The Polish Prize of Sergio Vieira de Mello, edition 2012

The ceremony of awarding the Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the years 2002-2003, took place within the framework of an international conference “Toleration and Tolerance. Models, Metamorphoses and Implications” on 18th October 2012 at Villa Decius, Krakow. The prize is granted annually for furthering peaceful coexistence and cooperation of communities, religions, and cultures. Having discussed the nominations and conducted its negotiations, the Jury voted that the Polish Prize of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2002–2003) is awarded to:


Sister Rafaela – Urszula Nałęcz

Laureate in the „person” category


Sister Rafela – Urszula Nałęcz, a Polish missionary and teacher, founder of missions in India, Republic of South Africa, and Rwanda. In her work, she focuses especially on the aid for the orphans and the visually impaired children. Born in Warsaw, she joined the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross in 1954. From the beginning of her operation, she was especially involved in working with the visually impaired, which she found her life’s vocation. In 1954–1976 and 1986–1989, she was a teacher at the Hospital and School for the Visually Impaired in Laski near Warsaw. In 1974–1979, she worked at a vocational centre. During the martial law in Poland (1981–1983) Sister Rafaela was involved in the work of the Primate’s Committee for Aiding Prisoners and their Families.


Sister Rafaela began her preparations to begin missionary activity in the late 1960s, and had not received a formal permit from the superiors until 1981. Due to the introduction of the martial law, she had, however, not left Poland until 1989, when she left for India, and opened there the first mission of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross. During her seven years’ stay in India, Sister Rafaela established a centre for the visually impaired children: initially an orphanage, later expanded into a primary school with a dormitory. The pupils of the school recruit from poor families living in nearby villages and slum areas, mostly Hindu, with Muslims and Christians being minorities. Children are admitted to school irrespectively of their denomination. The school continues to develop, and in its operation falls back on local staff.


In 2002, after a few years’ stay in Poland, Sister Rafaela embarked on another missionary trip. This time, the destination was the Republic of South Africa, where she worked at the Siloe School for the Blind. Founded by a Belgian congregation, the centre sought a leader to continue its operation. A task embarked on by the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross, who entrusted Sister Rafaela with the management of the centre.


In 2006, Sister Rafaela went on a trip to Rwanda, which resulted in the decision to initiate efforts aimed at opening of a centre for the visually impaired children in the country. Thanks to the great involvement of the sister, and the support of the government of the Republic of Poland, and institutions and individuals from Poland and abroad, the first Educational Centre for the Visually Compared in Rwanda was instituted in Kibeho. The first group of the visually impaired was admitted in 2008, yet the centre had not been officially opened until 2009. Currently, it provides education for over 90 children of various religions and denominations. Sister Rafaela is canvassing for the expansion of the centre, which provides those in need not only with education and medical aid, but also opportunity of leading a normal life.


In her activity, Sister Rafaela focuses on aiding the visually impaired hailing from the poorest regions of the world. The three centres founded by the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters to provide education and conducive environment for hundreds of visually impaired children, teach not only self-sufficiency, independence, and coping with the daily routines of life, but show also how to regain self-confidence. Most of the students come from the very poor families that were incapable of providing children with appropriate level of care, while some children were rejected by their families due to their disability. Now they can regain faith in their own humanity in the centres for the visually impaired.


The activity of Sister Rafaela was recognised by the President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski, who decorated her with the Officer Cross of the Order of Poland Reborn (Polonia Restituta) for eminent achievements in missionary work and involvement in the organisation of aid for children of Africa in 2011. Moreover, for her achievements Urszula Nałęcz was decorated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Bene Merito Honorary Award (2009). She is also a recipient of the PONTIFICI – Builder of the Bridges, awarded by the Club of Catholic Intelligentsia (KIK) in Warsaw for “merits in spreading the appreciation of common good, dialogue, and devotion to the neighbour”.


People in need – Človĕk v tístni

Laureate in „NGO” category


People in Need (PIN) is the oldest non-governmental organisation in the Czech Republic, and one of the largest in Central Europe. For 20 years, it has cared for the protection of human rights and carrying humanitarian aid in the most sensitive regions of the world. It was established in 1992 as an initiative of war correspondents and rapporteurs of international events. Soon after its establishment, the organisation expanded its operation to become in this way a professional humanitarian organisation. Today it carries out tasks in the area of humanitarian aid, joint development work, promotion of human rights, civic integration, and educational and outreach activities.


The organisation becomes involved in providing immediate relief in the context of natural disasters and armed conflicts. At the same time, it delivers long-term assistance to people living in the poorest regions of the world. It conducts developmental programmes in Africa, Asia, and Europe that aim at increasing access to education, healthcare and potable water, improvement of the hygienic conditions, and independence from external assistance. The organisation becomes also involved in humanitarian aid in the territory of the Czech Republic and the neighbouring countries of the region in case of emergencies resulting from natural disasters including e.g. floods. During the 20 years, representatives of PIN provided assistance and relief in more than 40 countries of the world, working both at a time of peace and during wars, supporting those in need, and protecting their rights and personal dignity.


The organisation based its operation on the support of the idea of civil society, especially in countries undergoing system transformation and repressing their citizens. People in Need organises long-term programmes in support of human rights and aiding dissidents, which are currently conducted in Cuba, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Burma, and Moldova.


Moreover, People in Need further also the increase of social integration and improvement of the situation of the poorest. Collaborating with local and regional authorities and non-governmental organisations, the organisation provides consulting and organises education and training for families in danger of exclusion. In this way they support communities in Czech and Slovak republics.


An exceptionally important element of operation of PIN is education and information provided to the Czech people and concerning human rights, the problem of poverty, migration, tolerance, and xenophobia in contemporary world. The organisation conducts outreach and educational programmes adjusted to various groups of recipients, including students in higher education, academic teachers, and school youth. Moreover, they develop information programmes (e.g. Rozvojovka, stop child labour and Migrations), which are aired by local media.


People in Need is also the organiser of the international annual One World festival of documentary films devoted to the subject of human rights. Presented during the festival is the Homo Homini award for people who have significantly contributed to development of democracy in the world, and to individuals especially merited in furthering human rights. This year marks the 20th anniversary of establishing People in Need.


Arnold Wellman

Hononary Award



A citizen of the United States, Arnold Wellman for many years held the post of Vice President for Corporate and Public Relations at American UPS (United Parcel Service) Corporation. Currently, he is a member of the boards of US Council for International Business, US ASEAN Business Council, the American Trucking Association, the National Center for APEC, and the National Bureau of Asian Research.


During his long-term career with UPS, his duties among others included managing the budget of corporate social responsibility programmes. It was as part of this operation that Mr Wellman supported the development of local communities by increasing children and youth’s access to education in many of the world’s poorest countries. UPS continues to build and furnished schools and to finance scholarships for children in Poland, Ukraine, India, Mexico, China, and the poorest regions of the United States. The programme that UPS developed provides thousands of children with opportunities for better future. Access to computers and the Internet becomes their “window to the world”, shows broader perspectives for the future, and encourages them to use the opportunities they had not known before. The schools were built with significant contribution of UPS volunteers, whose number included Arnold Wellman himself, representatives of the US Congress, and rank-and-file UPS personnel who worked physically on the construction of the individual sites.


In 2012, Arnold Wellman retired and established a foundation supporting the development of local communities. For his contribution to the development of education, and personal involvement in the construction of schools in Lipa and Sierakośce in Podkarpackie Region, and in Nizhankovitsi and Holovetsko in Ukraine, he was awarded the Order of the Smile in 2009.

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