Aurora Humanitarian 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 аs 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. (USA), the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Foundation (Switzerland) and the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Charitable Foundation (Armenia).
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was founded in 2015, by three people committed to honoring the memory of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide by supporting projects that honor their saviors. Since that time, thousands of individuals and organizations have been inspired to join the Co-Founders in transforming a nation’s gratitude to action.
All those who support our vision are welcome to join this movement. With growing resources, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative will expand programming that tackles new crises and challenges and offers life and hope to the vulnerable. Aurora will urge those fortunate enough to have been rescued and given a new chance on life to express their own gratitude by becoming the next generation of savior. Thus, the cycle of giving will continue, empathy will replace sympathy and in memory of the survivors, we will embrace all those who believe in a shared humanity.
You can find additional information here.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative creates and supports programs designed to raise public awareness and address the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. These programs include:
- The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity;
- The #AraratChallenge movement, 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;
- The Aurora for Artsakh program: through this 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, ultimately benefitting over 150,000 local people. The program concluded in June 2023;
- The Aurora Dialogues: a series of thoughtful discussions among leading members of the political, humanitarian, and business communities to raise awareness and address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues;
- The Aurora Grants: humanitarian and educational initiatives which help children, refugees and other vulnerable citizens around the world;
- The Aurora Community: a program that 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 to use Aurora’s humanitarian network to advance their causes;
- The Aurora Index: 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;
- 100 LIVES, a global media and content creation project aimed at preserving the memory of the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, as well as those who intervened on their behalf a century ago. It is also a platform to present the stories of the Armenian diaspora and its connections to the Armenian heritage, culture and values.
All programs are designed to honor and support deserving individuals and organizations as an expression of gratitude to the saviors who intervened on behalf of Armenians a century ago.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the umbrella initiative that encompasses the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and the Aurora Dialogues, as well as several other programs. The programs were established to honor those undertaking extraordinary acts to preserve human life and advance humanitarian causes, and also to foster dialogue among leading experts from the international humanitarian, business, philanthropic and media communities on the most pressing challenges facing the world today.
The programs help advance the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s overall aim of addressing some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues.
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.
Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
Current members of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee are:
- Lord Ara Darzi (Selection Committee Chair) – Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London
- George Clooney (Selection Committee Honorary Co-Chair) – Co-Founder, The Sentry; Humanitarian, performer and filmmaker
- Leymah Gbowee – Executive Director of the Women Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN-Africa); Nobel Laureate
- Dele Olojede - Journalist, Writer, Pulitzer Prize Winner
- Paul Polman – Co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE; former CEO of Unilever
- John Prendergast – Human Rights Activist and Co-founder, The Sentry
- Dame Louise Richardson – President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Mary Robinson – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Former President of Ireland
- Ernesto Zedillo – Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization; Former President of Mexico
- Vartan Gregorian (1934–2021) – Co-Founder, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative; President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Benjamin Ferencz (1920–2023) – Selection Committee Honorary Co-Chair; World famous peace and human rights activist
- Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) – Inaugural Selection Committee Co-Chair, President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity; Nobel Laureate
For further information on each of the members, please visit the Selection Committee section on our webpage.
2024 Aurora Prize
- Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja (Bahrain/Denmark), a human rights advocate who has been fearlessly defending the most vulnerable communities in Bahrain, especially those who have been subject to systemic violations of their human rights. Mr. Al-Khawaja has been arrested several times for this work, including in 2011, for peaceful protests during the Bahraini Uprising, which resulted in him being sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal.
- Denis Mukwege (Democratic Republic of the Congo), a gynecologist and human rights activist who has been working since 1999 to provide medical, legal, and psychosocial aid to women subjected to sexualized and gender-based violence and to advocate for gender equality and the elimination of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC and worldwide. Dr. Mukwege has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
- Nasrin Sotoudeh (Iran), a human rights defender who has been working as an attorney since 2003, representing Iranian opposition activists, young prisoners, and women’s rights activists, including women who were arrested for protesting compulsory headscarves (hijab) in Iran. Due to her work, Mrs. Sotoudeh has been frequently imprisoned, including in solitary confinement.
2022 Aurora Prize
- Jamila Afghani (Afghanistan), a peace activist and founder of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO) who has dedicated over 25 years of her life to giving the women of Afghanistan access to education. After the Taliban took over her country, Jamila Afghani was forced to flee her homeland – but she hasn’t given up on its people.
- Hadi Jumaan (Yemen), a peace activist, mediator, and body collector from Yemen who regularly risks his life to facilitate the exchange of prisoners of war and recover human remains from the frontlines. As the country continues to experience a prolonged political and humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war, Mr. Jumaan brings to the families the only solace left to them – the knowledge that their loved and lost ones may finally rest in peace.
- Mahienour El-Massry (Egypt), a lawyer and political activist from Egypt who promotes political freedoms and human rights in the country by organizing peaceful protests and defending political prisoners in courts. In Egypt, voicing disagreement with the official policy can be dangerous, and Mahienour El-Massry has been detained and put in jail several times for her activism. Nevertheless, she remains optimistic about the future of her country and committed to being an agent of positive change.
2021 Aurora Prize
- 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.
- 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.
- Paul Farmer (1959–2022) (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.
- 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.
- 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.
2020 Aurora Prize
- Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman – for years, this mother and daughter team has been championing human rights, protecting women’s rights, promoting peacebuilding and rehabilitating child soldiers. Their courage, resilience and unwavering commitment to the people of Somalia has earned Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman both national and global recognition. They received the 2015 Gleitsman International Activist Award and were chosen as the 2017 Aurora Humanitarians.
- Angélique Namaika – a member of the Augustinian congregation, Sister Angélique Namaika is the cofounder of the Center for Reintegration and Development and the Saint Daniel Comboni Pediatric Clinic the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her center has supported thousands of displaced women and children who fell victims to the civil war in the country.
- Sophie Beau and Klaus Vogel – Unlikely partners Sophie Beau and Klaus Vogel are the co-founders of SOS Méditerranée (SOS Mediterranean), a civil European association for search and rescue on the high seas with teams in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. To date, SOS Méditerranée has helped more than 30,000 refugees making the dangerous crossing off the coast of Libya.
- Sakena Yacoobi – She was one of the first people to open schools for women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1990s. It was the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban, and women and girls were forbidden from getting an education. Rule-breakers risked paying with their life.
2019 Aurora Prize
- Mr. Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Air Bridge Iraq), a humanitarian organization that flies Yazidi victims from Iraq to Germany for medical treatment. Mirza Dinnayi has helped several hundred women escape from the territories controlled by ISIS, personally taking part in missions to bring them back to safety, and delivered food and water to the Yazidis in isolated areas. Driven by his passion to save lives, he has found a way to overcome numerous bureaucratic and logistic obstacles to help the most vulnerable. Mr. Dinnayi has nominated three organizations that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror.
- Mr. Zannah Bukar Mustapha, lawyer, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation – a school that provides education to some of the most deprived children in Maiduguri, Nigeria. In October 2016, he secretly traveled to meet with Boko Haram rebels in their Sambisa forest hideout during a media blackout and left with 21 children. Thirteen months later, supported by ICRC, the Swiss government and the Nigerian authorities, he negotiated the additional release of 82 girls. Zannah Bukar Mustapha has nominated three organizations that aim to reduce conflict through strong community effort and good governance.
- Ms. Huda Al-Sarari, lawyer and activist. Huda Al-Sarari is a brave and inspiring Yemeni human rights activist, who singlehandedly investigates, exposes and challenges a clandestine network of secret prisons run by foreign governments in Yemen, where thousands of men and boys have faced arbitrary detention. She has amassed incontrovertible evidence of the abuse that takes place within the prisons and succeeded in convincing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the cause. She has nominated an international organization that defends victims of extreme human rights abuse and two organizations that combat discrimination and promote equality.
2018 Aurora Prize
- Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung (1941-2021), Lawyer and Rohingya Leader, Myanmar – A Rohingya Muslim who, despite being imprisoned for a collective 12 years for peaceful protests against systematic discrimination and violence, used his legal expertise to fight for equality, improvements in education and human rights for his community. He had nominated international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar.
- Fr. Héctor Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, Mexico – A Franciscan friar who has provided shelter, food, water, counseling and legal assistance to more than 50,000 Central American immigrants along their often-harrowing journeys through Mexico, providing aid to all, including those who suffer traumatic attacks, attempted kidnappings and expulsions from their own countries. He has nominated organizations working to promote human rights for those living with HIV/AIDS and to provide cultural education to Mayans in Mexico.
- Mrs. Sunitha Krishnan, Co-Founder of Prajwala, India – A gang rape survivor turned women’s rights advocate who used her trauma as motivation to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution back into society, creating an organization that has positively impacted the lives of more than 17,800 women and children. She has nominated organizations that fight gender imbalance and sexual violence and trafficking throughout India.
2017 Aurora Prize
- Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, Founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, Somalia – Mother and daughter who are unwavering in their mission to protect human rights, women’s rights, and facilitate peace building, development and the rehabilitation of child soldiers amidst insecure and dangerous conditions.
- Ms. Jamila Afghani, Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, Afghanistan – a polio victim who accidentally received the gift of reading and has dedicated her life to bringing reading and education to girls and women, while enlisting the help of Muslim leaders of faith in her mission.
- Dr. Tom Catena, Surgeon at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan – A Catholic missionary and doctor who for nearly a decade remains the only permanent doctor to treat the remote and war-torn region’s half-million population, performing more than 1,000 operations each year.
- Mr. Muhammad Darwish, Medical Doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital, Syria – A student of dentistry returned to his hometown and took on the full responsibilities of a medical doctor, began to perform medical procedures, offered care and maintained meticulous documentation of the conditions of patients, many of them children, affected by persisting violence, thus bringing international attention to the besieged area.
- Dr. Denis Mukwege, Gynecological Surgeon and Founder of the Panzi Hospital, The Democratic Republic of the Congo – An obstetrician turned gynecological surgeon who is providing physical, psychological and legal support to more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence in the war-torn country while fearlessly seeking to bring to justice those responsible.
2016 Aurora Prize
- Marguerite Barankitse, from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi, saved thousands of lives and cared for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi. When war broke out, Barankitse, a Tutsi, tried to hide 72 of her closest Hutu neighbors to keep them safe from persecution. They were discovered and executed, whilst Barankitse was forced to watch. Following this gruesome incident, she started her work saving and caring for children and refugees.
- Dr. Tom Catena, the sole doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. An American physician, Dr. Catena is the only doctor permanently based near the country’s border with South Sudan, and is therefore responsible for serving over 500,000 people in the region. Despite several bombings by the Sudanese government, Dr. Catena resides on the hospital grounds so that he may be on call at all times. In 2017, Dr. Catena was nominated for the Aurora Prize for the second time and became the Aurora Prize Laureate.
- Syeda Ghulam Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor, one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. Fatima is the general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF), which has liberated thousands of Pakistani workers, including approximately 21,000 children, who were forced to work for brick kiln owners in order to repay debts. Fatima has survived attempts on her life and repeated beatings during the course of her activism.
- Father Bernard Kinvi left his home country of Lome, Togo to Bossemptele, a small town just inside the border of the Central African Republic, to head a Catholic mission. In 2012, civil war broke out in the Central African Republic between Muslim Seleka rebels and the anti-balaka Christian militia. Amidst the violence, Father Kinvi’s mission provided refuge and health services to those on both sides of the conflict, saving hundreds of people from persecution and death.
The 2022 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Jamila Afghani, an educator, human rights defender, and founder of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO). Jamila has dedicated over 25 years of her life to giving the women of Afghanistan access to education.
The 2021 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Julienne Lusenge, 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. Her boundless courage and tireless activism have shone a light on the desperate plight of thousands of Congolese women subjected to horrific sexual abuse amidst the civil war in the country, exposing the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative awarded the 2020 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity to Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman, the mother and daughter team who lead the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia. Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman have been protecting women’s rights, promoting peacebuilding, and rehabilitating child soldiers for many years. Their courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to the people of Somalia has brought this mother and daughter team global recognition.
The 2019 Aurora Prize was awarded to Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Air Bridge Iraq), a humanitarian organization that flies Yazidi victims from Iraq to Germany for medical treatment. He has helped several hundred women escape from the territories controlled by ISIS, personally taking part in missions to bring them back to safety, and delivered food and water to the Yazidis in isolated areas.
The 2018 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung (1941-2021), a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung passed away in July 2021.
The 2017 Aurora Prize was awarded to Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York who has saved thousands of lives as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains.
In 2016, Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi was named as the inaugural Laureate of the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. At a ceremony held in Yerevan, Armenia, Barankitse was recognized for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi.
The Aurora Prize is governed by the Co-Founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative – Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan – and the Selection Committee. In 2018, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was proud to appoint Dr. Tom Catena as its inaugural Chair. See more information here.
The Aurora Prize Secretariat, which is comprised of Aurora Humanitarian Initiative representatives, is responsible for communicating and implementing all processes and procedures. This includes the initial review of the nominations received during the first stage of the Aurora Prize nomination cycle.
An Independent Observer monitors all the selection and communications processes between the Secretariat and Selection Committee.
The Aurora Prize is a part of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative – a philanthropic effort comprised of programs designed to raise awareness and to impact today’s important humanitarian challenges, while honoring the memory of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and the spirit of the saviors who intervened on their behalf. More than a century ago, 1.5 million Armenians were killed on orders of the Ottoman Turkish government. Those who survived or fled and found shelter did so, often, thanks to the help of strangers. Today, the Aurora Prize aims to thank the individuals and institutions whose actions saved lives more than a century ago.
The Aurora Prize was established to raise public consciousness about this and other acts of violence that continue to occur around the globe, honoring survivors and saviors and celebrating the strength of the human spirit that compels action in the face of adversity.
The Aurora Prize is awarded by the Selection Committee, a group of exceptional individuals with notable achievements in the field of human rights. The Selection Committee evaluates nominations against a set of pre-agreed criteria to determine the Aurora Prize Laureate, ensuring that the selection process is fair and unbiased. The Selection Committee is independent from, but supported by, the Aurora Prize Secretariat for all functional and operational matters.
The nominations are assessed according to the selection criteria by the Aurora Prize Secretariat and Expert Panel. The members of the Expert Panel assess all eligible nominations according to the Aurora Prize selection criteria to narrow the overall list to 20-25 nominees for the Selection Committee’s attention.
Members of the Selection Committee review a shortlist of candidates, drawing upon their own expertise, nomination forms and additional information assembled by the Secretariat to determine the Aurora Humanitarians.
The Aurora Prize’s Independent Observer supervises all processes according to an established protocol to ensure transparency and consistency.
Nominees are not limited to those who work within the humanitarian field. The Aurora Prize recognizes worthy recipients from any background who have faced significant risks to health, freedom, reputation or livelihood and voluntarily carried out actions to enable others to survive and thrive.
Nominations may span a broad range of sectors in the non-profit field, including economic development, public health, religion, law/justice/human rights, education and capacity building.
Nominations for the 2024 Aurora Prize are now closed. Further information about the nominations process will be available on the Aurora website in the “Nominate Now” section.
Members of the public, as well as members of national assemblies, governments, academic institutions and others, may nominate an individual or group of people for the Prize, with consideration of the following requirements:
- The Nominator may not be an officer or employee or any other individual receiving remuneration for his or her services from the Nominee or any party affiliated with the Aurora Prize (Secretariat, Selection Committee, and Independent Observer).
- The Nominator may not be a family member or an officer or employee of the Nominee.
- Self-nominations are not permitted.
- Selection Committee members and their families are ineligible to submit nominations. However, Selection Committee members may invite and encourage nominations from the public and specifically reach out to organizations working in the field.
Each nominated organization undergoes a comprehensive due diligence process conducted by a third-party firm to ensure the organization is legitimate and will put the funding to effective use.
The Aurora Prize Laureate is honored with a US $1,000,000 award and has the unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by nominating and supporting the organizations that help people in need.
Qualified organizations will operate on a not-for-profit basis and act in the public interest with a mission to benefit humankind. This could include, but is not limited to, providing relief to the poor, advancing education, improving social welfare, protecting women and children, preserving culture, preserving or restoring the environment, promoting human rights, establishing civil society and/or advancing healthcare.
Nominations are carefully vetted and reviewed through a rigorous process. The Laureate is determined by the Selection Committee based on the following criteria:
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
- Courage in helping others survive
- Having overcome significant risks for the sake of helping others survive
- Going beyond the call of duty of professional obligations for the sake of helping others survive
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
- An explicit intention to help others survive
- A direct involvement in helping others survive
- A commitment to common moral values such as integrity, freedom, justice, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility and compassion
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
- An impact on saving lives
- A long-term effect in saving lives
- Inspiration to others to save lives, directly or indirectly
- Saving lives of a large number of individuals
Any members of the public, as well as members of national assemblies, governments, academic and other institutions, can nominate candidates for the Aurora Prize.
Any individual or group that perform(s) an extraordinary act of humanity may be nominated to receive the Aurora Prize. The Aurora Prize Laureate is recognized for the exceptional impact their actions have made in preserving human life in the face of adversity, risking their health, freedom, reputation or livelihood.
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.
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 by supporting the organizations that help people in need.
Aurora For Artsakh By #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 $175,000 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.
Through Aurora for Artsakh, the Initiative helped the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) facing a grave humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the 2020 war. Since the launch of the program, 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 core programming of the Dialogues is held as part of a weekend of events culminating with the presentation of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. The additional Aurora Dialogues programming includes conferences and public lectures that are held internationally aiming to bring together leaders with the unique expertise and contribute to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.
The Aurora Dialogues are attended by leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and civil society representatives. Speakers include members of the esteemed Aurora Prize Selection Committee, influential leaders and thinkers from around the world who are committed to advancing humanitarian causes.
The Aurora Dialogues provide a platform for the world’s leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and members of 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. The Dialogues encourage collaborative conversations to explore the importance of learning from the past, acting in the present, and fostering a better future.
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 112 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).
Aurora Grants help raise awareness of humanitarian action worldwide by contributing to the initiatives assisting underserved communities. In 2020, $100,000 was allocated to the Elmhurst Hospital in Queens to honor the NYC COVID-19 heroes and a $50,000 grant was transferred to the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA founded by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.
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.
Additional information can be found here.
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.
The Aurora Humanitarian Index is a special survey that examines 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 motivations 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. Further information about the Humanitarian Index is available on the Aurora Prize website under the “Aurora Index” section.
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.
Additional information can be found here.