Canon Young Champions – where are they now?

About our Canon Young Champions

The Canon Young Champion of the Year Award, sponsored by Canon EMEA, is now in its fifth year (as of 2024) and provides an opportunity for young activists to get involved with the business sustainability community, and find allies and mentors amongst the audience. More importantly, it allows us to learn from the next generation of leaders, and gain a new perspective on the world we live in.

In short, it’s about rewarding young people who have campaigned for a good cause around a social or environmental issue; this could be mental health, animal welfare, climate activism, education….and anything else between. It is humbling to read the entries that come through to this category, and truly heartening to hear the passion in the voices of our next generation of leaders and activists. It gives us hope for the world to know that there’s an army of youth twitching in the wings to take up the mantle, and champion their cause.

Who are they, and what happened next?

Of course, the journey doesn’t end once a winner is crowned a Canon Young Champ, and we’re using this space to give you the lowdown on what led to their win, and what they’re doing now. If you’re wondering if you could or should enter the award yourself, or know of a deserving young person, then we hope these stories will give you a flavour of what we look for, and inspire you to go for it!

Samuel Anjolaoluwa

Canon Young Champion of the Year 2021 (Under 21s)

“After winning the award in 2021, it opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me. The following year, I applied for the Canon Student Development Programme, and was selected to attend in Spain. During the programme, I was privileged to meet industry professionals, and learn about the photojournalism and documentary industry – this enabled me to start working for Agence France-Presse (AFP) as a stringer here in Nigeria. I now cover and document important events, such as the last general election in Nigeria, protests and rallies, and much more. I’ve had so much support from Canon to help me in my journey as a visual storyteller, a privilege I do not take for granted. I have been able to work with individuals and organizations locally and internationally but, most importantly, help and impact as many people as possible.”

Mir and Mishal Faraz

Canon Young Champion of the Year 2021 (Under 16s)

Winning the Global Good Canon Young Champion of the Year award in 2021 was a pivotal moment that deeply impacted our lives and continues to motivate us to this day. We’ve continued our environmental initiatives and humanitarian drives – we love to work as a brother-sister team, so together we’ve participated in a multitude of clean up drives, recycling, as well as environmental awareness campaigns.”

Mishal has since led a campaign against single-use plastic bottles in her school, with over 4000 students and their families. The project titled “My Water Bottle Project” culminated in winning the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Stockholm Junior Water Prize in 2022.

Mir was the winner at the Voices of Future Generations for Middle East 2023 story writing competition, a UNESCO initiative, and also delivered his first TEDx talk at the end of January! The title of the talk was “Play for the Future: Gamifying the Road to Net Zero”, highlighting the current environmental predicament of our planet and how gamification can be a tool to spur people to take climate action.  

Netra Venkatesh

Canon Young Champion of the Year 2022 (Under 16s)

When one is trying to build a global non-profit organisation, any recognition helps a lot. Winning the GGA Canon Young Champion award helped add further credibility to my efforts which, in turn, helped us grow and expand. The award also gave me the confidence to continue with my efforts, which too is so useful when one is confronted by challenges along the way! I’ve been busy since I won; we established the Malawi and Zimbabwe chapters of my non-profit SpunkGo, which was very exciting, and took a lot of my time and effort. I travelled to Saudi Arabia to see the new era of increased opportunities for women, and was fascinated by how much progress there has been in the Kingdom. We visited the fascinating city of Al Ula, where I got some great shots (see left) on my Canon camera.

Lastly, the Global Good Award featured in my university admission application, and I’m sure it helped me to gain admission to my dream university in Houston, Texas. Who knows, one day I may be a marketing intern at Canon!”

Sammie Vance

Runner up – Canon Young Champion of the Year 2022 (Under 16s)

“Since being recognised by the Canon Young Champion Award, I’ve been pretty busy! I have had the neat opportunity to be featured by Disney, and most recently by Nickelodeon, for my buddy bench project made out of recycled plastic. In October last year, I was Time 4 Kids “Kid of the Month”. I’ve had lots of people reach out from that, wanting to get involved in collecting caps to get a buddy bench. One of the most exciting things is having Polywood (a sustainable furniture company) believe in my mission, and create a buddy bench programme with me; the programme teaches kids about recycling, and helps them get a buddy bench faster, and with free shipping to the school/group. This is very exciting! Any group that signs up also receives one of my signed books. My book teaches about how you can make a difference at any age. The farthest my buddy bench has reached so far is Ghana!

Being a Global Good Award recipient has been a very positive experience. I really enjoy taking pictures, so getting my own nice camera has been great! Also, I’ve been able to tell others about the award, and one has even become a recent winner!”

Olivia Mandle-Navarro

Runner up – Canon Young Champion of the Year 2023 (Under 16s)

Olivia was a finalist in the 2023 Canon Young Champion of the Year category, after showcasing her impressive efforts to help clean up our oceans (including inventing the ‘Jelly Cleaner’ – a simple tool that anyone can make at home, that helps to clear microplastics from the surface of the sea!). Life over the last year has continued at pace, and Olivia hasn’t slowed down with her work and has certainly been busy since we last caught up with her.

Straight after being announced as a GGA runner up, she was invited to help create a piece for Cartoon Network, to help publicise their ‘Climate Champion’ programme – you can watch Olivia in action here. As you can see, she’s also loved taking her Canon prize with her on her travels, and captured some beautiful shots 🙂

A quick scan of Olivia’s CV makes for an impressive read. As well as volunteering at the Corcovado Foundation in Costa Rica, and launching her book ‘Si, Es Cosa Tuya‘ (translated as ‘Yes, It’s Up to You), she’s been named one of the 500 most influential women in Spain by El Mundo!