By Claire Harlin
Having grown up in a Brooklyn bungalow sharing one bathroom with 10 other immigrant families, Rancho Santa Fe resident Harry Leibowitz has a good sense of what it’s like to be raised without much.
“Kids don’t ask for what they get; they just get it,” said Leibowitz, who began working full time at the age of 14 to support his family and put himself through school, his studies eventually carrying him through a successful and fruitful career as a marketing executive.
Being sensitized to less fortunate children through his own childhood experiences is only part of the motivation behind Leibowitz’s creation of the World of Children Award, which recently issued its 2013 call for nominations of selfless individuals serving vulnerable children. Dubbed the “Nobel Prize® for Child Advocacy,” the nonprofit has for 15 years identified prominent changemakers and granted funds to advance their efforts in improving children’s lives worldwide. The deadline for 2013 nominations is on April 1. Leibowitz runs the organization with is wife, Kay.
The World of Children Award sets itself apart from other charities in that it conducts an extensive investigation by a third-party company to evaluate potential awardees. Funding is also dispersed over several years, with awardees reporting back to the organization regularly and meeting guidelines to ensure the money is being used to its full potential. The organization also keeps in touch with its awardees and continues helping them serve children for many years after their award.
“I get up 5 a.m. and I’m on the computer and phone after that,” said Leibowitz. “On a typical day, I spend at least three hours doing nothing but communicating with past honorees.”
The award has three categories. The World of Children Youth Award, which carries a minimum grant of $25,000, recognizes a young person under the age of 21 who is making extraordinary contributions to the lives of other children. The World of Children Humanitarian Award is no less than $50,000 and recognizes someone making significant contributions to children in social services, education or humanitarian services.
The World of Children Health Award, also $50,000, recognizes the fields of health, medicine or the sciences. In that category the awardee has created or managed a sustainable program which has significantly contributed to the health and well-being of children. Nominees for the World of Children Humanitarian and Health awards must have been working on behalf of children over and above their normal employment for a minimum of 10 years.
Leibowitz said anywhere between four and six awards are granted each year, depending on the nominations received.
“Sometimes we give an extra one if somebody is really worthy,” he said.
Since 1998, the World of Children Award has presented more than $5 million in cash grants to 95 people in more than 140 counties. Recipients lead more than 100 organizations and have impacted millions of children.
“We honor a person, but we fund their organization or work,” Leibowitz said. “They are entrepreneurs and we want them to continue doing their work.”
More about the World of Children Award, its nominations process and honorees can be found at www.worldofchildren.org.