On 12 November 2016 Hannes Schmid was distinguished by the Zurich Masonic Lodge with the bi-annual Jonas Furrer Prize for his unique work, ‘Smiling Gecko’, in Cambodia. The honorific speech for Hannes Schmid for the award ceremony was delivered by the highly respected former Chief Prosecutor of the UN War Crimes Tribunal, Carla del Ponte, at the Lindenhof in Zurich. Hannes Schmid is using the entire monetary prize of CHF 20,000 for the Smiling Gecko Cluster projects in Cambodia.
Photos: Sabine Wunderlin, 12.11.2016. Zuerich.
The transcript of the honorific speed by Carla del Ponte for Hannes Schmid for the award ceremony of the Jonas Furrer Prize:
Dear Hannes Schmid,
Dear Anna, dear Maximilian, dear Smiling Gecko family,
Dear guests and dear Committee of the Jonas Furrer Prize,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hannes Schmid! I congratulate you for this important and unique humanitarian award. You have distinguished yourself with your extraordinary commitment to a humanitarian project and active efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society. Your work is without equal – not only here in Switzerland or in Cambodia, but worldwide. It also dignifies you as a person who seeks justice.
I am extremely honoured to be here today to address you in the lodge of the Zurich Freemasons at the Lindenhof, a place of historical importance for all of Switzerland. And yet I am here
without us having known each other for a long time. without our paths having consciously crossed before. without having seen your work in Cambodia until now. We certainly have more in common than either of us previously assumed.
I believe that we are been committed to the values of justice, if by entirely different methods. Justice – not to be confused with the legal term – is a basic principle and a value for which we both strive. It is a value that we both have probably subjected ourselves to almost obsessively for a major portion of our lives. We cannot bear too look on as injustice takes place. It irritates us, makes us restless. It infuriates us that somewhere – whether intentionally or based on factors that cannot be influenced – injustice takes place. We perceive circumstances and situations of people as intolerable when they are wronged. When they do not have any opportunities. When they cannot lead a healthy life. When they are denied the basic necessities of a simple life. But before all else, you want the dignity of every person to remain inviolable – and so do I.
You, dear Hannes, do not stand by and watch as the fortunes of others take a turn for the worse. You roll up your sleeves and get to work. You make changes, organise, help and provide the things that are needed to improve the situation. You always say in interviews, in reports about you and in your relief organisation that you cannot simply stand by and watch. You strive for a minimum standard of justice for the weakest and most disadvantaged members of our society.
Your relief organisation, ‘Smiling Gecko’, for disadvantaged people in Cambodia is stunning proof that there are ways and means of helping those who are simply used, forgotten and left behind by society. Therefore, I am not here to merely present the a prize of the Zurich Freemasons. For me it is an opportunity to simply say ‘thank you’. Thank you for your energy. Your will. Your fair-mindedness. Your imagination. Your persistence. Your savvy. Your ability to connect people. Your generosity. Your warmth and your love for people. Thank you, Hannes Schmid.
I was deeply moved when I heard and read about the origins of your humanitarian commitment ‘Smiling Gecko’. It started with a poor girl on the waste dumps in Phnom Penh who was deliberately disfigured by her parents. A child, a helpless young person. Without any opportunities. Forgotten and abused by those with whom she was closest. A girl without hope or prospects. You did not simply provide monetary or material assistance. You tried to understand why this girl had been disfigured. You tried to understand why the circumstances were so bad and hopeless for this small person.
You wanted to get to the bottom of the matter. You lived on the waste dump yourself, because you wanted to know about the misery there. When you believed you had seen everything, you began to organise help for these people. With persistence, imagination and limitless energy for your idea of humanity. This alone is an unbelievable, but also beautiful story. It honours you and fills me with shame and at the same time with amazement at your tireless work. It is work that I would also refer to as work for justice.
Earlier I spoke about our the similarities between us. The search for justice, equality in opportunities for helpless people, especially the children of this world. I also see a great deal of misery in my work as a UN representative for human rights in places like Aleppo in Syria. The dignity of these children and people in war is violated in the most savage way. They suffer without knowing why. They are victims of a meaningless conflict and are at the mercy of the basest instincts of warmongers here and there. The type of help that you organised and the manner in which you selflessly work is unfortunately something I have only seldom seen elsewhere.
Of this I am certain: We need more people like Hannes Schmid! We need your good example and the confidence and the courage to follow your example in Cambodia. Your work is not only an example of humanity; it is also a challenge to others to follow your lead. To have the courage to work tirelessly for justice.
Hannes Schmid, ladies and gentlemen, is not just a good person who works for the disadvantaged in Cambodia. He is also an artist. An artist who brings the world closer to us through pictures. His pictures, his legendary photos, his art, bring the world to us – both good and bad – to our television screens, to our computers and to our mobile phones. This makes Hannes one of the most important ambassadors of our time. A communicator of messages in pictures and words who touches us time and again with his wonderful and successful art and brings us closer to that which is both tangible and intangible. The combination of art and ability, imagination and grasp of reality are unique and a godsend for a great many people. The fact that he uses his ability and success for humanitarian projects is, for me, reason enough to award him a second and third Jonas Furrer Prize. His work for art and for humanity demonstrates that we could all help much more with our own individual capabilities. Hannes Schmid is an example and role model for us all.
It is no small contribution to justice that you, dear Hannes Schmid, receive this humble, but very fine and meaningful prize for all of your work. And yes, I am personally convinced, as is the awarding body of the Jonas Furrer Prize, that your work is a signal and stimulus for us all to never abandon our outrage and stand up to violations of human rights, particularly those of the children.
Therefore I am pleased and extremely honoured to be here to speak with you today at the Lindenhof. You are not just the 10th prize winner of this distinction. You are an example and a role model for us all and motivate us to try it ourselves. And if we are unable to do it ourselves, to support you in all of your projects.
The people behind the Jonas Furrer Prize also work for justice and humanitarian concerns. They have demonstrated a keen intuition in their selection of this year’s prize winner. I cannot imagine a better choice to honour with this prize. Therefore, I also give my esteem to the awarding committee in the Zurich Freemasons.
I warmly congratulate you, dear Hannes Schmid! And I would like to thank you once more for what you do and are and that for which you work each day.