Only two years ago, Indonesia was given the unenviable title of the dirtiest country in the world by the World Health Organisation, but today, two 15-year-old students from Surabaya in Indonesia have helped turn the tables by winning the prestigious Volvo Adventure World Final in Gothenburg.
First out of 365 projects across 47 different countries worldwide, two 15-year-old Indonesian schoolgirls, Wening Pranayadipta and Vania Santoso, alias Bright Youngsters took the US$10,000 first prize for their project Useful Waste for a Better Future ahead of second-placed New Zealand who won US$6,000 and South Africa in third winning US$4,000.
Useful Waste for a Better Future is a project that not only removes rubbish but also recycles it into sustainable souvenirs and gifts with the additional advantage of adding value and helping overcome poverty.
Theodore Oben of the official Volvo Adventure partner, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said, "The standard goes up and up each and every year and this year, and Useful Waste for a Better Future is a project that works on many environmental levels, waste reduction, recycling and revenue-earning and as such, it was the outstanding project amongst 15 excellent finalists."
An overjoyed Vania Santoso said on receiving the most prestigious young environmentalists' accolade in the world, "Whilst it was a stain on Indonesia's reputation being branded the dirtiest nation in the world by WHO, it was also a wake-up call that something had to be done and in our small way, we may have helped both change perceptions and improve our local environment and economy."
Her colleague Wening Pranayadipta added, "It has been an amazing experience coming to Gothenburg and being encouraged by how many other students are as passionate about the environment as we are and it is a great honour to win, especially against so many other powerful projects."
Presenting the prizes at the Volvo Adventure Awards ceremony, Olle Axelson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Volvo Cars said, "The pride and the passion all these students have for their own local environment and the wider global picture is highly encouraging and in fact they are all winners."
"But the big winner here is the environment itself, and facing so many challenges on so many fronts, the creativity and dedication of these young people convinces me that the environment is being passed into safe and responsible hands," added Mr Axelson.
"The Volvo Adventure is immensely inspiring and within the automotive industry in general and Volvo in particular, we can draw great strength and motivation to redouble our environmental efforts."
In second place, New Zealand, represented by the Green Teens won the US$6,000 for their Plastic Not So Fantastic project, whilst South Africa's Facing Up team took the US$4,000 third prize for their EnergyWise campaign.
For the first time in the six-year history of the Volvo Adventure, all three podium places went to all-female teams and Volvo Adventure jury member Siw Persson of WWF commented, "I don't think we can read too much into that, other than to celebrate the diversity and equality evident on the Volvo Adventure and to note that the winning projects all adopted a holistic approach to environmental sustainability."
Projects are already underway all round the world for the seventh annual Volvo Adventure and the closing date for entries is 31st January 2008.
Said Kikki Hugestrand, Volvo Adventure Project Manager, "Such has been the response that we are changing the age range for entries to 13 - 16-years-old and introducing a fun-based environment education initiative for kids on 12 and under."
She added, "The Volvo Adventure has become a fixture in the environmental calendar and a key component in expressing Volvo's passion for and commitment to the environment, whilst for the students, it is an educational, environmental and cultural experience that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives."
Notes to Editors