Bob Dylan may have just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but the winners of this “Nobel Prize” for helping children in need deserve just as much esteem.
The award’s proper name, The World of Children Award, was awarded to five individuals from around the world, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants.
One of the recipients, 19-year-old Claire Wineland, born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and used her struggle for good in launching a nonprofit organization that helps other patients.
When she was 13 years old, Wineland spent 16 days in a coma following a routine surgery. She was born with the disease, which is progressive and leads to mucus build-up in the lungs and digestive system. When her lungs failed, doctors told her family she had a one percent chance of making it.
That one percent chance was in her favor, and after surviving and re-learning how to master basic human functioning, she didn’t waste any time helping other families struggling to navigate the difficult, expensive and isolating world of CF. She started giving back to others before she regained her strength to walk, or perform simple tasks such as holding silverware or a paintbrush, and later went on to launch the Claire’s Place Foundation.
The organization helps families stay on their feet through grants that help pay for medical and travel bills, rent, utilities, car payments and other expenses—anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 and higher.
These are challenges the Wineland family know all too well, along with about 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 people around the world who are also living with CF. The condition can be “all-consuming” for families, Wineland said, because of the frequent and lengthy hospitalizations that are sometimes far away from home.
Once a grantee and their family is financially stable, Claire’s Place Foundation provides emotional assistance through the Support Family System, which pairs families that have recently received a CF diagnosis with families who are experienced and familiar with the condition.
Another wing, the Hospital Empowerment Program, helps children decorate their hospital rooms to feel more like home.
“That way they’re not putting their life on hold, they can live life from their hospital room,” said Wineland, who added that she started decorating her hospital rooms at age 7 with lights and murals. She credits her change of surrounding with her positive change of perspective.
The foundation has reached tens of thousands through their educational and support programs, according to World of Children, and with the award she won comes a grant that allows the organization to significantly scale up the programs available through Claire’s Place Foundation.
Wineland hopes to keep growing and expanding to the point where she can help patients with lung transplants, which can run into millions of dollars if not covered by insurance.
After World of Children awards the grants, which range from $40,000-$50,000, the nonprofit helps the often-small organization manage the gift that often doubles or triples their existing budget.
Wineland is only one of five nominees that World of Childrenhonored. Also among them is Dušica Popadić, a counselor who co-founded Belgrade Serbia’s Incest Trauma Center 23 years ago.
“At the time this issue was taboo, like it is in many countries still. We recognized that people were reporting sexual assaults against children but that there was no way to help these children,” Popadić said.
In addition to sexual assault care and prevention work, the organization has successfully lobbied to include child sex assault in school curriculum, and to suspend the statute of limitations on victims reporting the crime against them.
“With every child[we treat, we learn a lot, said Popadić, who now serves as the center’s director. “Our work is something the general population wants to turn away from. But to be trusted by a child—there is no more important work or honor.”
Also recognized for his positive impact on children’s lives was Iyyappan Subramaniyan, who founded the first home for abandoned mentally ill children in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is home to more than 77 million people.
Spurred to act by the hardship that he and his family faced because his brother had Down Syndrome, Subramaniyan’s organization, called Sri Arunodayam Charitable Trust, has provided 320 children a home since 2002.
Subramaniyan said the World of Children grant will be used to fund a new facility for 30 girls and young women, who range in age from 1 to 35 years old.
In addition to shelter, Sri Arunodayam provides vocational training that helps these young people to transition to adulthood and earn an income.
“We have been doing this for 14 years and most people thought this would be impossible, but we proved that it’s possible,” Iyyappam said. “We proved to the government and other organizations that it is possible to take care of mentally challenged abandoned kids from the streets.”Share this article: