Sarah Lance, this year’s Opus Prize Laureate, accepted the $1 million award on behalf of the organization she cofounded, Sari Bari, which offers alternate employment to women caught in the sex trade in India’s Red Light District located in Calcutta. The ceremony took place at the Holland Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 17th.
Her voice shook with emotion as she thanked all those who had supported her.
“This is truly for the women of Sari Bari and, more importantly, to the women who have yet to find freedom. For freedom,” said Lance. She then exited the stage to embrace her fellow nominees, Sr. Anne Jordan of Cana Communities and the Rev. Peter Balleis, S.J.
The other two nonprofits were each awarded $100,000 for their organizations.
The Opus Prize is an annual $1 million award given to a faith-based humanitarian organizations and hosted by Catholic universities.
Sari Bari is located within India’s Red Light District, allowing women an easy employment transition. Currently, 120 women work at the organization, where they make handmade saris, traditional Indian clothing, for fair wages in a safe environment.
“I think what sets [Sari Bari] apart is that they spent time in Calcutta before they started,” said Matt Wenz, a Heider College of Business senior. Wenz was one of six students to be selected to visit one of the three organizations.
“So they spent around two years in the Red Light District in Calcutta, going door to door, talking to women and understanding their situations before they started a business,” said Wenz.
“That allowed them to really understand ‘What do we need to do in structuring our business here that gives [these women] what they need?’ … It’s very carefully done, but it’s because they listened to the women [in the Red Light District].”
This year Creighton received a total of 30 nominations, which were then narrowed down to 14 and brought to a panel of Creighton-affiliated jurors. Three finalists were selected after a day of deliberation last January, according to Colette O’Meara McKinney, associate vice president of the office of the president and one of three co-chairs who managed events surrounding the Opus Prize.
Part of the nomination process included ensuring these organizations were sustainable and had the capacity to spend the prize money effectively.
“[These organizations] really do put every dime possible into the service of others,” said O’Meara McKinney.
Creighton’s motto for the award was “Restoring Hope, Lighting the Way Home.”
The theme stayed present in the speeches throughout the night, honoring the finalist organizations who have created homes and opportunities, through education, employment and friendship, for the homeless, refugees and women in the sex trade.