Durham University student meets Pope Francis in Rome


A DURHAM University student has described the moment he had the unique opportunity to meet religious leader Pope Francis earlier this month – calling it “a moment that will stay with me forever”.

Jeremiah Thoronka, 21, a postgraduate anthropology student at Durham University, traveled to Rome on May 19 with a specific destination in mind: to meet the pope.

Although the honor of meeting the influencer is not a daily occurrence, the student has earned the right to the opportunity by winning the Chegg.org Global Student Prize.

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As part of his visit, he joined 50 students from around the world attending the Pope’s inaugural lecture at the “Laudato Si'” school, to mark the launch of the International Educational Movement Scholas Occurrentes.

The event, held in the Aula Magna of the Urbaniana University, brought together personalities from the world of art, sport and technology, representatives of civil society from the countries in which the movement educational Scholas is active.

Describing the moment he met the pope, Mr. Thoronka, originally from Sierra Leone, said: “It was a huge honor to meet His Holiness Pope Francis and extremely encouraging to see him and Scholas so supportive of the young people around the world in their efforts to tackle environmental and other issues.

Jeremy Thoronka. Photo: THE VARKEY FOUNDATION.

“The experience of meeting the Pope, while seeing so many young people from all corners of the planet come together to take positive action to help their world and its future, is an experience that will be etched in my memory forever.”

Now that the 21-year-old has met the Pope, he hopes to enjoy his home country after inventing a device that uses the kinetic energy of traffic and pedestrians to generate clean energy.

Mr Thoronka is the first winner of the Global Student Prize, his victory having been announced by Hugh Jackman last year in a virtual ceremony broadcast from UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Echo of the North: Pope Francis.  Photo: PA MEDIA.Pope Francis. Photo: PA MEDIA.

Already, his invention is having a considerable impact.

Optim Energy ran a successful pilot program in the neighborhoods of Jeremiah, Makawo in northern Sierra Leone and Kuntoluh east of Freetown.

With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 homes comprising around 1,500 citizens, as well as 15 schools attended by over 9,000 students.

The student is currently making plans to expand into the healthcare sector, which needs energy to cool medicines and vaccines and create enough light to treat patients after dark.

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