A project to help mothers of autistic children in the West Bank, developed by University of Richmond sophomore Melissa Diamond of Plymouth, Minn., has received a $9,000 grant from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) and The Resolution Project.

Diamond will use the funds to develop A Voice for Autism—Jenin Autism Project to teach applied behavioral analysis therapy to mothers of autistic children and form a cooperative community for the mothers that makes therapy services accessible and affordable.

Currently, no comprehensive services exist for children with autism in the West Bank and many such children are hidden in their homes due to the stigma associated with autism.

The Resolution Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering youth leadership development around the world through collaborative social entrepreneurship, provided more than $100,000 in start-up funds for 17 winning projects submitted by 35 young entrepreneurs. The organization funds social ventures that address current world problems.

Diamond, who is majoring in a self-designed program in peace and conflict studies, realized the need for her program after a university trip to Israel in 2012. She visited a nonprofit organization in East Jerusalem that provides services to children with disabilities and their families. Because of visa requirements between the West Bank and Israel, it is impossible for children from the West Bank to access those services consistently.

Diamond learned from previous work with autistic children that they are more successful when their parents are involved in treatment. As a result, her program maximizes parental participation.

Diamond started an online fundraising campaign last fall to connect with autism advocates from around the world. One introduced her to an organization in Jenin that focuses on youth programming and agreed to house Diamond’s program at no charge. She also partnered with The Autism Research Foundation to spread awareness about the project.

Building on the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges, former President Clinton launched CGIU in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. CGIU hosts an annual conference where students, youth organizations, topic experts and celebrities develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. This year’s nearly 1,200 attendees committed to make a difference in CGIU's five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty, and public health.

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