Northeast Young Heroes Award Winners 2020

The NorthEast Young Heroes Awards premiered on Tuesday, 22nd December 2020.  Powered by Eastmojo, presented by Royal Global University, Guwahati and supported by YouthNet.

A total of 150+ nominations came for 10 different fields which include healthcare, administration, tourism, etc. The jury shortlisted 50 of them and the voting lines were open from December 10 to December 18. 

Below are the winners for all the categories of the NorthEast Young Heroes Award.


Winner: Bala Devi

In the category of sports, the top spot was clinched by Bala Devi from Manipur. Other nominations in the same category included Sarjubala Devi, Indian boxer, Jonathan Rongsen, cricketer, Jeje Mizo, footballer and Kekhriesilie Rio, equestrian.

Ngangom Bala Devi is an Indian women's footballer who plays as a forward for Scottish Women's Premier League club Rangers and India women's national football team. Born in Manipur, Devi grew up playing the game with mainly boys. She was a part of the Manipur U19 team that took part in the Under-19 Women's Championship in Assam in 2002.

After the tournament she was declared the best player of the tournament. She was awarded the same title the next year in 2003. She also earned top-scorer awards at the under-17 level for her state. Eventually, Devi went on to represent the Manipur Senior Women's Football Team in the India women's football championship.

She was very influential in her state, winning the women's football championship in 2014, scoring a brace as Manipur defeated Odisha in the final 3–1. This was Manipur's first championship since 2010 and their 17th overall out of 20. While playing with Manipur, Devi was teammates with India captain and AIFF Women's Player of Year, Oinam Bembem Devi. She finished the tournament scoring 29 goals in seven matches.

During the 2015 National Games of India, Devi represented her state as they won the gold medal. She scored the equalizer in the final against Odisha to make it 1–1 at the Corporation Stadium. The team went on to win the match 4–2 on penalties. She played inaugural season of Indian Women's League 2016-17 with Manipur Police Sports Club in qualifying round and in Final Round played with Eastern Sporting Union. In 2017-18 IWL 2nd season she joined KRYPHSA F.C. and in 2018-19 IWL 3rd season she re-joined Manipur Police Sports Club.

In January 2020, Devi signed a professional contract of 18 months with Scottish Women's Premier League club Rangers, making her one of the few Indian women to become a professional footballer. On 6 December 2020, she became the first Indian woman to score in a professional football league in Europe by netting for the Gers, as they win against Motherwell L.F.C. by 9-0.


Winner: Aparajita Rai

In the category of administration, the top spot was clinched by Aparajita Rai an IPS from Sikkim. Other nominations in the same category included Padmapani Bora, IRS, Aparajita Rai, IPS, Mijito Vinito Chishi, IFS, and Pooja Elangbam, IAS.

Rai is the first woman IPS officer from Sikkim. She had appeared for the UPSC Civil Services exam in 2010 and 2011 and cleared both times. She is also the first Sikkimese to hold such a high rank in the civil services exam. During her training, she also won the 1958 Batch IPS Officers’ Trophy for the best Lady Outdoor Probationer, Shri Umesh Chandra Trophy for Field Combat, and the 55th Batch of Senior Course Officers Trophy for Best Turn Out and West Bengal Government Trophy for Bengali

Social Entrepreneurship

Winner: Miguel Queah

In the category of social entrepreneurship, the top spot was clinched by Miguel Queah from Assam. Other nominations in the same category included Paul Chawang, Olivia Deka, and Akole Tsuhah.

An alumnus of St. Stephens College, Delhi; Miguel Queah is one of the youngest crusaders of child protection in northeast India. He founded UTSAH, a Guwahati based non-profit that works on "justice for children", especially for children who are affected by sexual violence. He has provided end-to-end psychosocial and legal assistance to over 300 child survivors. Through his outreach programme, Miguel has provided immersive child safety training to over two lakh children - in communities and schools across Assam.

Miguel has undertaken several systems change initiatives as well. He has been instrumental in designing and rolling out the 'Assam Police Sishu Mitra Programme', one of the largest Child-Friendly Policing and Police Reform initiatives in the country. He has mentored and trained over 500 police personnel in child protection across the state of Assam.

Miguel also plays an active role in the Child Protection Committee, Child Labour Task Force Committee, and Joint Task Force for Women and Children, of Kamrup Metro, Assam.

Global North East Indian

Winner: Kilangsungla Yanger

In the category of Global North East Indian, the top spot was clinched by Kilangsungla Yanger from Nagaland. Other nominations in the same category included Naresh Agarwal, associate professor at the Simmons University, Boston, USA, Usha Bora, founder- Jamini Paris, Manish Chettri, tech lead - Ministry of Social development Principal, Diona, Auckland and Indrani Medhi Thies, Microsoft Research India.

Kilang Yanger is a scientist by training who obtained her Ph.D. in cancer biology at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and a fellowship in regenerative medicine at the Harvard Medical School. While at UPenn, she was a two-time recipient of the President Gutmann Leadership Award for presenting original research at high impact, international conferences.

She is an accomplished speaker who has presented her work alongside 2012 Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. John Gurdon. Her work has been highly cited and published in multiple scientific journals, including a cover story for the Genes & Development Journal. During her tenure as a member of UPenn’s student government, she founded a student health program that has been adopted by the university.

Before her graduate studies, a four-year scholarship from the Starr Foundation allowed her to attend Carleton College graduating with honors and a fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Currently, a shift into healthcare and life sciences consulting has afforded her to further pursue her passion for healthcare and biotechnology with Clarion Healthcare, a firm cited by Forbes Magazine as one of the top management consulting firms in America. Outside of work, she is a member of the Naga American Foundation.

Music and Entertainment

Winner: Mutsevelu Mercy Tetseo

In the category of music and entertainment, the top spot was clinched by Mutsevelu Mercy Tetseo, Nagaland. Other nominations in the same category included UNB, Indian Rapper, Andrea Tariang, Indian actress, Alobo Naga, musician, Abhi Saikia, Founder – Rainforest Records.

Tetseo is a folk artist, singer, musician and passionate about documenting and propagating the artform of Li or Chakhesang Naga Folk Music and a writer, researcher, resource person in her field of expertise. She has contributed and is also consulted by many for research, films, papers, documentaries, etc in the context of folklore, folk music, and storytelling in Chokri.

Tetseo has spoken at TEDx Events, numerous webinars and schools, colleges on Naga culture, music, and folk traditions, and is considered an authority in the field. She is also an avid traveller.


Winner: Sange Tsering

In the category of tourism, the top spot was clinched by Sange Tsering founder of Holiday Scout from Arunachal Pradesh. Other nominations in the same category included Robin Basnet, founder - Sikkim Rural Tourism, Jitu Pegu, founder – Natventure, Himangshu Baruah, founder – Finderbridge, Deyang Dolkar, owner, Biksthang Heritage Farmhouse.

Sange Tsering is a household name in the tourism industry in the region and was quite young when he started. At 15, he was an apprentice at his uncle's travel agency. Having studied tourism in Delhi, he returned back home and started the now ubiquitous Holiday Scout Tour and Travels, a travel agency that is one of its kind in the region.

Acknowledging his immense contribution towards the tourism sector in Arunachal Pradesh, the State Government conferred him the Arunachal Explorer Award. Tagged as a pillar of East and West Himalaya by the NGO Care Himalaya, Tsering was bestowed with the coveted Care Himalaya Annual Award for his outstanding achievement in fostering Himalaya and for his work in sustainable responsible tourism in Bhutan.

In an article entitled 50 People to know in the Himalayas, the 7th Anniversary Edition of Condé Nast Traveller India featured Tsering for exploring new and sustainable ways of sharing the wonders of Northeast India with the world.

Having initiated projects like painting schools in remote rural schools to installing solar water heaters at Old age homes to launching a drive to provide quality winter wear to the less fortunate strata of the society, he is always at the forefront when it comes to giving back to the society. He has also adopted young children from the villages and is making sure they get the best education. He is working hard to create employment opportunities for many people by connecting them to the tourism sector. He aims to preserve the culture and the ecology of our corner of the Himalayas for generations to come.


Winner: Priscilla C Ngaihte

In the category of Healthcare, the top spot was clinched by Priscilla C Ngaihte from Manipur. Other nominations in the same category included Lian Thangvung, founder of Thangvung Privilege Services, Jennifer Solo a clinical researcher, M. Dayananda from Medilane foundation, and Ayushman Khanna, MBBS from GMCH.

Ngaihte is a young Public Health Leader from Churachandpur, Manipur. A global health specialist by training from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada, she is currently serving as an Advisor Health Transformation with additional I/C of northeast states at the Public Health Foundation of India. She has served PHFI in multiple capacities as Public Health Specialist, lecturer, and researcher.

Her primary interest lies in public health practice bringing global solutions for local applications and transectoral collaboration for public health. Her leadership, passion, and relentless efforts have resulted in generating active support from policy makers and other relevant stakeholders.

Ngaihte is also a former Teach the Teachers to Teach Fellow from Boston University; Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship from Sydney University and Research Fellow from PHFI -UKC Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom. She was a recipient of several awards including the SFU community health for health research in the northeast, the India- SFU Scholar award for Health Sciences.

Ngaihte is currently leading many state-level collaborative health transformation ventures for Health Systems Strengthening; Human Resources for Health; Health Policy and Advocacy in the northeastern states.


Winner: Mark Laitflang Stone

In the category of education, the top spot was clinched by Mark Laitflang Stone from Meghalaya. Other nominations in the same category included Shyamanga Protim Kashyap, MD - Trig Technology Solutions, Kvulo Lorin, director, Tetso College, Diwakar Baset, founder - Invacations and Dinesh Lahoti, co-founder – EduGenie.

“Education isn’t what it used to be.” From dropping out of high school to becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 17 and onwards to 17 solid years of life coaching, Mark’s own words give new meaning to irony as he wins the first-ever NorthEast Young Heroes Awards 2020 in Education.

A pioneering Edupreneur from Shillong with a heart that beats for the wellbeing of tribal youth, Stone has made it his life’s mission to help young tribal boys and girls of Northeast India unlock their true potential. Inspired by his own journey, his unique philosophy of the kind of holistic education that young people need to succeed in a world of uncertainties is at the heart of his endeavors. His commitment to imparting unconventional education is evident from the spring in his step and the light in his eyes every single time he engages with young people to build resilience, wellbeing, and aspiration. His coaching experiences help unlock confidence, clarity, and purpose, leaving a significant dent in the youth development agenda of India’s northeast region.

Mark draws insight from his personal experiences and his powerful story of courage, determination, and entrepreneurial resilience. Over almost two decades of crafting successful ventures in the services sector – human resources, events and hospitality, skills development, telecom distribution, and consulting, what is closest to Mark’s heart is the organisation he founded at 20 – Avenues. Today, his keynote addresses and coaching workshops hold captive audiences in India, Europe, and Southeast Asia and his personal impact are well over 25,000 individuals. His vision to strengthen educational frameworks through meaningful interventions that empower youth with critical skills, attitudes and values needed to thrive in life led him to build Northeast India’s first-ever life coaching social enterprise which he founded in 2003. As an institution builder, Mark leads a competent, caring team of young life-coaches who are committed to creating impactful interventions for young people to help them seek more in their lives. To combat the gaps in formal education which strictly revolves around a particular syllabus and its completion, the Avenues curriculum is designed to encourage growth mindsets and aspiration. A key objective of the curriculum is to empower youth with the confidence, clarity of thought, and communication skills needed to build meaningful lives driven by values, self-belief, passion, and a collective sense of purpose.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore critical issues that have long since hindered youth development in the country, particularly in northeast India. A distinct lack of clarity of thought, poor communication skills, and coping strategies, low levels of aspiration and wellbeing are gnawing pains that have hurt the realisation of the true potential of northeastern youth. Missionary schools are recognised for their significant role and contribution to imparting language and formal education to the youth of the region and they remain, to this day, the institutions of choice among students and parents alike. However, young adults passing out from rural and suburban schools and colleges still lack clarity and self-belief to build meaningful lives driven by purpose, passion, and resilience. While the whole nation is striving to bounce back from its pandemic-hit situation and accept the new normal, here in the foothills of the Himalayas is a young group of spirited individuals who, for almost two decades, have been rolling out powerful interventions to equip the tribal youth of the region with critical skills and strategies needed, not to just survive but thrive in a world of uncertainties. Mark and his team of young coaches move across the northeast to transform parched classrooms into oases of life skills and hotbeds of untapped potential. They give new meaning to teaching as they enter each classroom to turn on the light in each child’s eyes – the light of hope, confidence, resilience, and aspiration for a brilliant future and instill in them precious values that will help them become responsible and productive citizens of the nation and the world.

Avenues’ flagship programmes are working towards augmenting formal education structures with life coaching efforts, significantly improving the quality of life and careers for tribal youth. Under his exemplary leadership, Avenues has impacted over 100,000 lives in the northeast, building meaningful partnerships with state governments and departments in the field of life coaching and soft skills development for youth.

Recently, programmes led by Avenues such as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs sponsored the “Aspire Meghalaya” programme provides the tribal youth of Meghalaya with much-needed breakthroughs and equip them with universal soft skills that are the foundation for successful careers. The project is now in its second year of implementation after its massive success in 2019 having impacted 5,229 youth across 21 campuses in eight districts. This speaks volumes of the resilience of the Avenues team itself and is a clear testament of Mark’s dynamic leadership, who is spearheading his team in curating a unique curriculum for soft skills and leadership development. Owing to the pandemic, Avenues’ training and coaching sessions have now moved on to a blended approach of virtual and onsite programmes with strict hygiene and social distancing protocols put in place. Their modules cover themes like curiosity, confidence, wellbeing, communication, and human values, and are designed keeping in mind the youth aspirations of the region. A significant part of Avenues’ initiatives is to also provide a platform for youth to showcase their talents across music, singing, performance arts, literary arts, cultural and indigenous practices along with unique opportunities to help propel their aspirations and open up alternative careers. Their modules also aim to build cultural awareness and awaken strong emotions of respect and pride so that they may not hide behind their roots but rather use them as a catalyst for their growth and development in all spheres of life – at home, within their communities, and beyond.

A popular figure in the college campus-speaking circuit across the northeast, Mark actively connects with audiences across the country and the world through his social media profiles to engage with young people through empowering discussions and messages that instill confidence, values, and resolve to turn odds into favors. A firm believer of ‘Starting Strong, Finishing Stronger’, he is unyielding in his commitment to consistently champion the aspirations of young people. Mark Laitflang Stone doesn’t believe in labels but to the young hearts he touches, he is an unconventional educator and mentor who turned the dreams of a Shillong-boy into a beacon of light for his community.

Sustainable Development

Winner: Gyatsho Tongden Lepcha

In the category of sustainable development, the top spot was clinched by Gyatsho Tongden Lepcha from Sikkim. Other nominations in the same category included Sheikh Arif Ahmed, founder – Small Wish International, Pranab J. Patar, environment and sustainability professional, Parikshit Borkotoky, founder – KraftInn, and Dhruba Jyoti Deka, founder – Brahmaputra Fables.

A law graduate, Gyatsho has been involved in the campaign for a free-flowing river in the state for 16 years. Has been advocating the rights of rivers especially in Sikkim to let them flow freely in different forums from International, National and State and most importantly leading the campaign back in the Dzongu region. He also has been raising the issues of Indigenous Rights and has been a member of many Indigenous forums.

After the historic hunger strike movement which went on for 915 days against the big dams in the region, return to the region and started Mayallyang Homestay an ecotourism venture, in 2009. Their homestay was also taken as a model by the state government and the government launches a Homestay scheme in the state which has more than 700 beneficiaries, where they received 10 lakhs to set up the Homestay in different regions. The homestay also hosted the Norwegian Royal Family in the year 2010, and in the year 2019 was awarded as the Best Homestay in India, Gold award by Responsible Tourism Outlook Group initiative in New Delhi.

Dzongu which was hardly known by the world has become one of the most sought homestay destinations in the state. “I’m still continuing the fights for the rights of rivers to let it flow freely and presently hold the post of General Secretary of the organization ACT (Affected Citizens of Teesta),” Gyatsho added.


Winner: RK Vijay Byrsat

In the category of entrepreneurship, the top spot was clinched by RK Vijay Byrsat from Meghalaya. Other nominations in the same category included Medo Putsure, founder of Bambusa Express, Karishma Kakoti, owner of KA Designs, Zeinorin Stephen, founder of Hill Wild Pvt. Ltd., Roshan Farhan, co-founder/CEO of GoBillion, Nengneithem Hengna, founder of Runway Nagaland and Drishti Medhi, COO of QuickGhy.

Vijay is the co-founder of COLKS which today aims at creating an ecosystem which propagates inclusive economic growth through sustainable environment harvesting by empowering the rural population of a region through innovative and market oriented trainings. The organisation believes in the three goals of Social Responsibility, Economic Equity and Environmental Sustainability.

Vijay Byrsat of Centre of Learning, Knowledge and Services (COLKS) Pvt Ltd won the Golden SIAL India Food Innovation Award in 2019.

A zoologist by education, Byrsat had joined the banking industry and had also travelled the globe for work. But in 2014, he decided to give it all up and come back home to Shillong. COLKS was recognised for its innovative product, BEE Natural -- a naturally infused honey. In the past, COLKS got noticed as one of the top five social start-ups in the country by the India School of Business and SAP Labs India.

The centre today has a network of over 4,500 farmers. They have also worked on creating brands from the farmers' products like Bee Natural (premium brand of honey), Primecuts and MADessentials (organic cosmetics) and their products are exported outside the country as well.

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