Six Months, Six Profiles

Six Months, Six Profiles

Why you should care

Because over the past six months, these six people have reminded us how one voice can make a big difference. 

Mario Joseph: A Hero in Haiti

Joseph, managing attorney at the NGO Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, is the best human rights lawyer in Haiti, a country where human rights are honored mostly in the breach. From dawn till dusk, clients gather on his office’s bougainvillea-laced terrace: brave women going after rapists, homeless Haitians evicted from post-quake tent camps, cholera victims seeking reparations. If fate had had its way, Joseph would have been like the millions of Haitians who never attend school, never see a doctor and live on less than $2 per day. Instead, he’s fighting two of Haiti’s most compelling human rights battles and the behemoths behind them.

This week, OZY is celebrating its six-month anniversary with six roundups of our best stories. Today, we have six people who deserve a second look.

Leilani Munter: Racing to Save the Environment

Meet Leilani Munter. Her love for the environment is hurting her racing career. [Womp, womp.] Munter, 37, is a race car driver who has professionally raced both open-wheel and stock cars. She’s also a self-proclaimed “vegetarian hippie chick” and an environmental activist. She travels around the world speaking about carbon footprints, dolphin slaughter, biofuels, global warming and more. To offset her carbon footprint, Munter donates to both rainforest and coral reef protection for every race she enters. She signs all of her emails: ”For the earth… Leilani.” While it may seem like her two worlds are mutually exclusive, Munter says racing is actually an unconventional yet effective platform.

Wences Casares: The Reluctant Serial Entrepreneur

Wences Casares is understated. ”I often feel that being an entrepreneur is a fancy way of saying you are a doer,” said Casares to OZY’s Lorena O’Neil. “Entrepreneurs are really good at getting things done.” And the 39-year-old Argentine has “done” a lot. He’s sold multiple companies for a combined total of more than $1 billion. His first company became Argentina’s first internet service provider. His second company, Patagon, was an online brokerage firm acquired by Banco Santander, a Spanish bank, for $750 million. He also created Wanako Games, sold in 2007, and Lemon Bank, sold in 2009. But he doesn’t much like all this talk of serial entrepreneurship.

Ayah Bdeir: Little Bits and Building Blocks

Give people concrete blocks and they’ll make buildings. Give them Legos and they’ll make artful toys. So how about the building blocks of modular electronics? What will people make from those? That’s the big idea behind littleBits, the New York startup Ayah Bdeir, 31, founded in September 2011: an open-source library of pre-engineered circuit-board components — with lights, sounds and sensors — that snap together via mini-magnets. Use them to build … well, whatever you might want to build, be it an interactive piggy bank, a unicorn bike helmet with a glowing horn, a servo-motor-powered DIY electric toothbrush or all manner of robo-gadget. “My goal is not to make everybody an engineer,” Bdeir says. “It’s to give creative people access to the full power of engineering.”

Rick Snyder: The Anti-Politician Reinventing Michigan

The 55-year-old Battle Creek, Mich., native is relentlessly punctual — and, as OZY D.C. correspondent Emily Cadei writes, the man has no charisma. As in none. Still, that never stopped a good nerd. Nasally, brainy and earnest, this former tax accountant and Gateway Computers executive very much fits the “one tough nerd” moniker he embraced in his offbeat, out-of-nowhere Republican run to the statehouse in 2010, upsetting several far more established politicians along the way. His father’s stint as city commissioner in Battle Creek was his closest brush with political office up to that point, but Snyder and his election team played that lack of experience to his advantage, tapping into Michiganders’ disgust with politics-as-usual and their hunger for fresh economic ideas after decades of malaise. In the end, he won the general election by a surprisingly wide margin in this politically divided “purple” state.

Kathryn Hunt: Unlocking Cancer’s Ancient Past

Kathryn Hunt was a carefree, Ultimate Frisbee-playing, archaeology-loving 22-year-old when doctors detected a large tumor engulfing her right ovary. The diagnosis: ovarian cancer. Around the same time, her aunt died of a rare form of cancer; she was 37. But Hunt didn’t let tragedy slow her down. Just two months after she finished chemotherapy, she embarked on an excavation in the Valley of the Kings, where King Tutankhamen and other pharaohs lie buried, for her senior research project. Her project has since evolved into a personal quest to unearth ancient patterns of cancer incidence, which might help us fight the disease today.

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