Rijve Arefin and Shomy Hasan Chowdhury were named in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list under the category of Social Impact. They cofounded Awareness 360, a global platform based in Kuala Lumpur that empowers the youth to build community service projects in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Both of them have bachelor degrees in Economics from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Shomy has been selected for the Schwarzman Scholars programme, and will be pursuing her master's in Global Affairs from Tsinghua University in China. Star Youth, The Daily Star, caught up with Rijve and Shomy to learn about their goals, and more.
What inspired you to start this organisation?
Rijve: Being a boarding school student, I did not get to interact with people outside my institution. However, after starting university, I was exposed to a diverse group of people. With time, I started to recognise the skills that I was lacking, and wanted to establish a space for those who wished to make positive changes in their communities, but did not have the capacity. Initially, Shomy and I provided capacity-building training to young individuals. Subsequently, we conceived the idea of Awareness 360.
Shomy: After losing my mother in 2014 due to complications from severe diarrhea, I intended to raise awareness about clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. I met Rijve later that year, and we cofounded Awareness 360 to bring together individuals who want to improve the lives of others. Our organisation equips young people with the skills and resources needed to build social projects. We hold talks and workshops on personal hygiene, water-filtration methods and handwashing, among other environmental subjects. Project Score Your Goals, our flagship initiative, is an extensive workshop series on the Sustainable Development Goals.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Rijve: I had to get multiple jobs to keep our activities financially afloat. Initially, coordinating projects of Awareness 360 while maintaining my studies, extracurricular activities, and work was hectic.
Shomy: Being a social impact entrepreneur in a patriarchal society has been
challenging, as women continue to miss out on growth opportunities due to a lack of proper water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.
What can you tell us about Awareness 360's recent projects and future endeavours?
Rijve: We launched a Facebook Live series during the pandemic. Till date, we have conducted over 90 sessions. We also started our Youth Development Programme, through which individuals will learn about different changemaking concepts and develop their skills in empathy mapping, design thinking, project management, public speaking, impact measurement, mental health and social media for advocacy. We intend to build 30 gender-balanced toilets with menstrual hygiene facilities, handwashing stations, and hygiene kits in the future.
Shomy: So far, we have mobilised over 15,00 young people across 23 countries, resulting in social action projects that have benefited over 150,000 people around the world. Moving forward, we intend to expand our activities to more regions, and continue to focus on WASH awareness campaigns.
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