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Leveling the playing field of life

Ellis Joch – Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University
Cindy Yin – Mount Gravatt State High School
Amelie Knoeller – Mount Gravatt State High School

Simple everyday privileges, like electricity, food, clean water, and education, are things we often take for granted and forget to appreciate. Unfortunately, millions of people without these privileges live in a perpetual cycle of poverty, where their health is put at risk daily. For example, each year approximately 3.8 million people die from exposure to toxic sources of light, such as burning coal and kerosene lamps which produce unhealthy amounts of carbon dioxide. Shockingly, 32% of deaths caused by toxic light sources are in children under 5 years of age. In communities that are affected by energy poverty, there is also limited access to education and employment, particularly for young women.

Simon Doble is a humanitarian, social entrepreneur, businessman, and innovator who works to help break the cycle of poverty by creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities to thrive. Simon strongly believes that there is always more that he can do for people. With the help of his global team, collaborators and partnering companies, he aspires to bridge the gap for people living without the privileges we can take for granted. One part of Simon’s philosophy is that he is “nothing without the people around him”, where unity, partnerships, and collaborations are fundamental.

Despite where he is now, when he was in school, Simon was often misunderstood as a troublemaker. Fortunately, one of his teachers recognised his potential and set him on the right path – an event that changed his trajectory in life. By being able to focus on his education, he later came to the realisation that not everyone has the same privileges in life. After gaining an education in business and real-world experience, Simon started to act on his ambitions towards a better and more self-sustainable world after reading an article about energy poverty in 2011.

Simon has since endeavoured to meet the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in his career by founding Barefoot Citizens, consisting of 13 enterprises, and SolarBuddy, a charity targeting energy poverty.

SolarBuddy contributes to relieving the impact of energy poverty by providing families with solar powered lights, educating children about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) innovations, and engaging and collaborating with people worldwide. “Education is the most powerful tool to change the world,” said Simon.

The charity has created innovations that have helped a significant amount of people, impacting over 850,000 lives. Inventions such as JuniorBuddy and StudentBuddy allow young Australians to contribute to the cause where they first build solar lights and chargers that are then sent to energy poverty affected families. While targeting energy poverty, this initiative also targets engagement with young people in Australia towards the cause which is fundamental in it moving forwards into future generations.

Simon’s parent company, Barefoot Citizens, also provides other opportunities for people to become self-sustaining and thrive. One of these social enterprises, WYLD Bikes, provides women from domestic violence situations with housing, education, and employment. WYLD Bikes grow bamboo on 400 hectares of land in Ghana. For every bamboo plant that is harvested, another 10 are planted, contributing to environmental sustainability goals. The bamboo is also used to build bikes which are then donated to children for transport to school by the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative and can also be purchased on the WYLD Bikes website by people who are interested in the cause and would like to support the enterprise.

Simon’s humanitarian, social, and STEM impacts have contributed to improving the quality of life, health, and economic stability of disadvantaged communities globally. With the mindset that “as soon as you believe you are successful, you aren’t”, Simon continues to design new and innovative solutions to meet the 17 SDGs. He has plans to unite multiple conglomerates in collaboration towards a more sustainable future and to further influence communities by facilitating engagement and creating hope for people living in poverty. Simon aims to inspire future generations to continue his work in leveling the playing field of life by providing opportunities and sustainable solutions to disadvantaged communities worldwide.

Judges’ Feedback

“The intro paragraph was really good at pulling the reader in. All the initiatives in the piece that Simon has created were very interesting.”

“Nice flow and well done describing the impact.”