Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse is an unsung African heroine who has done remarkable humanitarian work in Burundi over the years, saving the lives of over 30, 000 orphans and vulnerable children.
In recognition of her outstanding work, Barankitse has been nominated for the inaugural U.S. $100, 000 Aurora Prize For Awakening Humanity, to be awarded on April 24 in Yerevan, Armenia. The winner of the prize will also receive an additional $1 million, to give to an organisation that inspired their work.
Barankitse created Maison Shalom House of Peace in 1993 to save vulnerable and displaced children, victims of the Burundian genocide and its ugly aftermath. A victim of the violence, Barankitse sought to build “houses of peace” to protect children irrespective of ethnicity. Maison Shalom has since opened centres in all Burundi’s provinces and neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, offering assistance to refugees.
After nearly 23 years of existence, the organization has grown to include schools, a hospital, agricultural cooperatives, a microfinance system amongst other projects, building hope and peace. Barankitse says, “We are the builders of Hope” and the organisation will continue its “noble” fight.
Other nominees include; Syeda Ghulam Fatima, a Pakistani labour activist fighting modern slavery, Dr. Tom Catena, only American doctor working at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan; and Father Bernard Kinvi a catholic priest who protected Muslims and Christians during infighting in the Central African Republic.
The Aurora Prize is a new global award that will be given annually to individuals who put themselves at risk to enable others to survive.