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Medicines Global, a small and conservatively funded not-for-profit that has provided $2.9 million in medical and wellness supplies to under-privileged communities, just received a $25,000 grant from Keen to support the Outdoor Youth Ambassador Program. Â
Janice Belson, founder and executive director of Medicines Global, launched the Outdoor Youth Ambassador Program in 2004 at Jordan High School in Watts, Calif., after she received a grant from Peace Cereal in 2003. Â
“The tenets of the youth program focus on humanitarianism, nutrition, and environmental and outdoor awareness,” Belson told SNEWSÂ®. Through partnerships with Whole Foods Market and sponsors within the outdoor industry, Belson has been able to support the growth of the program through 2005, which culminated with five students from the school participating in the first Outdoor Youth Ambassador expedition to Sri Lanka.
“The students on the expedition were able to provide $250,000 in supplies for tsunami-devastated areas,” Belson said. “Everyone wants to have the ability to have a sense of self worth, and a way to do that is to offer value to someone else. These students were able to go out, generate good for the rest of the world, and then come home and communicate what they did to their school and their community.”
It is the proof of success and the passion for a very innovative program that captured the attention of Keen and sparked its interest in getting more involved with Medicines Global, according to Scott McGuire, outdoor category manager for the company.
“At Keen, we have taken the position of embracing the underdog, and with this program there is a natural alliance with both outdoor and someone who is doing something very different to make a difference,” said McGuire.
With the support of Keen, Medicines Global is launching an Outdoor Youth Ambassador pilot program titled, Best Foot Forward. Launching in spring 2006, the program is focused on engaging youth at home and in their neighborhoods, teaching responsibility for local parks and community, and asking each participating youth to put their best foot forward in all that they do. Â
Best Foot Forward Outdoor Youth Ambassador program encourages urban youth, ages 14-18, to take responsibility for their community and their actions by learning to be proactive with trail projects, community service, and educating their family and peers about healthy nutrition. This will be accomplished in partnership with local conservation groups (i.e., Surfrider, Leave No Trace, Tree People), local retail stores, elder communities and Whole Foods Market.
Belson told us that students agree to the following:
â€¢ Students pledge to commit to a minimum of four months of participation.
â€¢ Participation in at least two outreach events a month.
â€¢ Maintain a journal of community activity and interaction emotions.
â€¢ And, the most promising students will be asked to develop and submit a photo journal to be assessed for continuation in the program that will culminate in a Medicines Global November expedition to Nepal to distribute medicines and other supplies.Â Â
With continued funding, Belson told SNEWSÂ® that she hopes to launch a second youth ambassador program in 2007 that will focus on community service, culminating in a 10-day trip to assist Habitat for Humanity (or similar group).
Since 1999, Medicines Global has organized 16 expeditions that have taken medicines and provisions to Nepal, Mongolia, Russia, Siberia, Tibet, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, El Salvador and, more recently, to hurricane ravaged Biloxi, Miss. This roster of expeditions does not include the more than 2,100 calls that have been fielded from individual travelers who want to make a difference and give back to the land that they visit. More than 75 independent international trekkers have added an additional $150,000 in aid to Medicines Global outreach.