There are four humanitarians who have decided to dedicate their lives to the fight for human life — Marguerite Barankitse, Dr. Tom Calena, Syeda Ghulam Fatima, and Father Bernard Kinvi. You may have never heard of these individuals because they are not celebrities. In fact, these individuals are recognized for their hard work behind the scenes as they engage in arduous tasks from running an orphanage for refugees, working long hours to save lives, to risking their lives to save the youth from child slavery.
The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a new annual award that will be presented to one of these finalists for 2016. Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan, the co-founders of 100 LIVES, created The Aurora Prize to recognize individuals for the exceptional impact their actions have made on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes in their communities. Inspired by survivor accounts of the genocide crisis in Armenia a hundred years ago, the founders of 100 LIVES use this platform to continually raise awareness around the world and celebrate individuals and organizations that keep the legacy of gratitude alive.
?All four finalists are being recognized because they have found the courage to fight against injustice,? said selection committee member & co-founder Vartan Gregorian. ?We thank them for recognizing those who act in the same spirit in the face of modern atrocities.?
Marguerite ?Meggy? Barankitse – a true Burundian humanitarian or as some have called, a real feminine “Mandela”, Barankitse is a true hero in her native country. With Burundi left in ruins from decades of civil war, she decided to focus on rescuing orphans and refugees. After witnessing the horrific killings of children and 72 of her closest Hutu neighbors in 1993, Barankitse decided to open Maison Shalom, ?House of Peace?, a safe haven for children and refugees. Today, Maison Shalom is now a full agency that works with more than 30,000 families. Barankitse and her team have opened over 500 safe houses or ?children villages? in Burundi, including the capital, Bujumbura. Her main focus is to provide children support and ultimately change their lives of all Burundians. ?I am a citizen of the world,? says Barankitse. ?I am but one member of such a big family, a family of the human race.?
Tom Catena, MD ? is a physician from Amsterdam, N.Y., who solely founded the Mother of Mercy Hospital located in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. He is also known as ?Dr. Tom? and the only permanent doctor who serves in the region of over half a million people in South Sudan. Located in a historically dangerous area in the midst of a civil war, Dr. Tom courageously works at Mother of Mercy delivering babies and removing shrapnel while being in the center of bombing by the Sudanese government. With limited access to resources such as electricity, running water, or aid from other governments, Dr. Tom manages to defy the odds by believing in helping the residents in his community. ??We?re in a place where the government is not trying to help us,? Dr. Tom has said. ??You use what you have.? In an area where the government has abandoned the people of the Nuba Mountains, Dr. Tom has not fled the region; instead he has made the hospital his home for the last eight years.? With no retirement plan or abundance in savings, his Catholic faith remains his biggest motivation.? No matter what the situation requires Dr. Tom is always there. As a finalist for the Aurora Prize, Dr. Tom desires to complete the children?s ward, a project that is unfinished, but will be a huge asset to saving the lives of more children in the Nuba Mountains.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima – an activist who has worked for years to end bonded labor in Pakistan, Fatima received the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2015 for her work with the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF). In 2015, photographer Brandon Stanton featured Fatima on his popular blog, Humans of New York, on the leadership she displayed in liberating thousands of workers who are deemed neglected.
Raising over $US1.3 million dollars Fatima understands the urgency to save the workers from dangerous conditions.? ?I decided that I should take care of them. I should struggle and I should work for them? Fatima says. Being an advocate for safer conditions and better labor, Fatima is not afraid of opposition from individuals that do not agree with her. There are many attempts on her life from brick kiln owners who have shot at her, beat her and threatened to derail her efforts from rescuing others out of deplorable conditions. Fatima is very involved in her work as a member of the provincial committee for Abolition of Bonded Labour Punjab and the District Vigilance Committee. Thanks to Stanton, Fatima?s efforts continues to receive more attention about the modern day slavery of people working for brick kiln owners and being punished for working to death. ?There are still 4.5 million workers who need help and protection throughout the brick kiln industry,? says Fatima. As a finalist, she hopes to bring positive and sweeping change that will educate and empower her community.
Father Bernard Kinvi ? is a Catholic priest who goes above and beyond his duties in hopes of rescuing others. As a recipient of the 2014 Alison Des Forges, Kinvi is a symbol of bravery for sacrificing his life to protect the lives of others.? At the age of 19, after losing his father at an early age, Kinvi felt a divine calling to lead in ministry. ?The things that are truly important and essential: to save people, not destroy them, ? says Kinvi when talking about what led him to ministry and his vision for helping others.
Living in the Central African Republic, Kinvi witnessed violence in his country mainly caused by the political conflict. By 2013, the violence increased erupting into many areas in the country, including the town of Bossemptele where he directs the hospital. With the rise of violence from both sides, he decided to open a sanctuary to save as many lives as possible. Searching for survivors Kinvi spent days caring and rehabilitating while arranging these survivors to be reunited with their families. ?As a priest, I cannot support the killing of a man. We?re all human: religion doesn?t come into it. If anti-balaka come in wounded, I treat them. I don?t care who you are or what you do with your life or what your religion is, you are a human being and I will treat you,? Father Kinvi said in an interview with the Guardian.
Despite the danger, threats, and economic hardship he faces, Father Kinvi is motivated to risk his life and showing compassion to all, irrespective of nationality or religious persuasion. Father Kinvi simply wants to continue to help rehabilitate and build his community despite the conflicts around him. Kinvi?s willingness to work hard and provide medical assistance to anyone who is injured is one of the many reasons why he is a finalist for the Aurora Prize.
The award will be presented to one of the four finalists in?Yerevan, Armenia on April 24.?The?Aurora Prize Laureate will receive US$100,000 in grant funding and the chance to pay it forward by nominating organizations that inspired his or her work for a US$1 million award.
Image: 100 Lives