Message from Peter Laugharn: Reflecting on 2017
This year, people all over the world have confronted unprecedented and unforeseen challenges, from civil war to natural disasters. As 2017 draws to a close, I am proud of the many impressive organizations the Hilton Foundation has been able to support. Our founder, Conrad Hilton, challenged us to “assume your full share of responsibility for the world in which you live.”
At the Foundation, we’re fortunate enough to see, every day, the organizations we fund assuming more than their share of responsibility for making the world a better place.
This year, we approved more than $118 million in grants to organizations working to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people, all over the world, and we awarded our 2017 Hilton Humanitarian Prize to Bangladesh-based leading global health research institute icddr,b, credited with saving 50 million children’s lives in the last half-century. We’ve also provided grants to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
2017 was also a challenging year here in the United States. We must acknowledge the ongoing struggles still faced by those living in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes, and those in Northern California following the devastating wildfires. More recently in our local community, wildfires have spread across Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego.
Even when media coverage of the hurricanes and fires has disappeared from our news feed, the struggle of those impacted by those disasters remains very real. Further, research tells us that the more economically or socially disadvantaged a community is, disaster will strike it harder, will last longer, and will have more repercussions.
Without a thoughtful long-term response, the underlying disparities that exist along race and class lines will also deepen.
Through our Disaster Relief and Recovery program area, we’ve granted $1.35 million for immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and the extreme wildfires in Northern California.
This amount includes the recent commitment of $250,000 for the Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM) to provide housing assistance and wrap-around services to those displaced by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
In Puerto Rico, we have committed $400,000 to the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (PRCF) to support restoration of services and renewing of physical and organizational capacity.
The Hilton Foundation has also committed $350,000 to The Northern California Fire Fund for relief and recovery efforts to address the needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
We are currently exploring how we can support relief and recovery efforts to help those impacted by the Southern California wildfires.
These disasters that have marked 2017 remind us of the work that remains to be done, and the reality that disasters disproportionately impact the most vulnerable. We hope that our funding will support our partners’ work not just to restore communities to where they were before the disasters, but also to address some of the upstream causes that made those communities vulnerable in the first place.
Though our national political climate may seem divided, disasters bring us together. They remind us of our shared humanity, they ground us, and encourage us to stand together.
I am inspired when people from all backgrounds lean into our innate generosity and self-sacrifice.
I hope we will remember that these are our values as a nation, today and in the months to come. In the words of Conrad Hilton: “love one another, for that is the whole law.”