Indian social entrepreneur wins Commonwealth award

By Aditi Khanna
London, Mar 13 (PTI)
A social entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu on Wednesday bagged the Commonwealth Youth Award for the Asian region from among hundreds of nominations for his technology-based food rescue organization.
Padmanaban Gopalan, founder of No Food Waste, was named the winner of the award worth 3,000 pounds at a ceremony at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London for his work towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger with his innovative system of recovering excess food to distribute to those in need.
“There is no pain like the pain the hunger. This award means a lot to me and all my hundreds of volunteers who help with our mission of feed people, not landfills,” said 26-year-old Padmanaban, who made his first-ever trip to London from Coimbatore for the ceremony.
Someone who describes himself as a “dreamer”, he founded his surplus food recovery system in Tamil Nadu which is already active across different regions of South India.
The program works with volunteers and local authorities to collect excess food from functions and restaurants and delivers them to “hunger spots” mapped by the company to feed hungry people.
The initiative runs a geo-mapping platform, which allows users to drop food at located “hunger spots” and has so far recovered over 650,000 meals across 14 cities. The platform has been used by over 12,000 volunteers.
“With the award money, we hope to expand this mapping system to include other major metropolitan cities of India such as Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai,” Padmanaban said.
In keeping with the connected theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day, marked on March 11, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland encouraged all four regional winners of the 2019 Youth Awards to coordinate their various winning projects.
“We are truly a connected Commonwealth when all the different skills from regions of Asia, Pacific, Africa and Europe, and Caribbean and Canada, can come together in this way to share their expertise and technology,” said Scotland.
The annual Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work, now in its 13th year, celebrates the achievement of young people aged between 15 years and 29 years, whose projects serve the people and communities in their country and drive the progress to realize the different SDGs.
The awards recognize their outstanding initiatives in line with the SGDs with a focus on poverty, gender, clean water, education, health and climate change.
This year, over 500 nominations were received from over 45 Commonwealth countries and 16 finalists were shortlisted.
Besides India, the other were from Bermuda, Brunei, Canada, Fiji, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda.
The other three regional winners, recognized for their work in the SDGs of Gender Equality, Sustainable Cities and Innovation, were from Nigeria, Soloman Islands and Saint Lucia.
Each of the 16 finalists are awarded 1,000 pounds towards their projects, with an additional 2,000 pounds bagged by the regional winner.
From the four, one overall winner received the title of the 2019 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year – Nigeria’s Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi – who received a total grant prize of 5,000 pounds.

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