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. Her amazing work saving thousands of orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi was recognized on April 24th in Yerevan as she was handed the prize by the Selection Committee Co-Chair George Clooney.
“Our values are human values. When you have compassion, dignity and love then nothing can scare you, nothing can stop you – no one can stop love. Not armies, not hate, not persecution, not famine, nothing.” Barankitse said during her acceptance speech.
As the first Aurora Prize Laureate, Barankitse will receive a $100,000 grant and continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to three organisations to advance aid and rehabilitation for child refugees and orphans, and fight against child poverty: the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de La Grande-Duchesse du Luxembourg, Fondation Jean-François Peterbroeck (JFP Foundation) and the Fondation Bridderlech Deelen Luxembourg.
Barankitse added: “I chose them because these people supported me and never abandoned me, even in difficult times. They have the same values as me and as the Maison Shalom – compassion, friendliness, dignity, and a generosity which costs nothing.”
The Aurora Prize ceremony followed the Aurora Dialogues, a series of panels gathering leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and media experts. The topics centred on the modern world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. The “Saving the world’s refugees, Syria and beyond” panel featured some of the world’s foremost humanitarians involved in governmental and institutional policy making that affects the lives of millions of refugees. The panel was opened by Vigen Sargsyan, chief of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Armenia.
Among the participants was Enrique Eguren, president of the board of Protection International. Asked for his thoughts about the refugee crisis, Eguren stated: “We have a complex problem and we have to come up with a complex solution. […] The framework for protection of civilians has changed and more protection is needed for refugees today.”