Teenager Who Convinced Kenyan Billionaire Into Business Partnership

  • Luca Berardi, 16, is the CEO of Young Animal Rescue Heroes (YARH), an organisation that was initially founded with an environmental conservation agenda, but later expanded its portfolio to encompass sustainable waste management and community outreach, as indicated on the company website.

    At the tender age of eight, Luca came across a library book on endangered mammals. An extensive read of the book, learning of human encroachment into animal habitats, mainly through deforestation, inspired the young conservationist to start the organisation, YARH.

    In 2014, the organisation partnered with Chandaria Industries and Ekotech Limited in waste management. The pilot programme started off with collecting waste around primary schools.

    Luca Berardi (R) when he won the Young Environmental Hero of the year prize during the WWF's autumn meeting at Ulriksdals Palace in Stockholm, Sweden on October 10, 2018,

    Luca was motivated to reach out to Chandaria Industries in 2013, when he attended a workshop that championed the importance of waste recycling.

    He identified the possibility of selling waste as an opportunity to raise funds for endangered animals.

    "We got to know Chandaria Industries first and their work at an event where somebody from Chandaria talked about recycling, and then immediately I thought ‘wow, this is what I want to do with YARH. I want to recycle and help with waste management’," Luca revealed in an interview with NGO, Conserve in October 2015.

    "So I realized, with all the waste paper in Nairobi, which would ordinarily be burned, if I collected the waste and sold it to them then I would have an opportunity to raise money to help endangered wildlife," he narrated.

    The organisation collects tetra packs, milk and juice cartons and when the collection is sizeable, it sells the waste to the two companies. Payments are made per kilo, and the proceeds go to Kenya Wildlife Service.

    Workshops and forums convened by Luca and his organisation were graced by school-going children, conservationists, and other organisations with environmental interests.

    "We invite guest speakers, we have invited officials from Chandaria Industries, Paul Kahumbu, one of the most renowned conservationists in Kenya, among others," Luca told Conserve.

    However, with the success that comes with the growth of an organisation, Luca faced a number of challenges, majorly harnessing resources to expand the company's reach.

    Luca attributed the challenges to investors being sceptical of an organisation founded by a child.

    " Resources have been very hard to get, and also trying to tell people to actually help us and YARH, because people say ‘Oh, we can’t support this organization that was started by a child’," Luca narrated.

    "So, that has been a problem but our successes have included the workshops, how we have taken advantage of those opportunities of networking with that many schools and that many children, and also with other environmental organizations," he added.

    A young Luca Berardi stands with his fist held high during the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.

    His exploits in conservation caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who wrote him a letter congratulating and appreciating his efforts in creating awareness, conserving the environment and protecting wildlife.

    In the letter dated July 12, 2016, Obama acknowledged Luca’s efforts in preserving the environment and educating the young people about the importance of wildlife.  

    “I'm proud of your dedication to raising awareness about endangered animals. By putting your best effort into everything you do and working with others, you can help shape the world we share," Obama's letter read in part.

    "Your desire to make a lasting difference is exceptional, and I encourage you to keep chasing your dreams with passion. If you focus on your education, look to serve others whenever you can, and set your sights high, I know you can achieve anything you imagine,” the letter further read.

    Apart from his passion for the environment and wildlife, Luca began singing at the age of four, and his parents, Giorgio Berardi and Mary Muthoni Berardi encouraged and supported him to fully exploit his talents.

    In 2014, Luca’s star shown brightly after he was invited to perform at the Youth Finance Conference in New York where he sang Money Can, his own composition. 

    He has also produced three other songs; Our Present PlanetA Better Place and Kick The Traces which is his latest song, released on November 8, 2019.

    Luca has also had stints on national television. He co-hosted Big Minds, a children's programme which aired on KBC from July 2014 to July 2016.

    He later joined another children's TV show, Playhouse, which premiered between 2014 and 2015 on Citizen TV.

    A young Luca Berardi performs his song Money Can at the UN headquarters, New York in 2014.
    Luca Berardi (R) when he won the Young Environmental Hero of the year prize during the WWF's autumn meeting at Ulriksdals Palace in Stockholm, Sweden on October 10, 2018,