Youth for Human Rights International World Tour Launches with Capitol Hill Awards Ceremony

Top human rights advocates presented with President’s Volunteer Service Awards

Outstanding Youth for Human Rights volunteers and partners were honored in a Capitol Hill ceremony March 2 that launched the 13th annual Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) World Educational Tour.

The tour will travel through Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, India, South Africa, Taiwan and Japan and will officiate at regional human rights summits. In each country, the group plans meetings with dignitaries while encouraging youth worldwide to become advocates for human rights.

Representatives from the offices of Congressmen Xavier Becerra of California and Congressman David Jolly of Florida presented the volunteers with 2016 President’s Service Awards.

Those honored were Youth Peace Movement (YPM)’s Sister Ines Telles, Telyce Turner and five young YMP members, Captain Thomas Daniel, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and Youth for Human Rights members Nicole Benk, and Alex Lake.

Human rights award ceremony on Capitol Hill launches 13th annual Youth for Human Rights World Tour.
Human rights award ceremony on Capitol Hill launches 13th annual Youth for Human Rights World Tour.

Sister Ines of the St. Joseph of Carondelet Congregation, works with the Soledad Enrichment Action Youth Peace Movement (YPM) helping underserved youth from marginalized and violent Los Angeles communities. YPM youth study human rights and nonviolence, learn respect, empathy for others, and the value of service, and initiate volunteer activities ranging from AIDS walks and feeding the homeless to advocating peace in their communities.

Captain Daniel accepted the award on behalf of the top cadets of his Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) program at W.P. Davidson High School in Mobile, Alabama. As the primary goal of JROTC programs is to promote good citizenship, he developed an education partnership with Youth for Human Rights and his cadets’ community service projects. He then brought YHRI to all JROTC programs in Mobile County and this summer, will be reaching JROTC programs throughout Alabama.

The next awardee, Nicole Benk, witnessed human rights violations when traveling through Pakistan and India as a member of documentary film crew. This inspired her to become involved in Youth for Human Rights, introducing United States government officials to Youth for Human Rights and its work to promote and educate youth on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alex Lake, photographer for last year’s 12th Annual Youth for Human Rights World Tour, became a passionate supporter of human rights education when he met a young woman in Mexico who was trafficked into prostitution by her own family. She eventually escaped and now works to help protect others from the same fate. She told Alex if she’d known her human rights, she would have escaped years earlier.

One story from the Youth for Human Rights team in Washington, D.C., illustrates the power of this human rights initiative, and its life-altering impact. After delivering a human rights seminar to a local 5th grade school, the team learned that one of the students had been contemplating suicide, but that after viewing the Youth for Human Rights public service announcements, part of the regular YHRI educational curriculum, he saw hope and changed his mind.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Youth for Human Rights International and the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office in Washington, D.C.

“You can change an entire life by giving a young person knowledge of their human rights, and the earlier they get the tools, the greater their chance and the world’s chance at success,” said Beth Akiyama, National Affairs Office Executive Director. “Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, gave us the mandate to make human rights a reality, and human rights education is fundamental to bringing that about.”

The purpose of Youth for Human Rights is to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world’s premier human rights document, and inspire them to become advocates for tolerance and peace. YHRI accomplishes this through their educational curriculum featuring youth-friendly booklets and award-winning audiovisual materials in more than 20 languages. 

The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.

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