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Grinnell Prize 2014 winners announced


The Grinnell Prize Office announced on Wednesday that Adam Kircher and Kiah Williams, co-founders of SIRUM, and Lindsey Stradley and her husband Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founders of Sanergy, are the winners of the 2014 Grinnell College Youth Innovator for Social Justice Prize. 

First awarded in 2011, the annual prize awards 100,000 dollars to leaders under 40 years old who have developed innovative ways to advance social change. It is the largest social justice prize awarded by a U.S. college.

SIRUM, which stands for Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine, manages the redistribution of excess prescriptive medications to patients unable to afford their prescriptions in safety-net clinics and pharmacies. Williams and Kircher founded SIRUM while in a student group at Stanford University. 

“Stockpiles of medicine large enough to fill warehouses the size of football stadiums went unused,” Kircher wrote in an email to the S&B. “[Yet] I saw how supplies never seemed to reach the areas in most need.” 

In the long term, Kircher’s goal is zero waste. He believes that the redistribution of medicine will become an established practice leading to cultural shift much like recycling, while also providing medication to people without the regular or full access to the medications they require.

Saunia Powell ’02, Coordinator of the Grinnell Prize, expressed that the 10-member selection committee, made up of faculty, staff, students and alumni, was especially impressed with the fact that SIRUM is helping to solve a domestic issue. 


“[They] are addressing a real need that people in our community—in Grinnell—have, and that is paying for really expensive prescriptions,” Powell said. 

Sanergy, the organization founded by Stradley and Vallabhaneni, is a company that provides an innovative solution to alleviate the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. The lack of proper sanitation facilities has led people to turn to ‘flying toilets,’ plastic bags filled with human waste that are then discarded carelessly into the streets. 

Sanergy is currently working to provide Fresh Life Toilets to the area. These toilets are cost effective, easy to upkeep and provide all necessary sanitation services. The toilets are franchised out to business entrepreneurs, who are paid a nominal fee by residents to use 

the toilets. Additionally, waste from  the toilets are collected daily and converted into natural fertilizers, which are then sent to farms throughout Kenya. 

“We saw that they were thinking about each and every piece of the puzzle and how to make the most impact both ecologically and in terms of creating a safe and disease-free environment,” Powell said. 

Since the Prize was first awarded, it has aimed to build a community of socially aware individuals working towards innovative  projects throughout the world. Therefore, all 12 of the 

previous prizewinners have returned  to Grinnell to work with current students on their projects.

In some cases, students are able to intern on-site with prizewinners and work directly with their organization. Kircher hopes that SIRUM will have a similar relationship with the College in the future. 

“I look forward to having a conversation with Grinnell about how we can work together towards a common vision of social justice,” Kircher wrote. 

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