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November 19, 2012

Timely Awards

Text by Shirin Mehta.

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise (RAE), a global philanthropic initiative, will be held in New Delhi, for the first time in India, in November this year. Verve looks at the history of the awards and the Laureates who are being awarded this year

If today, time is the biggest luxury, then taking time off to celebrate projects by exceptional individuals, would indeed be the ultimate luxury. Not to mention the time well spent by the those who conceive of and execute these. The Rolex Awards for Enterprise (RAE), a global philanthropic initiative, takes time off to do just this. After Geneva, New York, Tokyo, Paris, Singapore and Dubai, the RAE will be held in New Delhi in November this year. Created to recognise the vision and achievements of individuals who have made the world a better place to live in, the Rolex Awards support innovation in science and health, exploration and discovery, the environment, cultural heritage and applied technology.

Rebecca Irvin, head of philanthropy at Rolex has this to say about the 2012 venue: “We believe India is a thought-leader in innovation and enterprise; a concept that is very well embraced and understood in the country. Over the years, of the more than 100 projects that have been supported by the Awards for Enterprise, we have had outstanding examples from India, echoing the vibrant character of the population. By holding the awards ceremony in Delhi this year, we are recognising the spirit of enterprise that prevails.”

Rolex Award-winning initiatives in India included Chanda Shroff’s 2006 project to revive the craft of Kutch embroidery in Gujarat, which has benefitted more than 20,000 women of all castes from 120 villages across Kutch. More recently, Piyush Tewari was honoured in 2010 for his SaveLife Foundation, a non-profit organisation that has trained over 2,000 police officers as well as 500 ordinary citizens, in basic first aid, to create a nationally effective emergency response and deliver the fastest possible help to seriously injured road traffic victims.

In 2012, India had the largest number of entries, though none made it to the list of five new Laureates. The Laureates will receive 100,000 Swiss francs as well as  recognition for their projects. They are as follows: Sergei Bereznuk (Russia) for using technology and local community education to protect a highly vulnerable population of Amur tigers in the Russian Far East; Barbara Block (United States) for developing wired ocean hotspots along the west coast of America to monitor the presence of marine predators; Erica Cuellar (Bolivia) for training parabiologists amongst the local community in the Gran Chaca, the second largest forest in South America after the Amazon, in order to protect and conserve threatened wildlife; Mark Kendall (Australia) for working on the development of the needle-free ‘nanopatch’ to revolutionise delivery of vaccines in the developing world, making them cheaper and potentially saving the lives of millions of people who die from infectious diseases; Aggrey Otieno (Kenya) for building a telemedicine centre in Korogocho, a vast slum in Nairobi, to provide support and advice to birth attendants, using mobile telephones, to save the lives of mothers and newborn babies. “We are honoured to be able to support the work of these extraordinary individuals, who have the imagination and dedication to make good things happen for the benefit of others. We are fortunate to have the generous guidance and experience of experts in every field to work with us to choose from amongst the many outstanding proposals we receive,” says Irvin.

This year, the awards received the largest number of entries ever, 3,500 from 154 countries. And the 2012 jury included three Indians: Gururaj Deshpande, global philanthropist and founder of several innovative technology companies; Subramaniam Ramadorai, IT specialist who founded and now is vice chairman of Tata Consultancy Services; Mahrukh Tarapor, museum advisor with expertise in Islamic and Indian arts. The distinguished jury members from diverse backgrounds select five winners in a two-year process.

The Awards for Enterprise and the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, Rolex’s two flagship philanthropic programmes, were initiated in 1976 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster. Since then, 115 Laureates from 42 countries with projects in over 60 countries have won Rolex Awards, the winners ranging from 25 to 74 years old. The Arts initiative has, since 2002, paired master artists with emerging talents in six disciplines for a year on one-to-one collaboration.  Awarding the innovative usage of time has indeed been Rolex’s gift to the world community – besides helping them keep it precisely!

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