Antiguan Sasha Middleton among Commonwealth Youth Awards 2022 finalists

  • Sasha is the CEO of ‘Antigua and Barbuda Marine Ecosystems Protected Area Trust Inc’, one of ten National Conservation Trust Funds in the Caribbean. The project’s mission is to actively fundraise and work with multi-sectoral partners to support the protection, recovery, and effective management of Antigua and Barbuda’s protected areas. Sasha has helped the trust to fundraise and distribute over $600,000 in recovery efforts in Barbuda, employ over 100 people in various Trust projects, and support over 40 children in after-school programmes.

wenty extraordinary young people, including inventors, activists and entrepreneurs, from 17 countries have been announced as finalists for this year’s Commonwealth Youth Awards.

Four people from the Caribbean have made the shortlist for their impressive projects promoting quality education, better healthcare, conservation, and action on climate change.

These include:

  • Trinidad and Tobago: A leading youth arts outreach scheme supporting kids (including those at risk of radicalisation) thorough the arts.
  • Antigua and Barbuda: A group supporting the recovery and effective management of protected areas.
  • Dominica: A dementia charity raising awareness of the disease and providing emotional support to families and caretakers.
  • Belize: A women-led recycling project creating a circular trash economy.

Organised by the Commonwealth Youth Programme, the awards recognise outstanding Commonwealth young people (aged 15-29), whose projects are transforming lives in their communities; providing practical solutions to complex problems and helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda.

More than 1000 entries were received this year – the highest ever recorded. The finalists were selected across each of the award’s regional categories (Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe & Canada, and the Pacific) following a rigorous judging process.

The top finalist from each region will be announced as the regional winner at the official awards ceremony on 16 March. The ceremony will be held virtually for the second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be livestreamed on the Commonwealth’s social platforms.

Of these five regional winners, one outstanding young person will become the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2022.

All 20 finalists will each receive a trophy, certificate and £1,000 to expand the impact of their projects. Each regional winner will receive £3,000 and the overall pan-Commonwealth winner will take home a total of £5,000.

To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Commonwealth Secretariat has partnered with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) to offer an additional prize of £40,000 in funding to one project, delivered over the course of two years.

The selected winner will also be announced at the official awards ceremony. They will be enrolled onto QCT’s Platinum Jubilee Fund programme and given access to coaching and development opportunities to help their project flourish.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Every year I am blown away by our youth award winners’ talent, resilience, dedication, and tenacity. This year, we recognise the skill, imagination and dedication of young people in the face of the immense challenges created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And at COP26 in Glasgow, I was very impressed to see former youth awards finalists such as Brianna Fruean and Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti leading vital conversations about climate change. It reminded me of the importance of continuing to put the efforts of our amazing young people in the global spotlight.

“Sixty per cent of the 2.5 billion people in the Commonwealth are under the age of 30 and the Commonwealth Charter makes clear the active role and contributions of young people in advancing the values that bind our family of nations together. I am delighted to recognise a new cohort of young innovators and changemakers as we pull together to realise the Commonwealth’s shared goal of a peaceful and prosperous future for all.”

The call for nominations was announced on International Youth Day on 12 August 2021. The judging panel included high commissioners, development experts and youth leaders from across the Commonwealth.

CARIBBEAN Finalists

Mickel Alexander (Trinidad and Tobago)

Focus: SDG 4 – Quality Education

Mickel is the founder of ‘The 2 Cents Movement’, one of the largest youth-led non-profits in Trinidad and Tobago which works to meet the educational and supportive needs of young people through arts-based tours, campaigns, poetry and spoken word. The non-profit reaches 20,000-30,000 young people annually across the Caribbean, earning mass appeal and has gone on to advocate against the radicalisation of young Caribbeans at risk of joining overseas conflicts.

Sasha Middleton (Antigua and Barbuda)

Focus: SDG 13 – Climate Action

Sasha is the CEO of ‘Antigua and Barbuda Marine Ecosystems Protected Area Trust Inc’, one of ten National Conservation Trust Funds in the Caribbean. The project’s mission is to actively fundraise and work with multi-sectoral partners to support the protection, recovery, and effective management of Antigua and Barbuda’s protected areas. Sasha has helped the trust to fundraise and distribute over $600,000 in recovery efforts in Barbuda, employ over 100 people in various Trust projects, and support over 40 children in after-school programmes.

Rianna Patterson (Dominica)

Focus: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being

Rianna is the founder of the ‘Dominica Dementia Foundation’, a youth led dementia charity that aims to raise awareness of dementia, provide emotional support to families and caretakers, and facilitate research on dementia. The Foundation has supported communities and families nationwide including over 500 older people in care homes, reached 20,000 people through awareness efforts across the region, and worked alongside the Government of Dominica to include dementia in the National Consensus.

Monique Vernon (Belize)

Focus: SDG 14 – Life Below Water

Monique is the founder of ‘Mr. Goby and Friends’, a women-led recycling project focused on the proper waste management of plastic pollutants, marine protection, conservation, and restoration. The initiative organises weekly clean-ups, educational videos and supports other eco-friendly businesses to create a circular economy from the trash. They have also collected over 10,000 plastic bottles and caps which have been donated to the Belize Cancer Centre in exchange for free chemotherapy treatment for children.

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