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John Curtin Medallists

Tanya Pinto (2011)

Tanya Pinto - 2011 John Curtin Medal recipient Tanya Pinto - 2011 John Curtin Medal recipient
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Watch the 2011 Medal Award Ceremony

Tanya Pinto's strong belief that one ordinary person can make a difference has led her life full circle, back to her Indian birthplace to improve the lives of its poorest children.

Her father's regular reminders that it can take just one person, and one generation, to end a family's cycle of poverty were founded in Tanya's grandfather's experiences, and significantly shaped Tanya's view of the world, inspiring her to act.

In 2005, after living in India, Dubai, Australia - where she completed an Honours Degree at Curtin University - and the United States, Tanya took a three month sabbatical from her successful and demanding advertising career to volunteer at the Mother Teresa Orphanage in Calcutta.

It was here that her belief in the power of an ordinary person was reinforced, through her experiences, and symbolically, through a sign on the wall of the orphanage that read: "If you can't feed a hundred people then feed just one."

That advice, a $50 donation from a friend, and the realisation that, in India, such a small amount can buy so much for its under-privileged children were the impetus for Tanya's vision for the street children, slum children and orphans of India.

Baal Dan, the charity Tanya created to turn her vision into reality, is working to break the cycle of poverty these children live within by providing them with nutritious food and education.

The charity provides food, education, medical treatment and essential supplies - from books and pencils to toilets and ceiling fans - to disadvantaged children and their families. Fun activities are also a key part of the charity's work, making sure these children are able to experience some of the simple joys of childhood.

Since Tanya founded Baal Dan in 2006, it has provided aid in 12 cities to more than 3,000 of India's most disadvantaged children. It feeds at least 1,000 children a day and sponsors 45 children in private education. Three medical camps have immunised 200 children and provided medications to 300 children and women, and its first school was built this year.

Not content to stop there, Tanya has ambitious plans for the future, including building another school, building an orphanage, and purchasing a bus to deliver basic-needs items more quickly and to more areas in India.

Achieving such incredible outcomes has not come without personal sacrifice. Since starting Baal Dan in 2006 Tanya has forgone vacations and taken up to six months unpaid leave a year so she can go to India to work with the charity she founded.

To maximise the value of the donations Baal Dan receives, Tanya finances her own travel expenses, and she has soldiered on through four hospitalisations for malnutrition, a result of infections caught in India.

In 2010 Tanya was named Harvard University's Women's Empowerment Conference and Convention 'Woman of the Year', and in 2007 she was awarded the Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar Award for "Uplifting Human Values".

Baal Dan is the two-time winner of "Charity of the Month" by Search Kindly, a Google company, and has been named "Hunger Charity of Choice" by The Hunger Site and Greater Good Foundation.

Tanya's drive, commitment and selflessness have improved the lives of thousands of children in India, and make her a most worthy recipient of the 2011 John Curtin Medal.

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