January 10, 2017 — “It is in giving that we receive,” Saint Francis of Assisi once said, and Creighton University recently learned the true meaning behind those words. The Jesuit university in Omaha, Nebraska, was recently part of the selection team for the $1 million Opus Prize. The Opus Prize Foundation awards the prize annually to a faith-based nonprofit while delegating its selection process to a different Catholic university every year.
As host for the prize in 2016, Creighton students, faculty and board members were involved in narrowing down a list of nominations to the top three, performing due diligence and conducting site visits to select the winner.
Sarah Lance, left, co-founder of Sari Bari, a nonprofit in India helping former sex trade workers learn new skills
The theme was “Restoring Hope, Lighting the Way Home,” a common thread connecting the work of the three finalists: Sari Bari; Jesuit Worldwide Learning — Higher Education at the Margins; and Cana Communities Inc. The top prize of $1 million went to Sari Bari, and the runners up received $100,000 each. But for the Creighton students and faculty involved, the selection process was its own priceless gift.
Sr. Anne Jordan, PBVM, recently retired CEO of Cana Communities
Creighton University junior Josh Nichols paired up with renowned photographer Jesuit Father Don Doll in Australia, India and Africa to document the three finalists, creating a four-minute video on each one. Nichols was struck by Sister Anne Jordan and Cana Communities Inc., a group of overnight shelters and homes, including farms, in Australia. Cana offers a community to ex-convicts and former addicts, Nichols said, "people no one else wants to work with."
Jesuit Father Peter Balleis, right, of Jesuit Worldwide Learning — Higher Education at the Margins
Another Creighton student, Selina Marshall, traveled to Lilongwe, Malawi, to meet Jesuit Father Peter Balleis and observe his work with Jesuit Worldwide Learning — Higher Education at the Margins. This organization brings online Jesuit university education to refugees through partnerships with Jesuit universities. "I realized how crucial educating individuals in these communities is," Marshall said.
"This trip lit a flame within me," said Delaney Ellfeldt, a Creighton senior who traveled to Kolkata, India, to meet Sarah Lance, co-founder of Sari Bari. "[It] changed me by opening my eyes to the world of sex trafficking." The nonprofit teaches former sex trade workers how to sew and sells their wares online, allowing the women to earn a salary and benefits.
Creighton University president, Jesuit Father Daniel Hendrickson, presented the award to Lance and Sari Bari at an award ceremony in November that recognized all three finalists. Representatives of the three finalist charities spoke on panels, visited classrooms and participated in public events, such as an interfaith prayer service, at the university.
“Of myriad social service agencies and charities around the globe, these organizations were chosen because they have developed creative, faith-filled solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems,” said Fr. Hendrickson. “As the host institution, we at Creighton University have been witness to their life-changing work.”
Watch all four videos created by Fr. Doll and Nichols.