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Youth for Human Rights Awards Night

Youth for Human Rights Awards Night

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L-R: Finalist, Ashley Kingham; overall winner, Jade Gray; Dr. Helen Smith, YHR director; third-pace winner, Dileepa Fonseka; finalist, Ephraim Gazo.


There was a large turnout with around 100 people attending the second annual Youth for Human Rights youth awards event held at the St Columba Centre, last Friday night in Auckland.

Jade Gray, a senior student from Aquinas College, Tauranga was the overall winner of the prize for showing exceptional leadership and initiative in the area of human rights. He was able to motivate people into action to help a local Decile One (high poverty level) school in Tauranga. Last August he became aware just how many of the students at the Merivale school in Tauranga were under- privileged and he contacted the principal to see if there was anything he could do to assist them. He helped start a group called “The Mission of St. Francis” and with his team helped raise funds for school lunches and a school trip.

His student team decided they needed to do more so they went further and helped provide student sport coaches, reading tutors and mentors and to assist the school further with their fund raising needs and will be working on further initiatives over the coming year.

Among the 21 nominees the other finalists were Auckland based university student Elizabeth Chan who does excellent work as secretary of the Auckland branch of the United Nations Youth Association (UNYANZ). She has organized a Youth Declaration day April 12th to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Kristin Ross of Auckland and Dileepa Fonseka of Hamilton were equal third place finalists. Kristin received an award for her impassioned work to help Maori people and culture and thus all cultures be recognized in New Zealand. Dileepa was awarded for his student initiatives in the area of business and projects to help the under privileged in his community.

Examples of some of Dileepa’s projects were 'Transforming Tokoroa' a Tokoroa Market Day for unemployed in the South Waikato region, Pride of the Pacific - a project working with the Niuean community in South Auckland to create a sustainable revenue stream for their community, Turning Point - a values-based education programme for young people that discourages youth offending.

The awards were judges by Julie Watson from the Human Rights Commission and Kris Gledhill, human rights lawyer and lecturer at the University of Auckland.

There were performances by the Bahai Community dance group, The Care and Nurture of Pacific Youth (CANOPY) Trust hip hop dancers and the Auckland based “Conscious Hip Hop” vocalists known as “Shine Forum.”

Director for Youth for Human Rights NZ, Dr Helen Smith, who organized the event was pleased with the quality of the contestants who submitted for an award. “They were an enthusiastic and very inspiring group of young people with an interest in human rights issues which was very strong and very much alive. It was an opportunity for young people with a common interest to meet each other and share ideas.”

The Youth for Human Rights group helps organize human rights activities and provides educational material. Selections of television ad style public service announcements were played showing human rights are an everyday issue.

The Youth for Human Rights International was started in 2001 by Mary Shuttleworth, a Scientologist and former teacher from South Africa. The programme is now represented in more than 25 countries. In New Zealand the programme has been sponsored by the Church of Scientology and is a partner in the Human Rights Commission’s Action Diversity Programme.


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