The 2012 Do Something Awards has all the makings of a tentpole awards show: funny hosts (cast of Fox’s New Girl), fan-favorite presenters (Will Ferrell! Ne-Yo! Sophia Bush! Ben Affleck!), celebrity attendees (Nick Cannon, Joel McHale, Lea Michele, Will.i.am), and performances from fun. and Flo Rida (everyone in the audience tooted along to “Whistle” with light-up whistles.)
But the Do Something Awards, airing tonight on VH1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, does more. Underpinning the show is a celebration of philanthropy, as it honors pivotal “do-ers,” under age 25, who have taken on a certain cause or issue. And despite the starpower, the biggest stars of the night were the five nominees — one of whom will walk away with a $100,000 grant for his/her project — who have done more in their young lives than most people do throughout their lives. Without further adieu…
Katia Gomez, 24
Katia grew up in a single parent home with her mother who always found time and money for her education. While on a volunteer trip to Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, Katia saw the effects of a young population in extreme poverty, where almost half of the population is 16 years and younger and over half of all Honduras survive on only $2 a day. Katia felt inspired to take a stand and tapped into her passion for education to create Educate2Envision, which provides education for young Hondurans and shows the opportunities that an education can bring. Educate2Envision is working in three remote communities in Honduras, and Katia has brought a secondary education to over 450 students.
Manyang Reath Kher, 23
Humanity Helping Sudan
Manyang’s childhood was filled with images of war, dead bodies and his uncle attempting to save his life. When he was just 3 years old, Manyang became a refugee of the Sudanese civil war- and more specifically The Lost Boys, a group of 20,000 boys who were displaced and orphaned. Manyang’s father was one of the 2.5 million people killed during the way and he was separated from his mother and sister. For 13 years he lived in refugee camps along the Sudanese and Ethiopian border, where homelessness, hunger, fear and abuse were part of his everyday life. When he was 17, Manyang was brought to American where he learned English and enrolled in a university. He started Humanity Helping Sudan to improve the lives of Sudanese refugees, and attempt to battle the problems of an entire displaced population. HHS runs on the ground programs at refugee camps where they provide fishing nets, agricultural programs and community gardens that reach over 40,000 displaced people.
Meg Bourne, 22
At age 19, Meg created Art Feeds to promote creative healing and encourage development in children who were disabled or had experienced trauma. On May 22 last year, Meg’s life changed forever when one of the largest tornadoes in America’s history ripped through her hometown of Joplin, Missouri. The EF-4 tornado left a six-mile path of devastation with 162 people dead and 7,500 homes destroyed. Two children from Meg’s art classes were killed, she lost her home, as well as the Art Feeds van from where she worked. The Art Feeds has now worked with over 800 volunteers and 8,000 children.
Danny Mendoza, 23
Together We Rise
While in college, Danny learned that his 9-year-old cousin, Roger, was living in a car. After lomaneuvering Danny helped him move from the Honda to a house, but was deeply disturbed by the little control Roger had over his own situation. Danny took action and created Together We Rise, a youth led organization dedicated to running programs that not only bring a sense of normalcy and stability to children in foster care, but also allow foster children to make their own choices. Through programs like music lessons, mentoring, sports and athletics, resume building, and job-readiness, Together We Rise provides the resources for foster kids to prepare for success at age 18 when they are kicked out of the foster care system, and left to fend for themselves. With the help of Danny and Together We Rise they have reached 3,000 foster care youth through these programs, providing a better opportunity for long-term success.
Seth Maxwell, 24
The Thirst Project
Seth was a 19-year-old acting student in Los Angeles when a brief meeting with a friend who’d just returned from Africa changed the course of his life forever. Upon learning that almost one billion people lack access to clean water and that water-borne illnesses account for more than 80% of all global disease, he gave up acting to focus on water education. The Thirst Project is a movement of young people who are raising awareness of and bringing solutions to the global water crisis. Combining outreach and water well implementation, The Thirst Project has completed 788 freshwater development projects across the globe and reached 250,000 American students with its eye-opening educational programs.