Opus 2012 nominees

Opus 2012 nominees from left to right: Segundo Velasquez, Mano a Mano Bolivia; Leonora Micheiln Laboissière Mol, Atellê de Idéias Brazil; and Father Richard Frechette, C.P. , St. Luke Foundation Haiti.


In Their Words

Hearing from the St. Kate's students who were part of the 2012 Opus Prize due diligence teams.

BOLIVIA
Katherine Montenegro '13
Renee Crepeau '13

BRAZIL
Leslie Muzulu '13
Joanne Ott, MAHS'12

HAITI
Jennifer Donohue '15
Liesl Wolf '13

Katherine Montenegro '13

BOLIVIA: Segundo Velasquez/Mano a Mano
Katherine Montenegro '13
Major: Nursing

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
This experience was inspirational, and one of the best examples I have seen on how to help people with the most needs. Many times, we do want to help others, but sometimes we just do not know how to or what to do. Learning about the work of Mano a Mano left an impression on me about helping and commitment.

What I have brought back to share with the St. Kate's community is the idea that there is always a way to help others, from donating notebooks or pencils to working for nonprofit organizations. In Mano a Mano, there were lawyers, doctors, pilots, architects, economists, engineers — people in a variety of careers, but their main purpose was to help others by giving their knowledge, time and work.

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
As a Catholic, I have learned that God is love, and he wants us to love others as he loves us. Mano a Mano is a vivid example of this love and commitment for others. The organization is full of people who really care and give themselves to help the most vulnerable communities. They are humble, competent and hard workers, and they are actively thinking about better and efficient strategies to implement in their projects.

Describe the nominee's transformational leadership style.
Segundo Velasquez not only helps the indigenous people by providing schools, hospitals and water reservoirs, but also involves them in the construction of the projects. Additionally, once the projects are ready, it is the community's responsibility to maintain them in good working condition. Segundo not only teaches community members to be responsible but also to stand up for themselves.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
Because Mano a Mano will put it to work. The lack of economic resources is why many projects on their list get delayed. Mano a Mano stretches every single dollar as much as they can. If they win the big prize, we will see real results.


Renee Crepeau '13

BOLIVIA: Segundo Velasquez/Mano a Mano
Renee Crepeau '13, Student Senate president
Major: International business/economics; marketing and management

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
I want to serve others, and this trip really reconfirmed that. I would love to go to Bolivia with the entire St. Kate's student body to help Mano a Mano and the people of Bolivia, but I know that isn't realistic. Instead, I've thought of a program called "It Takes a Village," and with this, I hope to bring back to the St. Kate's community an understanding of the needs and work that students can help with.

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
Segundo is a selfless man. He walks softly and carries a big stick. He listens to others. He acknowledges that God has sent him to help the people of Bolivia — to be the positive, constructive, encouraging and hopeful help that they need.

Describe the nominee's transformational leadership style.
Segundo teaches one to fish. His is a sustainable model that withstands time and is replicable worldwide. He gets buy-in from government officials, indigenous leaders and local citizens, and he gives the community ownership. The villagers build, run and use the resources brought to them by Mano a Mano.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
Segundo is changing lives and bettering the future of Bolivia and the world. He is bringing hope to those who need it. With $1 million, Mano a Mano can continue to help the amazing people of Bolivia who are only asking for what we take for granted — food, water, dirt roads to access nearby markets, healthcare and education.


Leslie Muzulu '13

BRAZIL: Leonora Micheiln Laboissière Mol/Ateliê de Idéias
Leslie Muzulu '13
Major: Mathematics

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
Listening and talking to members of AdI, the community leaders and the people made me realize that stories matter; they can be used to empower and humanize. Despite the many challenges faced by residents in the favelas (slums) such as garbage collection, drug wars and inadequate housing, they exuded a great zeal for life and the most positive energy I had ever seen. This taught me that there is more to life than the quest for material happiness.

From this experience, I would like to encourage everyone not to be afraid to interact with new people and to seize travel and volunteering opportunities —because it is through these encounters that we "enter the realm of the other," a realm in which we cross the boundaries of human difference.

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
"Church isn't where you meet. Church isn't a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ," says Bridget Willard, a worship leader and author. This quote rightfully embodies the way Leonora's faith guides her work.

One would expect that since she was raised Catholic, she would have a heavy Catholic church presence in her work, but Leonora's Catholic identity shines through in the way she interacts and treats others. She selflessly helps her community, finds resources and shares ideas with those who share her vision.

Describe the nominee's transformational leadership style.
Leonora is a remarkable transformational leader and role model. Despite her busy schedule and illness, she is able to keep her links of communication open, and this has resulted in the immense trust and respect she garners from all those she interacts with. She is a great listener and is able to engage with everyone.

Consequently, she is adept at raising consciousness about problems affecting the neighborhoods her organization works in as well as encouraging creative ways of tackling them.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
I think AdI should win the $1 million because the organization has tangible and sustainable goals such as:

  • The development of more community banks that would serve more underprivileged people in other areas.
  • The completion of the organization's brick factory in the Cariacica community, which would provide a livelihood for the residents in this area.
  • The continued education of the youth living in favelas to prevent them from getting involved in dangerous crimes such as drug trafficking, a huge problem in those neighborhoods.


Joanne Ott

BRAZIL: Leonora Micheiln Laboissiére Mol/Ateliê de Idéias
Joanne Ott
Graduate program: Holistic health studies

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
I see the next frontier of social justice as empowering humanity to construct economic systems that are inclusive, and I think Leonora is someone attempting to do so.

Brazil is a modern developing country, yet what is most striking is the contrast between rich and poor — a very stark tension of "the haves" and "the have-nots" living within spitting distance of one another. It was difficult for me to straddle both sides at once, and therefore engaged deeply in my heart are the injustices of those not having economic resources to live in dignity.

We were told that Brazilians who live in the favelas are embarrassed by where they live and, as a result, generally view it as better to make purchases outside of their community instead of within. However, outside their community, where most of them work, they do not have bank accounts. Nor will banks lend them any money — because of where they live and their limited sources of income. The economic system excludes them from financing (for housing, and commercial and consumer loans) and in promoting economic stability within their communities through local businesses.

Describe your nominee's transformational leadership style.
The unique and transformational piece of Leonora's organization lies with the forum leaders. I was very impressed by the demeanor of two forum leaders from Terretorio do Bem favelas whom we met during our visit. Cosme has lived 20 years in Jaburu, and Vilmar has lived 40 years in Sao Benedito. In my conversations with both of them, I was struck by how confident and articulate they appeared. It was apparent that they had become transformative leaders for their communities, and both have been trained by Leonora.

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
It seems to me that faith can be defined in various manners. My faith is rooted in social justice that gives dignity to all humanity and is expressed in outward action versus expressed words. I embody faith not verbalize it.

After just a few days of observing Leonora's work, it was apparent that she desired dignity for those living in the slums and empowered them through community development banking and economic solidarity. To me, this example of economic inclusion is synonymous with the Bible story of Jesus entering the temple angry with the money-changers for taking advantage of the people, who were essentially being excluded from fair economic trade.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
Leonora's work is faith in action — transformative leadership and empowerment of people to work with her organization and construct their own change.


Jennifer Donohue '15

HAITI: Father Richard Frechette, C.P./Saint Luke Foundation
Jennifer Donohue '15
Major: Social work and public health

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
This experience was an eye-opener for me about the vulnerability of life and the strength it takes to put trust in God for all situations. The extreme conditions that the Haitian people were living in and dealing with on a daily basis made me realize how much I take for granted in my own life — from having a bed and not having to fend off rats at night to having a stable healthcare safety net in case I or someone in my family needs treatment.

Without enough options, education or proper technology, what else can you do but pray and accept a fate that is not fair?

The images we saw while in Haiti have stayed with me to this day. I hope that our St. Kate's community can both give resources to and take lessons from these people so that barriers will be broken down and Haitians are given the opportunity to reach their potential.  

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
Faith, hope and love are the ingredients that give purpose to Father Rick's work and allow it to be done.

Describe your nominee's transformational leadership style.
Father Rick was absolutely incredible. Not only does he manage and oversee the different organizations in his program, but he takes the time to know people by name and story, and he sees the potential in all. He looks for future leaders and encourages them along the way, prepping them for a life of service and social justice missions. He blew all of our minds away.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
Father Rick exceeds all the criteria listed by the Opus Prize Foundation. His organization is helping so many people and continues to grow — but money is the only way to complete and expand the programs he has already laid the foundation for. I have never seen or heard of an organization that does more for people in such an efficient and dignified manner.


Liesl Wolf '13

HAITI: Father Richard Frechette, C.P./Saint Luke Foundation
Liesl Wolf '13
Major: Nursing and sociology

Share your experience and what you will bring back to the St. Kate's community.
It really is possible for a non-governmental organization to come in and do great work with the people it is serving. Saint Luke is not Father Rick's organization; it is the people of Haiti's organization working to empower one another and lift each other up together.

Describe how your nominee's faith guides her or his work.
Father Rick demonstrates a life of social justice and unwavering faith. He lives his faith every day with absolutely everything he does. Mass is at 7 a.m., and it's also a funeral. They bury 100 people every week. He meets people on their faith journey, wherever they are, and it is not about converting them but serving them.

Describe your nominee's transformational leadership style.
The organization is run 100 percent by the Haitian people. Medical directors are Haitian and actually grew up in the orphanage. St. Luke educates people not only to find employment; it also gives them opportunities to lead their fellow Haitians to create positive change. Those serving Saint Luke always contribute back.

Tell us why your nominee should win the $1 million prize.
When there's a need, Father Rick will find some way — any way — to meet that need. For example, when jobs and oxygen tanks are needed at a hospital, he creates an oxygen tank production center in which Haitian people are employed. When children and the elderly are malnourished, and people need jobs, he creates a peanut butter production center where Haitians are employed — and the peanut butter saves lives! When someone is kidnapped, held for ransom and might die, he talks with the gang leaders and frees the person, despite endangering his own life.

Opus Pirze: Save The Date

The Opus Prize is given annually to recognize unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems.

  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Teaching One to Fish
  • Faith That Is Lived Each Day
  • Service to Others
  • Unsung Heroes
  • Dignity of the Human Person