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Dr. Lowman serves on 2010 Rolex Young Laureates Awards jury

What do a young Philippine clothing designer, an American social networker, an Indian medic, an Ethiopian health care worker and a Nigerian farmer have in common? They are all winners of the Rolex Young Laureates Awards for Enterprise, 2010 (young.rolexawards.com). Nature Research Center Director Dr. Meg Lowman was selected by Rolex to serve on their international jury, a panel of 10 distinguished global leaders in exploration, environment and humanitarian stewardship. The jury vetted hundreds of applicants from young people aged 19-30 years, from around the world, finally agreeing on 25 finalists of which five were selected as Laureates.

Gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, last month, these global-change leaders along with 25 youth finalist awardees were honored and mentored by Dr. Meg Lowman and her fellow jury members as well as former laureates. In a world of declining resources, it is heartening to appreciate the intellectual capital of the next generation.

Young Ethiopian elementary school teacher Bruktawit Tigabu developed a television show about wellness for children in a country where child mortality is very high and health education is not easily available. First working from home with sock puppets and computer graphics, she created a lovable character, Tschai the giraffe, to deliver the messages about preventive medicine. To date, her 26 episodes of "Tschai Loves Learning" have reached 2.6 million African children. Her Rolex award will enable her to take her show "on the road" to remote villages, and to create a radio version accessible to 40 million listeners.

Jacob Colker is using mobile phones to harness "micro-volunteerism." Busy Americans can log on to his website, where hundreds of nonprofits have listed small tasks, ranging from Spanish translations to cataloging artifacts for museums, to designing water wells for rural villages. To date, micro-volunteers have tackled more than 300,000 tasks; and Jacob hopes this new approach to volunteerism will allow many young people to apply their skills to aid nonprofits in a virtual fashion, better suited to their busy work schedules.

Growing up in rural Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu realized that farmers had no access to education about water conservation and sustainable farming. Because most families rely on radio as their only means of communication, Nnaemeka started a radio program about farming practices and environmental issues. With his Rolex award, he hopes to expand his current audience to reach more than 3.5 million farmers, and eventually throughout southern Africa. Nnaemeka says, "My dream is to fight poverty with information."

Piyush Tewari lives in New Delhi, India, a country with the world's highest annual road accident fatalities. Most deaths occur because ambulances or critical care cannot reach the scene of the accident amid urban traffic jams. So Piyush established the SaveLIFE Foundation to train a volunteer first-aid training corps. Through his efforts, rapid response to accidents has already significantly reduced the death rate of traffic accidents in urban India. His Rolex award will enable him to expand his training programs, and save lives.

Reese Fernandez grew up witnessing extraordinary poverty in Manila. As a teenager, she hatched the notion of taking rags and turning them into clothing, both as an environmental recycling action as well as a source of employment for young mothers without income. Her new venture, Rags2Riches, now employs more than 300 young women, empowering them with their own income by creating designer fashions for the Philippines. Her project not only recycles wasted fabric swatches, but it also brings fair wages to hundreds of women who live near Manila's Payatas waste dump.

In addition to the five laureates, Rolex honored all 25 finalists or runners-up with a special mentoring session in Geneva. Music magnate Brian Eno gave the keynote speech at the ceremony in Switzerland, attended by an international roster of distinguished guests, including Lowman and other jury members.