YEREVAN — The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on April 24 revealed the names of five 2021 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee for their courage, commitment and impact. The announcement was made at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts located in Yerevan, Armenia. During this special event, the attendees also paid tribute to the great scholar and philanthropist Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, who passed away on April 15. In accordance with the tradition, the names of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians have been inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities.

One of the Humanitarians will become the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate and will receive an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by sharing a $1,000,000 award with the organizations that help people in need. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are:

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. Mr. Ahongbonon has nominated three organizations that promote international solidarity and support people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses: CRÉDIL (Lanaudière’s Regional Committee on Education for International Development), L’Arche Canada Foundation, and St Camille Association.

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. Ms. Castaño has nominated three organizations that advocate for the rights of the peasant and impoverished communities in Colombia: ASOCATDAME, Claretian Corporation Norman Pérez Bello (CCNPB), and National Federation of Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO).

Paul Farmer (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. Dr. Farmer has nominated two organizations that deliver healthcare to the world’s poorest communities and build a global movement of social medicine educators and practitioners: Partners In Health and Equal Health.

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. Ms. Lusenge has nominated three organizations that support grassroots women’s organizations, empower survivors of gender-based violence and reintegrate internally displaced persons: Fund for Congolese Women, League for Congolese Solidarity and Association of Mothers for Development and Peace.

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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. Dr. Moharram has nominated two organizations that protect the future of children and provide free healthcare services to the people affected by the ongoing conflict in Yemen: Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to recognize these distinguished men and women from all over the world. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are individuals who truly believe in the basic human rights and have dedicated their lives to helping people in areas of adversity. They are also recognized for the huge impact that even one individual can have by helping thousands and, most importantly, inspiring millions at the same time,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee.

“The outstanding accomplishments of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians show their unyielding willingness to act in response to the needs of people around them. Aurora believes deeply in the power of humanity to improve and save lives and has come up with the concept of “Gratitude in Action” that describes the human spirit that can motivate humanitarian activism. The heroes we are honoring today are the role models the world needs now more than ever before,” noted Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital and the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate.

At the event, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also officially announced the opening of the nomination period for the 2022 Aurora Prize and encouraged everyone to put forward inspiring modern-day heroes. Earlier that day, Aurora representatives had commemorated the Armenian Genocide by attending a flower-laying ceremony at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, dedicated to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.

Chronicles of Aurora: Inscription Ceremony at Matenadaran

The names of the Aurora Humanitarians of the year were inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities, featuring the stories of the Aurora Humanitarians and Laureates, and reflecting the Aurora Prize impact. Later this year, the name of the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate will be added to the manuscript as well.

A special ceremony took place at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts, located in Yerevan, Armenia. Among around 23,000 ancient manuscripts preserved, studied and restored in Matenadaran, the Chronicles of Aurora is the only one that was created in the 21st century and crafted according to the ancient Armenian traditions by using only natural materials, as it has been done for centuries.

“This is like creating a new history. When we just presented the manuscript, it seemed to be about modern days, but time passes, and with every year, this becomes history. There is no doubt that the value of this manuscript will only increase with time,” said Vahan Ter-Ghevondyan, director of the Matenadaran.

“The generational change is symbolic of this unique manuscript and the whole ceremony. And this should remain continuous, manifesting as proof of a prosperous life and not just survival of a nation or a family. Once the connection between generations is interrupted, anything can happen to us,” noted Marine Ales, Chair of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Creative Council.

The Chronicles of Aurora was first presented on April 24, 2018, opening a new page in the written story of universal human values. Three years later, the Matenadaran ceremony was held without Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Aurora Prize Selection Committee member Vartan Gregorian  for the first time, as he has recently passed away.

“I was honored to be part of the Aurora Humanitarians’ selection process together with Vartan Gregorian. He studied every nomination very carefully and would always repeat, that everyone deserves to be called an Aurora Humanitarian and deserves the Prize,” recalled Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee.

“Today is a historic day for all of us, as the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative transforms the tragic experience with its mission and vision of Gratitude in Action, honoring those who save lives today, like all the humanitarians that saved Armenians a century ago. Today, for the first time, Vartan Gregorian, a friend of ours and Co-Founder of the Aurora, is not present with us. Unfortunately, we have to inscribe this loss in the Chronicles of Aurora, too,” said Ruben Vardanyan, lamenting the loss of the great scholar and philanthropist and an outstanding Armenian-American humanitarian Vartan Gregorian.

The Chronicles of Aurora will be on display and accessible to the public only for a month, till May 24, at the Old Printed Books’ Hall at the Matenadaran.

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