2006 YOUTH AWARD
United States, Global
Cheryl Perera’s high school project on the exploitation of children changed the course of not only her life, but also the course of the lives of countless children abroad who fall prey to the horrors of commercial sexual exploitation. 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. Perera wasted no time, and at seventeen years, she played the main role of the “DECOY” in a treacherous undercover “STING” operation, removing a dangerous pedophile from the streets of Sri Lanka. Her breadth of knowledge and bravery attracted the attention of dignitaries, and she was offered employment at the Presidential Secratariat, as the President Nominee on Child Protection.
Perera has broken tremendous ground to turn the tables on the child exploitation industry where few would dare to tread. Teaming 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.
Taking it a step further, Perera arranged for OneChild to partner with Air Canada to create a video spot for all passenger flights overseas in order to spread awareness of the tragedy of child sex tourism. Additionally, she has been involved as the Co-founder and Director of her school chapter of Free the Children.
Currently, she is spearheading a project with the Philippine PREDA foundation, raising funds to construct a rehabilitation center for victims of sexual exploitation. She is a dynamic orator, recently delivering the keynote presentation at the 2006 “Top 20 under 20 Awards Celebration” as well as an address to the Canadian Senate committee headed by Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire. Her goal is to spread OneChild Chapters across the globe, and she continues to address business groups, government bodies, educators, universities, schools and communities personally and through newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.