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Homelessness Advocate, Former Togo Refugee Recipient Of 2012 Cardinal Bernardin Award

November 9, 2012

WASHINGTON—Karl Kumodzi, 20, of Las Vegas, an advocate on homelessness and racial injustice and co-founder of an international non-profit program for access to education, is the winner of the 2012 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. The award is sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Originally a refugee from Togo, Kumodzi is a student at Stanford University, where he is a leader in campus ministry and was instrumental in opening a student-run homeless shelter on campus in early 2012. The shelter, Hotel de Zink, works to empower homeless guests through community meetings and a guest advocacy program. Students and guests also learn about structural barriers, including lack of access to education and affordable housing, and take action in response.

Kumodzi says that his family "was very lucky" to find a home in the United States and that he is driven by a "strong sense of responsibility and desire to give back." Although work for justice can be difficult, he says, "there is always hope with Jesus."

In 2011, Kumodzi was one of 40 students selected as 2011 Student Freedom Riders, retracing the footsteps of the 1961 Civil Rights freedom riders. On the journey, he reflected on how racial injustice still affects many of the communities he encountered. In 2007, he co-founded the Hidden Talent Foundation to channel U.S. resources to train students in Togo and Benin to work for future economic, political and social development.

Kumodzi will be honored by the U.S. bishops at a reception, November 12, in conjunction with the Fall General Assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore.

The Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award honors a Catholic between the age of 18 and 30 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It is named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, former archbishop of Chicago and a leading voice on behalf of poor and low-income people, who understood the need to build bridges across ethnic, economic, class and age barriers.

More information on the Cardinal Bernardin Award is available online:


Keywords: Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, CCHD, U.S. bishops, USCCB, Karl Kumodzi, Standford University, Togo, refugee, student freedom rider, racial justice, campus ministry, poverty

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Don Clemmer
O: 202-541-3206

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