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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 commitment aims to promote action-based philanthropy focused on tangible results. This is achieved through the Initiative’s various programs: Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, #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, 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. 

Founder of the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains, Dr. Catena has dedicated the last decade of his life to providing medical care as the only surgeon permanently based in a region the size of Austria. 

Tom Catena was appointed Aurora’s inaugural Chair in December 2018, a position he maintains in parallel with his ongoing responsibilities as Medical Director of the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan. 

Board of Directors

Noubar Afeyan

Noubar Afeyan

Dr. Noubar Afeyan is founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a company that creates bioplatform companies to transform human health and sustainability.

Anna Afeyan

Anna Afeyan

Anna Afeyan is a trustee and co-chair of the Afeyan Foundation, a family foundation building and advancing innovative solutions to benefit communities around the world.

Anthony J. Barsamian

Anthony J. Barsamian

Anthony J. Barsamian is Managing Partner for over 25 years of Hutchings Barsamian Mandelcorn, LLP., an 8-attorney firm concentrating on Business and Commercial Transactions, Estate and Tax, and Family Succession Planning located in Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Ara Darzi

Ara Darzi

Professor Darzi is Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery.

Eric Esrailian

Eric Esrailian

Dr. Eric Esrailian is a physician, Emmy-nominated film producer, investor, and entrepreneur. He is actively involved in philanthropic efforts connecting health, human rights, education, and the arts.

Alice Greenwald

Alice Greenwald

Alice Greenwald is founder and principal of Memory Matters, providing strategic advising services for museums, memorial projects, senior executives, and boards.

Arman Jilavian

Arman Jilavian

Arman Jilavian has been the CEO of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative that transforms the Armenian experience into a global movement based on the philosophy of Gratitude in Action since 2015.

Laura Kline

Laura Kline

Laura Kline is Senior Vice President and Partner of Corporate Communications and Social Impact for Flagship Pioneering.

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 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 help people in need.

The Aurora Prize Selection Committee is comprised of Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee; former President of Ireland Mary Robinson; President of Carnegie Corporation of New York Dame Louise Richardson; former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo; journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Dele Olojede, former CEO of Unilever and Co-founder and Co-Chair of IMAGINE Paul Polman and human rights activist and Co-founder of The Sentry John Prendergast. The Committee is chaired by the Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Lord Ara Darzi.  Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney is the Committee’s Honorary Co-Chair. 

We honor the memory of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), inaugural Selection Committee Co-Chair, President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, Nobel Laureate; Vartan Gregorian (1934-2021), Aurora Co-Founder and member of the Selection Committee; and Benjamin Ferencz (1920-2023), world famous peace and human rights activist, Selection Committee Honorary Co-Chair. 

THE AURORA PRIZE SELECTION COMMITTEE

About the Aurora Dialogues

The Aurora Dialogues is a platform for the world’s leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists, business leaders, and civil society to come together for a series of insightful discussions about some of today’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. In keeping with the spirit of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues shine a light on the people who are working to address today’s issues in a real and substantial manner and seek to identify ideas that will deliver tangible change.

 

About the Aurora Grants

Through the Aurora Grants, the descendants of the Armenian Genocide survivors seek to honor the memory of their ancestors’ saviors by supporting educational initiatives and preserving Armenian heritage while promoting humanitarian efforts and Armenian history.

Educational projects include The Vartan Gregorian Scholarship (Research Grants) Program that supports early-career researchers of Armenian history in the 20th century and the Young Aurora Program intended to encourage student-driven projects offering sustainable solutions to humanitarian issues. The scholarships covered by Aurora allowed 62 students, all of them representatives of the at-risk and vulnerable youth, to study at the United World College (UWC) network of schools and the American University of Armenia. Individual scholarships include those named after Lamya Haji Bashar (given to Yazidi students), Amal Clooney (given to a female student from Lebanon with strong interest in human rights) and Charles Aznavour (awarded to students from France and Francophone countries).

In accordance with the Memory Act, the Aurora Grants also support Armenia’s national repository of ancient manuscripts, the Matenadaran, and the Armenian Genocide Museum-institute, contributing to the preservation of Armenian culture and history.

 

About the Aurora Community

The Aurora Community program brings together selfless individuals from across the globe doing vital work on the local level, allowing them to exchange their knowledge and support each other, as well as use Aurora’s humanitarian network to advance their causes. The main goal of the Aurora Community is to serve as a catalyzer for future change, empowering modern-day heroes by creating a unique connection between like-minded people and providing them with a much-needed support system. 

 

About the Aurora for Artsakh

Through the Aurora for Artsakh program, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative helped the people of Artsakh facing a grave humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the 2020 Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war. Overall, Aurora has allocated $2,2 million to support 93 projects implemented by 70 local and international partners. This includes a $1 million grant donated to Hayastan All Armenian Fund to fund their efforts to provide support to those affected by the war. The Aurora for Artsakh program concluded on June 30, 2023.

 

About the #AraratChallenge 

The #AraratChallenge was a global crowdfunding initiative addressing humanitarian needs in Armenia and Armenian communities globally. The crowdfunding campaign was set to increase the impact and reach of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative to combat poverty, improve healthcare, and provide education to those in need.

As COVID-19 began to spread across the globe, the #AraratChallenge movement made a $120,000 donation to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia to buy ventilators and to support local health professionals on the front lines. When a huge explosion rocked the capital of Lebanon, Aurora donated $50,000 to help the citizens of Beirut and called on the global Armenian community for funding.

In its final phase, the #AraratChallenge crowdfunding initiative was focused on implementing humanitarian programs in Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) designed to assist the people of Artsakh affected by the 2020 war. Overall, the #AraratChallenge and the Aurora for Artsakh program have benefitted over 150,000 local people.

 

About the Aurora Humanitarian Index

The Aurora Humanitarian Index is a survey examining public perceptions of major humanitarian issues. It explores the international public’s attitudes toward both responsibility and effectiveness of humanitarian intervention, as well as the factors that urge people to intervene on behalf of others. 

In 2016-2018, the Aurora Humanitarian Index was conducted across multiple countries and its findings presented during the Aurora Dialogues, an international platform for discussions among leading experts in the humanitarian community. 

 

About the 100 LIVES Initiative

100 LIVES, the inaugural project of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, was launched in March 2015 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, in which the overwhelming majority of the Armenian population perished. Those who survived did so thanks to the benevolent intervention of institutions and individuals – often strangers. Inspired by the story of Aurora Mardiganian, together with thousands of other accounts of courage and humanity, 100 LIVES seeks and shares the stories of Armenian Genocide survivors, their saviors and descendants. In keeping with the spirit of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, each story is a reflection of a unique cycle taking a victim from surviving to thriving and giving back.