Ideas to Action:

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What do college students and baby boomers have in common? Well this year they both have the opportunity to win the chance to accompany New York Times’ journalist Nicholas Kristof on a reporting trip to the developing world.

Last week, Nick Kristof kicked-off his 5th annual “Win-a-Trip” Contest with a new twist—this year, he will be looking for two winners: a university student and someone at least 60 years old. For the second year in a row the Center for Global Development is honored to be teaming up with Kristof to help vet the applications and narrow them down to a short list of finalists from which Kristof will select the two winners.

As Nick’s column is quick to point out, this trip is not for the faint of heart, but it is sure to give both winners a chance to see development efforts in action, and meet inspiring individuals along the way.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go on this win-a-trip, but one possibility is overland to Timbuktu, another is across either Sudan or Malawi, and a third is to Pakistan, India and Nepal. We’ll explore education, health and nutrition, and you’ll blog on NYTimes.com and record video diaries. On the very first win-a-trip in 2006, we were held up at gunpoint in the Central African Republic. But we also were able to shine a powerful spotlight on maternal mortality when we came across the wrenching scene of a woman dying in childbirth in Cameroon.”

I’m looking forward to organizing CGD’s vetting of the applications, and hope that the winners will be so inspired by their experiences that they return home ready to take additional steps to help reduce global poverty and inequality and make globalization work for the poor. Nick writes:

“One point of these trips is that there are solutions. Helping people is hard, and plenty of interventions fail. But we’re getting smarter at figuring out what makes a difference. In Congo, we saw how deworming children once a year — for about 50 cents per child — reduces anemia and sickness, and leaves children more likely to attend school.”

But if you don’t win this year, don’t get discouraged! As Nick explains, “Each year, some of the luckiest entrants in my contest are those who lose — and are so miffed at me that they organize their own trips.” So if you aren’t picked this time around, I hope you get mad, and are determined enough to plan a life changing trip or go volunteer abroad on your own.

All interested applicants are encouraged to apply by sending in an inspiring essay of up to 700 words, a video of up to three minutes, or both explaining why they should be picked as the next trip winner. All entries should be sent to winatrip@nytimes.com. If you decide to record a video you will need to post it to Nicholas Kristof’s Youtube channel, www.youtube.com/NicholasKristof, next to his video invitation for applications.

The essay guidelines are fairly unstructured—but one thing emphasized on Nick’s blog On the Ground, is that the ideal candidate must have excellent communication skills, since a major part of the winner’s responsibilities will be blogging or video blogging on the trip.

The application deadline is midnight, Eastern Time, on Tuesday, Jan. 18. To be considered you must be a resident in the United States and a student at an American university, or else be aged 60 or older. Anyone interested in applying should check out the full contest rules. The trip would happen later in 2011.