Fellow Since 1996
Duam, Mil Piecitos en el Puente
This profile was prepared when Verónica Ohlsson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Motivated by a strong conviction that children can generate fresh new ideas for solving important problems of global dimensions, Verónica Ohlssen has created a youth program that is designed both to facilitate the generation and implementation of such ideas and to promote international harmony and cultural and racial tolerance. In her initiative, young people come together to dialogue with one another on topics of their own choosing, and upon returning home, they work in ways that they devise to translate their ideas into action in their local communities. Young leaders, aged seven through fourteen, from diverse national, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, are identified through a system of nominators. The young people selected, be they Aymara, Quechua, Mapuche, Tibetan or Zulu, come together in yearly meetings where they join in activities that foster a deep connection with and understanding of the natural environment, and tolerance and respect for one another and their cultural differences. Following such gatherings, the children return to their communities and form local groups. The local groups then develop new ideas for addressing important problems in their home communities, decide upon projects that they will undertake to address those problems and generate funds to sustain their activities. Far more than yet another cultural exchange, Verónica's initiative, and the groups of young people that it helps empower, are important new and independent sources of creative ideas and actions. Each participating group of young people is part of an extensive network of similar groups who share their ideas and experiences through regular communications and meetings. The adults associated with the program act as mentors and technical advisors, but the ideas come from, and the groups are directed and managed by, the young people themselves.