At 19, a bird activist is helping transform nature

At 19, Mya-Rose Craig has a unique name for herself: BirdGirl.

The British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, and diversity activist started her now-popular blog, BirdGirl, at age 11. By 17, she had become the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

“I was just an 11-year-old girl into bird watching,” she tells Smiley News. “It was a nerdy hobby!” She saw other kids her age starting blogs, so wanted to join, too. But she never realised it’d turn into what it did – including authoring her own book of the same name.

What was it about birds that fascinated her? “My mum struggled with her mental illness when I was growing up,” she says. “My family spent a lot of time travelling to do bird watching – it made us feel better, kept us together. That’s why I got involved at such a young age, I was already very into nature.”

The love of birds has always been there, she says. “They can fly, which is very cool. They’re beautiful, I love their feathers, and there are just so many species. There are just under 11,000. I love how abundant they are – birds are everywhere when you start looking.”

A pivotal moment for Mya-Rose’s activism came in 2014, when there was a terrible oil spill in Bangladesh in the Mangrove Forest, an important habitat for birds and animals who live there. “I remember as a kid thinking it’s awful and so major, they will surely talk about it on the news,” says Mya-Rose.

But they didn’t. There was nothing. After a few days, she decided to do her bit and raise awareness. It snowballed into a big article in the US, and raising a lot of money. “It was a weird, exciting experience,” she says, “after being constantly told your voice doesn’t matter, you can’t make a difference, I think learning as a kid that I could and I don’t have to feel helpless was a big moment.”

After this, Mya-Rose started talking about the issues she cared about more: conservation, birds, wildlife, our planet. And the blog grew. She now has nearly 30k followers on Twitter and more than 23k on Instagram.

From 13 onwards, Mya-Rose started to really begin her activism: attending real-life events, speaking at a climate change rally (“It was terrifying,” she says, “but so exhilarating!”) – being around passionate people who really cared made her feel better about the state of world, when it’s often all too easy to feel miserable.


Mya-Rose’s love of birds turned into a force for good when she created her own nonprofit to give back, “kind of by accident”. When she was 13, she heard in the US they had summer camps that included bird watching and nature camps. “I wanted to do it!” she says, “there was nothing in the UK so I organised my own weekend.”

Loads of people signed up, but she realised every person was a white teenage boy – she already knew there were diversity issues with access to the countryside, but this made it even more evident.

So she changed tact and turned it into a camp getting kids from the middle of Bristol into the countryside who didn’t often have access. It was a huge success, and the feedback was largely that it needed to be a long-term initiative. Black2Nature was born: a campaign for equal access to nature, concentrated on Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) communities who are excluded from the countryside.

They run nature camps, arrange nature activities, organise race equality in nature conferences and campaign to make the nature conservation and environmental sectors ethnically diverse. It’s all free for those involved.

Mya-Rose, not just the BirdGirl, works across a range of issues: climate change, indigenous people’s rights, biodiversity loss and rewilding, as well as reintroducing beavers to their natural habitat. But this is all meanwhile being a full-time student, in her second year of uni, doing anthropology.

“No matter job I end up doing, I’ll be involved with campaigning in some way. I’ve always been someone who takes it upon myself to try and make things better.”

“One of the things people ask me is, how do you have hope?” she says. “I have hope for so many reasons, one of them is genuinely all the other amazing people I’ve met over the years who are involved in making the world a better place.

“I just love meeting people who are trying,” she says, “and succeeding. It’s so easy to have a negative miserable perspective about state of planet and future, actually such a potential for things to get better, so many projects going on.”

Follow Mya-Rose on Twitter to keep up-to-date with her journey. You can also find out more about Black2Nature and how to get involved.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land and Climate Action.


5 things we learned from the ‘Glastonbury for Good’

The Eden Project – best known as the eco visitor attraction in Cornwall – hosted Anthropy from 2-4 November 2022: a “launchpad for change” event, which aimed to discuss the qualities we live by and build a positive, sustainable, and successful future.

What is Anthropy (well, you can read a bit more about that here) – and how did it all come about (find out from the founder, John O’Brien, here)?

Dubbed ‘Glastonbury for Good’, we headed down to the event to hear what was being discussed, what change was needed, and why a new vision for Britain was on the horizon for many.

Here are five things we learned during the three-day event.

1. Good ideas are worth sharing

John O’Brien, founder of Anthropy, spoke passionately about the need to spread good ideas, rather than keeping them to yourself. That’s how he has succeeded through the years, including creating Anthropy itself.

“You have to accept it isn’t going to be just your idea,” he says. “If you keep it as your idea, it won’t go anywhere. It has to be shared. You have to give the idea away, don’t be protective about it – everything is about sharing.”

2. We need to be hopeful for our future

While it’s all to easy to get bogged down with depressing news headlines about the state of our world and of Britain, a resounding message that came out of the event was the need for hope – for our planet and the people in it.

Without hope, people aren’t driven to take action, or make a change. Kelly Beaver MBE, from Ipsos Mori, said: “Leaders have a role in creating a sense of hope. There is a responsibility as a leader to create a sense of pathway to change.”

3. Everyone should aim for “a 10% improvement”

In an inspiring discussion about ocean health being as important as human health, Dave Miller, from Cleaner Seas Group, posed the question that while legislation will be important to protect our oceans – do we have the time for science of legislation to catch up?

Instead, we should think about individual action, he said. “What one thing can we all do as citizens and custodians of Earth?”

“If each of us, every year, did 10% improvement of how we live sustainably to protect our oceans, it’d add up. Think of every citizen make a 10% improvement difference each year – that will make a huge difference.”

4. Businesses need to create profitable solutions

In an inspiring talk about better business, Mary Portas said: “Instead of business profiting from creating problems for people on our planet, we need to flip that and create profitable solutions from the problems of people and planet.”

Mary was speaking about the move from consumerism to consciousness, and the Better Business Act. The goal, she said, is to create a “small but fundamental change to company law”.

“Right now, businesses are legally responsible to their shareholders. Our mission is to do this: to change UK law to make sure every single company in UK, whether big or small, puts balancing people, profit and planet at the heart of their purpose and responsibility of their directors. It’s a small but profound and potentially revolutionary shift.”

5. People really want to make a change

The whole idea of Anthropy was for people to consider the qualities we live by and discuss how we can build a positive, equitable, sustainable, successful future – and the event did just that.

Through networking, discussions, workshops, sessions, and one-on-one meetings, it was clear how passionate many people in business are about building a better future.

Talking about it, and the practical solutions we need, is the first step. Actioning them is the second.

Smiley Movement is a media partner for Anthropy.


‘Behind every great company is a team of women who hold it together’

Kiran Kaur and Amna Akhtar, from Birmingham, are business partners with a purpose – but they’ve been friends for a lot longer than that: nearly 20 years.

After college, Amna went to uni for a week and dropped out. Kiran was on a gap year, and supposed to become a dentist, she tells me. But during that time, something shifted.

“We had a profound conversation about what the future looks like, not just for us, but for young women of colour who have less access to opportunities,” says Kiran, speaking to Smiley News.

If there was more support to help these young women navigate that journey in life, thought Kiran and Amna, the results could be incredible.

“We didn’t have that, it wasn’t around, we couldn’t see it,” adds Kiran.

The pair decided to do away with their previous plan, and start volunteering and mentoring in secondary schools to support young girls of colour with their future aspirations.

The ‘spark moment’

“We had that moment,” says Kiran, “where we were like, ‘this is it’. We wanted to rewrite the rules and say we can be anything we want to be as long as we have access and support – we wanted to build that.”

GirlDreamer was born to give young women of colour a better shot at life. On a random day, says Kiran, they registered GirlDreamer with no knowledge about business or finance – but a strong vision.

That was six years ago. Now, GirlDreamer is a fully-fledged non-profit organisation that supports the personal, professional and communal development of young women of colour to pursue their dreams. Kiran and Amna used their lived experience and deep cultural understanding to create more pathways and access to opportunity.

How do they do it?

For the professional development, they fund mico-grants to other young women of colour-led organisations leading on social change (around five organisations per quarter), providing accelerator programmes and mentoring. The mentoring programmes last 6-12 months programme, where young women get paired with women in senior position in different industries.

And for the personal development, they create events, a wellbeing focus and community-led spaces to help people connect with themselves and others around them.

After launching in Birmingham in 2016, they decided to roll out their programme nationally in 2019 – and in 2020 everything went online. “Now, we get applications from young women of colour in South Africa, America, Middle East,” says Kiran.

During the first four years, GirlDreamer was supporting around 400 women a year – but now some of their resources are online, too, that’s gone into the 1000s.

Everything is free for women, and the aim is to get women of colour to be leading on social change. The impact has been incredibly encouraging for Kiran and Amna to see.

“We finished a programme on increasing the number of women of colour on boards,” says Kiran, “and we had three of them come back six months post-programme and they’re serving on boards of charities in the country.

“We remember interviewing them – and now they’re making a change. It’s amazing to see.”

They’ve also had people apply for their funds, who have then gone on to becoming social entrepreneurs with registered organisations within a year. “It’s really special,” says Kiran, “you get to see people at the beginning of what their idea and hope is – and then we see them come into fruition.”

Spreading the message

Kiran spoke at Anthropy on 3 November in a session, ‘You Can Be What You Can’t See’, which aimed to fire the starting gun for new social ventures that will help shape society in years to come.

“We all came from the version of what we wanted to be without that representation,” says Kiran, about the session. “We built it first so that others could benefit.

“I never knew anyone in this space – the social sector – who looked like me. I knew I was going to have to go out and make it myself.”

Kiran wanted to get across a message of hope for the next 30 years, but also the need for action. “At a lot of these events, we all talk a lot,” she says, “and for me, we need to go out and starting doing this stuff so we can eventually stop having these conversations.

“Eventually, I wanted to stop coming to these events, I don’t want it to be a problem anymore.”

Smiley News is a media partner at Anthropy.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.


How to get young people to lead on our future

Young people need to be in the forefront of conversation about the future of the UK, as they are the future workforce.

That was the important message that came from the Anthropy discussion ‘Preparing UK young leaders for generation global social impact’, hosted by One Young World.

Most businesses in the UK have four generations in their workforce, so how can we bring them together? “We tend to put the onus on young people to be the change,” said George Imafidon, founder of Motivez. “However there’s a systemic side of everything, and people need to partner with you in order to make that change happen.”

For the One Young World ambassadors, it was about finding ways to co-produce and collaborate. “For me,” said Meg Zeenat Wamithi, MindMapper UK, “if you don’t start something, who will? Sometimes we wait for the perfect time or moment or resource, but social impact can start with you.”

So how can we encourage young people to be engaged in global social impact – and lead on our future?

Become an ambassador

One Young World is a great way to do this,” says Rose, who works in CSR at Pfizer, and is a OYW ambassador. “The amount of connections that you get are a huge part of it. You mix with people who want to make an impact in the same space and do more together.”

It’s exposure, adds Meg. “Young people don’t realise what’s out there unless they’re exposed to it. It opens doors for young people. Sometimes all they need to be inspired is to be in the room.”

Reverse mentorship

Mentorship is important – and yes, senior leaders mentoring young people is beneficial, but reverse mentorship, where young people work with more senior leaders, to share their ideas, can be just as effective.

“It’s all about the cycle of exposure,” says Meg. “People can get value, advice, and insight from asking a young person about their ideas, background and learnings.” 

Youth boards

Youth boards, or shadow boards, can be a great way to inspire young people to make an impact, says George. “It integrates them into decision making and what businesses are doing – and they can delegate decisions to young people.

“It can be scary, but it makes sure young people are integrated into the communities they’re trying to serve,” he says.

However, adds Meg, there is the argument that young people shouldn’t necessarily be separated from everyone else. “Get young people on formal boards,” she says. “It shouldn’t be performative. We have to be intentional about where we utilise our voices and our strengths.”

Smiley News is a media partner at Anthropy.


A positive future? What Britain could look like in 30 years

Anthropy is all about being optimistic, said John O’Brien, as he introduced the Future of Britain talk at the three-day event at the Eden Project.

“We’ve got to have hope,” he says, “because without that, we have no future.”

He was proposing a question to the panel and audience: what do we want Britain to look like in 30 years? Here’s a snapshot of what they said.

A transparent media

Kamal Ahmed, founder of The News Movement, focused on how we can reinvent journalism. “How do we reinvent it? People are not engaging with the present offers they are seeing – it’s not for them,” he said.

“I do feel optimistic. I want to see journalism resurrected for those audiences. If we don’t have trusted, non-partisan journalism which allows us to develop conversations about solutions as well as holding power to account, we lose a fundamental part of democracy.

“We need new offers alongside brilliant journalism that is about engagement, solutions, onward journeys – and that’s true for younger audiences.”

A sense of hope

Kelly Beaver MBE, from Ipsos Mori, said: “We understand how the British public think and feel.”

When they asked the question what makes you proud to be British, it’s the NHS, the history, and our British institutions that came out on top. They’re proud of our contribution to scientific discovery, she says, including Covid and the climate crisis.

But, says Kelly, two in five people believe children will have worst lives than their parents have, and seven out of 10 of us believe our country is going in the wrong direction. “We need a sense of hopefulness about our place in the world,” she says.

“Leaders have a role in creating a sense of hope. There is a responsibility as a leader to create a sense of pathway to change.”

An investment in sport

Annamarie Phelps, from IWG on Women and Sport, says Team GB is the second most loved brand in the UK, to the NHS.

“Sport brings people together,” says Annamarie. “It raises a nation’s feelings and brings them together, but it also transforms lives and communities – as well as having the opportunity to change society if we use it in the right way.”

In the next 30 years, she says, we should invest and encourage more women and children to participate in sport. “Sport and physical activity will save the NHS,” she says.

“If, in 30 years, we have a community and a society that does stay active, it will reduce mental health issues, help reduce those suffering from heart disease, and more. If sport were a drug, it would be a miracle cure.”

But, she says, sport needs to transform and step up in the right direction – as well as achieving more gender quality – to become the fantastic tool it can be used for.

“There’s a lot of work sports needs to do but I believe we can get there. Sport is the future of this country and we will all benefit.”

A more equitable society

Bina Mehta has been at KPMG for over 30 years – in that time, she says, so much has changed.

“Looking forward, what I want for my kids, is a Britain that is thriving, not just surviving,” she says. “We need a Britain where people, business and communities can do well.

“We want to be part of a connected world, but living in a country where there is access to opportunity that is better balanced around the country and within communities.

“If we think about what divides us, I would like to see more commonality around us, rather than division.”

Smiley News is a media partner of Anthropy.


Could this ‘Glastonbury for Good’ truly make a difference?’

It’s been dubbed a ‘Glastonbury for Good’ – but scrap the tents, and instead picture yourself at the Eden Project in Cornwall. 

The epic global garden – dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by some – is, this November, home to Anthropy: what its founder, John O’Brien calls a “launchpad for change”.

Anthropy, which takes place from 2 – 4 November, is a gathering of people who have influence, who have a desire to change how our world operates, and a thirst for good. 

“We’re looking at the longer-term vision of our world,” John O’Brien MBE tells me. “We’re thinking, actually, we need to be able to hand this bit of the world on in a better state than we inherited ourselves. It’s really about trying to help shape what younger people, and their children, are likely to inherit.”

Anthropy was a lockdown lightbulb moment for John. In January 2021, after spending 30 years in business, he looked back on the first year of Covid – the loss of life, the damaged economy – and thought we could do better. “I thought, we need a national forum where we can build back better,” he says.

“I thought, we need a national forum where we can build back better.”

John thought about Davos, and the fact global leaders go there and have important, powerful conversations. He wanted to create that space here in the UK. He made two what he calls “risky” decisions, after sharing his ideas with people he trusted: one was to host the event in Cornwall, not London, and the other was to crowdsource the agenda. 

“Over 12 months, I had 200 organisations looking at what we wanted to talk about to move forward our thinking,” he says. “It was the largest ever crowdsourced agenda in the UK, that has led to 160 sessions with 300 speakers over 14 stages at the Eden Project.”

So what are John’s hopes for Anthropy and beyond?

“It’s not just the event, it’s the impact that comes out of it,” he says.

“I want people to come away thinking they’ve seen something and listening to something inspiring, or spoken to people they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to interact with.”

John hopes people will go away and change the way in which they do things – whether that’s in their community, or leading an organisation. “I want people to go back and try and influence and make an impact,” he adds. 

“The thing that most interested me is reflecting upon what will be the outcome – and to see that change happen.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.


A unique solution to the housing emergency

It’s no secret that more of us are being conscious where we shop – we’re aware of the climate crisis, we’re aware of the hardships many people experience, and we want companies to be aware of this, too.

And many of them are – because more seem to be committing to green climate pledges, supporting charities through their profits, and aligning with the goals that aim to make our world a happier and healthier place to live.

So each week, we highlight the ones doing their bit.

1. Ikea training staff as housing advocates

Many of us are aware of the housing emergency situation we’re faced with in the UK – with almost 2.5 million renters in England either behind or struggling to pay their rent.

IKEA is teaming up with the national charity Shelter to call for the government to build 90,000 social housing units a year by 2030. But more than that, Shelter is also training staff to become ‘Life at Home Experts’ who can help people understand their housing rights and prevent them from losing their homes through early intervention.

Find out more about their partnership.

2. Reebok founder wants to #RaiseAMillion

#RaisingAMillion is being launched by Reebok Founder, Joe Foster, to help state schools in Birmingham, and nationwide, meet basic needs – from school meals, pencils and books to sports equipment and hand sanitiser – after budgets have dropped to 2010 levels.

The campaign is calling on donations from individuals, communities and businesses to help state schools meet their resourcing needs this year. Joe is giving his time, contacts and business skills to lead the campaign to help 1 million schoolchildren across the UK.

3. DPD is delivering joy to nature

Parcel delivery firm DPD has donated to leading independent conservation organisation WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to support the charity’s seagrass restoration project – Seagrass Ocean Rescue, a collaboration with Swansea University and Project Seagrass.

The Project aims to help restore 15% of seagrass meadows across the UK by 2030, to capture and store hundreds of tonnes of carbon each year and help play a role in the UK reaching its net zero targets. DPD has donated £40,000 from the firm’s innovative Eco Fund to help support phase two of the programme in The Solent. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action and No Poverty.


What is Anthropy, the ‘Glastonbury for Good’?

You might have seen it peppered across social media, or perhaps you’ve heard of a big gathering happening at the Eden Project. Maybe, you don’t know anything about it at all.

But considering it kicks off from 2-4 November – and we’re media partners for the event – we thought we’d give you a little more info.

Okay, so what is ‘Anthropy’?

Dubbed as the ‘UK Davos’, or ‘Glastonbury for Good’, Anthropy is basically a gathering of leaders from all sectors, looking at the best ways we move forward as a nation for a better world.

“We are utilising this moment in time to think differently about our collective future and find new ways to inspire change,” say the founders.

Why was it created?

It was founded in 2021 as a “result of concerns for the economic and social impacts of Covid 19 and the negative public discourse arising from the Brexit referendum and other challenging national issues”.

There’s no sugarcoating it – there has been a lot of negative happenings in the world in the past few years. This is a chance to talk about how we can change it.

So what’s the aim?

By putting together Anthropy, John O’Brien – the founder – and his team wanted to ask four key questions to help formulate a new ‘Vision For Britain’:

What is the quality of life we want in Britain for the next thirty years?

What qualities of place and planet do we need to achieve that quality of life?

What qualities do we wish to see in a good economy and in the best of businesses and public sector organisations?

What qualities do we want to express to the world, to help solve shared issues such as poverty, climate change and human rights?

When and where is it happening?

Anthropy will be held at the Eden Project from 2-4 November.

We’re heading down as media partners, so keep an eye on our channels to see what we find out from the event. Or, you can follow Anthropy on Twitter or LinkedIn.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.


With just over £5k, these kids’ lives changed forever

Four days, a little over £5k in donations, and a team hard at work – that’s exactly how these toilets and taps were transformed for kids in Nepal.

Let’s be honest, we don’t often see the direct impact our charity donations have had, but for the supporters of Child Rescue Nepal, it became super clear how needed the funds were.

The charity has worked in Nepal since 1999, Joanna Bega, the CEO in the UK tells me. All the staff are Nepalian, bar her and an assistant she has to help with the fundraising. 

So what do they actually do? 

Well, their aim is quite simple – and very powerful. “We rescue children who have been trafficked in Nepal,” says Joanna. “ We have a good track record of reuniting them with families and getting them back to school.”

A big part of their work is prevention, working in a Nepalian district prone to trafficking and sending staff on the ground into schools to do teacher training, renew school equipment, and give education boundaries.

“Every now and then, they’ll come back from a visit and say they’ve seen something quite shocking,” says Joanna. 

This is exactly what happened with the pictures above.

“They said the toilets were horrific, sent me a video, and it was just super grim – it was horrible,” says Jo.

Clean and viable toilets and taps are hugely important for children’s education. The charity’s wider work has shown having decent toilets with running water is a big factor in children attending school – and if they attend school, they’re less likely to be trafficked. “Some statistics we’ve had show running water at a school can increase attendance by 30%,” says Joanna. 

In hot countries like Nepal, schools without water suffer. Teachers spend half their time fetching water, and therefore not teaching. Water really can become a huge hindrance, as well as help, in terms of education. This is especially true for girls – if they don’t have decent toilets, they won’t come to school on their period, which is five days lost every single month. “Girls having an education is really important in Nepal in terms of their future employability,” adds Joanna. 

On 4 February, Child Rescue Nepal put out an appeal to raise £5,667 for the new toilet block and taps at this school. Children had been going to the toilets in bushes, not washing their hands, and getting sick as a result. By 8 February, their target had been reached. 

The team shared videos with their donors along the way of the progress – and the money was hugely well spent. “Donations we receive really go on things that make a difference,” says Joanna.

Their most recent appeal was for two new classrooms to be built – a project they’re underway with. 

If you want to do one small thing to help? Sign up to their newsletter, says Joanna, and be the first to hear about their appeals for support to truly make a difference. 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Clean Water and Sanitation and Quality Education.


5 good news stories to improve your day

At Smiley Movement, we share good news every day – from the people going above and beyond to support their communities, to the positive conservation efforts or policy changes happening around the world.

And we also, of course, highlight the work of charities, as these organisations work tirelessly, day in, day out, to make our world a happier and healthier place to live.

Each week, we round of some of the best stories of the week. Here’s your dose of positivity to lead you into the weekend.

1. A guy in Florida has cleaned up millions of pieces of trash

Caulin Donaldson scours the beach every single morning to pick up trash he finds on the sand and near the water. He’s done it for so long – while filming himself – that he’s now racked up more than 1.6 million followers on TikTok.

How does he do it, why does he do it, and what impact has he made so far. Find out more.

2. A floating city will be built, hoping to combat climate change

From January 2023, work will start on building a floating city in the Maldives. The idea is to combat rising sea levels and combat climate change.

There will be 5,000 housing units, tethered to a 500-acre lagoon and the city will also have hotels, shops, and restaurants – but there won’t be any cars. Only bikes or noise-free scooters. Read more.

3. A club night lets you in if you donate to a food bank

In a bid to support local food banks – during a time where the need is higher than ever – one club night in Manchester is doing its bit.

Rich Reason launched ‘Food for Thought’, a club night where you donate in tinned food and toiletries to be able to get in. Food bank volunteers are on hand collecting it all on the door, too! Read the full story.

4. Bike libraries are now a thing

To give people access to greener (and cheaper) modes of transport, many states in the US are now adopting a “bike library” model. In the same way you’d borrow a book, and take it back, you can actually borrow a bike and use it for a set amount of time before returning it.

It’s especially benefitting low income households. Find out more.

5. Universities make pledge in favour of the planet

100 UK-based universities have pledged to move away from fossil fuels. This means that about 65% of the UK’s higher education sector will no longer be making financial investments in fossil fuel companies. And that means fossil fuel companies will be missing out on an estimated £17.6bn going forward. Read more.