Sourav Bose will never forget the poverty he witnessed while traveling through India at age 8.
"We were driving through New Delhi. My sister was eating a candy bar, and someone knocked on the window. They didn't have all their fingers," said Bose, who lives in Leonia. "That's the one thing I'll always remember, a fingerless hand clawing for a candy bar."
It may have been the first time Bose had seen such suffering, but it was the last time he would do nothing about it.
Bose, 17, is being honored tonight for founding the Aid for AIDS club at the Bergen Academies and later establishing a non-profit organization called Niramoy.
Through his group, Bose has been able to build an AIDS awareness and health center in the heart of rural India. The teen's work sits on the former site of a hurricane-demolished library that he discovered when visiting Gopalpur, his father's hometown, in the summer of 2005.
Bose is one of five teenagers from around the country receiving the NetAid Global Action Award from the domestic arm of Mercy Corps, a worldwide organization that provides aid to the developing world. The presentation is tonight in New York.
Aid for AIDS now has 20 chapters in high schools statewide, with more than 100 members. There are 15 dedicated participants who helped Bose raise money for the health center.
"We are a community helping a community," he said.
Bose, with the help of his father, Dr. Shishir Bose, was able to reach half a world away to help people in need. He's raised more than $15,000 since he started the club two years ago. He has volunteers in India who deal with the day-to-day operation of Niramoy, and Bose manages the non-profit here.
Even though Bose will be starting college at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, he still plans to keep Aid for AIDS in high schools. He has been voraciously recruiting new Bergen County Academies students "fresh out of middle school."
"In college, I'll take Niramoy with me," Bose said about the expanding organization, with new promising efforts on Maryland and Rutgers campuses. "But on the high school level, Aid for AIDS will still exist."
Helen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Mercy Corps, said it's Bose's ability to create a "movement" that earned him the Global Action Award.
"He is the kind of person we need to create sustainable change," Thompson said. "We thought [Bose's] project was really original, and he really involved his community."
His parents are proud of their son's accomplishments. His mother, Dr. Sadhana Bose, said she used to dismiss "the little boy's" aspirations as "fantasies," but she always supported him.
"People laughed at this project in the beginning," Sourav Bose said. "But there is no reason not to try."