INNSBRUCK, Austria - A lecturer from India and an architect from Nepal shared the spotlight in Innsbruck on October 17 when they were awarded SOS Children’s Villages International’s prestigious Hermann Gmeiner Award for 2014.
Maya Dhal (24) and Deepak KC (39), who grew up in SOS Children’s Village Bhubaneswar and Jorpati respectively, earlier this year received thousands of votes from around the world for their remarkable achievements and service to others. Maya for her work to send school-dropouts back to the classroom and Deepak for his achievements in the field of architecture and in advocating for the rights of differently abled people.
The two winners received the award and a cheque of EUR 7,500 ($9,500) each in the presence of members of the International Senate of SOS Children’s Villages International. The award was instituted specifically to honor outstanding achievements by individuals who in lived in an SOS Children’s Village.
“I am here because of SOS Children’s Villages. I don’t even know who my biological parents are. I only know my SOS mother and brothers and sisters. My mother is my role model,” an emotional Maya said after accepting her award from Siddartha Kaul, President of SOS Children’s Villages International.
Maya has helped 27 slum children go back to school. Her passion is to make basic education accessible to all children in India. A cause she is willing to spend some of her prize money on. The money will also help to take her SOS Children’s Villages mom, Susama Manjari Dhal, on a dream trip to her favorite religious places.
Deepak, a paraplegic, spoke with the same high praise of his SOS Children’s Village family in Jorpati, where no restrictions were placed on him because of his disability. He went on to obtain a degree in Architecture Engineering. He is also a qualified social worker.
“I am very glad and proud to be here. Hermann Gmeiner is my role model. Attending a meeting of the International Senate today gave me a lot of insight into how SOS Children’s Villages works on an international level,” Deepak said.
The well-known advocate for disability rights wants to use his prize money to update the equipment in his studio to provide a more professional service to his clients. He will also continue to promote disabled sport, especially table tennis, and disability friendly buildings and facilities.
Kaul said it is important to always celebrate the success of young people. He described Maya and Deepak as great role models to young people all over the world.
“Maya and Deepak are two people who have, despite all the difficulties, succeeded through hard work. But apart from their success they are also willing to share whatever they have with others who are less fortunate. To me that is a celebration,” Kaul said.
The Hermann Gmeiner Award and the prize money were made possible by a donation from the late Helene Weiner, specifically for this purpose, after she met Hermann Gmeiner, founder of SOS Children’s Villages, in the 1980’s.
Check out these videos to learn a little more about these two fantastic honorees:
Video of Deepak KC
Video of Maya Dhal