Energetic. Vibrant. Game Changers. These are the words that came to my mind as soon as I walked into the bustling lobby full of people. Complementing the backdrop of V. Thinadhoo’s picturesque beaches and trees were the smiling, excited faces of the participants as we prepared to begin ‘Miyaheli’ – the Social Innovation Camp. This article first appeared in our print Issue No. 4.

Kickstarted in 2016, Miyaheli is a joint venture by UNDP and Ooredoo Maldives, and is the first ever initiative of this kind in the Maldives. The camps bring together people, ideas and the right tools to create innovative solutions to pressing issues in the society. My first glimpse into Miyaheli was in 2017 at Soneva Fushi, when I joined the camp as both a mentor and organizer. Having never met the participants or been a part of such an event before, it was an awe-inspiring experience to hear their stories and ideas, and to see them all grow, both the ideas and the people, within the span of a weekend. With each new camp, more young champions emerged with exciting new ideas, to better their communities and the society.

It was at last year’s Miyaheli that I was introduced to a youth group who was passionate about creating an online platform that would provide urgent help to those struggling with mental health issues. Another group was working tirelessly on their idea to open a “Print Shop,” that aimed to support enterprising women preparing food products with printed labels. Although all of them were simple ideas, they all had the potential to bring about positive meaningful changes for communities.

Fast forward to this year, I remember thinking how raw the ideas were when I first heard the initial pitches by the participants. I felt nervous imagining the amount of work that needed to be done to transform these ideas into viable startups. Sitting among the audience on the final day of the camp, I was blown away by their final pitches. One initial idea, to use our biggest resource, the sea, was fully formed into a pitch to make products from sea salt for export, and even a prototype was presented. The idea “We Share” had evolved into a potential online marketplace for people to exchange pre-loved goods. With the right combination of mentors and participants it was amazing to see how these ideas had transformed.

Miyaheli is a season within the indigenous Maldivian calendar system which predicts the weather. The term refers to the local monsoon season where it’s the best time to sow your agricultural seeds. The camp embodies this in every sense: it’s a space for youth to grow their ideas and make it into a reality. Most importantly, it is a platform where young people can be a part of the solution.

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