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Winners Announced For The Impact Awards: Inspiring Young New Zealanders Leading Change

“If COVID has taught us anything it’s that too many of the current models and systems are broken, and the urgency to build a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable future has never been greater,” - Guy Ryan.

Jayden Kilnac. Rez Gardi. Sarah Tuck. Kendall Flutey. Shaneel Lal. These are the names of our country’s most inspiring young leaders - names to remember, names of people, who in a year fraught with challenge, have risen to be outstanding agents of change and tonight were honoured at the 2020 Impact Awards.

From training more than 1,000 Kiwis to help combat the nation’s mental health crisis; to producing the country’s first fully biodegradable water bottle with a wrap-around nationwide free re-fill network and composting system; to improving the financial literacy and capability of 150,000+ Kiwi kids in schools, to fighting for human rights both here and abroad – the winners of the 2020 Impact Awards are rising to the challenges of our time.

These five young New Zealanders each took a share of $25,000 in prize money to be directed back into their impact project. The awards were given across five major categories – climate, enterprise, global, inclusion, and wellbeing. The Impact Awards are powered by Kiwi charity Inspiring Stories, and now in their second year running attracted more than 400 submissions from across the nation, with every region represented.

Guy Ryan, former Young New Zealander of the Year, Edmund Hillary Fellow and CEO of Inspiring Stories, says the judges set high standards guided by the United Nations Sustainability Goals and were blown away by the calibre and diversity of entries this year.

“If COVID has taught us anything it’s that too many of the current models and systems are broken, and the urgency to build a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable future has never been greater.

We believe that young people have a critical role to play, and the finalists and winners for The Impact Awards are all shining examples of what’s possible.”

Meet the winners:

Winner of the Global Impact Award - Rez Gardi (age 29): Rez is an international human rights lawyer and founder of Empower, a youth-led organisation aiming to address the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education. She has had a dramatic shift from arriving as a Kurdish refugee to becoming the first Kurd in history to graduate from Harvard law. She is currently prosecuting ISIS in Iraq.

Winner of the Impact Award for Climate – Jayden Kilnac (age 30)
As the founder of For The Better Good and Edible Earth, Jayden has not only re-designed and produced New Zealand’s first 100% biodegradable & compostable water bottle made from plants, but is also working to completely re-design the system to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, and sequester carbon. This includes setting up a network of free water refill stations throughout the country; the first collection system for compostable water bottles; the first inner city compost hub, in Auckland, and with development underway to build out NZ’s first privately operated and decentralised composting network throughout Aotearoa. Jayden and the team are using profits to help set up and support local urban food systems, and have diverted 40,000kg of food waste and packaging from landfills in the past 12 months.

Winner of the Impact Award for Inclusion - Shaneel Lal (age 20): Shaneel is one of the driving forces behind the Conversion Therapy Action Group, which does incredible work in banning this problematic practice. As a survivor of conversion therapy in Fiji, Shaneel’s advocacy has received support from various psychological associations, alongside political parties’ policies.

Winner of the Impact Award for Enterprise - Kendall Flutey (age 29): Kendall is the founder of thriving social-enterprise Banqer, which has trained 150,000 thousand Kiwi students in financial literacy. With the $5000 prize money from the Enterprise Award, Kendall plans to continue her work with NZTE on international market exploration.

Winner of the Impact Award for Wellbeing - Sarah Tuck (age 28): Sarah is the co-founder of Co-Liberate, a social enterprise which has trained 1056 Kiwi’s in mental health early intervention strategies. Their ultimate vision is to tackle Aotearoa’s mental health crisis and ensure that every Kiwi has a trusted confidant.

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