On June 1, 2022, the International Children’s Day, the Aurora Dialogues online event titled “Children’s Needs in a Changing World” was organized to discuss the challenges the children of today are facing and to emphasize the role and responsibility of adults in helping them to overcome crisis situations.
The panel discussion featured representatives of humanitarian organizations working in the field and implementing numerous projects for vulnerable children, including 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate Mirza Dinnayi, Co-founder and Director of Air Bridge Iraq, Véronique Peterbroeck Mairlot, Managing Director of Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck, Robert J. Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission, and Emily Warne, Executive Director of the Panzi Foundation’s US Office.
Welcoming the panelists and those watching the discussion online, the moderator Emilio Cricchio, CivilNet reporter, reflected on Aurora’s impact in the last seven years of helping the vulnerable across the globe. Since its launch, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s flagship program, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, has directed $5.7 million to support 46 humanitarian projects that have benefited almost 1.1 million people in need in 20 countries and territories. 26 of these projects benefit children in 11 countries and territories.
“Thanks to the support of the Aurora Prize, these children’s lives have been improving through the things like construction and renovation of schools, provision of free medical care, psychosocial support, economic empowerment, and other humanitarian interventions,” noted Emilio Cricchio after the event opened with a video message from Doctor Tom Catena, Chair of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate. Many of the humanitarian projects supported by the Aurora have been implemented in Africa, where Doctor Catena lives and works.
“I want to make sure that everyone understands that out of Africa’s 1.3 billion people, 60% of them are under the age of 25, and as we look forward to the future, we have to be very well aware that the future workforce for the world, this is not just for Africa, but probably for Europe, and for Asia, and for the US, will come from those youth that are currently living in Africa, so it is up to us to make sure that those youth or children today will be well taken care of in terms of their health, will be educated so they will have a secure workforce in the future,” said Tom Catena.
Every year, the Aurora Prize Laureate is honored with a US $1,000,000 award and a unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by supporting the organizations that help people in need. The Panzi Foundation was one of the designated organizations that 2020 Aurora Prize Laureates Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman had selected to receive the Prize funds. Thanks to this support, hundreds of children gained access to education in DR Congo, where sexualized violence against women and children is used as a weapon of war. In addition, more than 4,000 children, survivors of sexual violence, and residents of artisanal mining communities in DRC benefited from the provision of the socio-economic alternatives to mining.
“One of the things that we talked to mothers in particular was what kind of justice or what kind of reparation they would like. They all would say that they want education for their children. They recognize that this is the opportunity to have a brighter future. And this is one of the reasons that we recognize investing in education as a social-economic pillar is so important,” said Emily Warne, Executive Director of the Panzi Foundation’s US Office.
Focusing on the urgent needs of children, 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate Mirza Dinnayi, Co-founder and Director of Air Bridge Iraq, explained the vital role of the center for humanitarian activities to be constructed with the support of the Aurora Prize. More than 58,000 survivors of Yezidi Genocide, former child soldiers and their families, and other community members in Iraq have already benefited and will benefit further from this and other projects implemented by the organizations supported by Mirza Dinnayi through the Aurora Prize funds. “We are working with traumatized people, and when we see the effect of our work, saving mostly children, it motivates you. If you somehow, theoretically, think that you are giving up, you feel guilty. You say, if I give up, I’ll take away the opportunity of treatment, of saving the lives of other people who need my help,” said Mirza Dinnayi.
Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck was one of the designated organizations selected by 2016 Aurora Prize Laureate Marguerite Barankitse to receive part of the award’s funds. Thanks to this, about 400 abandoned and sexually abused girls were given shelter, psycho-social support and education, and were successfully reintegrated into families in DRC. More than 6,100 Burundian refugees, vulnerable girls and their family members have benefited from different humanitarian programs implemented by Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck in Rwanda and DRC. In its turn, Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck has funded 8 projects helping children in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) affected by the 2020 war.
“I’m always very sensitive to what is happening with children, the young generation, because they are the future of our world. We are always thinking about the wrong things happening in the world. But there are many good initiatives happening, and it’s very important to put them in light. When I see, for example, children of Maggy [Barankitse], they can transmit the message of hope and success. When you give an opportunity to these motivated children, they just take it,” said Véronique Peterbroeck Mairlot, Managing Director of Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck.
The late 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate Kyaw Hla Aung had chosen the International Catholic Migration Commission to receive funds from the Prize. And as the moderator mentioned during the discussion, that had been a bridging of two religions, a Muslim Laureate designated a Christian organization to continue the cycle of giving. Thanks to that, dozens of refugee children have benefited from English and digital literacy classes in Malaysia. Over 75,200 Rohingya people have benefited from the refugee camp site improvements, education opportunities, and livelihood support in Bangladesh and Malaysia provided by the International Catholic Migration Commission.
“As the other speakers said, children are the future of the society, but they are also the present of the society. And they bring the energy and force to us. We need to listen to them and learn the values that they still have. Maybe we communicate it to them but then kind of forget about it or put to the side. We need to help them keep that hope and keep on learning, and also keep on engaging and challenging us, because they see the faults and weaknesses that we have,” – said Father Robert J. Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
In the end, Emilio Cricchio, the moderator, thanked all the participants for an insightful discussion and the inspiring work they do lifting up humanity worldwide.
You can watch the whole discussion below.