International charity worker Tanya Pinto was awarded the 2011 John Curtin Medal at a ceremony held today at her alma mater.
Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket said Ms Pinto has displayed great compassion, a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit in developing Baal Dan, an Indian children’s charity.
“With dedication and significant self-sacrifice Ms Pinto is working to break the cycle of poverty in the lives of thousands of Indian children, providing them with food, shelter, education, and the simple pleasures of childhood,” Professor Hacket said.
In 2005, after living in the United States, India, Dubai and Australia – where she completed an Honours Degree at Curtin University – Ms Pinto took three months out from her advertising career to volunteer at the Mother Teresa Orphanage in Calcutta.
It was here that Ms Pinto’s belief in the power of ordinary people was reinforced through experience and symbolically through a sign at the orphanage that read: “If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”
Founded in 2006, Baal Dan now feeds at least 1000 children a day and sponsors 45 children in private education.
Three medical camps have immunised 200 children and provided medication to 300 children and women.
Ms Pinto’s plans include building a second school after a first was built this year, building an orphanage, and buying a bus to deliver essential items more quickly and widely.
Ms Pinto said her grandfather was an orphan and his life, and that of his descendants was greatly enhanced by the fact he had support in gaining an education.
“If my work in India can change the lives of other children in a similar way, then I will have achieved what I set out to do,” she said.
The annually-awarded John Curtin Medal is the highest non-academic award presented by Curtin University.
The medal is presented to people who exemplify wartime Prime Minister John Curtin’s qualities of vision, leadership and community service.