YEREVAN — 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.
Prize Ceremony to Take Place in Venice
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has announced that the 2021 Aurora Prize events will take place in Venice, Italy, on October 8-10, 2021. In addition to the Ceremony, during which the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate will be named and the Aurora Dialogues, there will be ample opportunities for the guests and participants, including members of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, Aurora Humanitarians, and other representatives of Aurora’s community, to explore the rich Armenian legacy of this location.
The 2021 Aurora events in Venice will mark the first time the Aurora Prize Ceremony takes place in Europe and will highlight the extensive connection between this universally important cultural site and the spirit of Aurora, with its deeply embedded respect for the human life shared by every Armenian and every member of Aurora global movement alike. It will also be the first offline Aurora Prize Ceremony since the breakout of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
On October 19, 2020, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative marked its 5th anniversary at a virtual fundraising event in New York City, dedicated to Aurora’s core philosophy of Gratitude in Action. Broadcast live from The New York Public Library, the event featured Aurora Co-Founder and member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee Vartan Gregorian, who sadly passed away in April 2021.
“The 2021 Aurora Prize main events in Venice are intended to give a chance for our guests to come together for the first time since we were forced to bring all our events online. The last year and a half has been hard on everyone, and we’ve suffered many a painful loss. That is why we are very excited about the opportunity to express gratitude to our wonderful community, to bring global humanitarians to Venice and to introduce them to the Armenian legacy of this location and to its rich and fascinating history,” said Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative.