Marguerite Barankitse from Burundi won the inaugural Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity on Sunday, April 24 evening.
Barankitse, from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi, saved thousands of lives and took care of 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. She has saved roughly 30,000 children and in 2008, she opened a hospital which has treated more than 80,000 patients to date.
World-famous actor, producer and director George Clooney had earlier arrived in Armenia to participate in the ceremony. He presented the award to Barankitse.
As she accepted the award, Barankitse said: “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.”
On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity will be granted annually to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.
The Aurora Prize Laureate will be honored with a $100,000 grant. In addition, that individual will have the unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by nominating organizations to receive a $1,000,000 award.
Barankitse plans to donate the award to three organizations in order to provide aid and rehabilitation to child refugees and orphans, and fight against child poverty. The organizations are: the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de La Grande-Duchesse du Luxembourg, Fondation Jean-François Peterbroeck (JFP Foundation), and the Fondation Bridderlech Deelen Luxembourg.
Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian and The Washington Post colomnist David Ignatius are hosting the ongoing awards ceremony.