Press Release

HelpAge International Wins $1.5 Million Hilton Humanitarian Prize

By Marc Moorghen, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, March 8, 2012

International jury selects only global NGO with singular focus on improving the lives of the world's fastest growing population -- older people

HelpAge International, the only global organization with a singular focus on providing assistance to and advocating for disadvantaged older people, has been selected to receive the 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million.

LOS ANGELES, CA – March 8, 2012HelpAge International, the only global organization with a singular focus on providing assistance to and advocating for disadvantaged older people, has been selected to receive the 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. The Prize will be presented at the Global Philanthropy Forum on April 16 in Washington, D.C.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, to an organization that is doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. The foundation made the announcement today on International Women’s Day to acknowledge the invisible role of older women in maintaining the welfare of families, communities and food production across the developing world.

“The world is aging. By 2015, nearly 900 million people will be older than age 60, which is close to three times the population of the United States. Nearly 190 million older people live in poverty with more than 100 million living on less than $1 a day,” said Steven M. Hilton, CEO and president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “As the world prepares for this monumental demographic shift, HelpAge is showing us that it is important to recognize and support older people so they can continue to be contributing and productive members of society.”

Richard Blewitt, chief executive officer of HelpAge International, said, “Receiving the Hilton Prize is a great honor. It is especially meaningful to draw the world’s attention to the historic transformation being brought about by global aging and the plight of millions of older people who face overwhelming financial, social and health hurdles every day. HelpAge believes the whole world benefits when we tap the substantial wisdom and talents of older people and enable them to lead dignified, active, healthy and secure lives.”

Women make up the majority of older people around the world—nearly two thirds of those over age 80 are women. Many older women in developing countries are not only the economic providers for families, but frequently they are the sole caregivers of AIDS-orphaned grandchildren. In Kenya alone, there are 1.1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, in a country where more than half of those over age 60 already live in absolute poverty.

“Older women are responsible for much of the farming and food production in developing countries, a critical function as food insecurity grows,” notes Catherine A. Bertini, Hilton Prize juror, Syracuse University professor, and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program. “They are the key contributors to families and communities.”

HelpAge International believes a critical component to making lasting changes for this population is the engagement of older people themselves in efforts to claim their rights to health care, social services and economic and physical security. It has shown that older people are their own best advocates and make valuable contributions to society as caregivers, advisors, mentors, mediators and breadwinners.

HelpAge was formed in 1983 by organizations in Canada, Colombia, Kenya, India and the United Kingdom that had similar missions to support older people. Today it encompasses 94 HelpAge Affiliates in 70 countries and more than 3,000 independent partner groups and older people’s organizations. HelpAge has trained 25,000 professionals and 16,000 community members—including older people themselves—to provide health care, legal advice and financial support for older people.

Viewed as the world’s leading authority on global aging, HelpAge is actively engaging with the United Nations, European Union, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, bilateral donor governments, the World Economic Forum and other influential organizations to ensure there is a strong understanding of the critical need to support the human rights of older people.

Both an advocacy and development organization, in 2002 HelpAge was instrumental in shaping the United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging, adopted by 57 countries, which pledged to include aging in all social and economic development policies. 2012 is being recognized as the Year of Global Aging, triggered by the 10th anniversary of the Madrid Plan of Action when world leaders will again convene to review what has been accomplished in the past decade to extend rights for older people. HelpAge is collaborating with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on The World’s Older Persons Report—to launch on October 1st— that will assess the progress made since 2002.

The Hilton Prize receives more than 200 nominations from throughout the world each year, and a prestigious, independent international jury makes the final selection.


Case Studies

HelpAge International policy briefing on Older Rural Women for International Women’s Day 2012 can be downloaded here. © Mark Gorman, Strategic Development Adviser

Case studies celebrating four “Kenyan Mama’s” personal stories of growing old can be downloaded here.

Accompanying high-resolution photographs of HelpAge International’s work supporting older women in Kenya are available for download here. © Frederic Courbet, HelpAge International, 2012. (Password: rachel) To download simply hit ‘Batch Download’:

Photos 1 – 7: Mama Teresa, full name, Mary Teresa Anyango, (68). Photos 8 -17: Mama Brigita aka, Brigita Oketch Nyawald, (estimate 64). Photos 18, 21, 23, 24: Mama Getruda, Getruda Adhiambo Okumu, (76). Photos 19, 20, 22: Mama Angeline", Angeline Awuor Odipo, (75).

The full gallery of low res/online images can be downloaded here (Username:, password: password).

About Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize

The Hilton Prize jury currently includes: Princess Salimah Aga Khan, international ambassador for SOS Kinderdorf International; Catherine A. Bertini, professor of public administration, Syracuse University, and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme; Gro Harlem Brundtland, MPH, former director-general of the World Health Organization and former prime minister of Norway; Eric M. Hilton, director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and son of the late Conrad Hilton; James R. Galbraith, director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Strive Masiyiwa, humanitarian, founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless; and Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in economics and Lamont University professor at Harvard University.

The Hilton Prize Laureates are recognized leaders in the humanitarian world and include: Handicap International (France), 2011; Aravind Eye Care System (India) 2010; PATH (Washington), 2009; BRAC (Bangladesh), 2008; Tostan (Senegal), 2007; Women for Women International (Washington, DC), 2006; Partners In Health (Massachusetts), 2005; Heifer International (Arkansas), 2004; International Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (Denmark), 2003; SOS Children’s Villages (Austria), 2002; St. Christopher’s Hospice (United Kingdom), 2001; Casa Alianza (Costa Rica), 2000; African Medical and Research Foundation (Kenya), 1999; Doctors Without Borders (France), 1998; International Rescue Committee (New York), 1997; and Operation Smile (Virginia), 1996.

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International is a global network of organizations helping older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. For more information, please visit:

About Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in five priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, caring for vulnerable children, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. Following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants and in 2011 distributed $82 million to organizations in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2 billion. For more information, please visit

Former Communications Director

Former Communications Director

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