US National Winners of "Human Rights Hero Awards" Show What Can Be Done by One Individual
May 24, 2006
A ceremony to honor four national winners of the first Human Rights Heroes Award drew a standing room crowd — from legislators to human rights and religious leaders and teenager advocates — at the Rayburn Congressional Building on Capitol Hill on the night of May 23rd, 2006.
“Through great courage, diplomacy, intelligence and persistence,” said Mary Shuttleworth, President of Youth for Human Rights International and one of the speakers of the evening, "there are people who show by their effective action that something can be done towards making human rights a global reality. The people being honored tonight show by their personal examples what a difference one person can make.”
Mistress of Ceremonies was actress Anne Archer and fellow actress Jenna Elfman gave the keynote speech and presented one of the awards. The contest and event was sponsored by the Church of Scientology International Human Rights Department, Youth for Human Rights International, the Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance and Artists for Human Rights, a group recently founded by Ms. Archer.
The awardees chosen this year were youth and adults working at the grassroots level to deal with human rights violations around them.
Adult winner, Judith Lahai-Momoh, a human rights activist originally from Sierra Leone, founded a Texas group, "Saving Lives Through Alternative Options," which for 15 years has helped the "most despised" in our country — poor immigrants with AIDS — protect their rights as human beings. Using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as her key point of reference, the second winner, Tamara Batalha from Miami, lets parents know they too have rights in the face of unwanted interference. She daily helps parents get their children who are mislabeled as "learning disabled" off psychiatric drugs and succeeding at school.
In the youth section, both winners were from Los Angeles. Lai Lai is a 16-year-old rapper whose eloquence has enabled her human rights message to reach millions through the award winning music video "UNITED." The second winner, 19-year-old University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) student Vanessa Alfaro, joined with fellow students and formed a very active Youth for Human Rights chapter at UCLA. She embarked on an educational program to teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in LA schools, held a human trafficking forum with expert panelists at UCLA and helped to raise funds for newly formed Youth for Human Rights groups in the African countries of Liberia and Uganda.
The organizers share an emphasis on human rights education, pointing to a widespread understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a vital first step in long-term human rights reforms, here and abroad.
Ms. Archer summarized: “Humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard said, ’Human rights must be made a reality, not an idealistic dream.’ These heroes show that an individual who takes this as a goal, can gather help and actually make it happen.”