Dr. Laura Stachel is the co-founder of the non-profit organization “WE CARE Solar.” She and her husband, Hal Aronson, launched the organization to provide sustainable lighting systems to hospitals and clinics in developing countries where mortality rates due to childbirth are high. The “Solar Suitcase” units they have distributed to 27 countries have saved thousands of patients so far, even beyond mothers and their babies. The solar lighting system now enables clinics which lack electricity to continue their business during the night, which was previously an inconceivable feat.
Ronny Edry describes himself as a father, a husband, a teacher, and an Israeli. What is he doing in theXtraordinary? Well, he started the Israel Loves Iran initiative by posting a photo of himself carrying his daughter who was holding an Israeli miniature flag. The caption read “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We [heart] you.” For the first time in his Facebook life, Ronny’s post was shared and liked by many of his friends. Soon, he was talking to Iranians who agreed to post their images to reciprocate the message with “Iran [heart] Israel.”
Daniella Dimitrova Russo was a co-founder of the “Plastic Pollution Coalition,” a global initiative which seeks to raise awareness of how irresponsible use of plastic is ruining the planet and inspire people to take action. While serving as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies, Daniella saw the need for change when she realized how plastic has been infiltrating even the most remote areas of the planet. She launched “Think Beyond Plastic,” her own way of doing her share to make sure sure her kids, and the rest of the new generation, will have the privilege of living in a healthy environment.
Mike Archer is a paleontologist who is best known for his involvement in the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland, where over 40,000 specimens of 300 species were derived. Needless to say, it provided a big chunk of the puzzle of Australian fauna history. Apart from his active participation in fossil exploration, Mike is also the lead scientist of the “Lazarus Project” and has headed an experiment to bring back the extinct “Thylacine,” or what we now know as the Tasmanian Tiger. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including Fellowships of prestigious organizations and becoming a Member of the Order of Australia.
Maya Shea Penn is the CEO of her very own business, “Maya’s Ideas,” at only eight years old; her company makes hand-crafted scarves, headbands, T-shirts and accessories, and is also eco-friendly. As young as she is, Maya has a profound understanding of her responsibility as a steward of the Earth. “Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet” is her non-profit organization which is dedicated to caring for the planet. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Maya is also an artist, animator, designer, speaker, philanthropist and published writer.
Fawzia Koofi is the first-ever woman to serve as Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament in the history of Afghanistan. The fact that she survived being left to die under the sun is a true testament to her courage. She would have to prove that courage over and over again as she has dodged threats to her life and insults just for being a woman. At 39 years old in 2014, she hasn’t yet reached the required age to run for the seat, so she sets out to do so four years from now.
Not many people would have the audacity to leave the comfort of their office to pursue field work so an endangered species does not go extinct. Dyan deNapoli is so driven by her love for penguins that she has christened herself “The Penguin Lady.” She founded her educational business after leaving the New England Aquarium; after serving as the aquarium’s Senior Penguin Aquarist for seven-plus years, Dyan’s experience equipped her with impeccable knowledge of how to care for penguins and allow them to thrive. Her book, “The Great Penguin Rescue,” has also been recognized by numerous award-giving bodies. What saving 40,000 penguins could do!
Andras Forgacs is a renaissance man – he invents, helps companies take off and inspires people to be more creative. With a scientist for a father, it’s not surprising that Andras became a visionary; he co-founded “Organovo” with his father, Gabor, who served as the lead scientist for the cutting-edge biofabrication company which cultivates body parts using avant-garde technology. A few years later, Andras launched “Modern Meadows,” which works more like a meat brewery. With the help of technology, Andras hopes to address widespread hunger problems by “growing” meat.
Fabien Cousteau is an aquanaut, just like his father and grandfather before him. But more than just exploring the oceans to unlock their mysteries, Fabien went the extra mile by launching his “Plant a Fish” organization. It aims to educate the youth about the importance of protecting our waters and, as its name suggests, inspire them to do their share to create sustainable habitats for fishing. To honor his late grandfather’s 100th birthday, he directs “Mission 31,” and he and his research team will stay under the Florida Keys for 31 days to thoroughly study the current state of our waters.
Mallika Dutt was born in India, a place where the status of women has long been, and remains, a complex matter. Having seen around her the challenges to and violence against women and other marginalized groups, Dutt pursued a career in social justice. She became a lawyer and dedicated her profession to working for women’s and human rights. Based on the notion that pop culture and arts — in different ways from law and policy — can profoundly influence people and move them into action, she established her own organization in 2000. Since then, Breakthrough (www.breakthrough.tv) has been “breaking through” barriers and shifting paradigms towards a more just society.
Image credit: (c) Anibal Martel