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Officials gathered in Washington D.C. September 23 to announce that Heifer International is the 2004 recipient of the world's largest humanitarian award, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
Heifer is the first U.S.-based organization to receive the award since 1997. Other honorees include Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile and the International Rescue Committee.
The $1 million prize will be presented at a ceremony on October 28, 2004, in New York at the Hilton Humanitarian Conference, where dignitaries convene to focus on current global challenges facing those delivering aid.
The award money will be evenly divided among Heifer's five geographic program areas, said Jo Luck, Heifer's chief executive officer.
Jo Luck was joined by Steven Hilton, president of the Hilton Foundation, and Arkansas' congressional delegation for the announcement. Heifer's global headquarters has been in Arkansas since 1971.
Also present at the announcement, accompanied by a water buffalo, was Armine (Mint) Chermue, a member of the Akha tribal group in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Years ago, Mint's family received a water buffalo from Heifer, which helped them raise money to send Mint and her brother and sister to school. Although most tribal families can't afford school fees for their children, Mint now has an education degree from Chiang Mai University.
"I was lucky," she said, "because a lot of girls from poor families are forced to sell their bodies because of their economic situation."
Hilton said that Heifer's work proves "simple ideas are the best.
"When I looked at the idea and the model of Heifer International, it's just amazing what leverage you get with the concept of giving farm animals to people in need and requiring that they pass it on," he continued. "It's a simple idea, but a powerful one."
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is named for its founder, the late hotel entrepreneur, who left his fortune to the foundation with instructions to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world. The foundation, based in Los Angeles, California and Reno, Nevada (USA), and its related entities have assets in excess of $2 billion and to date has distributed more than $400 million for charitable projects throughout the world. Approximately 50% of its grants fund international projects.
Learn more about the Hilton Foundation.