“Concern changes millions of people’s lives — indeed, they even changed my life…” — Bono
Every year, Concern Worldwide U.S. hosts the Seeds of Hope Award Dinner — an evening of inspiration, fundraising, and of course: hope. Our 700+ guests committed themselves to that message of hope, raising more than $2 million dollars on a single night for the fight to end extreme poverty.
We were reminded of the power of giving true, lasting hope by a 22-year-old Rwandan woman, Aline Joyce Berabose. Aline told the story of how, in the aftermath of genocide, a Concern team at a Congolese refugee camp helped to keep her family alive, and she implored the audience to stay the course:
“We must let this milestone of Concern give us not only a sense of pride but act as a reminder of the challenges ahead of us. We must take action — just as Concern’s founders did 50 years ago, just as you are doing tonight… Because even in the most desperate situations, there is hope. And when you respond, there is an impact on somebody, somewhere. I stand before you as evidence of that.”
Today, Aline is Concern’s Global Youth Ambassador as well as the founder of the non-profit organization African Dream Movement. Imagine how different the world would be if more people had real opportunities not only to survive, but to thrive.
Concern Worldwide’s Irish roots were evident in the gala’s headliners: Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Samantha Barry, as emcee, and U2’s lead singer, Bono, a longtime friend and supporter of Concern. The evening began with a stirring performance by the 3rd- and 4th-grade choir from PS154 in Corona, Queens, under the direction of music educator Thomas Carroll, followed by a 20-minute onstage conversation between Barry and Bono.
Bono spoke of his connection to both Concern and New York City:
“Concern changes millions of people’s lives — indeed, they even changed my life, very early on. It was a trip to Ethiopia in the mid-80s with Concern that began my life as an activist. They turned my life right-side-up. In this moment, there is a lot of soul-searching going on, here in the U.S. and the wider world, but we must be very careful of demonizing ‘the other.’ Irish people to their credit are suspect of demonizing the other… because we were ‘the other.’ We were the stranger, we were the invading hordes, we were the cockroaches, and we haven’t forgotten. And you know who the other is? The other is the person we haven’t met yet. That’s all. New York City is the capital of ‘the other’ and this is the land of otherness, and that’s why I love it.” — Bono
Concern Worldwide Board Chair, Joanna Geraghty, presented the inaugural Thomas J. Moran Seeds of Hope Award to Craig Vosburg, President of Mastercard for North America. Receiving the award — which is named for Concern’s long-time chairman who passed away earlier this year — Mr. Vosburg said:
“With a mission to transform the lives of those living in extreme poverty in a sustainable and lasting way… Concern became an agent-of-change humanitarian organization. Fifty years later, it’s bringing hope for a better life to over 10 million people in 25 countries each year.”
He spotlighted several of Mastercard’s innovations including a pay-as-you-go solar energy platform in Uganda and a digital commerce and payment system in Kenya, as well as the continued impact of the Mastercard Foundation in Africa and developing markets.
Joanna Geraghty, who is also President & Chief Operating Officer of JetBlue Airways, reminded guests of the great strides the world has made toward ending extreme poverty, but cautioned against complacency:
“We must remain relentless in the fight against climate change, disaster, hunger, and chronic poverty.”
“Every 3.6 seconds, a person dies of extreme poverty. Usually that person is a child under 5. Tonight, over the length of this event, 3,000 will pass worldwide due to extreme poverty.
Yet over the last 25 years, more than a BILLION people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. The global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. Through the unbounded generosity of you and our thousands of donors, and the incredible dedication of the entire Concern staff, we have played a key part in what has been described as one of the greatest achievements of our lifetime.
But there is so much more to do. We must remain relentless in the fight against climate change, disaster, hunger, and chronic poverty. We come together in this spirit tonight as we honor our fellow humanitarians in this fight.”
Another highlight of the night was the moment when the lights in the room were dimmed and the guests illuminated their tables with solar lamps, similar to those distributed by Concern in some of the remotest places on earth. Currently, over 2 billion people around the world live without electricity.
Finally, it was a night to remember Tom Moran, the New York businessman who gave so much of his time and energy over many years to support the work of Concern. He often cited the words of his friend, holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, at events like this: “What adds to the suffering of the victim is the notion that nobody cares, that they have been forgotten.”
Tom Moran’s mission was to reach out to millions of the world’s poorest to show them genuine compassion and care, to let them know they are not forgotten. The word philanthropist does not do him justice. This year’s Seeds of Hope dinner was a testament to his legacy.