Announcing the Winners of the 2020-21 Heart of Humanism Awards!

FBB gives the annual Heart of Humanism awards to recognize sterling service from Beyond Belief Network (BBN) teams, as well as individuals who make extraordinary contributions to compassionate humanism.

2020 presented enormous challenges to humanists striving to making an impact in their communities. We faced dual obstacles: heightened need and unprecedented changes to how we serve our communities.

Some of the teams honored this year responded by creating entirely new service projects. Others wholly re-organized their existing programs to continue working safely. We believe each team being recognized has demonstrated a keen ability to identify and solve problems in their communities. By doing so, they have embodied humanist values and profoundly impacted the lives of others.

Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year is given to an outstanding freshman BBN team, and comes with a $100 grant to help increase their future impact. This year the winner is Los Angeles’ Atheists United (AU).

AU’s first event as a BBN team in 2020 was a Virtual 5K in May raising $2,000 for the Black Skeptics Los Angeles Emergency Relief Fund. In June, they launched a monthly food distribution in partnership with LA Food Bank, picking up donated food and giving it away in their Filipinotown parking lot. This distribution is still going strong.

AU has quickly become one of our most active teams. In addition to their food security events, they have also been keeping clean two miles of adopted highway and recording monthly readings of store flyers for people experiencing visual impairments.

We were very impressed with Atheist United’s impact during their first year as a team, and we only expect it to grow!

Photo of the Year

Quality photography is often an overlooked part of increasing one’s impact through visibility. Each year, FBB picks a small number of outstanding images submitted by BBN teams in their monthly reports, and asks our community to vote on their favorite.

This year’s winning photo depicts an event organized by Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) in which the team distributed relief packs of food, water, and essentials to about 75 families affected by Typhoon Quinta (aka Typhoon Molave). The award comes with a $50 grant.

Backbone Volunteers

Backbone Volunteers — which comes with a $100 grant —recognizes a team that played a consistent and reliable volunteer role in a local organization. This year that team is Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT), which maintains monthly volunteer commitments for three organizations:

  • The Columbus Ronald McDonald House, which provides meals and housing for families of children being treated at nearby hospitals.
  • The Van Buren Center shelter, which provides housing and meals for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Adaptive Sports Connection, which helps people who need adaptive equipment or instruction to participate in outdoor sports

Having reliable volunteers means that organizations like this can put their energy into addressing other needs. Thank you COUNT for helping these causes maximize their impact.

Eat. Sleep. Volunteer. Repeat.

COUNT also receives 2020’s Eat. Sleep. Volunteer. Repeat. Award, given to the BBN team that submits the most events during a year. It comes with a $100 grant.

In addition to the commitments mentioned above, COUNT has been organizing recurring blood donation events. With these COVID-modified outings included, COUNT submitted a total of 60 events in 2020!

Gimme Food and Shelter

The Gimme Food and Shelter award recognizes a team that has made outstanding contributions to causes addressing homelessness and food. This year that team is Austin Humanists at Work (ATXHAW), which will receive a $100 grant.

ATHAW has been holding monthly giveaways for people experiencing homelessness in downtown Austin for several years. They modified these events for 2020, shifting from tabled giveaways to a one-on-one distribution of pre-packed bags. They also added bag distributions for Eat Apart Together (EAT): a government initiative addressing food insecurity heightened as a result of COVID-19. ATXHAW volunteers have been gathering every Sunday to distribute EAT bags, each of which contains 15 pounds of shelf-stable food.

The team also holds monthly “Gettin’ Knotty” events in which participants knit and crochet washcloths and warmth items for their giveaways. With these virtual meetups included, ATXHAW submitted 40 events addressing food and/or housing insecurity.

The pandemic has added unprecedented strain to housing and food support systems. Thank you ATXHAW for not only continuing what you were already doing, but offering more.

Humanism at Work

Our largest award is given to the team that donated the most volunteer hours during the year. In 2020, that team was Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI).

HAPI addressed a variety of issues throughout 2020. They responded to multiple disasters, including the above-mentioned Typhoon Quinta; the Taal volcano eruption; and a community fire. They also responded to the coronavirus in numerous ways, including:

  • Collecting and delivering PPE and food for frontline health workers
  • Delivering baby formula, diapers, and food to remote mountain communities during quarantine
  • Donating school supplies and resources to students in communities that lack the internet
  • Running a literacy program with added hygiene and COVID-19 awareness information

They even found time for a tree-planting event!

HAPI had a very busy year and had a huge impact in their community. We are proud to present them the Humanism at Work award and its $250 grant.

Outstanding Leader

This year’s award recognizing an exceptional team leader goes to Sarah Ray, Co-Founder and Director of Atheist Community of Polk County (ACPC) in Florida. 

When ACPC joined our network in the summer of 2019, most of their events consisted of highway cleanups. By March 2020, they had shifted wholeheartedly into a massive commitment to address food insecurity. Sarah and ACPC formed a partnership with Street Warriors, a group delivering food directly to housing-insecure people in Lakeland, Florida. In October, ACPC increased the scope and impact of this program by launching its own offshoot in the town of Winter Haven.

Sarah and ACPC were also part of organizing It Takes a Village: an area coalition responding to food insecurity heightened by COVID-19. This coalition sorts and stores donated goods at a Unitarian Universalist Church building, then hand-delivers them to families who are unable to access traditional services.

In November, ACPC entered into a new partnership with Salt of the Earth International, creating and distributing weekend food packs for 25 students and their families at a local elementary school.

These commitments artfully filled gaps left by existing food and housing insecurity support systems. (This made ACPC a natural fit for our Food Security Project pilot launched earlier this year.)

Sarah’s leadership and dedication to the ACPC mission has been a major factor in all they accomplished in 2020. This is to say nothing of her ongoing simultaneous work in advocacy, education, and hosting a weekly talk show.

We are thrilled to have Sarah and ACPC in our network and are excited to see what she will accomplish next.

Heart of Humanism

The Heart of Humanism award recognizes an individual who exemplifies humanist values. This year the recipient is Leo Igwe

Leo has been a friend of FBB for many years, having been pivotal in helping develop the program that became Humanist Action: Ghana. Leo is a Board Member of Humanists International and the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

For decades, Leo has been a human rights advocate in Africa, focusing on the rights of women and children accused of witchcraft and protecting people against harmful superstitious practices. He has continued this work in the face of persecution, harassment, and attacks.

Leo has been working tirelessly to secure the release of Mubarak Bala since his arrest in April 2020, and has provided support to Bala’s wife and son. His work on this campaign has included starting dialogues with religious groups for assistance; liaising with the media; and developing a campaign strategy with Humanists International. Most people in the US or UK who know about Bala’s case have heard about it as the direct result of this work.

Leo’s dedication to securing human rights on both individual and societal levels is an irrefutable example of humanist values in action. His endeavors take place in a context unimaginable to many people in the US, as Leo repeatedly risks his own safety in a quest for a more humanist world. FBB is honored to recognize him for his commitment to justice.


To everyone who received an award this year: we thank you deeply. We believe the effects of your work will ripple out father than you may ever know. You are the Heart of Humanism.

We look forward to recognizing another extraordinary group of humanists next year.