The AAT Project

Mahika Halepete

Age: 15

Founder and Executive Director of AYANA International

Mahika Halepete, 15, is the founder and Executive Director of AYANA International (, a nonprofit initiative which she created to harness the power of youth innovation to solve global problems. She is passionate about creating sustainable solutions to issues stemming from global poverty and utilizing purposeful, human-centered design in developing nations. It was her interest in this issue that drove her to design the framework of the Youth Innovation Lab, a program for young people in developing countries to realize their potential as changemakers, tackling local problems through the lens of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Through AYANA, Mahika has worked with young people in developing nations to help them refine, ​brand, and budget​ their projects for maximum impact. AYANA has empowered over 200 students through Youth Innovation Lab incubator programs in five African cities and reached thousands of community members through funded projects designed by youth. Through grants and donations from individuals, AYANA has funded projects in Moshi, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, including two innovative library models, a hand-washing station, and a youth-led clean up of a section of Africa's biggest slum, Kibera.

Mahika​ i​s​ ​also an award-winning writer and student journalist, having won recognition in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Additionally, she works part-time as a music teacher, where she ​instructs students ​in pre-school group classes to private vocal lessons. As a singer-songwriter, Mahika has recorded original and collaborative pieces in studios in San Francisco and in Austin, through the One Village Music Project. Mahika has a deep love of learning and ​enjoys​ traveling to explore and ​better​understand the world; she has been to five continents and 25 countries. She lives in San Jose, California, where she continues to focus on expanding AYANA's reach to improve the lives of as many people, in as many communities as possible.

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