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!
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Below are brief summaries of the silent heroes recognized so far:
Paris Piece Prize
The Silent Hero of Paris is a Ben Levathon. a 17 year old student at the American International School in Paris.
During the rise of the refugee crisis in Paris in 2015, Ben saw TV coverage of people walking with flip-flops from Germany. “Then I saw them on the streets in the city where I lived, in summer clothes, and I wondered how they were going to make it through the winter. We started collecting coats, shoes, and blankets and we would go the streets where the refugees were sleeping.”
Two years later, he founded Compassion without Borders, a group of 12 committed young people from the International School. One way they help is by taking asylum seekers who are studying French around to the different monuments of Paris, explaining the icon’s place in history, and in modern French society.
Getting up close has given Ben insight into the reality of refugee life: “They are afraid, terrified. They just seek help, they are not mean or dangerous. They are individuals suffering, and they should not be treated as a mass.” Though Ben says his schoolwork has suffered from his dedication to helping others in need, he assures that he will graduate next year. Hats off to you, Ben.
To Brussels with love
Nino Ostojic had a defining moment six years ago while walking through the Gare du Nord in Brussels, overwhelmed by the plight of the hundreds of homeless that flow in and out of the station every day. He was inspired to reach out, and started by bringing food he had cooked himself to the station four times a week.
Originally from Bosnia-Hergoznvia, Nino came to Brussels to complete his Master’s degree and stayed on. Now he works through UNLESS, a non-political, non-affiliated and non-profit organization dedicated to providing the poor and homeless in Brussels with food, clothing and other basic necessities.
Nino disdains labels that society uses to separate themselves from the less fortunate: “The main thing in this work is to break down the wall between them and us. I just see them as people. We are all the same.” Or as he points out, tomorrow he could find himself in their same situation.
The EUR 1000 Piece Prize donation will go a long way toward helping Nino and UNLESS feed more than 200 people in need every night. “Some people ask why I help those who are not here legally. I say I am not a policeman. I am just here to help them get through the day.”
See how he helps at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1383912998538098/
Building better lives in Brussels
Michelle Brown is director of the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) program at the International School of Brussels. She mobilizes some 170 students from each grade level, around 500 in all, to engage in work with around 40 different charity organizations in the city.
Reaching far beyond working hours, Michelle donates her time on weekends, evenings and holidays. But the real difference, she claims, is made by the students themselves: “They work in soup kitchens, food banks, with underprivileged kids, all kinds of different places around the city. For them to be able to see real people who live maybe one or two streets away and have nothing is really an eye-opener.”
The Piece Prize will donate EUR 1000 to the local charities where the students donate their time. “This is essential for the student’s education, and it doesn’t happen inside the classroom,” Michelle maintains. “To be truly successful in the roles they will choose, the students have to learn how to connect with people and understand different perspectives. 170 students graduate from here every year, and even if 10% go on to continue to help people, we have made a difference.”
Cooking with refugees
The Piece Prize has made a donation of EUR 500 to the Cooking with Refugees initiative, coordinated by Anne Hedoin-Dupree through the International School of Brussels (ISB).
The project involves cooking with refugee women who are living in shelters where the food they would normally eat in their culture is not available. The shelter provides women the opportunity to prepare traditional food by raising money to buy the necessary ingredients andgiving them a kitchen to work in. Students at the school provide activities for the children while their motherscook the food they love, socialize, and enjoy a respite from life in the shelter.
Learn more about ISB and CAS here: https://www.facebook.com/isbgivingback/
Active for Peace in Amsterdam
Kelly Webber is a doer. A teacher at the International School of Amsterdam, she goes the extra mile for her students – by their own account. What else do they have to say about her? “Not just words, but action.” “Passionate about her work, compassionate towards her students.” “A compelling role model.”
And Kelly’s actions reach beyond the school walls. She advises the fundraising group for the Tanzania Girls program, and is involved in the Gay-Straight Alliance. “I think a lot of people are isolated because of identity, not just sexuality, but religious or cultural. It’s our job as educators to provide safe spaces for people to explore their chosen identity.”
For Kelly, it’s about making an effort to make a difference: “It doesn’t really matter what’s in my contract, I’m still going to have coffee with a kid on Sunday because that might be the best way for us to communicate. I think we can help others just by listening.” Going the extra mile – or as Amsterdam’s Silent Hero Kelly Webber puts it – words followed by action.
Long-distance local hero
Sometimes you can be a hero in a community with out even being there. Michelle Oliel lives in The Hague, but her cause is in Kenya: Giving children a future they deserve.
Michelle co-founded the Stahili Foundation, a non-profit working to combat the institutionalization of children in orphanages by helping children. According to their website, “Stahili was born as a response to corruption, the misappropriation of donor funding, and child exploitation which took place at orphanages in rural Kenya.”
Michelle saw the need to help children get access to education and the opportunity to grow and thrive in safe and supportive families and communities. The Piece Prize will donate in Michelle’s name to help give children the future they deserve. Get involved with the Stahili Foundation here: http://www.stahili.org
Peace Attacks Holland: Amsterdam and Rotterdam
The Silent Hero Tour handed out 120 hearts to parents of children at the International School of Amsterdam, in a show of solidarity with schools around the world that have been subject to attacks of violence and terror.
In Rotterdam, 20 Grade 11 students delivered baked goods they had made themselves to the Pauluskerkhomeless shelter. Next stop: Rotterdam Central Station, where they handed out 400 cut-out hearts with uplifting messages of peace and tolerance to travellers.
Giving back in Bremen
Sylvia Antoulas is a 64 year-old Swiss native married toa 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. Her takeaway on all this giving? “I get back more than I give!”
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 studentsgathered 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 ages18 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-Lottahelp 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!”
For more information contact:
Tel: +47 930 33 424
Christina Dupré Roos
Tel: +47 936 34 449
You can follow Mark’s progress on:
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 sevenmonths. Mark would love you to get involved. To learn more about the silent heroes and become apart of the Piece Prize initiative please see:www.pieceprize.com