September 17 2002
SOS-Kinderdorf International awarded Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize 2002
Berlin (17 September 2002) - SOS-Kinderdorf International, umbrella organization of SOS Children's Villages, a global private child welfare organization headquartered in Austria, will receive the 2002 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, it was announced today at a press conference in Berlin. At $1 million (U.S.), the Hilton Prize is the world's largest humanitarian award and is presented annually to an organization making extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering.
Mr. Steven Hilton, president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (based in Los Angeles, California), said "The foundation created the Prize seven years ago to focus the world's attention on the enormous extent of poverty and suffering in the world and to shine a light on those organizations that are providing hope for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable."
"SOS Children's Villages is providing that hope for more than 50,000 orphans and destitute children and youth in loving family-oriented environments that provide the security and stability needed to prepare children for life," he added.
The formal presentation of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize will take place in New York on 14 October, at an international assembly of world leaders involved in humanitarianism and human rights. Dr. Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, will address the gathering.
Mr. Helmut Kutin, president of SOS-Kinderdorf International, who from the age of twelve was raised in an SOS Children's Village, said "Receiving the Hilton Humanitarian Prize is a very special honour for our thousands of SOS co-workers worldwide, and it emphasizes the absolute right of children to a family, to respect and to having equal chances."
Kutin said the million-dollar award will be used to expand several pilot projects in Africa testing new ways to support AIDS orphans and assist children and families affected by AIDS, adding that "The AIDS epidemic is making the terrible vision of parentless societies a reality and if we do not all start to do something to stop this illness now, then the present suffering of millions of children today will turn into an unconquerable permanent catastrophe that will continue for generations."
In response to the needs of children orphaned or abandoned after World War II, Hermann Gmeiner, now deceased, founded the first SOS Children's Village in Imst, Austria in 1949. Gmeiner had a simple, but profound concept: every child deserves to have a mother, brothers and sisters, a home and a village. Today, his model has been adopted in 131 countries and territories, where there are 439 villages and more than a thousand youth facilities, kindergartens, schools, medical clinics, training and social centers serving SOS children as well as families in the surrounding communities.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan, who serves as SOS-Kinderdorf International Ambassador for Children, praised the dedication of SOS mothers who commit to raising children for at least a generation, and said, "It is especially noteworthy that SOS Children's Villages doesn't separate brothers and sisters, which would only add to the trauma that these children have already experienced."
SOS-Kinderdorf International was one of nearly 200 nominations for this year's Hilton Prize. It was nominated by The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. A distinguished international jury makes the final selection. Previous recipients have included: St. Christopher's Hospice (2001); Casa Alianza (2000); African Medical and Research Foundation (1999); Médecins Sans Frontières (1998); International Rescue Committee (1997); and Operation Smile (1996).
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which created the Prize, is named for its founder, the late hotel entrepreneur who left most of his fortune to the foundation with instructions to use the funds to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world. The Hilton Foundation and its related entities have assets of nearly $1.9 billion and to date has distributed nearly $360 million for charitable projects throughout the world.
* * *Contacts:
USA: Don Casey (+1/718/237-9173)
HQ Austria: Daniel Dejean (+43/512/3310-5129)
Germany: Wolfgang Kehl (+49/89/17914-266)Further information available at:www.hiltonfoundation.org