Berkeley Hep B Project Wins Pepsi Prize

Berkeley’s Hep B Project, which is working to prevent Hepatitis B in the East Bay Asian Pacific community, won $25,000 in the Pepsi Refresh Project, a national competition honoring projects that improve local communities across the nation.

The organization took fifth place in the online voting that determined the contest’s April winners of ten $25,000 grants. PepsiCo Inc. is giving away up to $1.3 million in grant money each month this year.

It was quite a roller coaster ride for the nine-month-old Hep B project. “It was a crazy month. The first day we started at No. 240 in the $25,000 category,” says Brian Lin, BS 10 (Business and Molecular Bio.) ‘Then for the next week we were around 20. On the 24th (of April) we hit the top ten. The day before voting ended we dropped to No. 10 but overnight made it to No. 5.”

Part of their success, he says, can be attributed to the great publicity they received. Articles about their entry into Pepsi Refresh were published in the Daily Cal and the Chinese language daily, the World Journal, as well as the Haas NewsWire. In addition, the Hep B Project students partnered with other groups in the running to vote for each other, since everyone could cast votes for up to 10 different contenders each day.

The Hep B Project will receive half the money it won in June, after sending the contest organizers a description of the organization, its objectives, a budget, and a project plan for the year in which the grant money will be used. A mid-year report must also be filed.

Winning the $25,000 will help the Hep B Project stay in business, since it was running out of its original startup funding. The organization runs two volunteer-staffed weekly clinics in Oakland and will use the money to pay for screenings and promotional items.

Kathy Ahoy, an Alameda County Public Health Department nurse and founder of the Street Level Health Project where one of the clinics is held, has been involved in the Hep B project from the beginning as a volunteer and mentor to the students.

“People go all over the world to take care of the world’s problems, but they’re right here in our own neighborhood,” she says. “For me, it’s really making people aware that in the Asian community there’s this silent killer — Hepatitis B — and everyone needs to be screened.”