Active Citizens are changing the world

Active Citizen participant planting seedlings

Image © Zuppa Filmes

Image © Zuppa Filmes

People from all over the world have used the Active Citizens programme to help them tackle issues in their community...

A group of Active Citizens celebrating

Image © Zuppa Filmes

Image © Zuppa Filmes

Two Active Citizens participants in wheelchairs

Issues that have local relevance and global significance

Two Active Citizens participants in wheelchairs
"Active Citizens is a global movement for a better world."
Active Citizen, Sri Lanka

From urban communities in the UK to remote villages in Kenya, Active Citizens participants have launched more than 11,000 community-led social action projects in 75 countries worldwide. In turn, they are changing lives and helping make the world a better place for us all.

With positive social action happening all around the world there are many stories of change to tell. To give a flavour of what’s happening we're shining a spotlight on one story from each of the eight regions we work in: the Americas, Europe, UK, Wider Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Sub Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. Scroll down to hear the stories and get a feel for the truly global power of social action.

You can also see lots more stories from around the world in our annual reports and find out more about the regions we work in on our Where we work page.

Americas

In Brazil, Ana Carolina Duarte's social action project started "from the idea of three friends who wanted to do good".

Since then it has gone on to transform the lives of waste-pickers and their families in Rio de Janeiro, giving them access to the basics needed for well-being, but also a renewed sense of community. Hear Anna Carolina's story:

Image © Quiprocó Filmes

Bags of waste sitting in front of a mural

Europe

Majka Lipiak and Artur Szaflik formed a friendship — and a business — that would improve the lives of people with disabilities in Poland.

At 17 years old Artur had a life-changing accident that left him paralysed in all four limbs. When he met Active Citizen Majka they instantly clicked over a passion for social action, and began to think of ways to help Artur and others in his situation.

Their first step was to transform Artur’s bedroom into an office so that he could work from his bed. Using leadership skills gained through her Active Citizens training, Majka was able to bring 30 volunteers on board to help.

Next, Majka and Artur worked together to found 'Leżę i Pracuję', the world’s first marketing agency dedicated to providing jobs for paralysed people.

Images show Artur Szaflik and Majka Lipiak

Images © Sylwester Smigielski

Images © Sylwester Smigielski

The agency has already employed 14 marketing specialists. The aim is now develop tools to match and support employers and disabled employees across the country.

Majka Lipiak helping to move Artur Szaflik

UK

Active Citizen Afi Dometi has helped change the lives of women and girls in England, and Africa too, showing the global power of social action.

Working at the North of England Refugee Service, Afi saw how migrant women can often suffer from social isolation, due to a lack of language skills and employment options. Wanting to help, Afi took part in Active Citizens training and gained the inspiration to set up a social action project.

Starting in her living room, she brought together local women to collect and sort recycled clothing for sale and export, saving mounds of unwanted garments from going to landfill. It soon became a registered business, 'AfricaWAD'.

AfricaWAD volunteers sorting through bags of clothes

AfricaWAD volunteers, Image © Christopher Symes

AfricaWAD volunteers, Image © Christopher Symes

The project has given the women valuable work experience and helped boost their self-confidence, with several AfricaWAD volunteers going on to find full time jobs. What's more, proceeds from clothing sales have paid for the tuition of 20 school girls in Togo, Africa.

Active Citizen, Afi Donati

Image © Alex Brighton

Image © Alex Brighton

Wider Europe

With hundreds of projects across the country, Active Citizens in Ukraine are enjoying a "baby boom in social activity".

Hear them explain why the Active Citizens programme is such a powerful process and see a snapshot of some of the many social action projects that are creating change in the country:

Image © Oleksandr Pilyugin

A group of Active Citizens taking a selfie

East Asia

Active Citizens offered community trainer Rashid Bangcolongan a new approach to supporting displaced families in the Philippines.

When armed conflict broke out between the ISIL inspired Maute group and the Philippine security forces, hundreds of families had no choice but to flee the city of Marawi.

Working with volunteer organisation Kapamagogopa Incorporated (KI), Rashid helped organise food, clothing and temporary shelter for the families living in evacuation centres. But he soon realised that more was needed.

Using the tools gained during their Active Citizens training, Rashid and the KI team worked with 211 families, giving them the skills to start their own agricultural businesses.

They also encouraged members of the local community who had abandoned their farmland to work with the families to make products from local produce that could be sold.

This approach helped the families regain their confidence and dignity, enabling many to support themselves and send their children to school again.

Evacuation centre and man planting crops

Image © Kapamagogopa Inc

Image © Kapamagogopa Inc

South Asia

When a group of Active Citizens from Pakistan came together to enrol local children in school, they inspired a national programme.

The success of their project led to the creation of ‘ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School’ — a programme set up by the British Council and Educate a Child.

The programme went on to recruit 15,000 volunteers and has now enrolled 295,000 marginalised children in schools across 65 districts in Pakistan.

Hear more about the ILMPOSSIBLE story:

A group of Pakistani children

Sub Saharan Africa

In Ethiopia Hermela Solomon brought together a group of young people committed to changing gender perceptions through the arts.

Growing up in Ethiopia, Hermela witnessed first-hand how gender constructs can force men and women into certain roles.

Motivated by a memory of her neighbours shouting abuse at her brother for fetching water, a job usually given to women, Hermela set up a social action project designed to change perceptions of gender in her community.

Active Citizen, Hermela Solomon

Image © Genaye Eshetu

Image © Genaye Eshetu

Together with a group of young ‘Artivists’ she started running creative workshops and artistic performances at a local restaurant and social enterprise. The events are an opportunity for people to gather and discuss gender issues.

"Gender constructs weigh heavily on people's self confidence and aspirations. It's easy for them to go on...unless they are challenged."
Hermela Solomon

They plan to run more public workshops and organise performances at local schools to encourage children to be less confined by gender constructs.

Middle East and North Africa

A network conceived during Active Citizens training in Syria has helped promote peace during troubled times.

Ten years ago 'Mobaderoon' (which means Initiative Takers in Arabic) was established by a group of Active Citizens in Syria to help build understanding between communities across the country.

Today it is a network of over 5,000 activists and one of the most respected non-government organisations in Syria, supporting 87 social action projects.

One of these projects, 'Life Street', has helped to improve the life chances of 250 vulnerable street children by bringing them together in public spaces to take part in activities that promote literacy, self-protection and community values.

The project is giving a valuable learning opportunity for children who would normally spend their time begging or working, and is gaining community support by involving local shop owners and workers as volunteers.

Image Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo, Syria by yeowatzup, CC BY 2.0, desaturated from original

Three young Syrian boys