Category Archives: Social Responsibility

‘This Business of Autism’: Port Washington Social Enterprise Provides Template for Employing Autistic Adults

Stephen Mackey, Director of “This Business of Autism,” with Spectrum Designs Foundation co-founders Patrick Bardsley, Stella Spanakos and Nicole Sugrue at the film’s world-premiere in Port Washington, Long Island, at the Gold Coast Arts Center’s Cinema Series © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It is an amazing experience to sit in a movie theater watching the world premiere of a documentary in the small village on Long Island where it was filmed with the people it was filmed about. “This Business of Autism” is more than a profile of a social enterprise built around providing jobs for adults on the autism spectrum, it provides a manual, a template to how such businesses could be replicated and even more significantly, why they should be replicated.

The documentary leaps from Port Washington where Spectrum Designs, a social enterprise company founded in 2011 to employ adults on the autism spectrum, has just opened new, expanded offices, tripling the scale of its production (the documentary spends a considerable amount of time showing the building process and the fundraising to convert an office building into its plant). It travels to San Francisco to peek in on a Jobs Club that has focused on the need to train managers and mentors in companies that want to increase job opportunities for people with special needs, to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, which has created an entire program that goes beyond the work skills to the life skills that are needed for the real world, and devotes a considerable amount of time to the wisdom of Dr. Temple Grandhin, who is herself on the autism spectrum, and lays out in no uncertain terms the need to instill self-sufficiency to the extent possible as early as possible.

The opening sets out the issue with jarring statistics: 1 in 59 children in the US is born with autism. Each year, 50,000 teens with autism age out of school-based services; an estimated 70- 90% of autistic adults are unemployed, under-engaged and leaving lives of isolation; 84% of these adults live with their parents, who have the constant fear of what will happen to their children after they pass away.

Autism is a lifelong neurological disorder affecting the way a person communicates, socializes and engages with the world. Though there is no cure, behavioral therapy can transform lives, and the earlier services are provided, the better. The highest functioning individuals on the autism spectrum are employed by the likes of NASA and Silicon Valley, but the vast majority – the 60 percent in the middle – have few employment opportunities.

It is fascinating to be brought into the homes of the parents of SpectrumDesign’s employees – starting with the founders of Spectrum Designs Foundation and Nicholas Center, Stella Spanakos and Nicole Sugrue, whose sons are autistic, lived with the daily panic of how their children will be able to fare in the world. Stella, after suddenly losing her husband, resolved to take the bull by the horns. She teamed up with Nicole, whose son was at the same summer camp as Stella’s. They decided to start a business that could employ special needs adults. Nicole googled “recession-proof businesses” and came up with t-shirt printing. They brought in Patrick Bardsley, who as an 18-year old had come from England to be a counselor at the summer camp and as fate would have it, became the one-on-one for Stella’s son; as Stella tells it, he was able to bring out the joy and happiness in her son, who was non-verbal and would act out, such as she had never seen from her son.

It turns out that t-shirt printing was a fortuitous choice because the tasks can be are defined, with a beginning, middle and end, can be easily taught, and are well suited to individuals who are in that 60% range on the spectrum.

They had the advantage of building a business around this social purpose, rather than insert employees with special needs into an existing business. And we get some insights into that: the visual cues are key, like the giant chart that tells everybody their tasks for the day with words and pictures; the lists of steps at each work station; naming the various machines and areas (one is named Octopus). Also, there is a one-to-three ratio of “educators” to workers.

What else is necessary? All the back-ups and supports, starting with the Nicolas Center, which helps counsel the young people and screen them for jobs and training.

I ask about the noise and stimuli of production that might trigger bad reactions, and am told that there are quiet spaces, a break room, and the enterprise, which actually has three components (custom printing, Spectrum Bakes which makes snacks custom packaged for gifts, and Spectrum Suds, a boutique laundry service), has quiet areas and activities. People are not employed in the print production area if they cannot deal with the noise and activity.

Training is a huge component. Workers are not slotted into a single repetitive task as on an assembly line (the image of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” comes to mind), but rather undertake various parts of the process, indeed, every day there are different projects and jobs to undertake necessitating training for different tasks.

And that is a key issue: as Nicole noted, this is a business, albeit one that is based on social enterprise. Clients (who have included Northwell Health, KPMG, Google, Facebook, Accenture, NYU Langone Health and Mount Sinai) do not hire Spectrum Designs for their customized printing solely out of altruism but to get a quality product back. This isn’t an enterprise for a shop class in a high school, though certainly, high schools should undertake more of the skills training that people will likely need as adults. Indeed, the business has been growing at a rate of 80% a year, and from $100,000.in sales in 2012, to a projected $1.1 million in 2016, and targeting $3 million by 2020, in their expanded (tripled) space.

On the other hand, as the film demonstrates, the Spectrum Designs experience is replicable – I can even see them franchising in the way Sir Speedy does, since they have all the elements down: the machinery needed, equipment and product costs, construction costs and issues of building architecture that are pertinent, the revenue projections, and most significantly, the hiring, training, counseling aspects.

But while this not-for-profit has developed a sustainable business model, it also requires the support of community – that is the village of Port Washington, the Town of North Hempstead, and the state. The funding to build the business – purchase the machinery and the building- had to come from somewhere; the funding to counsel and train comes from somewhere.

Indeed, as the film also points out, the return on investment in developing self-sufficient individuals for society, the community and government is enormous, compared to government spending that goes merely to warehouse individuals.

The cost of autism across a lifetime averages $1.4 million to $2.4 million. These costs, which increase with intellectual disability, place a tremendous burden on families and society, but can be dramatically reduced with high-quality interventions and adult transition support.

Jack Martins, the former State Senator (a Republican) remarks in the film, “This is an appropriate role for government.”

And the genuine feeling of self-worth, of accomplishment in bringing home a paycheck is, well, priceless. There is a lot to be said for quality of life and not merely existing.

The interviews with the parents make clear how they struggled: they consider their children “the first generation”, when autism was just beginning to be diagnosed,and too many were diagnosed late or had to fight to get appropriate services (40 states now mandate now require health coverage for behavioral health treatment). As one parent notes, it is vital to receive appropriate services as young as possible because it makes a huge difference in the child’s development.

Now we are in the second generation, when the autism spectrum is better understood and the diagnosis more readily made – in fact, the prevalence of the diagnosis has doubled in a decade – it is a huge percentage of the population, touching so many families, so much so that people on the spectrum should be appreciated as having different abilities, rather than disabilities.

And that’s the goal for the “third generation”: that people can be appreciated for their differences and abilities, with appropriate academic and life skills preparation in schools, job training and opportunities, and adult home living arrangements that give some independence.

The documentary, “This Business Of Autism” addresses the positive impacts of developing profitable businesses while leveraging the unique capabilities of adults with autism. By confronting head-on the reality that an estimated 70% to 90% of these adults are unemployed or underemployed, these businesses can also provide avenues for corporate social outreach, mitigate the economic impacts on communities, and provide hope for families that their children might have sustainable, relevant and stimulating employment opportunities.

The film serves as a tutorial, a business manual, and even more importantly, raises awareness and overturns misconceptions. It sensitizes corporations, employers, communities about what they can do, what they need to do, to help.

“We wanted to show the capabilities of the middle 60% – not the top or the bottom 20% – but the middle 60% who are hard working, dedicated, loyal,” said Stephen Mackey, the film’s director, at the world premiere of the film, presented as part of the Gold Coast Arts Center’s Cinema Series, at the Soundview Cinemas, mere blocks away from Spectrum Designs new building on Main Street in Port Washington.

The documentary is available on Vimeo on Demand and on Amazon, and will be available on itunes and Googleplay.The producer is also taking orders for blueray, dvd and educational packages. “We believe that there are universities and vocational schools that will see what Spectrum Designs is doing. Half of the proceeds are being returned to the Spectrum Foundation.

Spectrum Designs Foundation  has a sophisticated website, where customers can send in their order for custom apparent, promotional items, screen printing, digital printing and embroidery. Design your own or utilize their in-house graphic design team. (Spectrum Designs, 366 Main Street, Port Washington NY 11050, info@spectrumdesigns.orgwww.spectrumdesigns.org)

____________________________

© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

HBO Film ‘Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm’ is Teaching Tool to Holocaust for New Generation

Irving Roth discusses his own experience as a Holocaust survivor, which so eerily mirrors that of Jack in the film documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” screened as part of the Gold Coast Arts Center’s Cinema Series, Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

What is most remarkable about the HBO short film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” is how effectively and clearly it presents the Holocaust to young people – 8 and 9 year olds, the fourth generation, and how urgent it is to have such a teaching tool with the last of the survivors, now in their 80s and 90s, passing away into eternal silence.

The short film, created with live action, photos and videos and most remarkably, watercolor paintings that animate the still photos, strikes just the right tone.

You are privy to the astute questions and storytelling by 10-year old Elliott and his 90-year old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, and fall into his memories – of a happy childhood in Poland, not quite carefree but with no existential fear, until everything changed.

The HBO film, which aired on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, was presented for its Long Island premiere at the Gold Coast Arts Center, in a free program (a second showing had to be organized to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend), in commemoration of Yom Hashoahin Partnership with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and Great Neck Sh’ai, and featured a conversation with Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor with a similar story to Jack’s, the great-grandfather in the film. Indeed, Roth came with his own granddaughter and great-grandchild, a touching display of the miracle of survival.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” was aired on HBO in January and is streaming for free at hbo.com. It was screened at Gold Coast Arts Center as part of the Gold Coast Cinema series, goldcoastfilmfestival.org.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,”  executive produced by Sheila Nevins and directed and produced by Amy Schatz, with the evocative animation art of Jeff Scher, was inspired by David A. Adler’s 1987 book; Adler is well known to children for his popular Cam Jansen series.

In this moving film, 10-year-old Elliott asks his 90-year-old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, sparking an intimate conversation about Jack’s life that spans happy memories of childhood in Poland, the loss of his family, surviving Auschwitz, and finding a new life in America. Their tender exchange is woven with historical footage and hand-painted animation to tell a heartbreaking story of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before and during the Holocaust.

You are first introduced to Jack who mentions how much he loves hats, and can’t resist buying them. A little later, you learn that his father was a hat maker and had a shop in Poland. The last time he saw his parents was when he was 14, taken away by Nazis and sent to a labor camp where inmates were worked to death. “We were slaves, forced to dig holes just to make work.” He receives a cap his father has managed to send and finds some money hidden in it, which he uses to bribe the guard for extra food. “That extra food was how I survived.”

“I always hoped to see my parents again. Always think about them.” But Jack never saw his parents again.

Jack was sent to Auschwitz, and then, when the Germans realized they were losing the war, put on a death march to Buchenwald, forced to march without food or shoes. “Thousands and thousands died,” Elliott relates. “If they stopped, they were shot and thrown into a hole.”

His great-grandfather was finally liberated in August 1945 by the Russians, and then by the Americans. He went back to his hometown, but no one he knew was left. He married and ultimately took a boat to start a new life in America, where he opened a fish market.

His worker says, “This is the only place a man can get food for no money.”

Elliott says, ”We need to know the story to stop it from happening. In a year or two, no survivors will be left. We want to get the stories before they pass away.”

Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor, feels duty-bound to relate the history: “We tell a story of horrific proportion…People need to understand, as you look at the world today, every day, I see the signposts along the road.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the Great Neck screening, Irving Roth, a survivor of Auschwitz and the Death March to Buchenwald, related his experience which so eerily mirrored that of Jack.

Irving Roth was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929. He grew up going to school and playing soccer. But by 1938, as the Nazis took power, his life, step by step, became more constricted, bleaker. Jews were not allowed to attend school, play soccer, or go to the park. His family lost their lumber business and they forced into hiding in Hungary.

In 1944, at the age of 14, he was loaded into a cattle car and transported to Auschwitz, a three-day journey with many dying along the route Once there, he was immediately separated from his grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and 10-year-old cousin. He never seen them again – they were sent to the gas chambers.

Of the 4000 on the train, only 300 survived, he said.

Roth and his brother survived Auschwitz but in January 1945, with the Germans realizing they were losing the war, the concentration camp victims were forced on the infamous death march to Buchenwald. Roth was separated from his brother who was sent to Bergen Belsen where he later died. Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945. Roth returned home to find his parents, the only other surviving family members.

But when he arrived back in his town, the reaction was hardly welcoming.  “The comment was ‘So many Jews survived, more came back than left.’ It made it easy to leave,” he said.

Roth is the director of Temple Judea of Manhasset Holocaust Resource Center’s Adopt A Survivor Program which brings together children in the greater New York Region with Holocaust Survivors, where he feels a duty to relate the horror of the Holocaust.

Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor with a similar story to Jack’s, the great-grandfather in the film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” with his own granddaughter and great-grandchild, a touching display of the miracle of survival. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We tell a story of horrific proportion. It’s an important job. 6 million Jews were exterminated because of the lie that Jews were responsible for all the problems of the world. The world needs to know what happened – Shoah did not happen all at once. It began with a simple statement: I hate you.

“I call that the first signpost along the road. A few steps beyond, ‘I don’t like you because of what you are.’ And then, ‘You are not human.’ The next step, ‘I don’t want you to live in my town, my country, I don’t want you to live at all.’ Those are the signposts along the road.

“People need to understand, as you look at the world today, every day, I see the signposts along the road.”

“When I see a missile being paraded in Tehran with words, ‘To be delivered to Tel Aviv’, those are identical ideas perpetrated and spoken of in the 1920s, 1930s – resulting in total devastation.

“I see in my mind that weapon lifting off the ground and murdering tens of thousands  – that’s why it’s important to understand, to watch the signposts along the road. I ask you to understand the Shoah – study the Shoah – see the step by step process so you recognize the words, the signposts – to insure that anything of that nature never happens again.

“There are always evil people in the world – it is the choice that God gave you. I am glad have a video of this nature to show to young people so can begin to understand evil an good.”

830,000 were murdered in Treblinka, alone.”It’s hard to imagine that many murdered. I ask you to take one, let them be part of you – if we don’t remember them, it is as if they never existed.”

Just a week ago, Roth made a trip to Poland, where the leadership has made discussing the Holocaust a crime, where they have replaced the signs at Auschwitz to shield the Polish people from any culpability, and where they have shut down Schindler’s factory which had been kept as a museum.

One of the places we visited last week was the Warsaw Zoo in Warsaw, where Antonina and her husband, Jan Żabiński, the zoo director, saved the lives of 300 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Warsaw.

“There were 3.5 million Jews before the war; now if you look hard, you might find 35,000. Poland would like to say that 6 million Poles were murdered – 3 million Jews and 3 million Catholics. Poland wants to be recognized as a Western country, wants to bury its history of persecution of Jews as soon as possible so the world will not know. In Auschwitz last week, going through the exhibits, they are selling propaganda, that no Pole was responsible…. Now, if you say ‘Auschwitz was a Polish death camp,’ you go to jail.”

“Two extremes of humanity existed in Shoah –there were too few Chasidim (righteous), too many on the other side. Our job is to make sure our neighbors, our friends in our country, in every country understand the sacred nature of every human being – through understanding Shoah, we can understand how evil comes to be. We must not let evil triumph again.”

Roth raises concern about a rise of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism has been replaced in an acceptable form to many people – that’s why we need to understand. It is no longer ‘anti-Semitism’ it is called ‘anti-Israel’. This is a new form of anti-Semitism, repackaged so brilliantly, Goebbels would be proud. All of a sudden, Jews are aggressors.”

He noted that a United Nations conference held to review treatment of rights declared only one country an oppressor of women – not Saudi Arabia or Sudan, but Israel.

Roth has spoken at hundreds of schools. “On college campuses around the country, Israel is cast as an oppressor of Palestinians, even committing genocide.

“Our children and grandchildren must know because they have to stand up to the lies on college campuses. What is on campus today will be policy tomorrow. Make sure your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren understand, the lies, the history. Unless we really know it, we can’t argue. 99% of evil people have no idea what history is – one student at university said the reason problem exists in Mideast is because of Jews, that it is because when Israel was formed in May 1948., Israel  attacked 5 Arab countries. Do you think a country just born, with no army navy, air force would attack five countries. Is that possible? ‘Oh,’ he said.

“We need to be prepared to fight this evil, every day of the week.”

On the other hand, unabashed Holocaust deniers have gained prominence. Arthur Jones, 70, of Lyons, Illinois, a former head of the American Nazi Party and self-described white racialist and Holocaust denier, is the Republican candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 3rd district which includes parts of Chicago.

Rebecca Sassouni of Sh’ai; Regina Gil, director of the Gold Coast Arts Center; Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor; Michael Glickman, president of Gold Coast Arts Center and Museum of Jewish Heritage at the Gold Coast Cinema Series screening of “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glickman noted the importance of bringing Holocaust study into communities, particularly communities where there are not a lot of Jews or Holocaust survivors and why a curriculum is being developed by the museum, supported by the City and State’s Department of Education for middle school and high school children for ELA and social studies- some 400,000 students, the vast majority of which are not Jewish.

It is for this reason of making the Holocaust relevant to non-Jews that it has become a common practice among Holocaust museums (such as in St. Petersburg, Dallas, Houston), to keep a running clock of the numbers killed in genocides since the Holocaust, such as Rwanda.

But Roth expressed concern “that the Holocaust is being de-Judeized. There is nothing wrong in discussing Rwanda genocide, but you have to understand the difference  between Holocaust and mass murders that have taken place. The death of 5 million Ukrainians during Stalin – but the objective was not the destruction of Ukrainians, the objective was collectivization of Russia; the objective of Rwanda was control. The Holocaust objective was destruction of the Jews. That’s not the same. Death is death you might say, but the cause of it.” He argues against lumping individual genocides together. “We need to understand the differences and similarities. This is what I do every time I speak. In churches, I have spoken to 500,000 Christians all over the United States. I talk about Shoah and what is happening today, how the propaganda of today is a replica of the 1930s. They understand. That’s what we need to do.”

The film is part of a new curriculum in conjunction with Scholastic being rolled out to some 1,500 schools, and organizations can make arrangements for a screening, Michael Glickman, who is president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as president of the Gold Coast Arts Center, said.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” was aired on HBO in January and is streaming for free at hbo.com. It was screened at Gold Coast Arts Center as part of the Gold Coast Cinema series, goldcoastfilmfestival.org.

An accompanying installation on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage features the art of acclaimed artist Jeff Scher, whose rotoscope animation brings the film’s archival footage and photos to life. Visitors of all ages are invited to explore this incredible work, view the film, and experience the transformative power of survivors’ stories. (For more info on the exhibit visit www.mjhnyc.org).

____________________________

© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Five are Honored with Global Citizen Awards at Final Clinton Global Initiative

Jon Bon Jovi received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Philanthropy, honoring him for establishing Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need, “one SOUL at a time.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jon Bon Jovi received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Philanthropy, honoring him for establishing Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need, “one SOUL at a time.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The 10th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards, held during a special ceremony during the 12th and last Clinton Global Initiative to honor outstanding individuals for their exemplary leadership and groundbreaking work which has effected positive social change.

This year’s ceremony honored Jon Bon Jovi in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation which focuses on the issues of affordable housing and hunger in the U.S. through community development initiatives. Bon Jovi also entertained.

Additional honorees include President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia for his commitment to establish peace in Colombia following a 50 year civil war; Dr. Hawa Abdi for her work to provide refuge, quality healthcare, education and entrepreneurship opportunities to all Somalis; Adi Godrej for transforming his family’s multinational company into a leader of social and environmental value creation; and Nadia Mura, a Yazidi woman captured and enslaved by ISIS, for the courage to tell her story and be a voice for the thousands of women and children who have been trafficked in situations of conflict.

Andrea Bocelli performed at the 10th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards with the Voices of Haiti Choir © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Andrea Bocelli performed at the 10th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards with the Voices of Haiti Choir © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In addition to Bon Jovi’s performance, there was a special appearance of Andrea Bocelli who performed with the Voices of Haiti Choir.

Presenters were themselves noteworthy humanitarians and activists: Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME in Philadelphia, who presented the award to Jon Bon Jovi; Iman who presented the award to Dr. Doqo Mohamed who accepted on behalf of her mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi; Luis A. Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, who presented the award to President Santos; Advija Ibrahimovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992, presented the award to Nadia Murad, and Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company, presented the award to Adi Godrej.

Jon Bon Jovi, Leadership in Philanthropy 

Sister Mary Scullion, who heads Project HOME, focused on breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty, presented the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Philanthropy to  Jon Bon Jovi, saying, “He refused to let his fame and fortune shield him from the pain and suffering in society.

Jon Bon Jovi was honored at the Clinton Global Citizen Awards 2016
Jon Bon Jovi was honored at the Clinton Global Citizen Awards 2016

Ten years ago, he established the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need, “one SOUL at a time.” The Soul Foundation funds partnerships that address the issues of hunger and shelter, benefiting temporary shelters, transitional housing for teens, permanent supportive housing—including housing for veterans and special needs populations—as well as providing home ownership opportunities. In October 2011, the foundation opened the first JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey to address issues of food insecurity. Staying true to Bon Jovi’s roots, the foundation aided in local recovery efforts in the days following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The following year, Bon Jovi donated $1 million to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.

Over the past 10 years, it has served over 1000 families, veterans and youth; served 55,000 meals at the Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, where millionaires sit at tables with homeless, paying what they can or if they don’t have the cash, volunteering their time. A second restaurant has opened in Toms River.

“It is testament to the fundamental dignity of every person, what our world can and should be: a place where everyone is served with dignity, given an opportunity to work, and create more just and welcoming society.”

Jon Bon Jovi performs at the Clinton Global Citizen Awards 2016
Jon Bon Jovi performs at the Clinton Global Citizen Awards 2016

Bon Jovi, who said he was inspired by Clinton, reflected, “In 2005, I saw a homeless person sleeping on a grate in front of City Hall. I realized homelessness could affect any one. Most people are just one catastrophe away from financial ruin.

“In 2008, I saw food insecurity. In the most powerful country in the world, 1 in 7 don’t have enough food, one in five children are food insecure. It’s a matter of access and opportunity, so when we started the restaurant, we had a pay-it-forward concept.

“This is the 10th anniversary of our foundation. I humbly accept this recognition on behalf of our staff, volunteers, and 55,000 supporters who have dined with us.”

“President Clinton is fond of saying, ‘There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what is right with America’.”

Nadia Murad, Leadership in Civil Society 

Advija Ibrahimovic, who presented the Global Citizen award to Nadia Murad, was herself a survivor of genocidal atrocity, orphaned when she was just 11 in the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992.

Advija Ibrahimovic, orphaned when she was 11 in the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992: “Everything can be taken from a person except freedom to decide what you will do with your heart and mind.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Advija Ibrahimovic, orphaned when she was 11 in the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992: “Everything can be taken from a person except freedom to decide what you will do with your heart and mind.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I was 11 when I lost both my parents  in the Bosnian genocide. Like Nadia, I experienced violence and deep loss. Everything can be taken from a person except freedom to decide what you will do with your heart and mind. She dedicated herself to raising awareness of these women.”

She shared the story of Nadia Murad, who was born and raised in the quiet agricultural village of Kocho, Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, Nadia and her family lived a peaceful, happy life. On August 3, 2014 her village was attacked by ISIS, marking the beginning of its savage genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people. Six of her nine brothers were executed on the spot. In all, she lost 18 family members that day; in all, 1000 Yazidi men were massacred.

Nadia Murad, a survivor of ISIS terror, has dedicated herself to rescue the thousands of women and girls who have been trafficked in situations of conflict. Honored with a Clinton Global Citizen Award, she also has been named a UN Goodwill Ambassador. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Nadia Murad, a survivor of ISIS terror, has dedicated herself to rescue the thousands of women and girls who have been trafficked in situations of conflict. Honored with a Clinton Global Citizen Award, she also has been named a UN Goodwill Ambassador. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Murad, along with her two sisters and thousands of other men, women, and children were taken captive and subjected to unspeakable crimes. Murad was initially held hostage in a building with thousands of families. She witnessed young children given to ISIS soldiers as sexual “gifts.” She was raped and tortured on a daily basis. But after facing unimaginable brutality, she was able to escape.

Murad immigrated to Germany where she received medical attention and was reunited with other survivors. In total, she lost 18 family members. With the assistance of Yazda, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Yazidi survivors and defending the rights of marginalized ethnic and religious minorities, Murad has been able to tell her story on the world stage, forcing world leaders to listen to the horrors of the ongoing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. 

Just 23 years old now, Murad, a human rights activist, was named a UN Goodwill Ambassador on Friday and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Dr. Hawa Abdi,  Leadership in Civil Society

Iman presented the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society to Dr. Hawa Abdi,  known as the Mother Theresa of Somalia, because of her life-saving work on behalf of Somalis displaced by war.

“She became a doctor, Somalia’s first female gynecologist, and opened a rural health clinic, organized on ancestral land. During the civil war, the government collapsed, famine was widespread, and she opened her land to refugees. By 2012, she was providing sanctuary for  90,000 displaced people.

She opened a 400 bed hospital, a school, organized a fishing and farming program and her land is the only source of fresh water in region.

Iman presents Dr. Deqo Mohamed with the Clinton Global Citizen Award for her mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi, the “Mother Theresa of Somalia”. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Iman presents Dr. Deqo Mohamed with the Clinton Global Citizen Award for her mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi, the “Mother Theresa of Somalia”. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Today, Abdi continues to fight for the women, children, and elderly people of the Hawa Abdi Village. With the help of her daughters, Deqo and Amina, both of whom are doctors, Abdi continues to keep a candle of light lit for the people of the Afgooye Corridor.” Abdi has won numerous distinctions and awards, including the John Jay Justice Award, Vital Voices’ Women of the Year Award, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.” 

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Leadership in Public Service 

“After 50 years of war, most people had never lived with peace – 6 million fled homes,” said Luis A. Moreno, current President of the Inter-American Development Bank, introducing President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. “Today, we are on the threshold of concluding a historic agreement to bring a permanent end to the conflict.”

He said the seeds were sown when Moreno was serving as Colombia’s Ambassador to US when President Bill Clinton was in the White House, and credited Clinton’s “visionary aid program that allowed my country to achieve stability, attract investment, and set the conditions for peace. President Clinton made peace in Colombia his priority and brought Republicans and Democrats together.”

Clinton’s successors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama “followed Clinton’s example and supported” his policy.

Meanwhile, the Colombian President Santos put his presidency on the line during difficult negotiations with the FARC that dragged on for four long years.

“There were many setbacks but on August 24, the hope of millions was fulfilled when FARC and the government announced a final settlement. It is now up to the people, who will vote in plebiscite on Oct. 22.

“President Santos wanted a fully democratic process – a plebecite marks the beginning of a new, more complex chapter in our history. Every day, every Colombian will need to make personal decision – for lasting peace won’t be easy. Remembering is easy for those who have memory. Forgetting is hard for those who have heart.”

Convinced Colombia can be reunited together, write new chapter in history of beloved nation.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for his courage ending a 50-year war © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for his courage ending a 50-year war © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Accepting the award for Leadership in Public Service, President Santos said, “Peace is a right. It is in the constitution. To be a normal country, we had to stop war. I approached negotiations in a different way: Victims should be placed at the center of a solution – a human rights perspective was the key to success.

“One week from today, we will sign an agreement with FARC – 297 pages long, no detail was left out – and we will start to build a new history.

“War lasted three generations. It robbed us of compassion, the ability to feel suffering of others.

“I thank you in the name of 8 million victims of war over 50 years. The victims were most generous, willing to forgive – they don’t want others to suffer what we have.”

Juan Manuel Santos has been the president of the Republic of Colombia since 2010. Previously, President Santos was minister of defense, minister of finance, minister of foreign trade, designate to the presidency, and chief of the Colombian delegation before the International Coffee Organization. He created the Good Government Foundation (Fundación Buen Gobierno) and founded Colombia’s largest political party, Partido de la U. President Santos was awarded the King of Spain Prize and was president of the Freedom of Expression Commission for the Inter American Press Association. He has published several books, including “The Third Way,” co-written with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and “Check on Terror” (Jaque al Terror). President Santos is a graduate of the London School of Economics, Harvard University, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. 

Adi Godrej, Leadership in the Private Sector 

Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Group, Godrej Industries Limited, was presented with the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in the Private Sector by Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company.

Adi Godrej, chairman of Godrej Group is his presented with the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in the Private Sector from Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Adi Godrej, chairman of Godrej Group is his presented with the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in the Private Sector from Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Godrej is the vanguard of green development, committed to alleviating poverty, preserving natural resources, and holding 24% of its revenues in a trust for philanthropic purpose, and a motto that “The business of business is goodness. Let’s make Goodness.”

“It’s important to remain a good company,” he said. “We have always actively supported social responsibility. 24% of the corporate funds is in trust that invests in environment and education.”

He said that the company has set three goals for 2020 – train 1 million youth in skills to enhance earnings, build a greener India, generate one-third of potential revenue in products that are environmentally sustainable.

Adi Godrej is chairman of the Godrej Group, a more than 100-year-old family conglomerate, with operations in India and several other countries. Godrej is chairman of the board of the Indian School of Business and former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry. He has been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management and a member of the Wharton Asian Executive Board. Godrej is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including the Rajiv Gandhi Award (2002), the American India Foundation Leadership in Philanthropy Award (2010), The Entrepreneur of the Year for the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (2010), Chemexcil’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), AIMA-JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award (2010), Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2012), Padma Bhushan (2012), and All India Management Association-Business Leader of the Year (2015). Godrej holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from MIT.

________________________________

© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin