Arizona high school junior Fatimah Amer is using her voice and her platform to shed light on health disparities and make a difference in her community.

She founded SPARKHope at 14 years old to push for social change and make a difference in her community in regards to food insecurity and health equity.

LEARN MORE: Here are the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2023

“I founded spark hope as a youth initiative back in 2020 during the pandemic and so initially this started with a mission to provide food items to these food banks and pantries all across the valley, but now its grown into this platform that uses advocacy to tackle these social determinants in health,” said Fatimah Amer.

Fatimah Amer recalled going to the food banks to donate with her mother and feeling a sense of pride while doing so. However, when COVID-19 and quarantine approached, it became more difficult for her to donate to people in need due to health concerns.

Fatimah Amer

“I’m very grateful in the sense that my parents always instilled values of community service and civic engagement. So I would always go with my mom and donate to food banks but unfortunately we had to stop during the pandemic,” said Fatimah Amer.

During the pandemic, Fatimah Amer wasn’t able to donate to the food banks as often. She felt hurt and guilty due to this realization and decided she had to do something.

As a result, she started to research, contact larger organizations, learn about food insecurity and figure out other ways to fulfill her passion. She formed partnerships to enable her to continue donating large amounts of food on a consistent basis.

Eventually, Fatimah Amer was able to start having annual food drives as well as monthly and bi monthly food donations held within her school and smaller partners. With this, she noticed growth within her organization and used it as encouragement to keep going.

Due to Fatimah Amer’s young age, she faced some challenges regarding outreach, partnerships and being taken seriously by other groups and organizations. However, she didn’t allow this to deter her from reaching her goal.

“Although I am so young, and sometimes when I’m telling other organizations or people about this they look at it as a cute hobby or something that could never make lasting difference. But it’s

really my age and perspective that allow me to really understand and connect so much and really put in that personal touch in each program,” Fatimah Amer said.

Fatimah Amer decided to use her age to her advantage and continue to be a voice for her generation.

“Instead I look at it as an opportunity to keep building and pushing for a greater… this is gonna sound so cliche but like for a greater future,” said Fatimah Amer.

Fatimah Amer spoke about the importance of contributing and donating no matter what age you are. Even if it’s a small donation she said it makes a difference and everyone as a collective should try.

Fatimah’s mother Asma Amer is a doctor. So she sees a lot of disparities and health insecurities in her field. Doing community service was very important to her so she passed those values down to her children. When she realized how much it meant to Fatimah Amer, she motivated her to keep going.

Asma Amer kept affirming Fatimah and reminded her to stay persistent and “try try again.”

“As a mother I’m certainly extremely proud of the work she’s doing and her tenacity, being sure that this organization stays well and alive,” Asma Amer said. “I encouraged Fatimah not to lose hope and kept reminding her to chase her dream.”

Asma Amer spoke about the importance of being uplifting and enthusiastic toward the youth. She said it was important to encourage children to chase their dreams and accomplish their goals as they are the future.

“If we treat them well, we give them more encourage, more power then they will be better leaders and they’re gonna lead us. So I think it’s very important for people of our age. And the thing is to just listen to the kids because they are the future generation. They’re gonna make the country grow more,” Asma Amer said.

Asma Amer already sees these leadership traits in her daughter and recognizes how inspiring Fatimah Amer has been.

“I think she’s very inspiring not only to me but to her other siblings and her classmates as well,” Asma Amer said.

Fatimah Amer’s brother Umar Amer has helped contribute to SPARKhope by becoming the head of community outreach and engagement, and has been inspired by Fatimah Amer as well.

“I had a meaningful conversation with my sister, and before I wasn’t aware of social determinants of health which then my sister explained to me and which has grown my further interest in public health,” Umar Amer said.

Umar Amer has also been able to find his purpose through this organization.

“It makes me feel like I am fulfilling my purpose in life and it makes me feel purposeful and it makes me like feel like I am an important person who helps other people,” said Umar Amer.

As a result of Fatimah Amer’s efforts and work for her community, she was awarded with the Stella Kiarie innovation health equity award at the Arizona Health Equity conference.