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AFP Honors Two Outstanding Youth Philanthropists

April 14, 2010

Bilaal Rajan, a 13-year-old student from Toronto, and Jake Gallagher, a 19-year-old from Yarmouth, Maine, each received the 2010 Changing Our World/Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy for their philanthropic achievements.

Bilaal Rajan

Rajan, who received the award for persons ages 5 to 17, began his philanthropy at the age of four when he raised $350 by selling oranges door-to-door to support people in the Indian province of Gujarat affected by an earthquake in January 2001. He then turned to other charitable efforts, selling handmade acrylic plates to raise $1,200 for HIV/AIDS orphans; selling cookie boxes to raise over $6,000 (as well as helping to raise more than $500,000 in goods and in-kind gifts) for the people of Hurricane-devastated Haiti and securing $55,000 for the World Partnership Walk.

In 2005, UNICEF named Rajan as Canada's Child Ambassador. He issued a Canada Kids Earthquake Challenge, urging all Canadian children to raise a minimum of $100 each to support youth affected by the Southeast Asia tsunami. He personally raised more than $50,000, and children across the nation raised nearly $2 million, a sum which was matched by the Canadian government. He traveled to Malawi, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to see how the funds he had helped raise were being used and met with government officials to help coordinate relief efforts.

Some of his more recent efforts include Me and You and the Children of Myanmar to benefit the affected children of the Myanmar cyclone. He started another challenge for the children of earthquake-ravaged Haiti and promised to shave his head in honor of the Canadian school that raises the most funds for the challenge. For his latest global initiative, the Barefoot Challenge, Rajan and kids around the world lived without shoes for seven days during National Volunteer Week in April 2009 to help bring understanding to the challenges faced by poor children in underdeveloped countries.

"We at Changing Our World are proud to salute and recognize Rajan for all of his achievements at such a young age and wish him the best in his future work", said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO of Changing Our World, Inc.

Jake Gallagher

Jake Gallagher, recipient of the youth award for persons ages 18 to 23, has been instrumental in raising awareness about and funds for poor children in Guatemala.

In the sixth grade, Gallagher heard about a charity called Safe Passage, which provides educational and other life opportunities to children and families who live and work around the Guatemala City garbage dump. The organization was founded by Hanley Denning, a native of Yarmouth. Inspired by what he heard, Gallagher immediately began a school drive to collect supplies for the children and soon had his family's living room packed with supplies. The drive was so successful that he continued to hold drives for five years, raising record amounts and garnering media attention to the Safe Passage cause.

Gallagher eventually traveled to Guatemala to experience Safe Passage first-hand and to meet his family's two sponsored children.  After his first trip, he wanted to return to volunteer with a group of students and parents from Yarmouth High School. Several of the families involved with that second trip decided to become sponsors for a Safe Passage child as well. Back in Maine, Gallaher attended meetings at local churches to encourage others to make the journey to volunteer in Guatemala. He has returned to Guatemala to volunteer a total of five times over the past six years.

Gallagher later helped start a Safe Passage Club at Yarmouth High School and helped grow the club throughout his time there. The Yarmouth High School club, now part of the Global Action Club, currently involves 20 to 25 students and has supported the Sage Passage U.S. office by assisting with mailings, packing donations, assisting with events and raising more than $10,000 over the past three years. Inspired by the Yarmouth club, three other high schools also created Safe Passage Clubs.

"Too often we hear that the youth of today are not engaged in world issues, but Jake Gallagher is living proof that young people can not only get involved, but have a huge impact when they do," said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO. "Obviously, Jake's fundraising is incredibly impressive, but even more so is his ability to inspire others to get involved. It's an amazing quality, and all of us at AFP commend Jake for his accomplishments and character."

About the Awards

The Changing Our World/Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy are named after AFP co-founder William R. Simms, and are sponsored by Changing Our World. They recognize service by youth who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the community through direct financial support, development of charitable programs, volunteering and leadership in philanthropy.

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