Earlier this month, World of Children announced a new Award category – Child Protection. The new Award was conceived as a way to recognize, fund, and elevate Honoree programs that protect, rescue, and rehabilitate children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
Over the years, we’ve honored many individuals who would fit into this new category – some with Humanitarian Awards, some with Youth Awards, and even some with a Health Award. We’ve come to recognize an underlying theme in their work, one that deserves its own visibility and its own Award.
The following are just five of the incredible individuals we’ve honored over the years who helped inspire our newest Award and our re-dedication to the incredibly important work of ensuring that more children live lives that are free and healthy.
In 2006, we honored Cheryl Perera for her ground-breaking work in catalyzing North American youth to fight child exploitation around the world. At age sixteen, she was enraged to learn that Sri Lanka, the land of her own heritage, was a perilous trap for nearly 40,000 children forced or conned into prostitution. After acting as the decoy in a sting operation to remove a dangerous pedophile from the streets in Sri Lanka and receiving an offer of employment as the President Nominee on Child Protection from the Presidential Secretariat, Cheryl teamed up with other young people age 13-19, she founded the OneChild Network Systems upon the principle that “One child exploited is one child too many.” In 2005 OneChild was established as a non-profit NGO for the rescue and continued support of exploited children.
In 1992, Gregory John Smith gave up his comfortable life in Norway to help improve the lives of the estimated 24,000 children living and working on the streets in Brazil. Often, these children face violence, abuse, crime, drug addition and an extreme lack of educational opportunities. Gregory deeply believes that simply rescuing and rehabilitating street children does not deal with the core issue: preventing children from ending up on the street in the first place.
Gregory’s unique program, Rede Cultural Beija-Flor, not only enables street children to take control of their own lives, but takes preventative action by giving children positive ways to survive and thrive in their community. His program provides quality educational opportunities for children of all ages, engaging their interests in arts, entrepreneurship, culture and sports.
We honored Dayro Javier Reyes Acosta with a Youth Award in 2003 for his commitment to helping mentally challenged and disabled children in areas affected by war and extreme poverty. He developed a project to investigate the cruel conditions of these children in Colombia, who were suffering from the atrocities of the national conflict and who are without resources and access to health care.
In addition to his research, each Christmas and New Year, Reyes travels to the edge of Magdalena River, a violent zone with armed groups who kill and torture children and their families. He collects gifts for these children who otherwise are unable to enjoy the holidays.
After becoming a World of Children Honoree, Dayro developed a Social Vision Program for young mothers, ages 11 to 18 who cannot afford medical care, and their newborns. The program provides vitamins, medicine and supplies for the mothers and babies in their first months of life. He also co-founded a volunteer-run organization, Colombia En El Corazón (Colombian In the Heart Foundation), which helped children in poor communities throughout Colombia who have been affected by local conflict and violence.
In 1982, Philista Onyango conducted a study on child labor in Kenya, the first of its kind in Africa. From the onset, she and her fellow researchers met a lot of resistance from leaders, including the President at the time, who declared there was no child labor in Kenya. In response, Philista and her colleagues founded the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect in 1986.
Since then, ANPPCAN has worked with the African Union (AU) to address issues of children in situations of armed conflict, which led to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Committee of Experts on Children in Africa. ANPPCAN has observer status with the AU and the Commission on People and Human Rights and has established chapters in 19 African countries with the 20th being established in Rwanda.
Philista also initiated the formation of the Coalition on Child Rights and Child Protection in Kenya. Child protection teams have been created in 30 districts. Through ANPPCAN and Onyango’s dedication to the protection of children, thousands of children in Kenya and throughout Africa have been able to get off the streets and thousands more have been saved from abuse and child labor.
Anywar Ricky Richard was abducted at age 14 to serve as a child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an experience that included witnessing the horrors of torture, rape, and the murder of his parents. Anywar managed to escape from his captors and subsequently began dedicating his life to helping other former LRA children.
After graduating from the University of Makerere in Uganda, Ricky established Friends of the Orphans to help rehabilitate former child soldiers and integrate them back into their communities. An estimated 25,000 children have been taken by the LRA over the past few decades in Uganda alone. Many of these children are forced to kill family members or terrorize their communities, permanently severing their ties to home; other children return feeling isolated because they are infected with HIV or have been sexually abused.
However, because Ricky can relate to what happened to them, children who come to Friends of the Orphans are able to open up about their experiences and begin their journey to recovery.
Friends of the Orphans helps these children realize that they have a second chance at what they felt they had lost forever: a normal life. Aside from basic medical care, children in the program receive educational and vocational training; they are also encouraged to get involved in dance, drama and sports to help them reconnect with their communities.