By Prarthana Mitra
Philanthropists Bharat Vatwani and Sonam Wangchuck from India were among the six winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, often regarded as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Now in its 60th year, the prize recognizes “greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in selfless service to the peoples of Asia“.
Vatwani, a psychiatrist working with homeless people suffering from mental illnesses, was recognised alongside Wangchuk, a renowned education reformer from Ladakh, who launched a movement to help rural students graduate.
The Magsaysay foundation recognised Vatwanis courage and compassion in embracing Indias mentally-afflicted destitute and his dedication to the work of restoring and affirming the human dignity of even the most ostracized, according to the citation on the award.
— Soumitra ð» à¦¸à§à¦®à¦¿à¦¤à§à¦° à®à¯à®®à®¿à®¤à¯à®°à®¾ (@netshrink) July 26, 2018
Wangchuk’s citation commended him for his uniquely systematic, collaborative and community-driven reform of learning systems in remote northern India, thus improving the life opportunities of Ladakhi youth, and his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society to harness science and culture creatively for economic progress, thus setting an example for minority peoples in the world.
Kudos- Sonam Wangchuk of #Leh becomes one of the winner of this year's "Ramon Magsaysay Award", the Asian version of the Nobel Prize. ð¤
— New Age Kashmir (@newagekashmir) July 26, 2018
About the awardees
A tryst with a schizophrenic boy drinking water from the gutters changed Vatwani’s life forever. The Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation in Maharashtra, founded in 1989, strives to rescue and restore street-dwellers with psychological disorders, before reuniting them with their families. Over the past decade, it has restored health and dignity to thousands of homeless men and women.
In 1988, Wangchuk established the Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) with some of his friends and family. It engaged students returning to Ladakh from prestigious universities, to bring about an overhaul and reformation of the government school system in the region. The volunteers encouraged and assisted rural students in their academics, and addressed systemic flaws in the pedagogy like misappropriation and de-sensitisation. Wangchuk is also believed to have inspired Aamir Khan’s iconic character in the 2009 Bollywood movie Three Idiots.
Congratulations to the Hero of Hope Sonam Wangchuk ji for being awarded with the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2018. His outstanding contribution in harnessing nature, culture and education for community progress truly showcases his progressive vision. pic.twitter.com/HJtn5r46Rs
— Vinod Tawde (@TawdeVinod) July 26, 2018
Two Indians, Dr Bharat Vatwani, who has devoted his life to serving the mentally ill on the streets and Sonam Wangchuk, a Ladakhi inventor, are recipients of the prestigious #Magasaysay Award, 2018. I congratulate them both and salute their achievements. https://t.co/wFNKoNghRn
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 27, 2018
Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation President Carmencita Abella hailed the winners, calling them Asias heroes of hope, moving their societies forward through their unequivocal pursuit of the larger good. The presentation ceremony will confer a certificate, a medal, and cash prize on the winners on August 31.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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