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The Young Changemakers

About the Episode

Explore four different stories about Rebel Girls who followed a shared passion. Each of these Young Changemakers faced different challenges, but they’re connected to each other by their rebel spirit and vision.

This story was produced by Joy Smith. Sound design and mixing by Bianca Salinas. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Our narrator was Geetha Murali. A special thanks to the whole Rebel Girls team, who make this podcast possible!

This story is from the new Rebel Girls app! You can listen to more stories like this, PLUS sleepy stories, soundscapes, and all the podcast episodes you know and love. Just go to go.rebelgirls.com/dream-on to download and listen for free!

Get to Know GeethA Murali

Get to know Dr. Geetha Murali, who narrated our Young Changemakers story bundle. Geetha is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Room to Read, an organization that helps children around the world to receive an education and follow their dreams.

Transcript

Hey Rebels, sit back, relax, close your eyes if you want to.

We’re about to explore four different stories about Rebel Girls who are part of the next generation of changemakers, just like you! 

As you listen to their stories, see if you can figure out the different ways that they’re connected. 

Do they speak the same language?

Have the same favorite color?

Or is it something deeper…? Like the way they face their fears and believe in their dreams?

For our first story, we take you to an island country in the Indian Ocean, filled with majestic mountains, incredible skylines, and this very inspiring rebel…

Once upon a time, there was a girl who dreamed of growing a magical garden filled with mangoes, colorful flowers, and a flowing stream with singing fish. Dreaming of this paradise gave her strength to deal with the problems she faced in her everyday life. 

Dewmini was born in a poor area of Sri Lanka, where droughts made life very difficult. Some days there was no water to drink, and she had to go to school without breakfast. One day, Dewmini’s father decided the only option was to send her to a wealthy house in the city to work as a servant. Dewmini did not want to go. She was determined to stay with her family and help them overcome poverty. 

At school, Dewmini learned about agriculture and decided to grow a garden. She began by planting eggplants. Then she added lemons. Then betel nuts. Then okra. Her teachers and parents were astonished— her garden was growing fast! 

Dewmini and her father soon began to sell her vegetables to people in the village, and she surprised everyone—including herself—when she won third place in a competition for having the most bountiful garden in the entire district! “It was my happiest day.” She beamed. “I feel quite accomplished to do that at such a young age.” 

Dewmini has big dreams for the future. After college, she plans to help her town grow even more, so it can have bustling markets, classes for farmers, and lots and lots of jobs.

“There will be plenty of food and drinking water,” Dewmini says. “And lots of trees to give everyone shade.”

That sounds amazing, doesn’t it Rebels? 

By planting seeds and believing in herself, Dewmini changed the course of her life. She also helped so many people in her village and inspired countless more. 

Now, let’s travel to a different country and hear about a rebel who is making people laugh, sing, and celebrate…ducks??

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Trang who lived with her family in a small thatched hut in rural Vietnam. She helped her mother sell sweet cakes at the market across the river. One day, their boat tipped over, and all their cakes tumbled into the water. Trang’s mother cried, knowing they wouldn’t have enough money to buy food. 

“I will never forget that day,” Trang says. “I wanted so badly to help my family out of poverty.” She sat and thought. She had a special bond with animals, especially with Bim Bim. He was the only white duck in a flock of all black birds, and he was not accepted by the group. Bim Bim must be lonely, thought Trang, just like me. It dawned on her that maybe, just maybe, the world might enjoy their unique friendship. 

Trang had heard about YouTube. She dreamed of becoming an actor and decided to start her own channel. “At first, I recorded videos with old phones that kept on breaking,” she said. “Many times my videos didn’t get a single view.” But Trang kept at it. She posted Bim Bim’s birthday party, Bim Bim learning to cook, Bim Bim dancing. Over time, the whole nation was laughing.

Trang won YouTube’s Silver Button Award for earning 100,000 fans. “I never thought I could go that far,” Trang says. “I do not have an assistant. I do not have high quality equipment. I taught myself everything.” 

Trang hopes her success inspires others to think beyond what feels possible. And that Bim Bim gets to enjoy his success too!

Wow! Trang and Bim Bim are an incredible duo. Finding new ways to connect and share joy like that is a real gift. And do you notice any similarities between Trang’s story and Dewmini’s? 

Keep thinking about it as we transport you now to a completely different place. Our next Rebel lives just below the stunning slopes of the Himalayas in a country called Nepal….

There once was a girl who daydreamed of healing people with rays of light from her hands. Her name was Sapana, and when she was a girl, her younger sister fell ill. Her family lived far from a hospital, so they performed a traditional healing ceremony to try and cure her. Sapana begged her father to make the journey to a medical clinic, but by the time they set off through the jungle, it was too late, and her sister died. At that moment, Sapana promised herself she would become a nurse. 

Every day, she walked for four hours to get to school. And when monsoons flooded the roads, she slept overnight in her classroom. Finally, the day came for her to apply to nursing school and take the entrance exam. Sadly, Sapana was not accepted. But she remembered the advice of a mentor from when she was younger, who told her to never underestimate herself. “I realized I had the strength to keep trying,” Sapana said. “I was not going to stop there.” 

Sapana prepared for months and retook the exam. When the results were posted, she stood at the window and scanned through the list of names of students who had passed. There, in the middle of the list, in big, black, all-capital letters, it said SAPANA! 

Sapana is so dedicated to being the best nurse possible. She is inspired by another rebel, Florence Nightingale. As Sapana says, “When my sister was sick, I felt helpless, and I wished I was Florence. I wanted to know what gave her the strength to keep working for others.” 

Whatever that strength is, clearly Sapana has it too. She took the saddest moment in her life and turned it into a spark of hope and change.  

That must have taken so much courage — to lose her sister, walk for hours each day to school, study and study then find out she had to try again! And yet, Sapana wouldn’t give up.

Talk about a rebel!

For our last piece, we take you now to India, where this young rebel is channeling her strength in a completely different way!

Once upon a time, there was a girl who karate-chopped her fear. For young Yashika, getting to school was scary. Without street lights, sidewalks, or school buses, the route was sometimes dangerous. Yashika’s parents worried so much that they asked her to stop going. But Yashika was determined to get an education. She knew there just had to be a safe way to get to school. Instead of giving up, she asked the local leaders for help, and they listened.

Yashika was given the opportunity to take a self-defense class for girls. Standing in front of the class was the teacher, a powerful and strong woman. If she can do it, why not me? Yashika thought to herself. People in her town teased Yashika and her family. Karate is a boy’s sport, they’d say. Her parents pressed her to quit, but Yashika continued to train. “By doing karate I learned to never give up, no matter my challenges,” she said. Before she knew it, Yashika won a tournament! Then another and another.

A few years later, Yashika boarded a train and traveled to the biggest city in all of India to compete in a national karate championship. There, the girl who was once afraid of walking to school won a silver medal for her individual performance and, with her team, she won a gold.

Today, the Karate Girl, as she is called by her fans, is a beloved mentor for girls. She tells her students that dedication, focus, and hard work will make dreams come true, and karate will help them kick fear’s butt! And we believe her!

So Rebels, did you find a common thread between our four stories? 

Dewmini and her bountiful garden…

Trang and her bestie Bim Bim helping people sing and laugh…

Sapana devoting herself to nursing in honor of her sister..

And Yashika karate chopping-fear…

What do you think connects these four Rebels?

Well, they all faced incredible challenges. 

They all found creative ways to help their families and communities. 

They all defied expectations and dared themselves to be louder, braver, and stronger than they’d ever been before.

And that, dear friends, is what makes them truly rebel.

Just like you.