Catholic News Service covered the Nov. 8 awarding of the Opus Prize at CUA. Brother Constant Goetschalckx, F.C., founder and director of AHADI International Institute in Tanzania, was awarded $1 million to help his organization. See the story below.
African refugee outreach program gets $1 million Opus Prize

From: Catholic News Service Date: Nov. 14, 2007 Author: Laura Jamison WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Opus Prize Foundation, in partnership with The Catholic University of America, awarded a $1 million prize Nov. 8 to a Tanzanian organization founded by Brother Constant Goetschalckx that educates refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

Brother Goetschalckx, a member of the Brothers of Charity from Belgium who is known as Brother Stan, said he sees the prize as a "sign that God is continuing to go the journey with us."

The money will be "transformational," added Anthony Buatti, a senior at Catholic University who has traveled to Tanzania as the university's representative. He spoke at the campus dinner where Brother Goetschalckx accepted the award.

The two other awards finalists -- Father John Adams, president of So Others Might Eat in Washington, and Vincentian Father Norberto Carcellar, executive director of the Homeless People's Federation Philippines -- each received an award of $100,000.

The Opus Prize Foundation is a philanthropic organization created by the Opus Group, a national real estate development company based in Minneapolis. It selects a college or university each year to receive its awards for faith-based, social entrepreneurship.

Buatti said he will never forget the image of the refugee camps surrounded by fences and barbed wire in Tanzania.

The people looked hopeless, because they had nothing to do, he said. "But Brother Stan's compound was a completely different world. They could learn and have something to do with their lives. That dichotomy is incredible to see."

Brother Goetschalckx's organization is called Ahadi International Institute. Ahadi, a Swahili name that means "working toward the fulfillment of a promise," was formed in response to the ethnic wars and rebel activity in central Africa. The organization provides college-level training for 1,000 refugees through a distance-learning program and instruction for 25,000 refugees seeking their high school diplomas each year.

Brother Goetschalckx said he never intended to work with refugees, but the Brothers of Charity asked him to leave his position as principal of a secondary school in Africa when ethnic wars arose and refugee aid was needed.

"I had to leave my world, my activities, my stuff ... and work with the refugees," he said. "So you pray, you cry, and you ask for advice and you say you will do it, jumping into an unknown world."

Ahadi, now in its 10th year of service to refugees, employs 800 teachers in 30 locations.

Even though he lives on less than a dollar a day, Brother Goetschalckx describes his work as "the most beautiful days of my life."

He also pointed out that the other Opus Prize finalists are doing "the same work, with the same love, in another environment."

The Homeless People's Federation Philippines helps Filipino squatters living on the Payatas garbage dump in Quezon City purchase land, create community savings and credit programs, build housing, negotiate with the government and construct waste disposal and water distribution systems.

Father Carcellar said the squatters are a result of urbanization which is projected to affect 2.5 billion people worldwide by the year 2015.

With the prize money, the priest hopes to make the government aware that squatters are citizens.

"That kind of advocacy component is very important," he added.

Father Adams has directed So Others Might Eat, also known as SOME, for 29 years. During this time, the organization has increased its services from feeding 50 to 60 people a day to 850. It also offers job training, medical and dental care, addiction treatment and counseling, and affordable housing. Father Adams said the prize money will help the 9,000 homeless people who live in Washington and will be used to create more affordable housing.

"The greatest future for SOME would be for it to go out of existence," he said.

Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs at Catholic University, said it was a privilege to see 125 students attend evening Mass with the prize finalists.

And although the dinner's theme was "prepare to be inspired," he said it could have been dubbed "prepare to be humbled."

###2007 (c) Catholic News Service Reprinted with permission of CNS