In difficult times, we often look to humanitarian groups to support those in need. Since the onset of the refugee crisis, this has certainly been the case in Brazil – where the number of refugees has doubled each year since 2011. Atados, the winner of Points of Light’s 2017 George W. Romney Award, adapted its successful volunteer engagement model to respond to the global refugee crisis and provide aid to the people taking refuge in Brazil.
The Romney Award, presented annually at the Conference on Volunteering and Service to an affiliate from Points of Light’s global network, aligns with core strategies impacting volunteering and service and celebrates the extraordinary work taking place around the world in local communities. In the past, awards have focused on collaboration, innovation, collective impact and mobilizing local changemakers.
This year’s award, inspired by Points of Light’s resilient communities framework and aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, recognizes an affiliate’s contribution to healthy, vibrant, thriving communities by leveraging the contributions of neighbors, networks and nonprofits. Points of Light created the resilient communities framework based on the four domains of community resiliency as recognized by the Social Determinants of Health, highlighting the critical role that volunteerism plays in education, neighborhood/built environment, economic stability and overall health. Our approach to building resiliency is grounded in three core components: partnerships, programs and people. The framework provides opportunities for Points of Light to lean into cross-sector partnerships that align with local community needs to make an impact and drive change.
Scaling programs that work is essential to how we drive community change. Equally as important is ensuring people and nonprofits in the community have the leadership and capacity building opportunities to sustain this change. Atados, recognized for their work inspiring volunteers and building engaged communities across Brazil, identified a need and developed a program that engaged the community in solving the challenge. In 2014, as Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, there was an influx of refugees into the country. In response to the challenges that often accompany the transition to a new cultural environment, Atados created opportunities for volunteers to train refugees for employment as language teachers. What started with a small team and many volunteers has evolved into Abraço Cultural – a language school that has trained and created opportunities for more than 60 refugees, who teach the language and culture of their native countries to more than 2,000 students in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The program is a shining example of the role that networks, neighborhoods and nonprofits play in engaging community members, both as participants and beneficiaries of programs.
“Cities are only as resilient as their residents. A community’s ability to adapt and progress is dependent on the strength of its local networks. Too often the human infrastructure to create viable, locally-driven, sustainable solutions does not exist,” said Gared Jones, senior vice president of global at Points of Light. “Atados’ work demonstrates how our network is mobilizing and equipping volunteers to create local solutions to some of the world’s more pressing challenges. Innovative solutions like Abraço Cultural are what Points of Light’s network is scaling and replicating around the world.”
The George W. Romney Excellence Award was established in 1996 to honor Gov. Romney and his personal commitment to volunteer service. Romney was chairman and CEO of American Motors, a three-term governor of Michigan and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was also founding chairman of the National Volunteer Center and a founding member of the board of directors of Points of Light.