Natalie Kyriacou OAM has had to quickly become accustomed to seeing her name in print.
The 30-year-old environmentalist has been named a finalist in the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Young Champion of the Earth.
The global initiative sets out to celebrate and support the hard work of young people aged between 18 and 30 who show real potential in creating positive change, and Kyriacou certainly fits the bill.
Over the past decade, the Melbourne-based founder and CEO of My Green World and creator of mobile game app World of the Wild, has set her sights on driving global change by creating inclusive education programs and technologies to increase young people’s access to wildlife and environmental conservation and sciences.
“This is really exciting,” Kyriacou told Neos Kosmos.
“This program’s quite amazing. The other finalists are so impressive, and I’m thrilled to be standing next to them on this.”
One of the most exciting opportunities the UN program offers candidates is a combination of tailored mentorship, intensive training and funding.
Kyriacou is one of 35 shortlisted regional finalists who are currently subject to an online public vote, open until 25 June. The 14 finalists with the highest number of votes will then be judged by a global jury, who will select the final seven winners; one from each region, with the exception of two in the Asia-Pacific.
For Kyriacou, the win would go a long way. Aside from the mentorship benefits and professional development, which she is already getting a taste of, the $15,000 prize would mean realising her Kids’ Corner dream – an inclusive digital classroom inspiring children to participate in wildlife environmental and conservation through games and programs, made accessible for all.
“We want to embed Kids’ Corner in hospitals. So that would require upgrades in our technology, more research and development,” she explains.
“But it would also publicly give a lot more recognition to Kids’ Corner as a platform being aligned with the UNEP, which would do wonders for our program.”
We’re halfway through 2018, and it’s already proving to be a pivotal year in her career.
In April, the Cypriot Australian was named an honouree on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia Social Entrepreneur list, and just this month was the recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia.
“It’s been really overwhelming and a little bit of a roller coaster … It sounds awful,” she laughs.
“But it’s been so challenging emotionally, because this isn’t what I expected, or was working towards. But it is exciting and it’s been really nice to know that people are following and supporting my work,” Kyriacou says.
While the attention has been on her, her eye rarely sways from the bigger picture.
“I don’t think that it should ever be an objective or an aim to receive an award or anything like that, but if it does come along on the way of your work then it’s great to embrace it and hopefully it furthers the impact that you can have.”
To cast your vote in the United Nations Environment Program Young Champion of the Earth, visit http://web.unep.org/youngchampions/2018/bio/asia-pacific