What We Do

Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

A celebration of the strength of the human spirit, IDeA launched this initiative as part of a broader movement to bring awareness to the selfless acts of heroism that save lives.

Launched
2015
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Founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to empower modern-day saviors to offer life and hope to those in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid and thus continue the cycle of giving internationally. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is Gratitude in Action. It is an eight-year commitment (2015 to 2023, in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) to support people and promote projects that tackle the needs of the most helpless and destitute, and do so at great risk. This is achieved through the Initiative’s various programs: The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues, the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the Gratitude Projects and the 100 LIVES Initiative. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the vision of philanthropists Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan who have, already in the second year, been joined by new donors and partners.

The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a $1 million global humanitarian award to honor those whose actions have made an exceptional impact to advance humanitarian causes. It is awarded annually in gratitude to those who saved Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.

The Aurora Prize Selection Committee includes Nobel Laureates Oscar Arias, Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; human rights activist Hina Jilani; former foreign minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans; former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo; president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian; Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham; and Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney.

Marguerite Barankitse, a Burundian activist, was chosen as the first Aurora Prize Laureate for rescuing and educating over 30,000 children since the civil war broke out in Burundi. Marguerite now runs a hospital and an orphanage out of a refugee camp in Rwanda. The 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate is 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 where humanitarian aid is restricted. The Laureates were awarded with the $100,000 grant and got the unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to the organizations that inspire them.

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has broken ground by combining the awarding of a prize with a thought-provoking platform for discussion among leading experts from across the international humanitarian community. The Aurora Dialogues is an international platform for discussion among leading experts from across the international humanitarian community, business, philanthropy and media on the most pressing challenges facing the world today.

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.

The Aurora Gratitude Projects are humanitarian and educational initiatives which help children, refugees and other vulnerable citizens around the world. Through these projects, the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide seek to express thanks to the memory of those who helped save the victims of genocide, by providing educational initiatives and scholarships, grants to humanitarian projects and promoting public awareness of humanitarian efforts. The scholarship program is valued at $7million.

The name Aurora was chosen to honor the memory of Aurora Mardiganian, who bore witness to the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and told the world her story of survival to raise awareness for the 1915 atrocities. The Prize was inspired by Aurora and the thousands of untold stories of courage and survival during these events 100 years ago.

The 100 LIVES initiative tells the stories of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and pays tribute to those who helped them. Their compassion, generosity and sacrifice show the best of humankind.

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, more than 200 individuals and organizations have been inspired to join the founders in transforming a nation’s gratitude to action. We welcome all those who support this vision and join this movement. With growing resources, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative will expand programming that tackles new crises and challenges, and offers life and hope to the vulnerable.

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