St. Thomas Opus Prize recognizes Morocco women's org.by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The founder of an organization in Morocco that provides services to unmarried women with children has been awarded a $1 million from the University of St. Thomas and the Opus Prize Foundation.
Aicha Ech Channa received the award Wednesday evening during an event at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
The Opus Prize Foundation works with Catholic universities to support faith-based humanitarian efforts anywhere in the world. The recipients can have roots in any faith. Ech Channa and two finalists who received $100,000 each will use the money to further their efforts.
Ech Channa founded the Association Solidarite Feminine in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1985 after observing the struggles of single mothers. Ech Channa now operates three day care centers and training schools, two restaurants, four street kiosks, and a fitness center and spa. More than 50 women receive training every year in literacy human rights, cooking, accounting and other areas. Child care and other services are also provided.
Ech Channa, a Muslim, said in a statement that she hopes her organization can "be a model that provides an example for the respect of human rights, economic development and confidence in humanism."
The other finalists are Sister Valeriana Garcia-Martin of Bogota, Colombia, and Father Hans Stapel of Guaratingueta, Brazil.