This week’s Stories of Resilience post has been written in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Unsung Heroes Initiative.

2020 has been a really tough year, for so many reasons. The scourge of COVID-19 has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and caused massive economic disruption that’s brought heartbreak and hardship to millions. In the US, the long struggle against racism and inequality has sparked protests that have brought tens of thousands onto the street. In California, Oregon and Australia, enormous wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres and threatened communities.

And yet it’s also a year that has brought out the best in many. That’s what the Atlantic Council has set out to chart with #UnsungHeroes2020, our campaign to highlight acts of amazingness around the world.

It’s important at a time like this to come together to mark the heroism, resilience and imagination of those who seek to help others and change the world. More than ever, we have all been awestruck by the many faces of courage in the toughest of times.

We asked our community to nominate heroes – and some terrific stories emerged from all over the world.

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, nominated Miriam’s Kitchen, which works to end chronic homelessness in DC and to meets the urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness. “At a time of crisis,” she argues, “it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who are hit the hardest.”

Lisa chose the Melville Family Foundation, which works to improve the lives of black and brown children in Dallas through economic stability, food security, and academic excellence.

Our friends at Great Big Story nominated the Kung Fu Nuns, an order of Buddhist nuns in Nepal. “They’ve been doing tremendous work ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, including delivering supplies to remote villages in Nepal and providing families with food!”

Damon Wilson nominated nurses in South Carolina who are doing so much to help care for those in need. “I nominate Lungisile “Nunu” Ntshangase of Eswatini, Florence Owino-Oluoch of Kenya and all of the hard-working immigrants who help my family and so many care for our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents during COVID.”

Irina nominates Maria Kolesnikova, a Belarus protester. “Hundreds of thousands of women in the streets of Belarus are protesting for freedom. Although they protest peacefully, they are beaten by men whose faces are masked because they fear the women they abuse.”

Ezgi Arslan of the UN Development Program nominated Prof. Alper Kumtepe and his team at Anadolu University for their outstanding efforts in a distance learning project for 52,000 refugees in Turkey – helping them become more resilient, involved in the economy, and self-sufficient.

Julie Varghese nominated Diana Berrent, a COVID-19 long-hauler. She formed the online group Survivor Corps, where members document their symptoms, donate plasma, raise money for treatment and research, and provide support. “While scrambling to get medical advice and testing, she became an advocate and an activist for herself and others!” says Julie.

Nidhi nominates Krish, Vanessa, Ashwini, for providing food relief to Chennai families amid the Covid pandemic – a vital service to millions.

John Watts spoke up for the volunteer firefighters of Australia, who at the beginning of the year faced unbearable conditions fighting wildfires that threatened vast areas of their country. “There firefighters volunteered to spend time away from their families for months of end putting themselves in horrific conditions to protect their nation,” he said – and they included volunteers from the US armed services.

Nominations are still open, and we are keen to hear everyone’s stories of heroism. Around the world, so many are fighting to make peoples’ lives better, fairer, safer.

Please help us by nominating a person, group, organization or community from anywhere in the world that has earned your admiration this year – your #UnsungHeroes2020. We will feature a selected few at our annual Distinguished Leadership Awards event in October, and post more on our website. Just post a one-minute video on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, using the hashtag #UnsungHeroes2020, to enter your submission. Check back on October 14 when we will celebrate them at our awards event and on social media.

This is a project from the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and the Digital Forensic Research Lab. 

Share your #ResilienceStories and videos with us at and join us in sharing on social media: @atlanticcouncil@ArshtRock, @DFRLab.

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The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center will reach one billion people with resilience solutions to climate change, migration, and security challenges by 2030. We will focus our efforts on individuals, communities, and a broad spectrum of governments and institutions to help them, and their constituencies and stakeholders, better prepare for, navigate, and recover from shocks and stresses. We will help build a more resilient world.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.

Image: Photo courtesy of Chris Rogers via Instagram