JCI’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) award honors ten incredible young leaders under the age of 40 each year. These individuals exemplify the spirit of the JCI Mission and have extraordinary accomplishments regarding individual development, business and entrepreneurship, community action and international cooperation.
Along with the final judging panel, JCI members and friends around the world voted online to select the 2020 JCI TOYP Honorees. The final judging panel was comprised of 2020 JCI President Itai Manyere; Global Youth Empowerment Fund, Board Chair Anthony Parkes; JCI Ambassador and Chairman of the WBAF Board of Directors, Baybars Altuntas; and Monika Froehler, CEO, Ban Ki-Moon Centre. After a record breaking 77,206 votes were cast and the judging panel reviewed the top 20 finalists, ten young active citizens have been selected to receive this honor for exceptional service, creativity and the positive change they have created.
The ten honorees will be recognized at the 2020 JCI Awards Ceremony at the 2020 JCI World Congress in November.
Aboudou Walid Agro
Personal Improvement and/or Accomplishment
Aboudou Walid Agro’s impressive background has lent itself well to a variety of roles. Throughout his life he has made it his mission to serve others as a microbiologist, food technologist, journalist, presenter, consultant and trainer. He has dedicated his time and energy to many leadership positions in JCI and in the community.
In 2017, Mr. Agro was recognized as one of the 35 most promising young people in Benin and took part in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Young Leaders of Benin program. He participated in the Mandela Washington Fellow program in 2018, where he gave several speeches and was recognized as an Honorary Citizen of the city of Boone, North Carolina, USA. Upon his return, he completed several projects and was chosen by the United States State Department to take part in a regional summit on the improvement of education in Africa.
Improving quality education throughout Benin has always been close to Mr. Agro’s heart. He founded the English Impact Benin Club and the Academy of Leadership and Civic Engagement. These community organizations provide English and leadership classes for those who cannot afford to enroll in expensive training programs. Through his various courses, Mr. Agro has impacted more than 15,000 Beninese.
He continues to inspire change through his writing. His books, The Beninese Dream and No, I Refuse, propose solutions to Benin’s most pressing socio-political, economic and humanitarian problems. He currently serves as the Publishing Director of the Leadership and Civic Engagement Journal, the only Beninese newspaper dedicated specifically to civic leadership, non-profit and NGO projects.
Mr. Agro has mentored seventeen young people in the past two years. He is convinced “the happiest are those who are serving others,” and makes his daily life an opportunity to help others be happy.
Johana Bahamón Gómez
Contribution to Children, World Peace and/or Human Rights
Johana Bahamón Gómez began her career as an actress in 2000 and participated in fifteen TV productions. However, she realized she had a greater calling and stepped away from the screen to dedicate her time to the prison population. In 2012, she created a theater group at the women’s prison El Buen Pastor in Bogotá, which strengthened her bond and solidified her interest in criminal justice reform.
Ms. Bahamón Gómez took her activism even further when she created Acción Interno Foundation (Internal Action Foundation) in 2013 with the aim of dignifying and improving the quality of life for the prison and post-prison populations in Colombia. By connecting entrepreneurs with national and international organizations, she has made it her goal to transform, reclaim and reconcile the prison population with civil society.
She has continued to push the boundaries as an advocate for inmates. In 2016, she founded and created INTERNO, the first restaurant open to the public in a women’s prison. INTERNO was selected as TIME Magazine’s 2018 World’s Greatest Places. Motivated by the success of the restaurant, she replicated this model in 2019 to create AGENCIA INTERNA, the first publicity agency inside a men’s prison.
Currently, the Acción Interno Foundation has completed 31 interventions in Colombian prisons, reaching 40,000 inmates to promote reintegration, social inclusion and dignity. Ms. Bahamón Gómez continues to use her platform to raise awareness among civil society of opportunities for the prison population and destigmatize their experience. She has won several awards, including Social Entrepreneur of the Year EY Colombia 2017 and Inclusive Leader 2019 by ANDI Foundation and USAID. Johana inspires many through her belief in freedom and the immense power of second chances.
Moral and/or Environmental Leadership
Akash Chourasiya left his dreams of becoming a doctor behind to focus on saving the environment through sustainable farming. Though he has faced several challenges along the way, he worked day and night to find solutions and build up his expertise. Now, people call him the “Doctor of Agriculture.”
Beginning with the goal to provide healthy, chemical-free food to every plate in India, Mr. Chourasiya first began his research on natural organic farming in 2012, observing the challenges of conventional farming and its negative impact on the environment. Through his research, he successfully developed two-layer, three-layer, four-layer and five-layer farming models. The last of these earned him the title of Number 1 Entrepreneur by Energy Alternatives India (EAI).
In addition to his farming models, Mr. Chourasiya presented his ideas on water and soil conservation to 26,000 farmers in India and preserved 44 types of traditional indigenous seeds through his seed bank. He has also encouraged agro entrepreneurship among young people, encouraging them to take an interest in sustainable farming and contribute to the rural community instead of leaving for a larger city. What started out as a small operation in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, in India, has now reached countries like South Africa, the United States, Nigeria, Australia, Bangladesh and Canada. To date, 55,000 farmers in 22 countries have been trained in sustainable five-layer farming.
Mr. Chourasiya is a leader in agro entrepreneurship, providing training on mix cropping, intercropping, post harvesting techniques and food processing. He continues to successfully run his chemical-free sustainable farm across 33,000 acres all over India. His energetic and unstoppable personality pushes him to think of solutions not only for his own country, but for the whole world, not only for humans, but for all of creation.
Academic Leadership and/or Accomplishment
At the age of twenty-two, Wassim Dhaouadi solved a physics problem that had remained a mystery for more than 100 years. As a bachelor’s student at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, he joined the Engineering Mechanics of Soft Interfaces laboratory as a summer research assistant. Here, he was able to observe phenomena that would ultimately lead to his discovery – why gas bubbles in narrow vertical tubes remain stuck instead of rising upwards. Intrigued and motivated by his research, he continued to conduct research on his own volition and eventually found the answer. The discovery was considered a breakthrough in the earth sciences field and made headlines across the world.
Since then, Mr. Dhaouadi has published several journal articles and been invited to both scientific and civilian conferences. He was also invited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to work on a new planetary exploration mission with robots. Mr. Dhaouadi coordinated an international summit to drive positive change on a global level and also participated in the “Nuit Des Idées 2020” program from an invitation by the Institut Français de Tunisie, which had more than 3000 attendees. As a member of the board of the largest Swiss student think tank, he organized Startup Nights.
His involvement in the scientific community, as well as the broader community, has been recognized through numerous scholarships, fellowships and leadership awards, including the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Leadership and Ethics Award from Columbia Business School.
Mr. Dhaouadi’s curiosity allowed for new opportunities like CO2 and greenhouse gas capture and storage, a promising method to stop climate change. His story inspires innovators of all ages and career stages to continue making valuable contributions and expanding the horizons of human knowledge.
Throughout his school years, Aaron Hannon was involved in projects to build everything from pest control innovations to Formula One cars, ultimately traveling to Singapore to represent Ireland at the F1 in Schools World Finals, where he placed third overall.
He began his medical device innovation journey designing for his grandfather, who suffered from severe post-stroke paralysis. He created a voice-controlled automatic shaving device, and founded a start-up to bring that device to more people. Unfortunately, he failed to attract sufficient funding to proceed, but his passion for learning about the needs of others through user research did not diminish. Mr. Hannon co-founded Lily Devices, another start-up aiming to prevent hair loss from chemotherapy. Through talking directly with patients, he designed a comfortable and elegant device that would prevent hair loss using electrical stimulation techniques, and was successful in securing €500,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland to continue his work.
The Lily Devices Team has won numerous national and international accolades, like the EIT Health Headstart Grant, as well as first place in CRAASH Barcelona, a Europe-wide accelerator program for medical device start-ups. Mr. Hannon was named Mayo’s Best Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019.
Currently, he has dedicated his time to the needs of patients battling COVID-19. Mr. Hannon led two multidisciplinary teams to develop a solution for open-sourced, low cost ventilators. He hopes devices like this can be used in the longer term to reduce inequality in medical device innovation.
Mr. Hannon uses his design, engineering and entrepreneurship background to keep patients at the center of the design process and improve their quality of life. He believes in giving back to his community by providing STEM education opportunities to young people, and his motto is “work hard enough, dream big enough, and anything can happen.”
Contribution to Children, World Peace and/or Human Rights
George Marrash began volunteering with the Movement of Youth Orthodox as an intern to educate children on social and religious values when he was only fifteen years old. Soon after the war started, George became a volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent at the young age of eighteen, providing psychosocial first aid and basic necessities to internal displaced people in Syria for several years.
Inspired by this work, Mr. Marrash searched for more opportunities to improve lives. He soon joined Mobaderoon, an organization that creates civil society organizations in Arab regions, and became a facilitator for the social-financial education program Aflatoun. He brought young people together from diverse backgrounds to meet, learn and share resources to improve their communities. Together, they conducted more than fourteen social action programs. Two of his groups were globally recognized by Aflatoun International for their social impact, prompting Aflatoun to add Arabic to their website.
Mr. Marrash founded LINKED by Humanity, a volunteer group that combines their skills and services to amplify their impact on society. LINKED tackles global topics like gender equality, gender-based violence and accessibility. With seven leaders from seven different countries, he also founded the Global Youth Leadership Council to promote youth engagement after overcoming many challenges as a young leader.
In 2018, Mr. Marrash was awarded the Chevening Scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Global Health and Social Justice from King’s College London. He is currently starting a new organization in the UK that will bring newcomers and locals together to create a more peaceful community and increase social cohesion.
Mr. Marrash actively uses his platform on social media to promote Syria in a positive light, serving as a beacon of hope and proponent of young leaders in Syria and around the world.
Business, Economic and/or Entrepreneurial Accomplishments
Vahid Rajabloo was born into a middle-class family in Iran as one of five children. Money was already tight considering his private education, and when he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the cost of medical treatment, follow-ups and intensive care became too much. Mr. Rajabloo left his treatment and only continued physiotherapy. In 2005, he began learning computer skills and eventually taught programming and web design.
Mr. Rajabloo experienced firsthand the obstacles people with disabilities face everyday, and he wanted to create a solution that would enable people with disabilities to live a life of comfort and independence. With this in mind, he founded Tavanito Technology Company. Tavanito translates in Persian to Your Power, and Mr. Rajabloo believes the platform he has designed can help improve peoples’ financial and mental conditions by focusing on three fundamental needs: health and medical services, educational services and daily necessities services. Soon, he wants to expand the platform to include employment services. Currently, 14,000 people use the Tavanito platform, and the company employs seventeen people full-time.
Mr. Rajabloo has been honored with several awards for his design, including Top Entrepreneur in 2017 and 2018 in Alborz Province, the Influential Digital Entrepreneurship Award at Elcamp Exhibition and Best in Innovation in Services to People and Deprived Areas at the ICT Festival.
Even with a severe physical disability that affects more than 98% of his muscles, Mr. Rajabloo lives completely independently and in his own home. He is actively involved in his community, organizing wheelchair competitions, speaking at conferences such as TEDx, mentoring several students and running crowd funding donations to provide laptops, gadgets and mobility aids and equipment to empower people with disability. He also provides consultations to municipalities and businesses to increase accessibility. Mr. Rajabloo has worked hard for himself and the community to change the world’s perception of people with disabilities and provide opportunities for independence and freedom.
JCI South Africa
Melene Cynthia Rossouw
Contribution to Children, World Peace and/or Human Rights
Melene Cynthia Rossouw has always dreamed boldly and acted in accordance to her convictions. An attorney by trade, she is an internationally recognized gender and human rights activist, speaker, moderator and facilitator.
In 2017, Ms. Rossouw founded the Women Lead Movement with no external funding. It has not always been easy, but she believes that “we plant today in order for future generations to reap the benefits later.” The Women Lead Movement aims to promote leadership and self-confidence in women and girls, provide tools and strategies to eradicate gender-based violence and increase participation and representation of women in community structures and local government.
By providing services like Community Dialogues, Legislative Training and Education and Research and Writing, the Women Lead Movement educates people on gender inequality, raises awareness of human rights abuses and mobilizes women and girls to fight for women’s rights. Ms. Rossouw’s organization has reached more than 2000 women, girls and young men in schools and communities and has been recognized by regional and international human rights agencies.
Ms. Rossouw’s leadership has not gone unnoticed. Over the past several years, she has been selected as an Inaugural Obama Leader Africa, a Future Africa Forum Leader and a Mandela Washington Fellow. She currently serves as an Executive Director for the Women Lead Movement organization. Looking to reach even more people, she recently signed the first Host Agreement to establish Women Lead Movement in Madagascar, with Namibia soon to follow.
When she started the Women Lead Movement, it was only with a vision, a commitment and a problem to eradicate. Despite the obstacles she has had to overcome, Ms. Rossouw sees the potential to expand across the continent in the next ten years and have an extraordinary impact on Africa.
Moral and/or Environmental Leadership
When he was young, Mihai Toader-Pasti was dreaming and constantly pushing his limits. He studied engineering but enjoys an interdisciplinary approach to problems and creating solutions, especially around the built environment and energy. He has served in leadership roles in organizations like the Romania Green Building Council and Future Energy Leaders Romania, where he advocates for environmental and social responsibility in construction and helps create the next generation of energy leaders and entrepreneurs.
Three years ago, Mr. Toader-Pasti co-founded and managed energiaTa, an ambitious project with a mission to change legislation to make household energy production and feed-in a possibility for every Romanian. After organizing meetings with stakeholders and government officials, providing support for the national energy strategy and pushing for more ambitious targets, they were successful in changing the law, creating Romania’s first energy prosumers community.
From there, Mr. Toader-Pasti co-founded and managed EFdeN, one of the most prestigious NGOs in Romania. He helped lead the EFdeN Sustainable City project, Romania’s first pilot sustainable city, which includes two houses, solar trees, EV charging stations and other sustainable products. It will also feature an education area to continue the programs that have been developed for professionals, students and young children.
Mr. Toader-Pasti has received many accolades, including Forbes 30 Under 30 Legacy and Young Energy Professional of the Year by Energynomics. He also co-organized Romania’s first climate summit, the Sibiu Youth Climate and Energy Summit.
Through numerous successes and failures, Mr. Toader-Pasti’s determination to succeed and desire to see things differently has been constant. He believes creating a better world requires great courageous action, but also many smaller actions that can be done by all of us. Change begins with the smallest intentions for the benefit of the community.
JCI United Kingdom
After graduating in Medicine with a First Class degree, Jajini Varghese became one of the few doctors to be awarded the Cambridge Commonwealth Scholarship at the University of Cambridge to complete her MPhil and PhD on the Genetics of Breast Cancer. Noticing her colleagues struggled to pay for their courses and that many people in India did not receive proper health care, she was instrumental in setting up full scholarships seventeen years back for Indian students to study medicine. The scholars are then asked to practice in an underserved area of India.
Dr. Varghese’s mission is to restore the lives of women affected by breast cancer. With a passionate social concern and an extraordinary skill set, she identified susceptible women with high breast density to determine genetic predisposition, promote effective prevention strategies and offer early treatment. She found it was crucial to offer early surgical resection and rehabilitation after diagnosis.
Her research work at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with Harvard University and the Mayo Clinic (USA), led to the identification of the mutation in the ZNF365 gene associated with breast cancer which has global ramifications in women with a high breast density. This heritable mutation is now used worldwide as part of a panel to identify women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer to offer early treatment. Her work was published in several highly cited journals including multiple papers in Nature Genetics.
She currently works as a plastic surgeon at St Barts Hospital in London and is Honorary Clinical Lecturer at University College, London. With advances in diagnosis and treatment, a large number of women are living beyond the initial diagnosis of breast cancer. Her current work focuses on providing women as normal a body as possible following this procedure through extensive reconstructive oncoplastic surgery. For women in developing countries, she has adopted strategies to prevent breast cancer by offering early screening.
Dr. Varghese’s work is widely published, and she has managed to win many awards, such as top prize at the Association of Breast Surgery Conference in Manchester and UK Radiology International Congress, an especially gratifying feat in a male-dominated industry. She delights in doing things which have never been done before and is constantly innovating. “This is an exciting time,” she says. “I believe the answers are there for the asking; we only need the courage and the will to look.”