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This Westchester Native is Helping Reshape the World

Whitney Johnson, who founded a charity at age 21, is in Geneva, Switzerland this week at an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

This Westchester Native is Helping Reshape the World

A group of visionary Millennial activists from around the world is in Geneva, Switzerland this week for a meeting of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

And Whitney Johnson is among them.

Johnson is the founder Ubuntu Africa, a nonprofit organization that provides whole-person care to children living with HIV in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Her organization enables children living with HIV to lead full, successful and meaningful lives.

She was 21 when she started it.

Now she’s not only the CEO, but she’s been named to an international elite of young, altruistic entrepreneurs.

“Young people have the passion, dynamism, and entrepreneurial spirit to shape the future and improve the state of the world,” she said. “When I started Ubuntu Africa, many people told me that I was too young and inexperienced to make a difference – that is not true - young people should have faith in their ability to create positive change.”

Johnson moved to Bedford as a child, where she graduated from Rippowam Cisqua School in 1999. She then attended The Westminster School and graduated in 2002. She played field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse in both middle school and high school. She describes herself as a regular Westchester girl who went off to college looking to find herself.

At Colorado College, she led a volunteer program to tutor children. Then, during her junior year, she traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to work at an orphanage in Khayelitsha. During this time, she saw children and teens her age die every day not because they were HIV+, but because they lacked the care and support they needed to survive and to thrive.

This experience led Ms. Johnson to start Ubuntu Africa, to provide this critical care and empower all children with HIV to live long, happy and meaningful lives. UBA now serves over 200 children and their families.

She now lives in Cape Town, South Africa. She works every day from the organization’s center in Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s most impoverished and overpopulated townships, located just outside the city. She also travels the world to raise funds and awareness for Ubuntu Africa and to inspire youth to make a difference in their communities.

That’s where the Global Shapers Community comes in.

The Global Shapers Community is a network comprised of around 356 hubs across the world. Global Shapers Hubs are developed and led by entrepreneurial “Millennials” between 20 and 30 years old who are exceptional in their achievements, their drive to make a contribution to their communities and their desire to build a more peaceful and inclusive world.

Each hub undertakes at least one community project per year that has a positive, local impact.

Johnson is the Curator of Global Shapers’ Cape Town Hub.

“Ubuntu is an African philosophy that speaks to the connection of all human beings and the importance of mutual support,” she said. “This is what the Global Shaper Community is all about – fostering unity and responsibility for addressing global challenges.”

The Annual Curators Meeting—this year it’s Aug. 21-25—brings together Hub Curators from around the world to exchange best practices and share insights on relevant issues that will help to maximize their hub’s local impact. The meeting also provides opportunity for curators to create local impact in the host city of Geneva by serving in community projects.

About one in three people alive in the world today is a member of the Millennial generation, those born between 1981 and 1995, now 1.7 billion strong. Many believe that because of their great numbers, connectedness through communication technologies, and activism, that Millennials are shaping the world. A recent poll showed that 82 percent of global Millennials believe their generation can improve the world.

Ms. Johnson is a change agent who embodies this Millennial spirit of activism and desire to improve the world.

“By bringing together, young leaders from across the globe at the Annual Curators Meeting, we are able to gain insight and draw inspiration from one another, which we can then bring back to invigorate our local hubs and cities,” Johnson said.

For more information about the Global Shapers Community, visit: http://www.globalshapers.org/

For more information about Ubuntu Africa please visit: www.ubafrica.org

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