|November 1, 2006 — The second annual Stavros S. Niarchos Prize for Survivorship ceremony was held at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. This year, four prizes were awarded in recognition of outstanding efforts to alleviate suffering and promote resilience among victims of war, violence, civil strife and terrorism.
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The 2006 Individual Prize recipient, Afghan Omara Khan, is a landmine survivor and activist. The Prize recognizes his work as co-founder of the Afghan Disabled Union (ADU), the only organization dedicated to helping disabled Afghans achieve full rights under the law. Khan was unable to obtain an entry visa to the United States, but was honored in absentia. During the presentation, the audience learned about Khan’s life and work in a country reeling from decades of war that have left behind thousands of landmines and mine victims.
The Organizational Prize was presented to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) Female Mine Action Team in Cambodia for excellence in service to save lives under the most difficult circumstances. In the male-dominated field of landmine removal, women are not often seen on their hands and knees looking for mines. Not so in Cambodia. Landmines planted during 30 years of war have infested Cambodia and terrorize its citizens. There are, on average, 40 new landmine victims per week. Each morning, the 15 women of the Female Mine Action Team load their equipment into a Land Rover and travel to minefields where they begin clearing land. The work is physically demanding and dangerous. They clear the mines inch-by-inch until it is safe for people to return, build homes and farm the land. In accepting the Niarchos Prize on behalf of the team, Maly Yean said, “Our work proves that the women of Cambodia contribute to a future without mines, where children can run and play without fear.”
Two Special Prizes were also awarded during the November 1st event. One was presented to Garry Trudeau, the creator of the comic strip, Doonesbury, for “conveying the darkest subjects with the lightest touch, making us laugh and think.” Since 1970, Doonesbury has been a source of social and political commentary, voiced with wit, honesty and intelligence. Doonesbury character B.D. went to Iraq with the National Guard and lost a leg to a mine near Fallujah. Trudeau continues to tell B.D.’s story of resiliency and recovery in honor of today’s veterans. He regularly visits amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, DC, and has completed peer support training program.
The other special artist prize went to award-winning senior correspondent for TIME Magazine Michael Weisskopf, for “telling stories of survival with honesty, wit and compassion.” Weisskopf was covering TIME’s “Person of the Year” story in Iraq in December, 2003, when a grenade landed in the truck in which he, his photographer and several soldiers were traveling. He threw the live grenade away from the vehicle, saving the lives of everyone on board, but losing his right hand in the process. While in Ward 57 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Weisskopf met soldiers who, like himself, were healing from war injuries. His new book, Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57, is the story of survivors navigating the complex process of recovery.
The Niarchos Prize was established through the generosity of the family of the late Stavros S. Niarchos.
From left: Lou McGrath, executive director of Mines Advisory Group (MAG); Spyros Niarchos; Yean Maly, MAG Cambodia project officer; Garry Trudeau; Pin Srey On, Mine Action Team (MAG); Jerry White, LSN co-founder and executive director; Maria Niarchos Gouaze; Michael Weisskopf; Olivia Weisskopf; Ken Rutherford, LSN co-founder; and Anne Mulderry.