12 Awe-Inspiring Humanitarians Who Are Changing The World

17 August 2017

With economic instability and geopolitical rivalries rearing their heads to cause violent conflict and chaos around the world, the need for humanitarian aid has, arguably, never been greater.

At the end of last year, the UN Refugee Agency's annual  Global Trends study  found that 65.6 million people forcibly displaced by war and persecution worldwide; while other stats show that 836 million still live in extreme poverty. When we consider these two facts alone, we cannot help but acknowledge the need for individuals willing to care for those in need, work to prevent and resolve crises, and persistently demand that world leaders do everything their power to protect civilians in conflict.

Paying a global tribute to the the health and aid workers and activists who risk their lives and selflessly dedicate their time, resources and skills in humanitarian service, World Humanitarian Day (WHD) takes place this year on 19th August 2017 with the theme of #NotATarget, supported by the UN General Secretary's 'Path to Protection' statement.

In a further salute to their outstanding altruism and bravery, we've created a list of just some of the humanitarians and philanthropists  that we work with; all incredible individuals who are changing the world by speaking up about the experiences of those in suffering and calling for businesses and governments to take action.

Sally Becker

What can we say about Sally Becker  - the 'Angel of Mostar' who saved hundreds of children during the Bosnian War in the 90s - that does justice to her amazing work promoting peace in some of the most war-torn parts of the world? A powerful keynote and motivational speaker, Sally draws on her experience in war zones to inspire audiences, and she was even chosen to carry the Olympic Flag at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games.

In 2017, Sally returned from Mosul in Northern Iraq after helping to rescue injured children fleeing from ISIS, and is continuing to share the plight of the Yazidis and rally support for the innocent victims of war.

You can read our full interview with Sally Becker here. Recommended by Lucy M & Lucy B.

Marc Koska

One of the most impressive and inspirational entrepreneurs in the world, Marc Koska  OBE faced and broke down bureaucratic barriers to fight AIDS in Africa with his invention of the non-retractable syringe, which was endorsed by the World Health Organisation in 2015. After a decades-long fight to stop the deadly practice of reusing syringes, Marc continues to address countless high profile audiences, including the British Medical Association, British Healthcare Business Intelligence Association and the innovation summit, pioneering change and saving lives in the process.

Recommended by Lizzie, Rebecca and Helena.

Hyeonseo Lee

‘The Girl With Seven Names’, as she named her 2015 memoir, Hyeonseo Lee  is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. For Hyeonseo, observing a public execution at the age of seven was considered normal. It was not until she was exposed to extreme suffering during the famine in the 90s that she began to wonder about the outside world.

Escaping to China in 1997, she began a life in hiding as a refugee. Now twenty years on, she continues to be a powerful reminder of those who face constant danger, sharing her tale of courage, survival and hope in way that truly motivates and inspires spellbound audiences.

Recommended by Lucy M.

Sir Bob Geldof

Rock star, political activist, philanthropist and icon, Sir Bob Geldof  is a symbol of creativity, energy and a conviction to improve our world. Witnessing the power of his efforts after founding the Band Aid trust and raising $8 million for Africa famine relief through the release 'Do They Know It's Christmas?', he has spent the rest of his career campaigning and promoting issues of world poverty and humanitarian crises.

Recommended by Helena.

Spencer West

Inspirational and charismatic, Spencer West  has not let losing his legs at the age of five hold him back from his humanitarian work. In 2008, he travelled to Kenya on an international volunteer trip where he helped build a school in a rural community in the Maasai Mara. On this trip, Spencer met young people who strive to overcome challenges every day, and he credits this experience for helping him recognise his true calling—to inspire people around the world.

And Spencer has not stopped since, completing an epic 300 km (187 miles) trek by wheelchair and on his hands in 2013; heading on a 10-week cross-Canada road trip in 2014; and, before joining Me To We (see Craig and Marc Kielburger below), using the Go Global speaking tour for Free The Children as a platform to help young people believe in themselves as active change-makers.

Recommended by Nick.

Craig Kielburger

and  Marc Kielburger

Brothers and founders of Free The Children, Marc Kielburger  and Craig Kielburger  are inspirational speakers and world-leading pioneers, pushing forward the boundaries of charity, philanthropy, social justice and creating change.

Their enterprise Free The Children has built more than 500 schools in South America, Asia, and Africa, providing over 50,000 kids with access to education. Health and clean water initiatives, and the Adopt A Village project are other offshoots of the foundation, as well as the creation of over  23,000 alternative income projects put in place to help women and their families to maintain a steady income. Once Free The Children was established, the brothers started the Me To We project. With its aim to promote ethical living and social responsibility, the organisation comprises volunteer based leadership workshops, a publishing house, clothing line, speaker bureau and a music label.

Recommended by Nick.

Rob Forkan

Together with his brother Paul, Rob Forkan  created the footwear brand Gandys and the Orphans for Orphans movement.

A powerful example of turning a tragedy into the drive behind an enterprise that helps others, the two brothers tragically lost their parents in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 and decided to establish a brand in their parents’ name. Growing the business into a global sensation, the brothers work to fund and open children’s homes in deprived regions of the world, alongside promoting an unconventional style of entrepreneurialism.

Recommended by Debbie.

Ziauddin Yousafzai

We've all heard of the incredible Malala Yousafzai, the passionate Pakistani activist who began fighting for female education when she was a teen after being shot by the Taliban in 2012 simply for daring to go to school.

Ziauddun Yousafzai is her father, and an educator, human rights campaigner and social activist himself. Telling stories from his own life and the life of his daughter, he reminds the world of a simple truth that many don’t want to hear: women and men deserve equal opportunities for education, autonomy, and independent identity.

Recommended by Lucy M.

Ola Rosling

Ola Rosling  is the CEO & co-founder of Gapminder Foundation, which he founded together with his father Hans Rosling and his wife Anna Rosling Rönnlund. Set up to bring global statistic trends to a worldwide audience, Gapminder converts these figures and facts into moving, interactive and stunning graphics.

In 2013, Ola initiated the Ignorance Project in 2013, to measure the widespread lack of knowledge of basic global facts, and his TED Talk, 'How not to be ignorant about the world', which he presented alongside father Hans Rosling, is one of the most popular of all time. Hans demonstrates how what people think they know about the world is statistically unlikely to be correct, and then Ola then provides the solution in terms of showing four ways to be less ignorant.

Recommended by Debbie.

Kailash Satyarthi

Winner of the 2014 novel peace prize, who rose from a grassroots activist against child labour,  Kailash Satyarthi  is now a worldwide campaigner and an Indian children's rights advocate. Pioneering the forefront of human rights, Kailash is an analytical thinker who puts words into action. A truly inspirational keynote speaker, he moves audiences with the tale of his crusade against child slavery and exploitative child labour.

Recommended by Rebecca.

Muhammad Yunus

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus  is using the power of the free market to aid economic self-advancement and solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and inequality.

His pioneering concepts of microcredit and microfinance - the lending of small amounts of money at low interest to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the developing world - evolved from a desire to do good in the world. He founded Grameen Bank, and more than 50 other companies in Bangladesh, which have led to significant social change in the region, and he continues speak around the world as a pioneer for social change.

Recommended by Rebecca

Looking to book a speaker on  human rights and philanthropy ?

We represent a total of over 6000 speakers, with 1000 listed on our website. For more info., call us on +44 (0) 20 7607 7070 or email us at  info@speakerscorner.co.uk .

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