Mackenzie Bearup may seem unfortunate for having been diagnosed to have an incurable disease known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. She, however, did not let this disability keep her from doing extraordinary things, like providing kids with distraction to help them cope with their emotional distress and physical pain. After discovering how books made her feel better despite the pain, she started a book drive that is now known as Sheltering Books. She just turned 18, so we could expect more good deeds from this lovely young lady who’s in pain yet still managed to think of others.

Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiya is faced with a daunting task: he needs to make sure that Qatar can become self-sufficient by 2030, the year Qatar’s “National Vision” would be realized. It’s daunting because his country, one of the world’s richest due to gas revenue, averages only 74mm of precipitation (rain) per year. It is one of the driest spots on Earth. So, they survive by importing 93% of their food and desalinating almost 100% of their water. As chairman of the National Food Security Program, he is tasked with making a garden out of their desert of a country.

Laila Rashed Iskandar Kamel is now the Minister of State for Environment Affairs in Egypt under the interim government of Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi. Her track record in Cairo’s waste management brought her to the attention of the statesmen in her country; she is the founder of “Community and International Development Group” (CID), a holistic consultation firm which aims to bridge grassroots communities and giant manufacturers so they can both work for the good of the community. Her work with the “zaballeens,” or garbage people, earned her the “Goldman Environmental Prize” in 1994.

Even though he has made a name in paper architecture, Shigeru Ban does not consider himself an environmental architect. The Naked House at Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture, Japan; the Nomadic Museum; the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand; and the Musée d'art Moderne Georges in Pompidou, Metz, France; these are just some of his masterpieces. They all have one thing in common: paper. He founded the “Voluntary Architects' Network” (VAN), a non-governmental organization which aids in building homes for refugees and evacuees. For his dedication to giving back to the community, he has been dubbed “The People’s Architect,” or the “Architect of the People.”

Peyton Robertson began inventing at only eight years old. He was brought up by his parents to find solutions to problems rather than complain about them. By the time he turned twelve, he had won first place in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for inventing the “Sandless Operational Sandbag” (SOS). His invention is much lighter than conventional sandbags, more intuitively-designed to avoid seawater and floodwater from seeping in, and 100% reusable. Once dried after use, the SOS can then be stored for future flood emergencies.

What we take for granted, the women in Kakenya Ntaiya’s village are denied. As members of the Maasai community, Kakenya and her fellow women were looked down upon by the men of their society. In a way, their cultural customs discourage a woman’s success: before women even reach high school, they are married-off and relegated to a life of service to their husband and children. But Kakenya fought her way to college, and eventually became the first Maasai woman to do so. And, because women do not forget, she founded “The Kakenya Center for Excellence” to give back.

Stephen Ritz is a dynamic inspiration for kids in the Bronx who were accustomed to believing there was no more hope for them. His enthusiasm is undoubtedly contagious, enabling troubled teenagers to secure sources of income with the knowledge he provided them in and out of school. In addition to restoring hope, Stephen also helped the malnourished community reclaim their health by growing local produce from his very own classrooms. His non-profit organization, called the “Green Bronx Machine,” harvested enough produce to feed 450 people. Now that’s what you call “serving the community” in the truest sense of the phrase!

An author, activist, concerned citizen, father and “freegan” – Tristram Stuart is all this and more. He was brought up in a thrifty household where all food was eaten, so when he began feeding pigs and discovered how much food grocery stores and food servers throw away, he was compelled to do something. He endeavored to dig deeper into the problem and, by discovering how much food goes to waste, he began spreading the truth about the ongoing food scandal. This led to the “Feeding the 5,000” initiative, the “Pig Idea” and the “Gleaning Network.”

Marlice van Vuuren is definitely not afraid of the wild; growing up with wildlife instilled a deep love for animals in her heart. Her love for them is so strong that she has lived most of her life caring for her lions, cheetahs, vultures, baboons and hyenas. Not your usual pets? Truth is, they aren’t her pets either. They are her family. She co-founded the “N/a’an ku sê Foundation” with her doctor husband, which gave way to wildlife conservation projects and livelihood initiatives for the San community, the aborigines of Namibia.

Ron Finley is not your typical gardener; his garden transformed the lives of many in his barren community in South Central Los Angeles. Prior to his initiative, he and his neighbors had to drive for over 45 minutes just to buy fresh produce. So, to save money on gas and beautify his front lawn, he began planting food himself. He was apprehended, but 900 signatures managed to get authorities off his back. Ron co-founded an organization to put gardens in South Central L.A. He remains a humble gardener despite being a famous speaker.

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