Opus Prize recipients may not be household names, but don't be fooled by their relative anonymity. The Opus Prize winner and finalists are beating daunting odds to bring about lasting social change in their communities and countries.
In these recipients, an unshakeable faith and a belief in entrepreneurship mingle and the results are stunning. Their efforts to help the poor and underserved transform their lives makes the case that real, upward change is possible and inspires others to get involved.
2012 Opus Prize Recipients
$1 Million Opus Prize Winner
Father Richard Frechette, C.P.
The St. Luke Foundation for Haiti provides education, healthcare, and dignified humanitarian outreach to over 150,000 people each year while employing more than 800 Haitian staff. Fr. Rick Frechette, an American priest and doctor, began the work of the St. Luke mission in collaboration with a group of inspired, young Haitian leaders who envisioned a different path forward for their country. While Fr. Rick maintains a presence as a trusted mentor whose vision and tireless work continues to help shape the organization, he has built St. Luke’s on the foundation of 100 percent Haitian leadership. Their programs have become a model for what is possible in Haiti when the enormous talent, passion and courage of the next generation of Haitian leaders is embraced. The St. Luke team has made remarkable advances implementing organic, sustainable solutions to the problems facing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
When watching Fr. Rick Frechette move and work among his beloved people, one learns very quickly that what is most important is not so much what he does as a faith-based social entrepreneur, but rather how and why he serves Haiti’s poor. He is a brilliant visionary and businessman who is strong-willed, compassionate, detailed, fearless, funny and completely devoted to the “other.” His unshakable faith grounds his every decision, and the powerful mantra, “If not us – who; if not now – when” inspires every future direction of one of Haiti’s premier service organizations.
$100,000 Opus Prize Finalists
In small villages throughout the countryside of rural Bolivia, an NGO founded by Segundo Velasquez and his wife Joan is helping individuals and communities become self-sufficient. Segundo is first and foremost a social entrepreneur who is very intentional in his business model, and has surrounded himself with professionals who buy in to every aspect of the work and values that are at the core of the organization. Whether it’s providing access to basic healthcare, schools to educate children, roads to help farmers bring produce to market, or water projects to increase production, the goal of Mano a Mano is to help people and communities improve their own quality of life.
A village and/or local government must contribute the site, a portion of the funding, and significant sweat equity for each project. That same community assumes ownership of a clinic, school or water project when it’s built and is required to maintain the project according to standards established by Mano a Mano. People in each village are trained by Mano a Mano as health promoters going door-to-door to educate families about health and nutrition, and the organization also funds a scholarship “dream fund” to support local community members to be educated as nurses. Over time, many communities have worked with this successful NGO on multiple projects and at their current rate of project development, Mano a Mano has requests from communities that would require 20 years to complete.
Leonora Micheiln Laboissière Mol
Ateliê de Idéias
Ateliê de Idéias (ADI) is a grass roots NGO founded by Leonora Mol that grew out of her long and storied history of strengthening poor communities through life-skills development, financial literacy, and the provision of decent housing and employment. Based in her home town of Vitória, Brazil, she has worked throughout the state of Espírito Santo, helping to establish 17 community development banks as the “engines” that provide opportunities for families shut out of the economic mainstream. The people she serves attest to her profound faith, her gift of modeling effective leadership, and her commitment to building the capacity of others.
Leonora and her staff believe in the tenacity and commitment of the families they serve and their community partners. However, the real strength in ADI’s development model is the sizable investment they make in old-fashioned grass roots organizing. Staff members not only reach out to every household, they collect and analyze useful data which is then used to create a written strategic plan with very specific goals focused on identified community needs. The energy generated through organizing leads to the election of a community leadership team – the “Forum,” which oversees the community development bank. Leonora does not receive a salary for her work, and the stipend she received when named an Ashoka fellow was re-invested in her work.
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