World Challenge 2011 contest now on

Saturday, 9 April 2011 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

World Challenge is a prestigious global competition organised by BBC, Newsweek and Shell. Inaugurated six years ago, it is held annually and the past winners were one each from Peru and Pakistan and two each from Sri Lanka and Philippines.

The two from Sri Lanka are the paper making firm ‘Maximus’ that makes paper from banana bark and elephant dung in 2006 and Vidyajyothi Dr. Wijaya Godakumbura for his ‘Safe Bottle Lamp Project’ in 2009, aimed at preventing bottle lamp burns.

Now is the time for other entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka to have a go at this prestigious award that gets wide international publicity. The winner would also get US$ 20,000 and the runner up US$ 10,000 each, to be used for project activities. The award ceremony, held in Netherlands, would be featured in Newsweek and telecast over BBC World TV.

The competition “is aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level”. The organisers want to hear about the social entrepreneurs who are making a difference without costing the earth.

The award categories are community welfare and enterprise, health, education, water and environment. Normally, the organisers get around 1,000 entries. Unlike other awards, there is a two tier selection process; firstly, a jury would select the 12 best projects on merit and BBC would telecast films on them. Later, the global public is asked to vote for the project of their choice through e mails. Thus, the winning project has to clear two hurdles, i.e., satisfy the jury as well as have mass appeal.

Most families that lack electricity use makeshift bottle lamps that tip over, causing serious burns, and burns are widely believed to be the “most devastating injury that a person can sustain and survive” because they cause severe pain lasting weeks and horrific scars.

The Safe Bottle Lamp Foundation has already used up the US$ 20,000 prize money to give out 45,000 of its ‘Sudeeepa’ safe lamps free to poor families that use kerosene; the Army helped it in a big way to send lamps to the north and east. Due to the wide media publicity that it received after winning the World Challenge Award, it will be getting another Rs. 1.5 million from well-wishers.

According to the Samurdhi Authority, in the Anuradhapura District alone there are 9,000 families using kerosene and the two organisations are about to start a new programme to distribute free the safe lamps that would be made with that money, which would be a boon to the poor.

The Safe Bottle Lamp Foundation would welcome more donations from philanthropists because it needs more funds than what it has now (e-mail

Details of the competition are given in the website Dr Godakumbura is willing to help those who are doing quality projects to apply for these awards, and his website contains valuable tips.

Perhaps it is time that a Sri Lankan won a third World Challenge Award and makes it three out of seven! The entries close on 19 June 2011 and self nominations are allowed.