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Global Generation Awards Honor Gen Y's Humanitarian Heroes

Posted by Alex Pearlman  September 19, 2011 08:29 AM

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6118913891_cc3b4d9f20.jpgThe Millennium Campus Network (MCN) recognized well-known Bostonians, including Sen. John Kerry and actress Eliza Dushku, for their humanitarian efforts at the first annual Global Generation Awards on Saturday night.

Part of this weekend’s Millennium Campus Conference (MCC), which hosted about 1,000 college students from across the country, the awards ceremony was more low-key. Smooth jazz filled the high cathedral ceilings of the Fenway Center, a converted church at Northeastern University, as about 200 people -- a mix of students and older guests -- mingled over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres before the ceremony began.

“It’s been great -- critical for awareness,” said Eric Adams, a Northeastern student who works for GlobeMed, a group aimed at improving the health of impoverished people around the world. “It’s really great to see all different ages and walks come together for a singular purpose like this.”

Socialite Doris Yaffee, 82, senior advisor in public relations for MCC, said that her generation -- the one that lived through World War II -- is referred to as the "greatest generation." Gen Y, however, is going to surpass them, she said, because Millenials are “not interested in making in making a lot of money” as much as they are in helping make the world a better place.

The awards ceremony itself began around 8:30 p.m. with Dushku, best known her roles in Buffy the Vampire SlayerTru CallingDollhouse, and Bring it On, first to the podium. She discussed her work with THARCE-Gulu (Trauma Healing and Reflection Center), which aims to help victims of the war-torn African country of Uganda, and her 30-30-30 campaign, in which she raised $30,000 for the organization by Dec. 30, 2010, her 30th birthday.

Dushku credited her mother Judy, an African Politics professor at Suffolk University, for spurring her volunteerism. “My mother has always put [my siblings and me] in the direction of service,” including work for the Jimmy Fund and the Pine Street Inn, she said in a brief interview with TNGG.

During her talk, Dushku said she never planned on being an actress and used to struggle with how to balance her new-found platform and desire to do humanitarian work, but “in the last few years, I’ve started to combine these two things. There was a shift in me when I did the 30-30-30 campaign. [The cause] started to feel mine.”

Gillian Sorensen, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Foundation, received the next award. "With a combination of government, the private sector, and [volunteers], we can make sustainable change happen. We can give hope to the hopeless," she said. "Students, you have everything you need to do this work. [You can] literally save lives and change lives.”

Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and recipient of another award, encouraged the audience to “stop seeing 'the other,'” saying that he regards people he has helped in Uganda as friends.

“I have friends from Uganda I Facebook with all the time. They’re not 'the other' anymore,” he said. “Our generation is going to change the story. If we look at each other as 'not the other,' it will work.”

Kerry, the final award recipient of the night, gave an impassioned and politically charged speech about the dangers of not acting on extreme poverty. “It’s not that we don’t have the solutions, it’s that we lack the political will to embrace these solutions,” he said. “MCN is critical to our future. You are the difference. You can make this happen."

Sam Vaghar, MCN's co-founder and Executive Director, said the event was “perfect. We got Sen. John Kerry here pushing to support us. You can’t ask for much more than that," he said. “There are 200 people here who really believe in what we’re doing.”

Photo by Gabbo T (Flickr)

By Jeff Fish -- I'm a senior at Suffolk University, majoring in journalism and political science. I'm the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, and I did a six-month co-op at The Boston Globe. I love politics, reading, movies, TV, and anything pop culture. My mind is a font of useless knowledge.

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