The meeting was opened by Jerzy Koźmiński, President of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the event co-host. In his welcome address he recalled that “Act Locally” is one of the first and biggest grant programs of the Foundation, addressed to local communities of villages and small towns which makes them focus their attention on activities responding to the needs defined by them. The special role in the Program is played by the network of 60 Act Locally Centers – dynamic organizations which hold local grant competitions in their area and award grants to various civic initiatives whose implementation contributes to strengthening of social capital.
Also Minister Jacek Michałowski, Chief of the Chancellery of the President of Poland referred to social capital in his address. “There is giant social capital in Poland but we still have a lot to do. Without social capital, there would be no Polish “Solidarity”. This year we celebrate 25 years of developing our freedom. Thanks to the programs such as “Act Locally”, and organizations such as the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the social fabric gets even stronger. Thanks to them, we develop our freedom in more mature and fruitful way.” He also added that wise development of freedom depends not only on NGOs but also on local governments. Emphasizing that 25 years had passed since the first democratic local elections, he encouraged on behalf of President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski to pay special attention to the issue of Polish self-governance and improving it so that it functioned as properly as possible.
In turn Radosław Mleczko, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy spoke about the idea of social activism, emphasizing that we can pursue our passions, set goals and make efforts to attain them regardless of our situation. “I would like to cordially congratulate the winners and those who received the honorary mention but also the teams of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and Newsweek weekly for recalling us through all their actions that pursuing one’s business goals not necessarily must mean resigning from thinking in categories of volunteering; that professional aims not necessarily must be in opposition to modern understanding of social activism and belief that local activity is something that can give us satisfaction,” Minister Mleczko said.
In the first part of the Gala, the results of the competition for the title of the “Civic Leader of the Year” were announced. The competition is organized by Newsweek Polska weekly, while the Polish-American Freedom Foundation is the main partner and the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland the strategic partner. The competition refers to Wisława Szymborska’s initiative from 1996, implemented by Jacek Kuroń and “SOS Social Assistance” Foundation. Its goal is to award social activity in Poland and promote individual people who being active in non-governmental organizations, informal groups or local government institutions struggle with various social problems.
The title of the “Civic Leader of the Year 2014” went to Piotr Bystrianin, President of the Salvation Foundation, who was presented with the statuette by Tomasz Lis, Editor-in-chief of “Newsweek Polska” weekly. Since 2011, the Help Center for Foreigners established by him has supported over 3,000 people from 50 countries. The immigrants can obtain there free psychological, legal, housing and job assistance as well as learn Polish at free courses organized for them. The Competition Committee awarded Piotr Bystrianin in particular for counteracting the discrimination of immigrants and supporting inter-cultural integration, effective and wise tackling with difficulties faced by the foreigners in Poland and involving volunteers, organizations and institutions that are ready to help others.
The Competition Committee has awarded also two honorary mentions which went to:
– Dorota Komornicka – founder and president of the Śnieżnik Massif Local Fund, the first in Poland local fund modeled on American Community Foundations. The Competition Committee awarded Dorota Komornicka for many-year struggle to improve quality of life of residents and effective involving them in civic actions by awarding over 700 grants for the implementation of various local community projects; establishing the scholarship fund which allowed to grant over 900 scholarships and creation of the community center and rehabilitation centers used by over 1,000 people as well as creation of a broad network of partners acting together to solve local problems.
– Mirosław Kazimierczak – former gymnastics vice champion of Poland, retired PE and biology teacher, who conducts the free sports classes for children, young people and adults in “Spartanie” Sports Club at Zahutyń (Podkarpackie voivodeship). Subventions received from the local government are too small to allow for creating proper conditions for the development of talented young sportsmen, therefore Mirosław Kazimierczak collects recyclable materials, segregates and sells them – the funds obtained in this way he spends on sports equipment, sportswear, shoes, nutrients and sometimes participation in domestic and foreign competitions of gifted children.
Over 100 applications were submitted to this-year’s round of the competition. The Competition Committee was composed of: Tomasz Lis, Editor-in-chief of Newsweek Polska weekly, Jerzy Koźmiński, President of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, Paweł Łukasiak, President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, Bożena Walter, President of the TVN “You are not alone” Foundation, Przemysław Radwan-Röhrenschef, Director General of the School for Leaders Association, Jan Kuroń, a chef, Jacek Kuroń’s grandson, Michał Rusinek, a lecturer, translator, writer, former secretary of Wisława Szymborska and Renata Kim, Head of the “Society” section at “Newsweek Polska” weekly.
During the second part of the Gala, the most interesting initiatives carried out as part of the 8th round of the “Act Locally” Program of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation were presented as well as awards were granted in the “Tell about…” competition, whose aim is to encourage the project participants to present in an attractive form their activities carried out under the Program.
In the “Man” category, two main awards were won on an equitable basis by:
– “A Hundred Comforts near Pilsko” Foundation for the “
– “Help for one smile” Association for the “
The honorary mention was presented to the “Niechanowska Region” Parents’ Association for the “
In the “Place” category the main award was received by Biotop Myślenice Sports Club for “
In the “Motive” category two honorary mentions were awarded to:
– Informal Group at the Wacław Skarbirmir Laskowski Municipal and District Public Library in Grójec for the “
– Zebra Cultural Space Association for “
Next, PAFF President Jerzy Koźmiński and ARFP President Paweł Łukasiak presented the Act Locally Centers with certificates confirming that they meet the highest standards in the implementation of the “Act Locally” Program. Awarding the certificate is a form of appreciation for outstanding involvement and professionalism in carrying out activities aimed at the development and activation of local communities, which can serve as model for other organizations. The certificates were awarded to the following 12 Act Locally Centers:
- “Sokółka Local Fund” Foundation (Podlaskie voivodeship)
- Szczecinek Raft Fund (Zachodniopomorskie voivodeship)
- Foundation for the Collegium Polonicum (Lubuskie voivodeship)
- “Frontier” Social and Cultural Association (Dolnośląskie voivodeship)
- WARKA –Vision, Activity, Entertainment, Culture and, Alternative Association (Mazowieckie voivodeship)
- Żywiec Development Foundation (Śląskie voivodeship)
- “Child” Association (Wielkopolskie voivodeship)
- Stowarzyszenie „Światowid”(woj. wielkopolskie)
- “Czajnia” Association (Lubelskie voivodeship)
- “Warmia Nook” Local Action Group (Warmińsko-Mazurskie voivodeship)
- “Partnership for Barycza Valley” Association (Dolnośląskie voivodeship)
- “POLCENTRUM” Local Action Group Association (Łódzkie voivodeship)
The host of the Gala was Grzegorz Nawrocki, journalist and presenter of TVP, and Marcin Nowakowski with his band gave a concert.