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13 of the most influential people who have made a positive difference to poverty all over the world.

By charlotte brohier
1 august 2019

From Nelson Mandela to Angelina Jolie, we’ve rounded up 12 of the most influential people who have made a positive difference to poverty all over the world.

Malala Yousafzai

Incredible because... Malala’s extraordinary story came to the world’s attention when the Taliban attempted to assassinate her in her native Pakistan in 2012. Her crime? Simply being an open activist for girls’ education in the country. After an outpouring of global offers of medical treatment, her family travelled to the UK, where she recovered from her injuries and continued to strive for equal education for all. She was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize - the youngest ever Laureate aged 17 at the time - and is currently studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University. Setting up The Malala Fund has enabled her to invest in education programmes, giving back to girls in poverty the very thing that was, along with her life, attempted to be taken from her. 

Get involved: Donate money to the Malala fund here which will go towards giving an education to young women, and creating safe spaces for them too.

You can also email: giving@malalafund.org, to discuss donation plans. 

Nelson Mandela

Incredible because... The President of South Africa from 1994 - 1999, Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary, as well as being a celebrated philanthropist. One of his greatest acts was to donate one-third of his presidential salary to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, but his generosity spread to other areas, including combating poverty and HIV, as well as expanding healthcare services. In his life, he garnered more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Get involved: Keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive by donating to the Nelson Mandela Foundation here.

Joshua Coombes

Incredible because... Joshua had the idea to take his barber’s kit out on the UK streets to offer free haircuts to rough sleepers when he came across a similar scheme in New York. His scissors have now gone global and travel the world with him and other like-minded hairdressers, changing the lives of the homeless through the simple yet humanising act of cutting hair, documenting his clients’ personal stories on Instagram along the way. He also started the hashtag #DoSomethingForNothing – the idea is to eradicate stereotypes surrounding volunteering, and to show that making a difference doesn’t necessarily involve what you may think; it can be an extension of your existing work or hobby.

Get involved: Look at the random acts of kindness from across the globe on #DoSomethingForNothing here. It might inspire you to think about what you could do, too.

Angelina Jolie

Incredible because... The A-list actress is known almost as well for her philanthropy as she is for her acting, having founded charitable organisations and projects which include building an all-girls primary school in Afghanistan and funding a school and boarding facility for girls in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She also founded The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation - named after her adopted son - which further aims to alleviate rural poverty while also protecting the environment and conserving wildlife in his native country of Cambodia.

Sali Hughes and Jo Jones

Incredible because... The friends - a makeup artist and writer, and a PR respectively - founded Beauty Banks in order to collect and distribute essential toiletries and supplies to people who can’t afford them using partner charities in the UK. They concentrate on products that many of us take for granted, such as soap and toothpaste, which many are having to forgo in order to be able to afford to eat. There are various ways to donate depending on your own circumstances, from posting unused or unwanted products you already have, to ordering them directly online using a Beauty Banks approved website. 

Get involved: You can easily donate bars of soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more through easho, here.

100% of profits from the sales of #TOGETHER products go to charities that advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more here.

George and Amal Clooney

Incredible because... While he is known for E.R. and Oceans 11, she is a leading barrister specialising in international law and human rights. Together, they not only formed one of the world’s most glamorous couples, but also The Clooney Foundation for Justice, created to protect people living under oppressive governments. Most recently the organisation launched TrialWatch, which will create a global index to show the fairness of the justice systems in all countries, which is particularly important for Goal 1: No Poverty because the impoverished are usually unfairly targeted. 

Get involved: You can apply to become a Trial Monitor or be a part of TrialWatch's expert panel. More details can be found here.

Amika George

Incredible because... Most 17 year students in the UK are too busy with exams to think about much else, but not Amika George. She felt compelled to found the #FreePeriods movement – a national campaign that aims to eradicate period poverty - after reading that 1 in 10 girls miss schools while on their period. Two years later (she's now 19), as a result of Amika’s work the UK Government has pledged to provide free sanitary products in all schools in England from 2020, and she has build a national conversation around the typically taboo subject.

Get involved: The #freeperiods campaign partners with many charities that you can read about here. Simple acts such as donating packs of menstrual products can be life changing for women in need.

Mari Copeny

Incredible because... This amazing teenager is the youngest campaigner on our list and has been working to help fellow children in her home town of Flint, Michigan, in the United States. Mari Copeny has raised over $500,000 with her Pack Your Back initiative, and these funds have helped impoverished students get essential school supplies, toys, bikes and clean water that other children might take for granted. As a result of her work, President Barack Obama visited Flint during his time in office to find out more about the problems they face. 

Get involved: Mari is currently fighting for a place in the Youth Town Hall. Support her journey and other campaigns here.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Incredible because... They made their fortunes at Microsoft, and this technology-minded husband and wife duo put some of that money to very good use by founding The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. It’s now the largest charitable organisation in the world. The Foundation has spent $36 billion on aiding global health, emergency relief, education and poverty, including $2 billion to help defeat malaria alone, and a further $50 million in 2014 to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

Get involved: The organisations that Bill and Melinda support offer various volunteering opportunities with roles for everyone from students to professionals. Find out more here

Muzoon Almellehan

Incredible because... Often dubbed ‘Malala of Syria’ in reference to her friend Malala Yousefzai, when Muzoon and her family fled Syria in 2014, all she took with her were her books because education is so important to her. The Almellehan family eventually settled in the United Kingdom where she still fights for girls’ rights to education in Syria. She is also the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and is now studying for an International Politics degree and an honorary doctorate at Glasgow University. 

Get involved: Muzoon details all of her campaigns and next exciting fixtures here

Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry

Incredible because... The Love Actually screenwriter and popular British comedian founded Comic Relief in 1985 as a response to the famine that was happening in Ethiopia at the time, but it didn’t stop there. Combined with its sister projects - Sport Relief and Red Nose Day - it has raised over £1 billion in thirty years. Its mission in the UK is to aid discrimination against disabled people and help with domestic violence escape routes for women. Globally, it’s fighting for HIV, education and community rebuilding - all through entertainment from famous figures. 

Get involved: Donating just £5 to Comic Relief will provide shelter for a child in Kenya overnight. Donate here.

Christy Turlington

Incredible because... Known as one of the original supermodels in the 1990s, Christy Turlington turned her attention from the runway to real life when she learnt that thousands of women die every year because they don’t have access to basic maternity care. After producing a documentary highlighting the plight of four pregnant women living in tough circumstances, she founded Every Mother Counts in 2010. This non-profit organisation is devoted to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for all mothers, everywhere, and has so far impacted around 600,000 lives. 

Get involved: You don't just have to donate to make a difference to these mothers and children, raising conversations and attending events will help advocate for a better future. Find out more here.

Mim Skinner

Incredible because... Mim used to be an art teacher, but her students weren’t studying at school - they were female prisoners. She now works with women in an organisation called Handcrafted which empowers those excluded from society and helps them find work or become active members of their community. She also co-founded a food waste company called Refuse - it saves food which would otherwise have been thrown in the bin and turns it into hearty ‘Pay As You Feel’ meals at a community cafe. 

Get involved: You can collect food for Refuse, or simply serve a few coffees for them - with no commitment required - and they'll hugely appreciate it. Have a look here if you're interested.


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