Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Change Agents

They are explorers and activists, artists and educators, farmers and faith leaders – even mayors. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world.

Becca Heller: The refugees' advocate

Courtesy of Echoing Green
Becca Heller, founder and director of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

Better legal protection for "the most disenfranchised population … [the] stateless," could change the world, says Becca Heller, the cofounder and director of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).

"I think about this every single day," says Ms. Heller, who is driven by stories of people like the Iraqi Christian man under death threats for his work helping Americans. His US visa application – and ticket to safety – was stalled last summer when his 15-year-old daughter was kidnapped and married off to a Muslim. Without his daughter at visa interviews, the process is on hold.

Each time a bureaucrat makes a minor mistake, says Heller, an entire family can be doomed. The United Nations estimates there are 12 million "stateless" people worldwide – plus 25.2 million refugees and internally displaced people – in need of resettlement help. They "should have basic legal rights," says Heller, who created IRAP in 2010 during her second year of law school at Yale University. The program now has chapters at 18 law schools in the US and the Middle East providing pro bono legal service to thousands of refugees.

"I see human migration and displacement as the major humanitarian issue of this generation," says Heller.

– Whitney Eulich

Next: Adam Fitzmaurice: Occupy London activist

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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