Kurt Shaw: The end of the street

Kurt G. Shaw, Executive Director of Shine a Light, graduated summa cum laude from Williams College and then won a Fulbright fellowship to spend almost two years working with grassroots groups in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. He has worked as a Visiting Scholar at the Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones, Latin America's premier institute for Liberation Theology, and as a Research Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, where he addressed US-Cuba relations and governance issues in Chile. After earning a Master's Degree in Religion from Harvard University, Kurt counseled homeless teenagers in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then went on to found Shine a Light, which would become the largest network of NGOs serving street children in Latin America.  

Twenty years ago, throughout Latin America, street children were ubiquitous--their numbers were estimated to be in the tens of millions. Today they are rarely encountered. Shaw has been a participant and eyewitness to this extraordinary and positive social change. 

As the number of children living on the streets of Latin America has dropped precipitously, Shaw moved Shine a Light into work on using digital media to win visibility for excluded children, including gang members, ex-child soldiers, and indigenous children.  He has won the Harvard First Decade Award as the graduate who has contributed most to social justice in his first ten years of work, and he coordinated the work of two finalists and one winner of the "Freedom to Create Award", given to the youth art group that has done most to promote human rights in the world. This past summer "The Good" an organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognized Shaw and Shine a Light as one of the major actors for positive social change.

In addition to writing half a dozen books on youth homelessness, Latin American gangs, child soldiers, and children and media, Shaw has also produced several hip-hop albums with marginalized children, a fictional feature film with child soldiers, and several documentaries that have been shown at important film festivals in Latin America and Europe.  He lives in Florianópolis, Brazil, with his wife (and Shine a Light co-director) Rita da Silva and their young daughter, Helena.