A teenager who set up a volunteer group to rebuild an earthquake-damaged school and a pupil who designed an app that could save the lives of road traffic accident victims are among those honoured by a Jewish education charity.
World ORT has named more than a dozen pupils from four countries as winners of its Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award, a social action accolade.
Alejandro Lew, an ORT student in Mexico City, was recognised after putting together a team of volunteers to help rebuild a school damaged by an earthquake.
After collecting sponsorships, donations and materials including paint, brushes and cement, Alejandro and his group set about repairing the damage.
“At the end of the project, we had very good results,” he said.
“Kids painted little ceramic butterflies and pasted them on the wall of the plaza in the school and spent some more quality time together getting to know each other.”
Another ORT pupil to receive the award was Lucas Adlerstein, 17, who developed an app that could help save lives after witnessing the many road traffic accidents in Buenos Aires every day.
He used the specialist technology labs at his ORT Argentina school to come up with a system that scans a fingerprint to access the injured victim’s medical records and family details from Argentina’s national fingerprint database — a vital source of information for paramedics.
The teenager estimates his project could reach 70 per cent of Buenos Aires-based hospitals initially, with more than 10,000 people signed up to the system within months.
“Our students around the world are demonstrating not only their ability to put their technological education to practical use, but also the strong Jewish values which they have developed,” said Avi Ganon, World ORT director general and chief executive.
“They are ORT’s mission in action: using the tools they have been given to help themselves and others.”
Baruch Matatov, a 17-year-old from Ashkelon, Israel, was awarded for his work helping the 23,000 people in Israel who suffer from a loss of vision.
Mr Matatov decided to help after suffering his own loss of vision three years ago due to a rare genetic disease. He began organising getting-to-know you sessions for people with sight problems in his community.
“I have lectured in front of hundreds of students in different grades and schools. I do this on a volunteer basis,” the teenager said.
“To be someone with a visual impairment in Israel is not an easy feat — that is why I have chosen to take charge and change this ‘sick’ reality. I have accomplished more than expected in my quest to change the system. But it takes more of an effort and investment.”
ORT said the awards showed how students were using their potential for the benefit of others in their communities.
A spokesman said: “Globally these projects have made a fantastic contribution and the winners are proving that educational excellence has the power to change lives. What better way to start the new year than by celebrating their achievements?”