State Department’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Alumna Receives Distinguished Princess Diana Award

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Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, an inspiring Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) activist from Bangladesh, was recently awarded the prestigious Diana Award.
Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, an inspiring Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) activist from Bangladesh, was recently awarded the prestigious Diana Award.

State Department’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Alumna Receives Distinguished Princess Diana Award

Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, an inspiring Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) activist from Bangladesh, was recently awarded the prestigious Diana Award. The Diana Award, named after Princess Diana and originally established by the British government, recognizes exceptional young people who have demonstrated an ability to serve their communities and create long lasting change on a global scale. Receiving an award inspired by one of her role models has given Shomy extra motivation to continue dedicating her life’s work to ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, and to helping inspire other young people to get involved in volunteerism.

Shomy Hasan Chowdhury participating in community service.

Shomy began her lifesaving work after losing her mother to diarrhea. With a mission to overcome her pain through action, Shomy set out to raise awareness of WASH skills within vulnerable communities of sex and sewage workers, and the underprivileged. Shomy educates others on home water filtration, maintaining good personal hygiene, breaking the stigma around menstruation, proper hand washing techniques, and food safety. Shomy’s work has reached 70,000 people over the last seven years.

Shomy is the founder of “Awareness 360,” which helps young people in 23 countries organize community service projects consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 6, Clean Water and Sanitation. Last year they implemented several projects on Menstrual Hygiene Day, Global Handwashing Day, World Water Day, World Toilet Day, and others.

In 2018, The Commonwealth Secretary General Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland invited Shomy to be an International Election Observer as a part of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the Pakistan General Elections. Her recommendations were included in the Commonwealth Election Observation Report, marking the first time that clean water and toilets were included in the report.

Shomy Hasan Chowdhury featured in the San Francisco newspaper.

Shomy credits the success of her work to her participation in the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program in Cheboygan, Michigan for the 2011-2012 academic year. Shomy says, “Honestly, it all began with YES! I can never deny that the YES program shaped me to who I am today. It is during my exchange year when I got exposed to a lot of community service opportunities and truly found my zeal in it. I felt inspired and confident to return and give back to my homeland. I still utilize the skills that I have acquired during my YES year. My YES family have always been supportive of my work, and I could not be more grateful!”

The YES program brings approximately 900 high school students each year from countries of strategic importance to the United States to spend an academic year in the United States. Students live with volunteer host families, attend high school, learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. During the last academic year alone, YES students performed over 60,000 hours of community service in their host communities. With over 12,000 alumni from 45 countries, the impact made here in the U.S. and around the world is beyond measure. Shomy’s story is just one example of many of the U.S. Department of State’s support for people-to-people connections that foster leadership, volunteerism, community service, and citizen responsibility among young people to help address our shared global challenges.

About the Author: Jennifer Conrad serves in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

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