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Online voting continues through Thursday for lecturer nominated as “Volunteer of the Year”

July 25, 2012 By Susannah Brooks

Araceli Alonso’s journey to Kenya began with a letter to a pen pal. Now Alonso, senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the founder of the Health by Motorbike Project, has an opportunity to bring worldwide recognition to issues faced by women in rural Kenya.

Through Thursday, July 26, supporters can vote online for Alonso to become the “Volunteer of the Year” in the nationwide CLASSY awards, dubbed the “Academy Awards of philanthropy.”

In addition to fundraising support, winners will receive national exposure and appear in Give @ Checkout through eBay Giving Works, with the chance to receive donations from thousands of eBay buyers. Proceeds from this contest will allow the project to purchase motorcycle-ambulances and rainwater tanks for rural villages.

When Alonso visited her pen pal Mariamu in the village of Lungalunga in 2009, she saw how the health of women affected the lives of everyone in a community. Many women couldn’t receive medical care without consent of their husbands; others gave up much-needed malaria drugs to their children. When female caregivers prioritized others’ health over their own, those they cared for felt an exponential impact.

Health by Motorbike provides vital supplies, services and information to rural areas of Kenya that would otherwise be unreachable. Moreover, by sharing this project with her students, coordinating volunteer trips and sharing knowledge with village women, Alonso has given UW–Madison students unmatched global opportunities.

“Through this experience, I have been stretched so far outside my comfort zone and forced to adapt to a new culture,” says Megan Kleber, a graduate student in gender and women’s studies. “I have seen firsthand the benefits of sustainable, participatory, and integrated development.”

To vote, and to learn more about Alonso and her project, click here  and select the Midwest region. Scroll down to the category of “Volunteer of the Year” and look for Araceli Alonso.

The CLASSY Awards, started by San Diego-based StayClassy in 2009, recognize top charitable achievements by nonprofit organizations, socially conscious businesses, and individuals worldwide. In 2011, nearly 2,000 organizations and volunteers were nominated for a CLASSY Award; their collective efforts impacted the lives of more than 200 million people in 71 countries.