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Ukrainian teens win prize for refugee apps

Three Ukranian teenagers who developed apps to support refugee children fleeing war in their home country and abroad were on Friday awarded the 2023 KidsRights International Children’s Prize. Sofia Tereshchenko, 18, and Anastasiia Feskova and Anastasiia Demchenko, both 17, follow in the footsteps of environmental activist Greta Thunberg and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in claiming the prestigious children’s award. Tunisian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui presented the trio with the prize at a ceremony in London. “The teenagers’ pioneering work to provide support for refugee children fleeing war in their home country and around the world, have made them beacons of hope and a true inspiration for others across the globe,” said a statement from KidsRights, the Dutch children’s rights organisation behind the initiative. “Even though right now we are basically in a safe space, our hearts are still in Ukraine with our families who suffer from Russian aggression,” Tereshchenko told AFP. “There are many children who are in a much worse position than us who have to experience absolute horror and terror every day. We just really hope that it can end soon,” she said. The ceremony was opened by Mpho Tutu, daughter of the late Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, and the keynote speaker was Ndaba Mandela, grandson of South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela. Half of the 100,000 euro ($108,000) prize will go to the winner’s subject, and the other half will be invested by KidsRights in other projects. Tereshchenko, Feskova and Demchenko were developing a mobile app together when their country was invaded by Russia in 2022. Shocked by stories of refugee children arriving in foreign countries without a parent to rely on, they began making apps to help them. The first, “Refee”, gives children aged four to 11 information on how to find safety, food and shelter when they arrive in a new country. The second, “SVITY”, connects refugees aged 16 and above with children from host communities to help them settle in. “The amazing initiative of the young Ukrainian International Children’s Peace Prize winners provides an essential need, but it also exposes an embarrassing problem and urges governments to protect child refugees around the world,” said Marc Dullaert, founder and chair of the KidsRights Foundation. The KidsRights Expert Committee selected the winners from 140 nominees. The prize was created in 2005 during the World Summit of Nobel Peace laureates in Rome, and has been presented by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate every year since.

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