57th Tikkun Olam Award to Henryka Manès

Henryka Manes 3-1-16 DSC_0015d (1) (1)
Henryka Manès
Founder and Executive Director
EcoWorks International

Daughter of concentration camp survivors, Henryka Manès was raised with a passion for social justice, a profound commitment to defend the voiceless, and the stanch belief in the overwhelming power of the indomitable human spirit.

In 2008, Ms. Manès founded EcoWorks International (EWI), a nonprofit dedicated to lifting families and communities out of poverty through innovative and comprehensive socio-economic programs. As of 2009, EWI has been working in Haiti’s Ganthier / Croix-des-Bouquets region on a long-term economic development project when the devastating January 2012 earthquake hit the country.

Being already in Haiti, EWI quickly organized a disaster relief program and moved all its activities into the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince where the team worked for close to a year. Among the many projects EWI initiated at the hospital are: 1) Renovating a wing of the hospital to establish a physiotherapy treatment program and bringing U.S. and Israeli experts to treat patients and train Haitian staff; 2) Cooking and distributing daily meals to all patients, their families, and the hospital staff at a time of severe food shortages; 3) Taking care of patients and bringing a steady flow of rotating medical teams from the U.S.; and 4) Donating a Ford ambulance.

Tikkun Olam Award 57

Upon returning to Ganthier, EWI was confronted with thousands of internally displaced quake victims who fled the capital. The team proceeded to establish the construction of infrastructure, such as latrines, and hired both permanent residents and displaced individuals to plan and build it. Several villages benefitted from this program and in exchange villagers accepted displaced families within their midst offering them a supportive community rather than having them live in yet another isolated, makeshift street camp. Funding for all disaster relief projects came from generous individuals and from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

In addition, EWI worked with several orphanages (Gressier, Carrefour and Port-au-Prince) to help them obtain basic food staples.

Lastly, Ms. Manès was asked to join the team of the Prince Charles Foundation of the UK and the Duany-Plater Zyberk urban planning and architectural Miami-based firm to provide logistical and cross-cultural support for the planning and delivery of the urban reconstruction plan for the historical Port-au-Prince and the maritime port. The plan was commissioned by Haiti’s Prime Minister; it was delivered on time and on budget.

As of 2014, all disaster relief programs were completed and work resumed on the long-term development program: Talia Farms. Talia Farms is a public / private partnership which is vertically integrated and focuses on agricultural production as a driver for regional economic growth. It consists of establishing five agricultural cooperatives to organize, train and support small-scale subsistent farmers who currently live in poverty, and to help them transition into becoming agri-entrepreneurs 2 who will grow organic vegetables for the domestic and export markets. The main goal is to enable the farming families earn a living wage.

Talia Farms also has a strong social infrastructure program that will provide access to healthcare, education and environmental remediation. The business plan for Talia Farms has been completed in December 2015, and the fundraising campaign has been launched.

In the meantime, three Talia Farms project components have already been launched: the one-year women’s literacy program, youth-at-risk organizational initiative to start planning a vocational training program; and the urgently needed” Feed-a-Child” nutritional program to treat severely malnourished young children and pregnant women.

Henryka Manès began her international development career when she joined the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which is the one hundred-year old humanitarian aid and development organization JDC is the overseas arm of the American Jewish community with a mandate to build more resilient and sustainable Jewish and non-Jewish communities around the world in more than 120 countries. This $400 million annual budget and 2,000-staff organization not only delivers programs it also runs several think tanks and research organization to be at the cuttingedge of social change.

At JDC, Ms. Manès worked with Aryeh Cooperstock, a remarkable and consummate professional and an effective and generous mentor. Upon his untimely death, she succeeded him in heading the International Development Program (JDC-IDP), which is responsible for world-wide programs for nonJewish communities. During that time, she worked in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean, directing projects ranging from natural disaster and war relief, reconstruction and resettlement of refugees, to long-term economic and social infrastructure transformational programs. She left JDC in 1996 to undertake consulting assignments closer to home and devote time to raising her son.

When she was a small child, the family left Poland as refugees and settled in Paris, France where she grew-up. A full scholarship from Macalester College, St. Paul, MN brought her to the United States where she studied art, art history, anthropology and comparative religion. She completed her B.A., cum laude, in three years, and received a post-graduate grant to study archeology and pre-biblical history at Tel-Aviv University, Israel. During that year she also participated in an archeological dig in Be’er-Sheva focusing on the world’s earliest settlements. The question of how communities and cultures form, how they function, and what makes them stronger became her life-long pursuit and passion. She returned to the US to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota while teaching undergraduate courses.

While in graduate school, she was awarded a one-year curatorial internship at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and at the year’s end was hired as a full-time Assistant Curator of Photography. While at the MIA, she researched and reorganized the collection, curated exhibitions, acquired historical and contemporary works for the collection, lectured, and represented the museum regionally and at international conferences. Later she moved to New York City to work at the seminal Light Gallery with the foremost contemporary photographers and video artists, and later opened her own art gallery in Soho. Throughout that period she volunteered at organizations such as a shelter for battered women, the Lakota and Dakota (“Sioux”) communities, and the Head Start program.

Despite ten successful and rewarding years in the art world, she realized that she was yearning to take a different professional path and became a specialist in international development in order to work with poverty stricken countries and those with emerging economies. Twenty five years later, it 3 is evident that all roads in her life led to this path: to devote her life to helping people who live in abject conditions, who may be victims of war, violence and injustice to lift themselves out of poverty, gain a powerful voice in decisions that determine their future, and provide them with skills and opportunities to build resilient and successful communities. Through her work she is striving to reify the essence of the Jewish precept of “Tikkun Olam” – “the necessity to heal the world.”

 


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