is hoping to spark new passions and mindsets that will engender change in his country.

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Kevin Kumala

Avani Eco

Indonesian Kevin Kumala loved to catch the big waves when surfing. But he hated it when he saw, up close, the plastic waste polluting and destroying the ocean. When this medical student returned from the United States to Bali and witnessed the plastic waste disaster that had engulfed the archipelago’s oceans and beaches, he quit his studies and set out on a mission - to minimise plastic pollution by coming up with a product that is 100% biodegradable and safe to marine life. Avani Eco (with Avani meaning ‘Earth’) is his brainchild and weapon to protect the world from the harms of single use plastic.

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Leandro Leviste

Solar Philippines

Flicking on a light switch still remains a luxury for many in the world. For Leandro Leviste in the Philippines, it is unacceptable that millions in his country go without electricity or have to grapple with power outages every single day. Leandro’s solution lies in the abundance of sunshine that the Philippines receives. His social enterprise, Solar Para Sa Bayan, sets up solar powered mini-grids to light up towns that have not, until now, ever enjoyed uninterrupted electricity. Solar Para Sa Bayan is changing lives by providing affordable and reliable power to remote parts of the country in a bid to help them flourish.

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Koi & Nim Piewthongngam

Gumpun Muay Thai

Khon Kaen, Thailand is known for its Muay Thai fighters. Here, many forego a formal education in order to participate in the super-competitive fight scene. But when their time in the ring is up, these still-young fighters are forced to face their future with little prospects and few options.

This is where Gumpun Muay Thai comes in. Set up by sisters, Koi and Nim, both university lecturers who came to Muay Thai late, Gumpun is a gym that not only trains its clients but also trains their trainers. At Gumpun, former boxers learn how to be good trainers, attend language classes that open up their world and pick up life skills that had passed them by while they were in the ring. Koi and Nim both took up Muay Thai as a form of exercise but today, they are doing what they can to improve the lives of ex-fighters.

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John-Son Oei

EPIC Collective

31-year-old, John-son Oei started EPIC in 2010 after he was moved by the housing plight of the Orang Asli. What started as an impulse project with very humble beginnings, has since built over 130 homes, changed the lives of over 150 Orang Asli families, across 13 villages in 5 states in Malaysia. John-son is known to have crazy ideas and an equally crazy enthusiasm to bring them to fruition. From coming up with a way to build homes in three days, to getting the biggest corporate names to sign up for the building project as a team building exercise. Today, 70% of EPIC’s business comes from the who’s who of the corporate world.

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Ang Kian Peng

Samsui Kitchen

During his visit to a voluntary welfare organisation, Singaporean Ang Kian Peng found the food being served to the beneficiaries there, sorely lacking in nutrition. Determined to find a solution, he founded Samsui Kitchen in 2013. Samsui Kitchen is a social enterprise that leverages on Kian Peng’s core expertise in the food industry, to train the disadvantaged - from prison inmates to the disabled - to cook nutritious meals for the needy. With over 500,000 beneficiaries reached so far, the Samsui model makes a healthy difference by enhancing employability and creating opportunities for society’s underprivileged.

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Talita Setyadi

BEAU Bakery

Talita Setyadi founded BEAU Bakery in 2015, after returning from her culinary studies at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Today, BEAU is Jakarta’s go-to brand for authentic bakery products, supplying their sourdoughs to many of the city’s top cafes and restaurants, as well as maintaining a busy cafe in South Jakarta. Focusing always on homegrown talent and ingredients, and spearheading the movement towards transparency and creativity in the bakery industry, as well as igniting passion for innovation in artisanal baking, Talita leads the way to a future where Indonesian chefs and products are able to gain more recognition worldwide.

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Ria Sharma

Make Love Not Scars

Ria Sharma runs an NGO in India which is up against the consequences of the brutal crime of acid attacks. As the world’s first rehab centre for acid attack victims, Make Love Not Scars has helped over 100 survivors bravely face the world again. With many of the victims coming from underprivileged backgrounds, Ria gives them access to services which ordinarily would have been out of bounds, be it legal or medical. But there’s also an emphasis on overcoming the mental trauma and the support to reclaim life again.

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Rashvin P Singh & Gurpreet S Dhillon

Biji-Biji Initiative

They left their cushy corporate jobs only to be shunned by society for going around Kuala Lumpur collecting scrap and discarded materials. But the Biji-Biji team knew what they were doing. Today, their initiative, started in the backyard of a bungalow shared by four friends, spearheads the cause of sustainable living in Malaysia, with unprecedented support from individuals and corporations alike. Biji-Biji promotes the maker culture through its makerspace, Mereka, where anybody can walk in and learn the ropes of upcycling used products. From woodwork to metal grinding to sewing and teaching about alternate energy solutions, Mereka is one stop for all kinds of sustainable learning methods.

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Shu Tan

Sapa O’Chau

Impoverished and deprived of an education as a child, Shu Tan yearned to change the lives of ethnic minorities like herself in Sapa, Vietnam. At age 22, she set up Sapa O’Chau to realise her dream. Today, the social enterprise comprises a tour and trekking business, a school and boarding house, a café and a hotel. To date, this indomitable and visionary Black Hmong woman has uplifted close to 300 ethnic minority families by providing employment and education opportunities to youths.

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Alan Wang

Be Better Education

Once a successful businessman, Alan Wang gave up his career to start the first non-profit organisation dedicated to providing financial education for children and youths in China. Since 2009, Be Better has impacted the lives of more than three million young people, most of whom are from poor and needy families. Alan’s goal is to reach seven million more by end-2020. He hopes that besides breaking the poverty cycle, the young ones can grow to become self-motivated and independent thinkers, responsible citizens and future leaders.

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Richard Yim

Demine Robotics

Cambodian Richard Yim is hoping to redefine the way landmines are excavated and defused. As founder of Demine Robotics, he has developed a prototype robot which can be easily operated remotely, reducing the risk of injury or death. It aims to be more compact, light-weight and faster than anything else currently in use in demining operations.

Richard’s mission is deeply personal. As a child, he lost an aunt in a landmine explosion. Richard, whose family immigrated to Canada, returned in recent years to Phnom Penh with his robot. He hopes his solution can help remove millions of landmines that still put Cambodians at risk every single day. Richard eventually hopes his robot can be used in other countries worldwide.

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Ricky Yu

Light Be

A pioneer of the social housing movement in Hong Kong, Ricky Yu brings a new perspective to the pressing problems faced by the world's most expensive housing market. Ricky's vision for Light Be, the forerunner of social housing projects in Hong Kong, originated from his belief in the possibility of reshaping the existing framework. He has built a social housing network where rents are set without considering market value and family development and neighbourly cohesion drives the tenancy model. Hundreds of tenant families have not only become less dependent on welfare but have also thrived on developing themselves.

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Badruun Gardi

GerHub

In the dead of winter in Mongolia, temperatures fall as low as minus 40 °C. For almost a million Mongolians in Ulaanbaatar, the only things holding back the harsh elements are the thin walls of their traditional gers and their coal heaters. However, burning coal pours pollutants and noxious fumes into the gers and the air outside, making Ulaanbaatar the world’s most polluted capital city.

31-year-old Badruun Gardi and his organisation GerHub, are looking to change that. A graduate of Stanford University, Badruun wants to evolve and modernise the gers through a number of projects. These include finding better and cleaner ways to heat the gers, improving insulation and adding modular facilities like toilets. In his heart, Badruun is an innovator, and wants to encourage others to find uncommon solutions to the common problems facing Mongolia.

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Bicky Nguyen & Nam Dang

Cricket One

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion. But traditional livestock farming will not be able to keep up with this exponential growth and the world is facing an impending global food crisis.

Looking to address that crisis, Bicky Nguyen and Nam Dang, founders of Cricket One, developed an affordable, scalable and sustainable way to farm crickets, a rich source of proteins and advocated by scientists as a food of the future. And by recruiting farmers and sharing their know-how, these two social entrepreneurs have also improved the incomes of many impoverished Vietnamese farmers.

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