$50,000 Peace First Fellowship for youth – meet one of the 50 finalists

September 12, 2013

Thanks to Network faithful Gary Macbeth for sharing this inspiring resource!

We were blown away when we learned about the Peace First organization, which is a partnership of community and business groups that honor youth who have done amazing things in their communities worldwide. Peace First is in the final stages of a contest for youth that is designed to share the daring work of young people far and wide, invest in their leadership, and inspire others to make peacemaking a part of their daily lives. Most importantly they want to tell the stories of their nominees – incredible stories of young people leading change.

There are 50 finalists for the Peace First prize. Five Prize winners will each receive a $50,000 Peace First Fellowship over two years to continue their peacemaking work. Through mentoring and coaching, the Peace First Fellowship is a real investment in young people’s ability to take their peacemaking to the next level of action and impact. But more than just recognizing a few individuals, Peace First wants to tell the thousands of stories about how young people are changing the world.

Ready to be inspired? Then watch the video below of one of the 50 finalists for the Peace Prize, Reshini Premaratne. Reshini was born in Sri Lanka and remembers the homeless problem there as a young child. She grew up in a household in Sri Lanka where on birthdays, instead of exchanging gifts her mother gave her and her siblings packets of food and they distributed them to the homeless. Now living in Richmond, Virginia she researched the issue of homelessness and discovered that many of her peers didn’t have the same awareness about the issue that she did. This inspired her to think creatively about how to raise awareness about the problem of homelessness in Richmond and worldwide. In 2010, Reshini started X-OUT HOMELESSNESS, designed to put together a campaign at her school for students to wear duct tape X’s on their shirts to symbolize the crossing out of homelessness. Here is her description of the evolution of the idea taken from the X-OUT HOMELESSNESS website:

  • Hmm… why X-Out Homelessness? Well, I should start off by giving you a little background. I was in sixth grade and in desperate need of community and service hours. For those of you who are not required by your school to complete community and service, it is basically volunteering at a non-profit organization. My middle school, Moody Middle School, gave out a packet of possible organizations to volunteer at. The first five or so that I tried said I was too young as a rising sixth grader and not even 12 years old. Then after many frustrating rejections, I stumbled upon The Daily Planet’s number (804-783-0678) and luckily I called. This created what has become a strong relationship between myself and Mrs. Susan Sekerke, the Advancement Coordinator. It actually started with me making sandwiches once a month during the summer for a soccer team made of homeless people. However, in 2010, I had realized that many of my peers were unaware of the homelessness issue in our area and I really wanted to inform them of it. So, I, with the tremendous help of Mrs. Sekerke and The Daily Planet, put together a campaign at my school for students to where duct tape X’s on their shirts to symbolize the crossing out of homelessness. X-Out Day, as it is known, takes place in November during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. This campaign also hosts fundraisers year-round to raise money for those in need. Over the past 3 years, it has grown to more than 20 schools in over 5 counties, and I would really like to see it progress even farther. Please help spread the word about this campaign! It is really easy, but it spreads awareness about and raises money for the homeless at the same time.  If you or anyone you know may be interested in participating in this altruistic campaign please visit the ‘How to Get Involved’ page and fill out the contact form! Thank you!

Reshini exemplifies what gives us strength in these troubling times of challenge – a younger generation that gets it, is committed to doing good work, and has the spark necessary to carry on quest for improving the lives of families in communities across America.

Well done Reshini, and thanks again to Gary Macbeth for sharing this with the Children’s Mental Health Network.

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