23 June 2014 - In the end, nearly 90,000 votes were cast in the month-long contest to elect the two winners of the Hermann Gmeiner Award for 2014.
Out of the field of eight finalists, Maya Dhal, the female contestant from India, and Deepak KC, the male contestant from Nepal, earned the most votes from around the world, and were today pronounced the winners of the 2014 Hermann Gmeiner Award.
“Our congratulations go to Maya Dhal from India and to Deepak KC from Nepal," announced SOS Children's Villages President Siddhartha Kaul. Helmut Kutin, the President of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy, and former President of SOS Children's Villages International, joined him in congratulating the winners and the runners up.
The biannual Hermann Gmeiner Award recognises one woman and one man who were supported by SOS Children’s Villages in their childhoods and who are today inspiring role models in their communities.
“Both winners have, in their own ways, shared their passion with others who are less fortunate. In spite of difficulties they persevered and continue to do so," said the presidents in a joint statement.
"Deepak has a passion for aiding the disabled, and Maya has a passion for education. Both winners have shared their passions and helped children who have been denied many of life's fortunes – a true reflection of SOS Children’s Villages’ values.
The month-long election proved to be an exciting race, especially between the two male finalists, Deepak from Nepal and Cirilo Burgos from Paraguay. In the final weeks, it looked as though Cirilo might win. But instead of giving up, Deepak's fans taught school children how to vote for Deepak online and contacted national celebrities to rally their fans for him. When Nepalese rock star Amrit Gurung and BBC Journalist Rabindra Mishra posted an appeal to vote for Deepak on their Facebook pages, the tide turned in his favour. Deepak finished with 50% of the votes in the men's contest. Cirilo finished second with 39%.
The women's contest was also extremely close with Maya Dhal taking 35% of the votes, compared to 33% for runner up, Lucia Viviana Mora of Ecuador. Read about all eight finalists and see the final vote tallies here.
Mr Kaul underscored that although just two people received the most votes, all eight of this year's final contestants are heroes and inspirations to young people all over the world: "All of the eight finalists are winners" he said.
23 June marks the birthday of Hermann Gmeiner (1919-1986), who founded SOS Children’s Villages in 1949. According to Mr Kaul and Mr Kutin, 23 June is thus the perfect day to announce the winners of the Hermann Gmeiner Award.
“Striving to create conditions that will enable an ever-growing number of young men and women to reach their full potential is the best way of honouring Hermann Gmeiner. Improving the lives of those around you, so they can in turn improve the lives of those around them, is precisely the goal to which our founder was dedicated,” presidents Kaul and Kutin said.
Both winners will be invited to Innsbruck, Austria, for an official award ceremony in October.
SOS Children's Villages International and the Hermann Gmeiner Academy wish to thank everyone who voted and participated in the selection of this year's award winners.
Read more about the Hermann Gmeiner Award here.