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Genius solution springs from Pope-inspired award: Charcoal from waterlilies

Economy of Francis

Santuario Spogliazione | YouTube

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 12/06/22

This $50,000 grant empowered disabled, homeless people in the Philippines to simultaneously solve various problems in a brilliant way. Now sponsors are taking bids for the 2023 prize.

Water lilies are lush and beautiful along the waterways of Pasig, in metropolitan Manila, in the Philippines. They grow so verdant, in fact, that they are a problem for the city’s rivers and drainage systems.

Thanks to a $50,000 award from a charity springing from Pope Francis’ philosophy, a group of people with disabilities is turning the problem of abundant waterlilies into a solution for families, and a path to their own economic freedom.

Last year, they were the winners of the international prize “Francis of Assisi and Carlo Acutis for an economy of fraternity.” The award consists of a 50,000 euro ($52,800) contribution to a project that promotes economic development with a focus on human fraternity and helping those who are disadvantaged. 

Their winning project was initiated by the Diocese of Pasig (metropolitan Manila, Philippines), and the local government. They came together to create the SAMAKAT laboratory, which produces eco-friendly carbon briquettes out of waste materials.

The small blocks, used for cooking or heating, are sustainable, as they are produced mostly out of the water lilies, which grow extensively in Pasig and need to be removed.

These 15 people, some of whom were homeless before joining the project, are now employed in the laboratory and are also give talks in schools and to other associations to explain how they make the briquettes. 

“Our lives were changed, we were given hope. SAMAKAT members walk with pride because they are able to help the environment despite their disabilities,” said Mario Galvez, who has a physical disability and is president of the laboratory, in a video posted by the prize organizers.

However, in economics, the equal sign is never given enough importance. I think the economy of fraternity is giving importance to that equal sign.”

“The Diocese of Pasig played a huge part in changing my life as a person with disabilities. They gave us hope that we will have means of earning a living to help our family,” said 43-year-old Anna Maria Reyes in the same video. 

Applications are open for the 3rd edition

The Foundation of the Sanctuary of the Renunciation of the Diocese of Assisi, along with the movement Economy of Francesco, sponsors the prize.

The Sanctuary of Renunciation is where Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have renounced all his worldly goods and where the young Blessed Carlo Acutis is buried. It is with the legacy of these two figures in mind that the Foundation of the Diocese of Assisi wants to support proposals which respond to Pope Francis’ call to envision and promote an inclusive economic structure. 

“We started activating pathways to help people understand what a different economy can be like: an economy in which the concept of fraternity is the cornerstone,” said Bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, at a press conference presenting the prize on December 5, 2022, at the Vatican. 

The award in fact wants to especially empower those who are marginalized from society or have limited economic possibilities, and young people under the age of 35. The Evaluation Commission has to assess the projects according to certain criteria such as sustainability, the benefit for the surrounding community, and the fraternal economic development.

The deadline to submit an initiative on the award’s website is 31 December 2022. The winners will then be presented in May 2023.

Economy of Francis

“The economics of fraternity is giving importance to the equal sign”

Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop Emeritus of Agrigento (Sicily), who presented the 2022 award in May, was also at the press conference and underlined the importance of supporting these types of projects. 

“There is a David who can always take down a Goliath. When we talk about the economy it seems like this giant that decides the fate of the world, but at some point the little stone that may have seemed insignificant can make a Goliath uncomfortable or propose an alternative to the giant.”

He also summarized what an “economy of fraternity” means: 

“Economics is made up of mathematical operations: plus, minus, multiply, divide. These operations make a mess because putting pluses or minuses means creating steps and marking who is ahead and who is behind. However, in economics, the equal sign is never given enough importance. I think the economy of fraternity is giving importance to that equal sign.”

AssisiCarlo AcutisEconomyPhilippines
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