Not all heroes wear capes. Two young activists who are making a tremendous impact domestically and internationally were recently awarded the 2020 Youth Heroes’ Award by Youth and Students for Peace (YSP) USA.
Kiangana Dialungana (also known as Makaya Revell), from Pennsylvania, and Tarina Kaur Ahuja, from Virginia, were both recognized for their longstanding nonprofit work which benefits children. The award is given to those whose public work has positively impacted society, engages young people, and supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“I am so grateful to receive such a wonderful award,” said Dialungana, a 34-year-old native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “We can let the world see our calm and gentle face, but underneath is our iron will to fight on behalf of all that is right and stay active with peace initiatives.”
Dialungana and Ahuja, who were honored during YSP’s preliminary S!NERGY Competition on December 26, 2020, have each founded non-profit organizations that help the next generation.
Dialungana started the Marie Mambu Makaya Foundation in 2012 to help orphans in his homeland, and also established an orphanage in the U.S. Civil war had forced Dialungana to flee DRC as a teen and seek asylum in America after his father was killed and his mother passed away. An orphan himself, Dialungana was eventually adopted by the Revell couple. Today, his nonprofit gives hope to multiple children through its various grassroots projects, policy-writing, advocacy, and fundraising.
“All of our orphaned children lost their parents to violence,” said Dialungana. “But our children are growing into intelligent, healthy, and strong young people.”
Ahuja co-founded Young Khalsa Girls (YKG) with three friends in 2012. What started out as an idea during a sleepover soon blossomed into an organization that empowers young girls and involves them in helping their communities.
Now, YKG boasts a 31-member team of young women spanning three states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Additionally, Ahuja recently launched The Greater Good Initiative, which engages young people in policy-making to improve their communities.
“We are giving young people the tools and resources to pursue their passions fearlessly,” said Ahuja. “Oftentimes, as a young person, you are told that you’re a leader of tomorrow. But I think something more apt is that young people are the leaders of today.”
And at only 18 years old, Ahuja is leading by example.
“We take our vision, ideas, and thoughts and we don’t let it stop in our minds. We take it to the streets, to our computers and social media, and we find ways to move and shake the world around us.”
“Self-discipline must be your guiding principle,” added Dialungana. “Activism depends on it. Potential is limitless only if we are courageous enough to fight. Find a way to see greatness in yourself, and in others.”
Both honorees received a certificate, a specially engraved medal designed by the International Association of Youth and Students for Peace (IAYSP), and a grant of $500 toward their projects.
IAYSP was launched in 2017 by Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and has several chapters worldwide.
You can learn more about Youth and Students for Peace (YSP) USA here.