Benjamin Moore, a member of Bruins for Burma, spent his spring break preparing for the opening of a high school at a refugee camp for Burma's ethnic Karen minority.
By Letisia Marquez for the UCLA Newsroom
Abdallah Jadallah started a food pantry for low-income students. Benjamin Moore sneaked into Burma to aid the country's refugees. Evelyn Wang and Mark Dakkak taught children and adults how to read.
The four students were honored with the 2010 Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award for their outstanding commitment to public service. The awards ceremony, a private event for family and friends, took place Wednesday, May 5, in the Charles E. Young Grand Salon at UCLA's Kerckhoff Hall.
The Young Humanitarian Award, established by UCLA in 1986 as an annual tribute to recognize and encourage projects that address communities' social needs, is one of the most prestigious honors given to UCLA undergraduates.
Each student received $700 to be donated to a public service project of their choice.
Slipping into Burma
Benjamin Moore, 22, a native of Tacoma, Wash., received the award for his involvement with Bruins for Burma, a student group whose goal is to educate the community about the devastating impact of Burma's military junta. For a year, he also has been working with Burma Community Builders to build a high school at a Burmese refugee camp.
Just this March, Moore spent his spring break preparing the school for its opening at a refugee camp for Burma's ethnic Karen minority. It was his second trip volunteering in Southeast Asia.
To get to the camp, Moore said, he had to bypass Thai and Burmese authorities, who do not want foreigners visiting the refugees. He rode over a dirt road through the Thai jungle for four hours, and volunteers then ushered him to a river boat and covered him with a blanket for an hourlong trip down a river to the camp.
"Building the high school is really important for the camp's youth," said Moore, who developed the school's curriculum. "There's no school to speak of in the area. Most of the young men grow up to become rebel soldiers. Our hope is to offer them some type of alternative to that."
Moore's fondest memories of Burma were playing soccer barefoot with the refugees.
"The people there have a lot of faith," he said. "Just to see them battling and struggling is very impressive."
Moore, a political science major, also conceived the idea of erecting a "peace pole" at UCLA after he noticed them in several countries throughout the world. The poles are erected to show a community's commitment to world peace. UCLA's pole was erected in January 2009.
"I've seen a lot of the world and see how many benefits we have in the United States," said Moore, who plans to donate his award money to Burma Community Builders. "As a Christian, I feel it's a necessity to give back for what I have."
Read the full story on the four award winners.