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.
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
Dr. Noubar Afeyan is founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a company that creates bioplatform companies to transform human health and sustainability.
An entrepreneur and biochemical engineer, Noubar holds more than 100 patents and has co-founded more than 70 life science and technology startups during his 36-year career. He is co-founder and chairman of the board of Moderna, the pioneering messenger RNA company.
Noubar entered biotechnology during its emergence as an academic field and industry, completing his doctoral work in biochemical engineering at MIT in 1987. He was a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management from 2000 to 2016, a lecturer at Harvard Business School until 2020, and he currently serves as a member of the MIT Corporation. He teaches and speaks around the world on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development to biological engineering, new medicines, and renewable energy. In 2022, Noubar was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Noubar has received multiple awards for his passionate advocacy of the contributions of immigrants to economic and scientific progress. He is the co-founder of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and a number of other philanthropic projects.
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.
Honored to have known and experienced the wisdom of the late Vartan Gregorian, she volunteered to chair the fundraising campaign for the VG Humanitarian Fund at Aurora in 2022, and she is currently chairing the “Endowment Oversight Committee.”
Since leaving a career in biochemical engineering, Anna Afeyan has devoted her time to raising her four children and volunteering in public and independent schools as well as non-profit organizations with special focus on innovation and equity in education. For eight years, she had the privilege of teaching Science at Beacon Academy in Boston, “a 10-year program that prepares highly motivated students from communities with limited resources to succeed in competitive high schools, colleges, and careers.” Anna Afeyan joined the Beacon board in 2014 and served as Chair of the Finance Committee and Treasurer in 2015–2023. Anna is also serving on the board of Dilijan International School of Armenia (UWCD) and co-chairing the board of YerazArt Foundation for Young Musicians.
Before coming to the US in 1988 to take on a position in process development for the Schering-Plough Corporation, Anna Afeyan worked as a process engineer at Alfa-Laval, Sweden. She received her M.S. in Biochemical Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
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.
He is also President of Gravestar, Inc. Anthony is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts.
Anthony has been a Board Member of the Armenian Assembly of America since 2002 and served as Vice Chair in 2002–2004 and Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2003–2006 and is currently co-chair of the Board of Trustees beginning in 2015. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Armenia Tree Project since 2006, a reforestation and rural development project which has planted and monitored nearly 8 million trees in Armenia.
Anthony recently completed a three-year term as the first Armenian American President of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the oldest Christian ecumenical organization in the U.S., founded in 1903. He also has represented the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church as a Delegate on the Board of the National Council of Churches for 12 years and served two years as the chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
Anthony began traveling regularly to Armenia in 1987. He is a member of the executive board of World Link for Law, a network of International Law Firms located in 70 countries. He sits on various for-profit and non-profit boards and organizations and frequently speaks and regularly lectures on Estate and Tax, and to various groups on Estate and Family Succession Planning and non-profit advocacy organizations throughout the United States and Canada.
Professor Darzi is Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery.
He is a Consultant Surgeon at Imperial College NHS Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. Professor Darzi is Chair of the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative, Executive Chair of the World Innovation Summit for Health in Qatar, and Chair for the Pre-emptive Health & Medicine Initiative at Flagship Pioneering UK.
He is also Chair of the Fleming Centre Initiative, a collaboration between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London to build The Fleming Centre, which will drive a global movement to tackle antimicrobial resistance.
Professor Darzi leads a large multidisciplinary academic and policy research team, publishing over 1,500 peer-reviewed research papers focused on convergence science across engineering, physical and data sciences, specifically in the areas of robotics, sensing, imaging and digital and AItechnologies. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and past president of the British Science Association.
In 2002, Professor Darzi was knighted for his services to medicine and surgery, and in 2007 was introduced as Lord Darzi of Denham to the UK’s House of Lords as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health. He has been a member of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council since 2009 and was awarded the Order of Merit in 2016.
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.
He attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with a major in integrative biology and a minor in English. He subsequently graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Southern California. He was named intern, junior resident, and senior resident of the year during all three years of his residency training. He completed his gastroenterology fellowship at UCLA where he also obtained a Master of Public Health degree with the assistance of an NIH sponsored training grant. He is also a graduate of the Executive Program in Management from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Dr. Esrailian served on the Medical Board of California from 2010-2011 after being appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Dr. Esrailian is a Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Medicine and the Chief of the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 2012, the School of Medicine awarded Dr Esrailian the Lincy Foundation Chair in Clinical Gastroenterology. Dr. Esrailian is part of the leadership of several philanthropic organizations including, but not limited to, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Board of Trustees, the Board of Directors of the Hammer Museum, the Board of Governors of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, and the Board of Directors for XPRIZE. He is closely involved in strategic planning efforts for the UCLA Health, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and for the entire university. He also works to facilitate community engagement with a number of other schools and departments within the UCLA campus and its Los Angeles community partners, and he is a co-chair for the university’s Second Century Council. He is also one of the co-founders of the recently announced California Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy.
He has also produced films with a focus on human rights issues. Most notably, he produced “The Promise” by Terry George, starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale. He also produced the educational companion documentary “Intent to Destroy” with Joe Berlinger, which was nominated for an Outstanding Historical Documentary Emmy. These films, and the accompanying social impact campaigns, drew unprecedented attention to the Armenian Genocide, contributed to U.S. government recognition of the historical facts, and led to the creation of The Promise Institute for Human Rights and The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA. In 2017, the university designated Esrailian as a UCLA Optimist – among its notable alumni and faculty dedicated to solving the world’s problems. In 2021, he was also honored by Pope Francis at the Vatican with the Benemerenti Medal for his humanitarian activities around the world.
Alice Greenwald is founder and principal of Memory Matters, providing strategic advising services for museums, memorial projects, senior executives, and boards.
The main focus of Memory Matters is on helping communities build resilience through commemoration and documentation of traumatic history.
From January 2017 to September 2022, Ms. Greenwald served as President & CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where she was responsible for the overall vision, financial well-being, management, and long-term sustainability and relevance of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. From 2006-2016, Ms. Greenwald was Executive Vice President for Exhibitions, Collections, and Education and Director of the Memorial Museum. In this role, she oversaw the articulation and implementation of a founding vision for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, managing its programming, collecting, exhibition, and educational initiatives.
Ms. Greenwald previously served as Associate Museum Director, Museum Programs, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her 19-year affiliation with USHMM began in 1986, when she served as a member of the “Design Team” for the Permanent Exhibition. Her book, The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum, co-edited with Clifford Chanin and published by SkiraRizzoli, was cited in The New York Times as one of the best books about New York City published in 2013. She is also the executive editor and primary contributing author of No Day Shall Erase You: The Story of 9/11 as Told at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, the official companion volume to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, published by SkiraRizzoli in August 2016.
Ms. Greenwald serves on the boards of the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation, the International Council of Museums (U.S.), and Central Synagogue in New York City, and is first vice-president of The Lotos Club. She holds an M.A. in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a B.A with concentrations in English Literature and Anthropology from Sarah Lawrence College, where she delivered the commencement address to the class of 2007.
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.
He leads the Armenia 2041 Charitable Foundation, which strives to create a common framework of understanding around the sustainable development of Armenia as a country and Armenians as a nation.
A graduate of the Lomonosov Moscow State University with a PhD in philology, Arman Jilavian has more than 20 years of experience in publishing, communications, and media management. As Chair of the Board of the IDeA Charitable Foundation and Member of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan, Arman is actively engaged in a number of development and education projects in Armenia.
Laura Kline is Senior Vice President and Partner of Corporate Communications and Social Impact for Flagship Pioneering.
In this role she is responsible for the development and execution of Flagship’s corporate communications strategy and social impact initiative.
Laura Kline brings a wealth of experience in leading organizational communications as well as advising global companies on reputation building, issues management and purposedriven communications. Previously, she served as Managing Director of Communications and Program Influence at The Rockefeller Foundation where she oversaw and directed an integrated communications team to advance the Foundation’s initiatives and enhance its brand.
Prior to this role, Laura Kline was Executive Vice President and head of the Social Impact Practice in New York for Weber Shandwick, a global communications agency, where she worked closely with purpose-led brands and mission-driven organizations to drive conversations, deepen engagement, and achieve impact. She also spent several years as a senior member of the agency’s Corporate Issues team, advising clients on high-profile issues and complex transactions. Laura Kline began her career at The Benjamin Group, a technology PR firm based in the Bay Area.
Laura Kline received a Master of Science in Global Affairs from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
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 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.