2021 Aurora Humanitarians Announced
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has revealed the names of five 2021 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee for their courage, commitment and impact. The announcement was made today at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts located in Yerevan, Armenia. During this special event, the attendees also paid tribute to the great scholar and philanthropist Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, who passed away a few days ago. In accordance with the tradition, the names of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians have been inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities.
One of the Humanitarians will become the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate and will receive an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by sharing a $1,000,000 award with the organizations that help people in need. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are:
- Grégoire Ahongbonon (Côte d'Ivoire), founder of the St Camille Association, which helps people in West Africa suffering from mental illness and seeks to end the inhumane local practice of keeping them in chains. Mr. Ahongbonon has nominated three organizations that promote international solidarity and support people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses: CRÉDIL (Lanaudière’s Regional Committee on Education for International Development), L'Arche Canada Foundation, and St Camille Association.
- Ruby Alba Castaño (Colombia), a human rights activist and founder of ASOCATDAME (Meta Association for Peasants, Rural Workers and Defenders of the Environment) who works to protect the rights of thousands of Colombian peasants that are subjected to persecution, forced disappearances and displacement. Ms. Castaño has nominated three organizations that advocate for the rights of the peasant and impoverished communities in Colombia: ASOCATDAME, Claretian Corporation Norman Pérez Bello (CCNPB), and National Federation of Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO).
- Paul Farmer (USA), a medical anthropologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that brings the benefits of modern medical science to those who need it the most. Dr. Farmer has nominated two organizations that deliver healthcare to the world’s poorest communities and build a global movement of social medicine educators and practitioners: Partners In Health and Equal Health.
- Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of the Congo), a human rights defender, co-founder of Women's Solidarity for Inclusive Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) and Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), who has been helping the victims of wartime sexual violence for years. Ms. Lusenge has nominated three organizations that support grassroots women’s organizations, empower survivors of gender-based violence and reintegrate internally displaced persons: Fund for Congolese Women, League for Congolese Solidarity and Association of Mothers for Development and Peace.
- Ashwaq Moharram (Yemen), a physician who provides life-saving support to the starving population of Hodeida, facing a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of conflict and blockade. Dr. Moharram has nominated two organizations that protect the future of children and provide free healthcare services to the people affected by the ongoing conflict in Yemen: Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders.
“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to recognize these distinguished men and women from all over the world. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are individuals who truly believe in the basic human rights and have dedicated their lives to helping people in areas of adversity. They are also recognized for the huge impact that even one individual can have by helping thousands and, most importantly, inspiring millions at the same time,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee.
“The outstanding accomplishments of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians show their unyielding willingness to act in response to the needs of people around them. Aurora believes deeply in the power of humanity to improve and save lives and has come up with the concept of “Gratitude in Action” that describes the human spirit that can motivate humanitarian activism. The heroes we are honoring today are the role models the world needs now more than ever before,” noted Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital and the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate.
At the event, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also officially announced the opening of the nomination period for the 2022 Aurora Prize and encouraged everyone to put forward inspiring modern-day heroes. Earlier that day, Aurora representatives had commemorated the Armenian Genocide by attending a flower-laying ceremony at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, dedicated to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.
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About the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is a foundation that seeks to address on-the-ground humanitarian challenges around the world with the focus on helping the most destitute. Its mission is rooted in the Armenian history as the Initiative was founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors and strives to transform this experience into a global movement.
All Aurora’s activities are based on the universal concept of Gratitude in Action. It implies that countless people around the world who have received aid in time of crisis can best express their gratitude by offering similar assistance to someone else. By involving Aurora supporters around the world, this will become a global endeavor that will snowball to expand the circle of saviors and most importantly – the number of those saved.
Addressing urgent humanitarian challenges, the Initiative provides a second chance to those who need it the most. True to its vision – “We believe that even in the darkest times, a brighter future is in the hands of those who are committed to giving others help and hope” – Aurora welcomes all who embrace this philosophy.
This eight-year commitment (2015 to 2023, in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) aims to promote action-based philanthropy focused on tangible results. This is achieved through the Initiative’s various programs: Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, Aurora for Artsakh, #AraratChallenge movement, Aurora Dialogues, Aurora Grants, Aurora Community, Aurora Index, and the 100 LIVES Initiative.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the vision of philanthropists Vartan Gregorian (1934-2021), Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan who have been joined by thousands of supporters and partners. Aurora’s Chair, Dr. Tom Catena, draws on his experience as a surgeon, veteran, humanitarian and the 2017 Aurora Prize laureate to spread the message of Gratitude in Action to a global audience.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is represented by three organizations – the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Foundation, Inc. (New York, USA), the 100 Lives Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) and the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Charitable Foundation (Yerevan, Armenia).
About the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a global humanitarian award. Its mission is to recognize and support those who risk their own lives, health or freedom to save the lives, health or freedom of others suffering as a result of violent conflict, atrocity crimes or other major human rights violations. The Aurora Prize Laureate is selected based on the nominee’s demonstration of courage, commitment and impact.
On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, an Aurora Prize Laureate is honored each year between 2015 and 2023 (in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) with a US $1,000,000 award, which gives the Laureate a unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving and to support the organizations that have inspired their humanitarian action.
The Aurora Prize Selection Committee is comprised of Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; human rights activist Hina Jilani; former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo; Médecins Sans Frontières Co-founder and former foreign minister of France Bernard Kouchner; former CEO of Unilever and Co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE Paul Polman; human rights activist and Co-founder of The Sentry John Prendergast and President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian (1934 - 2021). The Committee is chaired by the Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Lord Ara Darzi.
World famous peace and human rights activist Benjamin Ferencz and Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney are the Committee’s Honorary Co-Chairs, and its honorary members include two-time President of Costa Rica and Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias; Artistic and General Director of Mariinsky Theatre and Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmoniker Valery Gergiev and former foreign minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans.
We honor the memory of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), inaugural Selection Committee Co-Chair, President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity; Nobel Laureate.