Founder + CEO, The Empowerment Plan
The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based humanitarian organization providing employment and training to homeless people who manufacture sleeping bag coats for those in need.
Veronika received a class assignment as an undergrad at Detroit College to design a product that filled a tangible need in the community. The then-21-year-old junior immediately gravitated toward helping the homeless. This was a deeply personal issue for Veronika, having grown up in poverty. Her parents also struggled with unemployment and drug addiction. She set out to create an opportunity she wished her own family had been given. Initially, this opportunity took the form of a coat—a coat that could turn into a sleeping bag. Pursuing this vision, Veronika spent a semester designing this coat not only for individuals in need, but also with them.
More than 550,000 people experience homelessness on a given night in the United States and roughly 10,000 live in Michigan. The Empowerment Plan helps families break the cycle of poverty and become financially secure.
Virtualahan is a tech social enterprise that equips people with disabilities (PWDs) and other disadvantaged groups with the skills and mindset to become successful employees and entrepreneurs, using an impact formula that combines life-coaching, community building and digital skills training.
Gersava founded Virtualahan in 2015 after his own experiences of being denied employment for his health condition. The medical technology student was diagnosed with the Hepatitis B virus early on, which Filipino employers saw as a detriment as it is an incurable disease. Ryan is a Global Shaper and SDG Champion. He has spoken at the World Economic Forum, Global Disability Summit, Youth20 at the G20 Summit, debated at the United Nations and has been featured on Bloomberg TV, CNN, Pioneer’s Post and other international media. He is the first Filipino to ever receive the Inspired Leadership Award for his work in Diversity and Inclusion and Future of Work on a global scale.
About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability according to the world health organization. Virtualahan is breaking down employment barriers for people who are socially excluded in the workplace and aiming toward the future of work where no one is left behind.