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Leader of Daffodil Project receives Turner Award

April 5,2016

As a former Ugandan refugee, Derreck Kayongo knows first-hand what it is like to have an oppressed childhood and grow up in a country where citizens were stripped of their rights.

“I remember the abuse I faced as a child during the war of Idi Amin and how brutally our rights as children were abused,” said Kayongo, who now serves as CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

That’s why the work of Dr. Andrea Videlefsky is so near to Kayongo’s heart. A family medicine doctor with Urban Family Practice Associates in Marietta, Videlefsky has worked to bring make sure Atlanta and the rest of the world doesn’t forget the 1.5 million children who died in Nazi-occupied Europe. Through Central Atlanta Progress Inc. and Am Yisrael Chai!, a non-profit Holocaust education and awareness organization, Videlefsky helped lead the launch of Atlanta’s Daffodil Project—a living Holocaust memorial with the goal of planting 1.5 million daffodils around the world. The project is part of the Worldwide Daffodil Project effort led by Am Yisrael Chai.

In 2014, thanks to Videlefsky’s leadership, 20,000 daffodils were planted in Woodruff Park and another 90,000 were planted in downtown Atlanta creating a “ribbon of consciousness” between the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the King Center. As of March 2016, a total of 175,000 daffodils have been planted in the city—more than in any other city involved in the project. The daffodils are also intended to promote awareness of current human rights crises throughout the world.

This year, Videlefsky will receive the Central Atlanta Progress Turner Downtown Community Leadership Award—an honor started by CAP in 2003 that recognizes leaders whose contributions to the Atlanta community may not be honored elsewhere.

“She is kind of a force of nature because she and her volunteers work so hard to honor children that were killed in the Holocaust as well as to bring attention to the genocide that takes place in the world today,” said A.J. Robinson, president of CAP. “For our downtown community it’s been an excellent partnership because we’re always looking for programs and projects that have more than one meaning. The ability to beautify our city once a year when the daffodils come out and also have it be a meaningful beautification is really great.”

The Washington, D.C.-based International Downtown Association recently honored CAP with an award in recognition of The Daffodil Project.

“It’s been very successful,” Robinson said. “Daffodils are symbolic that warm weather is around the corner, spring has sprung; they add color after a long winter and they have meaning—real intrinsic meaning—that Atlanta is recognizing something that, because of our history in civil and human rights, is something important to recognize.”

Videlefsky received her medical degree at the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in South Africa, where she also worked at a community clinic. She completed her family practice residency at Emory University.

“Under Andi’s leadership Am Yisrael Chai has brought many Holocaust-related and genocide prevention speakers to Atlanta for international Holocaust Remembrance Day and for the Annual Daffodil Dash 5k walk/run in Dunwoody,” said Am Yisrael Chai board member Nadine Becker. “Andi and Am Yisrael Chai have developed a very close relationship with Holocaust and genocide survivors in Atlanta to aid them and help them be educators and speakers. Andi is very modest regarding her impact on our community, but it is truly impressive and admirable.”

While the Daffodil Project has drawn more visitors to the city, its contribution to the area’s economic impact pales in comparison with the bright path it weaves through the city—one that honors Atlanta’s longtime affirmation of human rights, according to William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Dr. Andrea Videlefsky’s work with the Downtown Daffodil Project has created a colorful link between two of our most important human rights tributes, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the King Center,” Pate said.