Among 600 guests, next to members of the PAFF Board of Directors and the Partners of the Foundation who manage its programs, there were a lot of very important for the Foundation people, including local activity animators, participants of the “PAFF Leaders” Program and their tutors, representatives of schools, libraries and numerous civic organizations from all over Poland.
The jubilee meeting of the 15th anniversary of PAFF was combined with the congress of the Lane Kirkland Scholarship Program attended by 300 program alumni from 11 countries, namely: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
“Recalling the beginnings of our activities, of our work, it is hard not to be surprised that 15 years have already passed. They slipped unnoticed, without warning (…). Celebrating today that anniversary we would like to present you the overall outcome of the Foundation activities and at the same time thank those without whom the achievements of the Foundation would not have been possible,” President of the Foundation Jerzy Koźmiński said in his welcoming address.
Next, the co-host of the jubilee ceremony Chairman of the PAFF Board of Directors Andrew Nagorski took the floor to express his recognition for Poland’s achievements during past 25 years. “We, the members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, look at the achievements of Poland and the Foundation during these past 15 years with great satisfaction. Poland has undergone great transformation not only in social, political and economic spheres. The Poles, who once had been pessimists, became optimists. We are happy that the Foundation not only participates in that transformation but also accelerates it,” Andrew Nagorski emphasized.
The Foundation received many letters of congratulations on its jubilee. Head of the Chancellery of the President of Poland, Secretary of State Jacek Michałowski read the letter from President Bronisław Komorowski. “I deeply appreciate the fact that from the very beginning the Foundation has been active in the realm of civil society. I would like to express my respect and gratitude for good changes that Poland owes to your activity and involvement. First of all in hundreds of local communities, in small homelands. This is a great achievement of creative, innovative thinking, civic activity, modern patriotism,” the President wrote among other things. Minister Michałowski recalled also in his speech that on the previous day, that is on May 14, member of the Board of Directors of PAFF Joseph C. Bell, Senior Consultant to the Foundation C. Douglas Ades and Chief Financial Officer and Secretary to the Board of Directors Norman E. Haslun were awarded at the ceremony held at the Presidential Palace with state orders for their outstanding services for political and economic transformation of Poland. Secretary of State Jacek Michałowski noted that “They all have been involved in services for the benefit of Poland for 25 years.”
The Foundation received also congratulations from Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, whose letter was read by U.S. Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull. Vice President Biden emphasized the contribution of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund (the PAFF founder) to the development of Polish economy in the period of difficult economic transformation. He expressed appreciation for the engagement of the Foundation in sharing Polish experiences from the transition period with other countries of the Central and Eastern Europe. ”The Polish-American Freedom Foundation has carried on the Fund’s noble mission of building a secure and prosperous Poland in a manner that underscores the strong bonds of friendship and solidarity between our two nations. Your investments in education, development of local communities and promoting Poland as a model in the region are of critical importance. Your work assisting your neighbors, such as providing education fellowships for young people in Ukraine to study in Poland, is a demonstration of your enduring commitment to the region,” Vide President Biden wrote.
The Foundation received also warm recognition from former Presidents of Poland, Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski. “I am convinced that your activity is a very important investment into future, which modernizing Poland will continue to need for a long time to come,” President Lech Wałęsa wrote in his letter to the Foundation. In turn President Kwaśniewski pointed to the international programs of the PAFF, which animate cooperation of Polish nongovernmental organizations with organizations in other countries of the Region. “Thanks to your efforts it was possible to establish broad contacts between Polish NGOs and other institutions with their partners from beyond our eastern border. The network of contacts and projects has been built and thanks to the synergy effect started to bring great fruits,” President Kwaśniewski wrote.
“I don’t want to go back to the details which the Polish-American Freedom Foundation brought in. I’ll focus on only two programs. One of them is “PROJECTOR – student volunteers”. It is a program under which 25,000 projects have been implemented, which was participated by 11,000 of students and also I participated in it during my holidays,” Professor Jerzy Buzek said in his address. The former Prime Minister of Poland, former President of the European Parliament and the Honorary Volunteer of the PROJECTOR program emphasized that “The Foundation has had many such programs; we know perfectly well how important they have been for education, how important they have been for local communities, how they have stimulated our need to participate, especially in villages and small towns.” Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek recalled also the origins of involvement of PAFF in the “Pro Publico Bono” Competition for the Best Civil Initiative, which was launched in 1999. The awards in this competition have been funded by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation since 2000.
The 15th anniversary of the Foundation was also a good opportunity to sum up cooperation between PAFF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which allowed to carry out in the years 2008-2015 the unique Library Development Program. The initiative, supported with the grant of almost USD 31 million awarded to PAFF by the Gates Foundation, was managed by the Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI), established by PAFF. The program has so far contributed to transformation of almost 4,000 libraries in more than 1,250 districts into modern, multifunctional centers of access to information, education and culture, which also stimulate civil activity. On behalf of the Bill and Melinda Foundation, congratulations for PAFF and FRSI were conveyed via the video clip by Deborah Jacobs, the Program Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Global Libraries”. “From Turkey to Indonesia others have learned from Poland’s lessons and successes. I commend PAFF and FRSI for their successes in Poland and thank them deeply for sharing their work and influencing libraries around the world,” Deborah Jacobs said.
The jubilee presentation of the Foundation activities was based on six episodes of the video on its history and individual program areas. During the meeting, the managers of the PAFF programs which the Foundation has been cooperating from the beginning with were honored. The Chairman of the PAFF Board of Directors and other members of the Board presented the PAFF Partners with the statuettes prepared for the occasion. The following organizations were awarded: in the area of education – the Educational Enterprise Foundation, the Center for Citizenship Education Foundation, the Nidzica Development Foundation “NIDA”, the Polish Children and Youth Foundation, the Foundation for the Development of Voluntary Service and the Association of the Creative Initiatives “ę”.
In the area of local community development – the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, Klon/Jawor Association, the Civil Society Development Association, the Institute of Public Affairs, the School for Leaders Foundation, and the Unit for Social Innovation and Research “Shipyard” Foundation; in the area of sharing the Polish experiences – the Education for Democracy Foundation and the Jan Nowak Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe. The statuette was received also by the Information Society Development Foundation for the implementation of the Library Development Program.
At the end of the jubilee gala the guests could see a short video presentation showing the achievements of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation in numbers.
The mistress of ceremony was Anna Popek.