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Having kindness at my core, I truly believe it will help me attract the right people, situations and opportunities onto my path. My hope is that with leading by example, my kindness extends to the person in front of me, next to me, the person reading these words, the person who listens to my talks will feel that ripple effect and want to express the same level of kindness they receive.
My name is Melati Wijsen, I’m a 17 year old full time change maker. You might not believe it but changing the world is now considered (or should be) a full time job and it’s probably one with the most intense “to do list”. It’s definitely not your typical 9-5 office hours.
My journey started at 12 years old when I founded my first NGO, Bye Bye Plastic Bags which today is one of the biggest youth led movements in the country of Indonesia. Back then, I started it with my younger sister Isabel who is one of my biggest inspirations and best friend; we led the movement together pulling together a kickass team of youth on the island who were just fed up with the plastic that was drowning our beautiful home island of Bali. From there, we created a network and umbrella platform called One Island One Voice for like minded NGOs active in the field of waste management and prevention; unity, we wanted to bring everyone together. And at the same time we saw an opening to create a social enterprise to empower women to produce alternative bags; we do this with “Mountain Mama’s.”
Over the years, I have grown as a person. Some people who’ve met me will tell you that I’m articulate in my thinking, organised, a “do-it” kind of girl. But they might also tell you that I have grown up too fast. That I shouldn’t have to work so hard to see changes that are at its core… pretty simple. But, if our generation doesn’t stand up, who will? If we don’t act now, when will we? We know we don’t have the luxury to wait because everything is happening in our lifetime and the current system would stand perfectly still, comfortable, without our “childish” demands for real change.
Now, having the honour to have spoken to over 20,000 youth all around the world, I have met some pretty incredible likeminded bright young people.
And that’s where my true passion has bloomed, I really felt the power of our generation. The ability we had to change the world into something we are proud of and get excited about. So, feeling that there was a lack of education, or the tools provided, as well as a space for young change makers to thrive, I felt like this would be my next chapter.
So I worked really hard to graduate one year early – which happened in June this year! Yay! – to focus on developing my fourth “company”. Aimed at empowering youth through education. And I’m now on my GAP year which has been filled with days spent out in the field, doing research, connecting, and really bringing this project into reality.
But, I do want to bring it back a bit and give you a glimpse of the childhood that led me to be the person I am today. My sister and I are raised in a house in the middle of the rice fields 100 meters from the ocean. Our parents are from two different worlds, Indonesia and the Netherlands, and it felt like they created a special one, a world, for my sister and I to grow up in. One where magic was real, but so was climate change, please and thank you’s and I love you’s came naturally, and diversity within cultures were as normal as breathing. We ran and danced naked in the rain, sailed around Indonesia on a big traditional boat, built tree houses, and always ate dinner on the table together; at the end of the day kindness was what our parents instilled in us. To ourselves and to each other. They are some of my biggest inspirations and teachers as well. But you know, I’m still a teen and sometimes I can’t stand them!
Living this life has taught me the importance of balance. Full time change maker, but also a sister, a daughter, a student, and just plain me, Melati Wijsen. Still figuring that one out, but I have a few ideas of what I would like to become and what I am already becoming.
Kick-ass human & Magic Maker ✨