Humanitarian work honoured at GoAbroad awards

Humanitarian work honoured at GoAbroad awards

GoAbroad honoured a man who assisted volunteers from the study abroad company in an effort to get families from Ukraine to safety after the war started in the European country.

John Lawler received a special humanitarian award for his work in Ukraine with Operation Safedrop. Photo: GoAbroad

At the annual GoAbroad awards, founder and chief of MAD (Make A Difference) Foundation John Lawler was given a special Humanitarian Award, after he dropped “everything” to go and help in the war-torn country just days after the invasion began. 

Lawler joined Troy Peden, GoAbroad’s founder, and his son who were already on their way out to find a van to ferry as many people to safety as possible. 

“As soon as we saw what was happening, I came to help. We purchased the first van not long after I arrived,” he told The PIE.

“We just did what we could; we had the time. We stayed for a year. I’m still in and out now every few months, just to keep the the work going,” he continued. 

Peden said that the award was not a “celebration, but an acknowledgement of our shared humanity”. 

Speaking with The PIE, he said that there were so many examples of how the Operation Safedrop – that Lawler coordinated – helped those who were affected by the war. 

“There was one family we were supposed to drive to Lithuania, and their father was supposed to have a military exemption. We started driving them, got to the border in Ukraine and they told us that he needed another document for the exemption, which he didn’t have and was back in territory surrounded by Russia.” The team had to return to area to retrieve the document. 

“We continued to drive to Lithuania after we left the border and about an hour out having dropped them off [at a facility], a girl called up and said that there were men who were doing drugs in the building – so we went and got them again. 

“We were trying to figure out what to do about it and then we got a call from another person in the community who runs a school in Ireland, who said we could send them there,” he explained. 

The family ended up being able to settle temporarily in Ireland, amid consistent overcrowding in other countries surrounding Ukraine like Poland. 

Another story, which involved Barcelona Study Abroad Experience, saw founder Rich Kurtzman open his own doors to a family who had been displaced. 

The other big winners at the awards were CEA CAPA Education Abroad, which was awarded both Innovative Study Abroad Program with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and Innovation in Alumni Engagement. 

Other winners included Global Glimpse, which won the award for Innovation in Diversity with its Commitment to Diversity and Equity project – and Pacific Discovery ‘Te Haerenga’, which won the award for Innovation in Sustainability.

Through its partnership with Litter Intelligence, the New Zealand-based gap year and summer program specialist has been teaching students how to invest in sustainable practices. 

“Working with organisations like Litter Intelligence, honestly is incredible, because it’s where our students become citizen scientists through the activities like beach cleanups and learn what it actually takes to do that, clean up and then collect that data locally,” Erica Schultz, representing Pacific Discovery, told The PIE. 

“We’re very excited with this recognition – this is a very new program for us, so we’re excited about what the future will hold.”

The People’s Choice Award went to the International TEFL academy – and IES Abroad’s student Clarence A. won the Innovative Student Video award with his entry, “Not My Life”. 

In a statement ITA co-founder Ian Davis noted, “The last few years have been tough for everyone, and the international education community experienced a lot of volatility.

“To be recognised by our peers means so much to me. We’ve all weathered this storm together, and hopefully we all come out stronger. There are so many amazing organisations that deserve their flowers, it’s an honour to be among them.”

The full list of winners is below: 

Innovative Technology

The Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative, The Interdependence: Global Solidarity and Local Actions Toolkit

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

CEA CAPA Education Abroad, Passport: A Gamification Platform for Alumni Ambassadors

Innovation in Diversity

Global Glimpse, Commitment to Equity and Diversity

Innovation in Sustainability

Pacific Discovery, Te Haerenga

Innovation in Philanthropy

University of the People, Scholarships for Earthquake Impacted Turkish and Syrian Students

Innovation in Marketing and Digital Media

Universities Study Abroad Consortium, See Yourself Studying Abroad

Innovative Volunteer Abroad Program 

United Planet, Volunteer to Support Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova

Innovative Intern Abroad Program

Connect-123 Global Internship Programs, Pediatric Healthcare Internship Program in South Africa

Innovative Study Abroad Program 

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and CEA CAPA Education Abroad, Black Lives Matter: A Global Comparative Study

Innovative TEFL/Teach Abroad Program

Na’atik Language and Culture Institute, English Program

Innovative Student Video

“Not My Life” by Clarence A. – IES Abroad

People’s Choice Award

International TEFL Academy

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