Global Heroes

Have you ever wondered what a hero looks like?

Verge is proud to introduce our 2009 Global Heroes: 14 men and women who are doing their part to make a difference in the developing world.

They range in age from 23 to 62 and also in experience—from those reflecting on their first experiences in international development and looking forward to related careers, to veterans who have been making a difference overseas for the last twenty years.

Read on to meet Verge’s Global Heroes and to learn about the outstanding contributions they are making in the world.

Produced with the support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency.

Allan Lissner, Independent photojournalist

Age: 29
Residence: Toronto

Allan with Sheila, one of hundreds of thousands of
people in Tanzania who have been displaced by gold mining
operations. She took it upon herself to act as Allan’s
tour guide in ‘her’ refugee camp.

For Allan Lissner, working in development wasn’t really a choice; it’s something that has always been part of his life. The 29-year-old’s father worked with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and he has lived all over the world as a result. “I grew up in nine different countries on four continents—and that includes some of the poorest countries in the world as well as some of the wealthiest places in the world—and just growing up seeing that contrast every day is really where I get this interest in doing this kind of work.”

But Lissner isn’t your average development worker. He doesn’t work for an organization, and he doesn’t conduct surveys or dig wells. Instead, he takes pictures. The independent photojournalist is currently working on his first long-term project: a multimedia documentary about the effects of the mining industry.

The project, which Allen began three years ago, is entitled “Someone Else’s Treasure.” Through photos, words and some video, Allan tells stories that are rarely heard: those of the communities affected by mining. He developed this focus after discovering it is very easy to find out what environmentalists, engineers, NGOs and even the companies are saying about mines, but it’s extremely difficult to find the views of the local people where these mines are located. “That’s really what’s been driving me to go there, to meet with people who have actually lived next to these mines, to find out how having this mine next to them affects their lives and to get those stories out, because I found that it’s almost impossible to find out that side of the story.” So far, Allan has spoken with hundreds of people about how mining has impacted their lives. He’s collected stories in twelve different communities—six in Tanzania and six in the Philippines— and he has also spoken with representatives from Australia, Chile and Papua New Guinea. He hopes to travel to more communities in the future and to eventually expand the project into a book and a photo exhibit.

On his website and through presentations to universities, NGOs and activist groups, Allan shares people’s accounts of the environmental and health problems that result from mining practices, as well as the human rights abuses that are occurring in some areas. Exposing a Canadian audience to these stories is especially important, because about 70 percent of the world’s mining and exploration companies are based in Canada.

“It’s important that it is a Canadian audience because this is very much a Canadian issue, and because Canada is a world leader in the mining industry, and because a lot of it is funded through public funds… a lot of it is our own money being used to make all these things possible,” he says. “Canadians don’t really know what’s happening, in terms of their own mining companies. I honestly don’t think that a lot of the companies would be able to get away with the things that they do if more Canadians knew about it.”


Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

For ten years, Verge has produced quality events and resources to help people experience the world in a meaningful way, through opportunities to study, work and volunteer abroad.

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