The Piece Prize spreads hope throughout Europe
Mark Fuhrmann, a 59-year-old Canadian born father of three living in Norway since 1986, has embarked on a 5,600km solo kayak tour from Oslo to Athens, stopping in major centres to reward silent heroes with a modest Piece Prize, and promote positive values, actions and thoughts.
Silent heroes can be anyone of any age. They may run community organisations, be involved with charity work, be a friend to those in need, do good deeds, anything that promotes positive values and demonstrates compassion for others, regardless of the scale of the activity. In short, they are good neighbours, good people!
Below are brief summaries of the silent heroes recognized so far:
Giving back in Bremen
Sylvia Antoulas is a 64 year-old Swiss native married to a Greek and living in Bremen. With her two children grown, she decided to take in a foster child from West Africa. “Ironically, we had to fight the bureaucracy in order to do this good thing, but in the end we managed,” Sylvia tells.
In addition Sylvia pays weekly visits to assists a 95 year-old woman living in assisted care in Bremen. “I take her out on errands, and just talk. Getting out, having someone to talk to, those simple things make a big difference in someone’s life when they have no one else around them.”
Sylvia has also befriended two girls from Afghanistan and Syria, helping them with the local language and tackling personal issues and daily challenges. Topping her efforts off, Sylvia volunteers at a local school library. A super citizen, and a worthy recipient of a Piece Prize of EUR 1000.
Peace Attack: Ground Zero Bremen
The first Piece Prize “Peace Attack” was launched in downtown Bremen. The Peace Attack is designed to startle the citizenry, but in a good way, with surprise offerings of love, caring, and compassion. 20 students gathered in city center to distribute 200 red hearts with messages about peace and caring for others. Piece Prize founder Mark Fuhrmann reports that the first Peace Attack was a success: “We made a lot of people happy – with no injuries reported,” he smiles.
From words to action: Compassion in Copenhagen
The Silent hero in Copenhagen is Ayfer Baykal, manager of Cafe Klare, a night haven for women in distress. Baykal is a former deputy mayor of Copenhagen, so she better than most knows that words may be necessary, but actions speak the loudest.
Cafe Klare is primarily intended as a shelter for the homeless: “We have had women staying with us from ages 18 to 79,” Ayfer says. “The reasons are always different, but they all need help. We do what we can to get them to a better place.”
“Sometimes it can be difficult,” she admits. “I’m human, and you can’t put on a mask or just leave it all behind. I can’t save the whole world, but I can do my best in my own city.”
Refugee aid efforts recognized in Fredrikstad
The first Piece Prize was awarded to Eva-Lotta Sandberg of Fredrikstad, for her work with “Refugees, Welcome to Østfold!”, established to help refugees integrate into Norwegian society.
The modest prize of EUR 650 is intended to help Eva-Lotta help others, providing the necessities of life for those who have not yet gained a foothold in their new country, and to engage them in basic social activities: “Just a cup of coffee, a trip to the store, maybe sharing an extra movie ticket,” she says. “We also provide the very basics of life in Norway, like shoes and jackets, things that we take for granted, but that refugees simply do not have when they come here.”
Hometown help for those in need
The Piece Prize has donated EUR 650 to Stine Carlsen, a mother of three with a full time job who still finds time each week to volunteer in an organization called Hjelp oss å hjelpe, or “Help us to help”, in her hometown of Fredrikstad, Norway.
Help us to help was established in response to a single Facebook status post requesting warm clothing for the homeless in Oslo. The initiative quickly spread across country, and Stine Carlsen is one of those who chose to dedicate her time to helping those in need, for whatever reason.
The silent hero of Gothenburg: “It’s so easy to help!”
Rick Wood, a volunteer at a shelter for homeless women in Gothenburg, Sweden, has been recognized as a silent hero in his community. The Piece Prize awarded Rick EUR 1200 for a charity of his choice, and he chose the Rescue Mission of Gothenburg, who run the shelter.
“After I left work I figured I had to do something,” Rick recalls, “so I called the Rescue Mission and asked if they had anything for me to do.” That was nearly 11 years ago, and since then Rick has been making days a little better for people to whom life has not always been kind.
Rick is living proof of the Mission’s motto: ‘Your time can change somebody’s life’. “There are a lot of retired people with a lot of time and not that much to do,” he observes. “It’s so easy to just pick up the phone. The effort is so little compared to the response. It’s so easy to help!”
Where: Mark will be stopping at, amongst other places, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Bremen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Genoa, Venice, Split, Budva, Tirana and Athens. His route will utilize open seas, canals, rivers and other inland water systems.
What next: The trip is scheduled to last seven months. Mark would love you to get involved. To learn more about the silent heroes and become a part of the Piece Prize initiative please see: www.pieceprize.com