Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Branson offers phones to homeless youth

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ONE of the richest men in the world has launched a pilot program to put cellular phones in the hands of homeless and at-risk youth.

Sir Richard Branson unveiled Phones for Change on Thursday through Virgin Mobile Canada and Virgin Unite, two subsidiaries of the Virgin Group, an international giant he founded.

Phones for Change will work with Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) in Winnipeg and Vancouver's Broadway Youth Resource Centre to give young people access to phones and monthly plans while educating them on the importance of financial management and how to escape the cycle of debt.

"With at-risk and homeless youth having so much to go without, a mobile phone is more than just an accessory, it's their lifeline to employment and services," Branson said.

Youth nominated by each organization will receive a Virgin Mobile phone. The program will run for one year in Winnipeg and Vancouver with the goal of expanding to other cities in 2013.

Branson, whose net worth is estimated at US$4.2 billion, will be in Winnipeg today visiting the studios of Virgin Radio (formerly Hot 103) and speaking to a sold-out Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 A6

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