Can youth change the world?

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We know, from working with thousands of young volunteers over the course of UNV's 40-year history, that young people are creative, passionate, and energetic. When applied to tackling the world’s leading peace and development challenges, there’s no limit to the innovative solutions that they can come up with. With our new UN Youth Volunteers Programme, we’re helping our UN partners to harness the power and potential of young people to achieve lasting development results.

Photo © Manfred Gottschall, 1975

Did you know that Albert Einstein was only 26 years old when he developed the Theory of Relativity? Or that Louis Braille was only 15 when he invented the Braille writing system for the visually impaired?

We know, from working with thousands of young volunteers over the course of our 40-year history, that young people are creative, passionate, and energetic.

When applied to tackling the world’s leading peace and development challenges, there’s no limit to the innovative solutions that they can come up with. With our new UN Youth Volunteers Programme, we’re helping our UN partners to harness the power and potential of young people to achieve lasting development results. Starting on International Youth Day 2014, UNV is celebrating different youth heroes each week to show that you’re never too young to change the world.

First up is Louis Braille, 15-year-old inventor of the Braille writing system for the blind and visually impaired:

Born in 1809, Louis Braille was left blind after an infection following an accident with a leather punching tool. Convinced that given an opportunity to learn, their bright young child was capable of overcoming his disability (given the poor social support for persons with disabilities at the time), Braille’s parents enrolled him in the Royal Institute for Blind Youth when he was ten years old.

The school, a damp, draughty old building, offered meagre living conditions and only a few books to read. The children read by tracing their fingers over raised print letters, a slow, laborious system that had been invented by the school’s founder, Valentin Haüy years ago. This was replaced in 1821 by a new writing system designed by an army captain named Charles Berbier that was based on raised dots and dashes. Unfortunately, the system had no way to show capitalization or punctuation, and words could only be written phonetically.

Most of the students lost interest in the new method, but 12-year-old Braille thought it had potential, and worked tirelessly in his spare time to improve the code. He abandoned the dashes and developed a simple system based on six dots in two vertical rows. By the time he was fifteen, he had perfected the writing system, which was flexible enough to be used for music and mathematics in addition to text. By 1844, the Braille system had finally become the schools standard reading mode.

Today, Braille is the dominant method for reading and writing for blind and visually impaired people all over the world.

Starting today, we’re celebrating #inspiringyoungpeople. We’ll be posting a new inspiring profile at least once a week for 8 weeks. Make sure that you follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.

Happy International Youth Day!