Champion of The Poor Awarded $1 Million Humanitarian "Opus Prize"
Opus Foundation Announces 2005 Awards
Sept. 6, 2005
Milwaukee, Wis. - A champion of literacy and educational opportunity for India's poorest children is the 2005 winner of the $1 million Opus Prize, officials of the Opus Prize Foundation and Marquette University announced today. Marquette was the Catholic university chosen by the Opus Prize Foundation to administer this year's prize.
Reach Education Action Programme (REAP), founded by Rev. Trevor Miranda, S.J. in Mumbai, India, one of the world's most populous cities previously known as Bombay, becomes the second recipient of the annual prize. The million-dollar cash award will be used to further REAP's mission of "empowering the underprivileged through literacy for a new world of freedom, justice, dignity and self-respect."
Under Rev. Miranda's leadership, REAP in just six years has opened more than 450 literacy centers to bring books and teachers to the desperately poor. Wherever the children may be - on the streets, in the hills, on the highways or in tribal areas - REAP's mission is to reach them, and to set them on a more hopeful path in the mainstream of society. REAP has also launched an adult literacy program that focuses on giving women the education, training and skills they need to take on dignified jobs and escape from the streets.
"Rev. Miranda's years of service to the poor and marginalized," said Don Neureuther, of the Opus Prize Foundation, "have shown an innovative approach to addressing old injustices and persistent social problems. Our hope is that this award not only furthers the work of the winner, but inspires others to give of themselves to those in need."
Marquette University Honored to Participate
The Opus Prize is a humanitarian award conferred on individuals or organizations of any religious background, anywhere in the world. The recipient must demonstrate innovative strategies to solving deeply rooted problems in their community - poverty, hunger, illiteracy or disease - and do so in ways that foster personal responsibility and independence. Nominations for the prize are considered by a panel of members from select Catholic universities around the country.
"It was a privilege for us to have a part in awarding this year's Opus Prize," said Marquette President Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J. "All three award recipients are living examples of key values that Marquette as a Catholic, Jesuit university seeks to promote. Our participation in the Opus Prize this year is, in fact, a catalyst for our students and faculty to engage further in the work of promoting human rights and human dignity around the world."
Marquette will use the momentum created by its participation in the Opus Prize selection to explore issues of human dignity and human rights and the response of individuals and institutions to such issues. As part of the year-long "Human Dignity, Human Rights: A Call to Service," the university will present faculty lectures across academic disciplines, a film series, performing arts productions, and presentations by university guests on issues of human rights in the context of Marquette's Catholic, Jesuit mission.
The prize is conferred as an encouragement to the work of humanitarian entrepreneurs around the world - men and women whose resourcefulness, moral vision, and unshakable determination are transforming their communities for the better. It honors men and women who, in their own daily lives, show the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of others.
The nondenominational Opus Prize honors faith in action, singling out the good works, fidelity, and exemplary character of recipients. The first winner of the Opus Prize was Helping Hands for the Poor, Inc., in honor of Monsignor Richard Albert, a New York City native who has devoted thirty years to serving the poor in the shantytowns of Jamaica.
The REAP centers offer a low-budget, out-of-school learning system for children and young adults who live on the margins of Indian society - many of them child laborers who have been given no formal education at all. The program is open to all needy children, regardless of caste, creed or religion. REAP aims, as Rev. Miranda puts it, at "a literacy movement, covering every street, pavement, slum, hilltop, [and] tribal village to bring about social transformation."
Additional Prizes Honor Wasson, Otieno
This year, a prize of $100,000 was also awarded by the Opus Prize Foundation to Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos ("Our Little Brothers and Sisters") a charitable organization serving orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean founded by Rev. William Wasson. The centers began in 1954 when Father Wasson rescued a boy from a harsh prison sentence in a Mexican jail who had been caught stealing money from the church poor box to buy food. After gaining custody of the boy and eight other children in his jail cell, Father Wasson started Our Little Brothers and Sisters. In the half-century since then, the orphanages have cared for more than 15,000 homeless or abandoned boys and girls.
Another award of $100,000 was conferred on Dr. Juliana Akinyi Otieno for her service as a pediatrician in eastern Kenya, where two in every ten children still die before the age of five. In addition to working a 12-hour shift as a pediatrician at New Nyanza General Hospital, Dr. Otieno opens her home as an after-hours clinic for the care of children, whose parents often walk for days to reach her. In a part of the world often oppressive and degrading to women, Dr. Otieno overcame many obstacles, and has devoted her life to saving and uplifting the lives of others.
The Opus Prize Foundation recognizes unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems by annually awarding the Opus Prize, a $1 million award and two $100,000 monetary awards. Opus Prize winners combine a driving entrepreneurial spirit with an abiding faith to give power to the disenfranchised, opportunities to the poorest, and inspire others to pursue lives of service. The Prize is awarded through partnerships with Catholic universities or colleges to maximize the scope and impact of its mission. The first Opus Prize was given in 2004. Today, 16 individuals from the United States and around the world have been recognized. The Opus Prize Foundation, established in 1994 by the founding chairman of Opus Corporation, is a private and independent foundation and does not accept unsolicited nominations. For more information, visit www.opusprize.org.
November Awards Ceremony
All three recipients will be on campus at Marquette University on November 7, 2005 for the conferral of their awards. They will also participate in a week long series of events on campus dedicated to the cause of human rights around the world.
© 2011 The Opus Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.