University of Richmond junior Manyang Kher remembers being 3 years old when the Sudanese civil war took his father’s life and separated him from his mother and sister. Kher spent the next 13 years in refugee camps, experiencing hunger, fear and abuse.
One of 20,000 “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Kher eventually came to the United States, where he learned English, graduated from J.R. Tucker High School and enrolled at Richmond, where he is majoring in international studies. For six years, he has lived at Virginia Home for Boys and Girls. He never forgot his homeland, however, and created a nonprofit organization, Humanity Helping Sudan, to help improve living conditions in his native country.
Now, Kher is one of five finalists for a $100,000 grand prize from VH1’s Do Something Awards. As a finalist, Kher is guaranteed a $10,000 grant for his organization, but a panel of judges and voters on VH1’s website will determine the grand prize winner, to be announced on VH1 Aug. 21, at 9 p.m. Anyone interested in voting for Kher can go to www.vh1.com/shows/events/do_something_awards/2012/the-do-something-award/. Kher has been doing well in the competition but hopes that through social and traditional media, more people will learn about the competition and vote for his project.
“It’s hard to put into words what winning the grand prize would mean to me. It would be the culmination of what I’ve been working toward for so long,” said Kher. “$100,000 would go a long way in Sudan.” He said that if he wins the grand prize, most of the money would go toward improvements in farming so the Sudanese could produce more food.
Other projects his organization supports include providing clean water and sending young people to trade schools. Kher travels to Sudan each year to consult with his small staff and raises money in the U.S. by putting on events and soliciting donations.
Kher is getting encouragement from a variety of celebrities, some of whom are Tweeting and blogging about his project. When he goes to Los Angeles to tape the awards program, he will meet celebrities Ellen Degeneres, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Don Cheadle, Gabrielle Union and Wil.i.am. The grand prize winner also is scheduled for an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Kher said he has gotten great support for his organization and the quest for the grand prize from area businesses and organizations, including Whole Foods, Allegro Coffee, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Commonwealth Catholic Charities, African Community Network, the Red Cross and others.
Since 1996, DoSomething.org has honored the nation’s best young world-changers, 25 and under. According to VH1, Do Something Award nominees and winners represent the pivotal "do-ers" in their field, cause or issue.
# # #