“When we were planning today’s meeting we didn’t expect it would be held in such dramatic external circumstances. (…) The war rocked our world but at the same time made us act in great solidarity with heroically struggling Ukraine. It impacted the lives and activities of all communities and institutions in Poland,” PAFF President and CEO Jerzy Koźmiński said in his welcoming address to the guests of “Act Locally and in Solidarity with Ukraine” meeting that took place in Warsaw on May 13.
The event was attended by members of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s Board of Directors, representatives of Act Locally Centers, PAFF Local Partnerships from all over Poland, leaders of NGOs closely cooperating with PAFF and current Lane Kirkland Scholarships’ holders from Ukraine. The Special Guest was Dean of Sociology Faculty at the University of Warsaw, Professor Anna Giza, who spoke on the role of trust in building social capital.
The purpose of the meeting was to honor the local and nationwide initiatives’ activists involved in the “ Civic Leader of the Year” competition, organized by the Newsweek Polska weekly, as well as in the “Act Locally” and “PAFF Local Partnerships” programs. And, the overarching expression of the meeting was to make clear our solidarity with the Ukrainian people fighting courageously against the Russian aggressor. It was in that context that in his welcoming address, Jerzy Koźmiński recalled that already by the end of February PAFF had redirected funds in most of its programs toward assistance to Ukraine. This was accomplished, first of all in PAFF’s international undertakings under which almost 8,500 Ukrainian citizens have visited Poland since 2000. The PAFF President also spoke about the launching of “Support for Ukraine” – a new special program with a budget of PLN 4 million. He emphasized that “Act Locally” was the first and largest grant program of PAFF, with the important role played by a network of Act Locally Centers – organizations carrying out local grant competitions supporting various citizens’ initiatives in their areas. In this way they contribute to building and strengthening social capital. He also noted that Act Locally Centers became strongly involved in supporting Ukraine, and over the past two years they were very active in counteracting the pandemic. He recalled that the experience gained in the implementation of “Act Locally” was used in the “PAFF Local Partnerships” Program. Since 2009 participants of various PAFF’s programs have been establishing local coalitions that implement projects for the common good of their communities. Ambassador Koźmiński thanked all organizations and partners involved in those initiatives and, to begin with, the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, the manager of both programs and substantive partner in the “Civic Leader of the Year” competition. He also expressed profound solidarity and strong support for the Lane Kirkland Scholarships’ holders from Ukraine who were present at the meeting.
Chairman of the PAFF Board of Directors, Andrew Nagorski, conveyed his great appreciation for Ukrainians’ determination and bravery in their fight against the invaders, and also for the Poles who, from the very first day of war, became intensively involved in assisting their eastern neighbors whose country is facing such a great tragedy. “You opened both your hearts and houses for refugees from Ukraine. That’s a very humanitarian, important and noble gesture,” Andrew Nagorski said. He also noted that the huge role the Poles continue to play in supporting Ukraine has had a massive impact on the positive way Poland is being perceived in the world.
The answer to the question of who a civic leader is was given by the co-host of the meeting, Tomasz Lis: “A civic leader is a person who wants to do something for his neighbors and community to make the world around us better.” In his speech the editor-in-chief of the Newsweek Polska weekly thanked all the activists and civic leaders. “It is worth looking at the efforts of people we are awarding today and those whom we awarded in the previous years. (…) All that you do is great promotion of social activity”, Tomasz Lis said.
President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, Paweł Łukasiak, pointed to the fact that the unique nature of “Act Locally” and “PAFF Local Partnerships” results, primarily, from their underlying values, including readiness to act , courage, empathy and social solidarity. “It is in the spirit of these values that more than 13,000 projects have been implemented in Poland over more than 20 years. (…) It facilitated establishment at the local level of strong and durable cooperation networks of volunteers, leaders, activists and local government representatives,” he said. He also noted that the power of that cooperation was particularly visible at the time of the pandemic and continues to be visible now, when Poles are so strongly involved in supporting Ukraine.
During the meeting the winners of the “Civic Leader of the Year” competition, organized by the Newsweek Polska weekly, were announced. The competition refers to Nobelist Wisława Szymborska’s initiative of 1996, implemented by Jacek Kuroń and the SOS Social Assistance Foundation. Its objective is to award social activity in Poland and promote initiatives of individuals active in NGOs, informal groups and local governments who deal with social problems. The winners of the “Civic Leader of the Year 2021” are: Dominik Dobrowolski in the national engagement category, Mariusz Antolak, President of the „W Krajobrazie”(In the Landscape) Foundation in the local engagement category, and Sławomir Kaliński, President of the Novis Plus Foundation in social engagement category at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition jury also granted three special awards, going to: Janusz Bukowski – founder of the Dać Siebie Innym (Give Yourself to the Others) Foundation, Dorota Lisiak – President of the Baranówko Initiative Group Association and the Rescue Foundation. The Main Partner of the competition is the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, and the Substantive Partner – the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland.
The event provided an opportunity to thank Act Locally Centers for their engagement in supporting Ukraine. For the especially large scale of activities assisting Ukrainian communities and war refugees, the Czajnia Association received a special prize of PLN 20,000 awarded by PAFF and the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland. The check was presented to Aleksander Jurzysta by the Chairperson of the PAFF Board of Director’s Investment Committee, Carla Skodinski.
During the meeting the 7th round of the “PAFF Local Partnerships” Program was summarized as well. The most effective of those partnerships – the Initiative Group of Płużnicka Współdzielnia project – received a prize of PLN 20,000 which was presented to Justyna Jankowska and Małgorzata Ludwiżewska.
Also, five grants of up to PLN 15,000 were awarded for the implementation of “enhancing projects”. They went to the following Initiative Groups: from the Gołdap commune for the “Culture for the space” project, from the Międzyrzecz commune for the “TV for sure” project, from the Niepołomice municipality for the “We Put Down Roots III” project, from the Orneta municipality for the “Social BOOM” project and from the Płużnica commune for the “Płużnicka Współdzielnia” project. Grants of PLN 12,000 for continuation of the start-ups set up under the 7th round of “PAFF Local Partnerships” went to two Initiative Groups: from the Gaszowice commune for the “In the Old Pantry of baron von Roth” project, and from the Lądek Zdrój commune for the “What Do We Need? Let’s Continue To Act!” project.
The event was closed with an “In Solidarity with Ukraine” recital by Aga Zaryan, the “Fryderyk” award holder, often honored with platinum and gold records, accompanied by her band.
Host of the meeting was Grzegorz Nawrocki.
Photo courtesy of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland