On the evening of October 6, the International Youth Foundation and Nokia will honor 20 outstanding young social entrepreneurs from 18 countries at an awards ceremony to be held at the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC.  Presenting the awards will be Nobel Laureate Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, Finnish Ambassador to the U.S. Pekka Lintu, and Kirsi Sormunen, Vice President of Sustainability at Nokia.

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people, supporting programs that help youth obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, and improve their communities. In 2001, IYF and Nokia launched the YouthActionNet® program, which selects 20 outstanding young leaders annually for a 12-month Fellowship.

Among this year’s honorees are:

  • Kenneth Odur, 24, who mobilizes community members to protect and advocate for the rights of women and child victims of civil warfare in northern Uganda;
  • Deborah Wanderley dos Santos, 24, who established the only tuition-free orchestra school in the United States, where inner city children in Chicago learn key life skills through music performance; and
  • Vanntha Ngorn, 27, who economically empowers rural women in Cambodia through the making and selling of silk products.

“YouthActionNet® was created in the belief that an emerging movement of young change-makers has the power to deliver transformative innovations,” said IYF President and CEO William S. Reese. “With each class of Fellows, that vision is reaffirmed. From employing low-income youth in Ghana to build bicycles out of bamboo to enabling individuals with disabilities to express their creativity using robotic devices, the 2010 Fellows offer solutions to a range of pressing needs.”

"Congratulations to each of this year’s Fellows for their hard work and perseverance,” said Nokia’s Kirsi Sormunen. “Through YouthActionNet, we are pleased to provide these phenomenal young leaders with the knowledge, networks, and skills they need to make a lasting difference in their communities—and beyond.”

To date, YouthActionNet has honored 180 young leaders from 59 countries. Fellows participate in a weeklong retreat held in Washington, D.C. and benefit from leadership development, skill-building, networking, and advocacy opportunities. Final selection of the 2010 YouthActionNet Global Fellows was made by a distinguished panel of experts representing the private, nonprofit, and public sectors—along with the 2009 Class of Fellows.

To learn more about YouthActionNet® and this year’s Fellows, please visit: www.youthactionnet.org.