Five U.S. students have been honored for their efforts in fighting global poverty. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York bureau that the students have taken on projects ranging from sanitizing drinking water to fighting the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus.
The third annual Global Action Awards, hosted by NetAid, is half celebration, half awards ceremony. NetAid is an initiative of the global humanitarian group Mercy Corps, and works to educate and empower young people about global poverty and its impact.
This year, NetAid picked five students who embody what it calls "the remarkable drive to change the world." The students range in age from 17 to 19. All say they were moved to act because they felt a larger connection to the world they live in.
J.B. Dill, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was honored for developing a water filtration system made of cloth and charcoal, which he helped distribute in rural Africa. He says he was inspired by a woman in India who used old clothing to filter disease-tainted water. Dill explains his dedication to fighting global disease and poverty stems from a sense of gratitude for the opportunities he has been given.
"All of us, all of us, born into lives of privilege need to give back," he said. "I also want to thank my parents for instilling in me the notion that to whom much is given, much is expected."
Caroline Matthews, 18, from Maryland, says she visited an orphanage in Kenya, and was shocked at how many of the orphans' parents had died of AIDS. She has since started an AIDS awareness campaign at her secondary school and the group's fundraising is helping to support the orphanage in Kenya and also a clinic in Washington, D.C. Matthews she says she believes she can make a contribution to the world.
"The initial fight against AIDS has jumped off the ground," she noted. "But there's a lot more to do, and I know we can all fight it together."
Two other students, Sourav Bose, 17, of New Jersey and Nathaniel Elliott, 19, also received awards for their efforts to raise AIDS awareness and to fund schools and public health centers in India and Zambia, Africa.
Lauren Prince, 19, from Potomac, Maryland, was moved by accounts of how the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami devastated coastal towns in India. She has raised more than $100,000 to support reconstruction and micro-loans in the region.
NetAid program director Adriana Fernandez says criterion for selection includes innovation and leadership. She says she hopes this year's award winners will continue to be strong voices for change.
"By honoring young people who are already out there effecting change, leading their generation, we're setting up examples of young people who have amazing stories and serve as inspirational role models for the rest of their generation," she said.
NetAid also sponsors the Global Citizens Corps, which works with students around the United States to promote greater awareness of global issues such as poverty, disease and human trafficking.