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Student Entrepreneurs Awarded $1 Million To Empower Refugees In South Asia

Four Pakistani-American students are one step closer to making their idea for tackling the global refugee crisis into reality.

The young entrepreneurs behind Roshni Rides, an envisioned transportation network to empower refugees overseas, on Saturday won the prestigious Hult Prize challenge ― which comes with a $1 million award in seed capital.

The Hult Prize Foundation, a nonprofit organization for social enterprise, last year presented students with its eighth annual goal-oriented contest: develop a startup venture to restore the rights and dignity of 1 million refugees by 2022.

More than 50,000 applicants from well over 100 countries rose to the task, and judges selected six finalists after several stages of competition.

The finals, hosted at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Saturday, officially kicked off U.N. Global Goals Week for sustainable development during the General Assembly. The Roshni Rides team pitched its proposal before a chamber of spectators, including a panel of eight judges.

The business model is a formalized rickshaw shuttle service inspired by the New York subway system. The team aims to optimize existing infrastructure in order to offer fixed, affordable commuting prices to urbanized refugees in South Asia, where transportation options are often limited. Facilitating local travel will also help eliminate refugees’ barriers to accessing education and employment opportunities, the team members said.

Former President Bill Clinton, a key Hult Prize partner, declared Roshni Rides the winner of this year’s challenge. “This is a private solution to a public problem that will have a big impact,” he said.

An unprecedented 65.6 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflicts, natural disasters and other crises, according to the latest U.N. data. This figure includes nearly 22.5 million refugees.

Read more on HuffPost.

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