Students from Egypt and Lebanon represent the Arab World at the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change 2015 competition

Post by: Ghada Khalifa, Citizenship Lead, Microsoft Egypt

I was thrilled to hear that three students from the Arab World made it through to the final round of the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change competition this year. The challenge inspires socially-conscious youth to imagine how they would use Microsoft technology and resources to support their cause.  At Microsoft, we are heavily invested in empowering and inspiring young people to spark change in the world – after all, some of the most significant positive changes in history have come from the  will and action  of young people to change not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them.

Here’s a quick look at our two finalists:

Alia ElKattan from Egypt

Alia ElKattan from Egypt runs the Learning Through Making (For School Students) program aimed at encouraging high-school students to get involved in DIY (Do It Yourself) programs. She believes that through such programs, “we [will] have a future of inventions, discoveries, and self-reliant youth ready to make a change in the world.” Through the Fabrication lab (Fablab), a platform made available for students to ‘make almost anything’ with the accessibility of tools and machines such as 3D printers. This will eventually allow for an expansion in the IT school curriculum eventually creating a model for schools worldwide. Alia sees Microsoft technology as playing an important role through the Office suit for presentations and documentation, the use of OneNote for storing and organizing resources, the Microsoft Virtual Academy to provide wide access to courses, and of course, Microsoft Small Basic and Virtual Studio for programming.

Ghina Kanawati from Lebanon

After participating in the Model UN and Model Arab League, Ghina became very passionate about offering equal opportunities for children in her country and then across the ME region. As a member of ‘Donate a Pen’, an education initiative developed to alleviate back-to-school burdens on families in need, and enhance the learning environment within public schools, she wants to make all children in the region feel safe, free and equal to each other.

Ghina sees Yammer as great tool to use to communicate about Donate a Pen’s future plans and events, while she’ll use One Drive to share and collaborate on documents, and Microsoft Publisher to create posters to recruit new members. She will use Microsoft Excel to do surveys, measure events’ budgets and do annual growth reports. In general, she’ll use the Microsoft suite of services to facilitate seamless workflows and eliminate communication obstacles.

Although Alia and Ghina were not named winners in the final round of Challenge for Change, I am no less proud of their hard work and innovation for positive social change. I am also excited for the 10 grand prize winners hailing from as far afield as Nepal, India, Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay, Greece, Nigeria and the US. They each receive $2 500 to kick-start their projects, a Windows Phone and the chance to serve as a Microsoft YouthSpark advocate, along with a leadership-development trip to Nicaragua where they will spend time doing hands-on volunteer work.

Each of the winners’, and indeed the finalists’ ideas were born from a place of hope, creativity and passion. Their ambitions show the great power in combining the power of technology and the youth to change the world.

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