Amitabh Shah of Yuva Unstoppable awarded 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honour, First Indian among awardees who include Noble Prize winners, US Presidents and global CEOs

Ahmedabad-based Amitabh Shah, who heads Yuva Unstoppable, a volunteer youth movement, has become the youngest Indian to be awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour in the United States. Past medallists include seven US Presidents, several world leaders, Nobel laureates and countless leaders of the industry, education, the arts, sports and government, along with everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty and compassion a part of their life’s work.

Yale-educated Amitabh started Yuva Unstoppable in 2005 at the age of 23 years, declining an offer from investment firm JPMorgan Street. He was inspired to launch the movement after seeing the immense suffering of his elderly 82-year-old nanny, Kamlaben, who was abandoned and abused by her son.  He gathered his friends and began volunteering at homes for the elderly, slums and orphanages. 

Amitabh truly believes in Gandhiji’s axiom – Be the change you wish to see in the world. He persevered despite initial resistance from friends and family. Today Yuva Unstoppable works with 100 top corporates (Cisco, Microsoft, VIP Bags, Torrent, Dishman Pharma, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Cairn, Adani, Exide, Reliance, Kings Punjab IPL, ONGC, etc.) and has transformed 1,000 government schools and impacted the lives of 500,000 children via better toilets, improved drinking water, scholarships, smart classrooms, value-based trainings, etc. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the late President of India Dr. APJ Kalam, Bollywood legends like Akshay Kumar and R Balki, cricketers VVS Laxman and Sir Ian Botham, Author Jeffry Archer, and corporate leaders like Paul Polman (Unilever CEO), Mr Nadir Godrej, Mr Gautam Adani,  Nimesh Kampani (JMFL), Bharat Shah (Chairman of HDFC Sec and Chairman of Yuva Unstoppable Advisory) amongst others have participated in Yuva’s initiatives.

In 2015 Amitabh was awarded the Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy, conferred by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco wherein Jack Ma of Alibaba Group was a semi-finalist.  In 2018, he was conferred the title of Sri Lankan Peace Ambassador by the Center of Peace Studies.  He is a celebrated inspirational speaker on Kindness, Gratitude and the power of Self-belief and has been winning hearts with his presence at TED Talks, Yale, Wharton, YPO/WPO, United Way's Million Dollar Roundtable, amongst others. 

Earlier this year, Amitabh was presented the Iconic Youth Award by Rotary International for mobilizing youthful energy and bringing lasting change in educational institutions.  National Award-winning film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, along with Gulzar and Shankar Ehsan Loy made a film inspired by Yuva’s grassroots efforts – “Mere Pyare PM” about an 8-year-old wanting to make a toilet for his mother. Amitabh aims to transform 10,000 schools and lives of five million children in the next five years.

Besides Shah, the other awardees this year include Erick Schmidt (former Google CEO), Ginni Rometti (IBM-Global CEO), Mr Ajay Banga (CEO Mastercard), Muhtar Kent (Chairman, Coca-Cola), Dr Sanjay Gupta, Emmy-award winning musician Paula Abdul and talk show host Montel Williams, amongst other legends.

The Ellis Island Society’s mission is to honour and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. Both the US House of Representatives and Senate have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honour, and each year’s recipients are read into the Congressional Record. It is primarily granted to American citizens and to select international leaders.

Previous winners include Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Jimmy Carter; boxer Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Nobel winner Malala Yousafzai, Former Pepsi honcho Indra Nooyi, singer Wayne Newton, golfer Arnold Palmer and actor Michael Douglas.

Some words of appreciation from Industry Leaders:

Yuva Patron, MD of VIP Industries, Dilip Piramal said: “My many congratulations to Yuva and Amitabh for this brilliant honour. This is great recognition for India and more corporates should be inspired to join Yuva’s cause of upgrading schools.”

Mohit Burman, Director of Dabur & Yuva’s Advisory Board member: “Yuva’s work is not about building sanitation in schools, it is about building India.”

Dilip Cherian, Founder Perfect Relations & Yuva’s Advisory Board member said: “We have touched 1,000 schools, and we are just getting started.”

Nasser Kazeminy, Chairman of Ellis Island Awards: “We salute and admire the work Amitabh is doing in education and children for India.”