Solidarity, global awareness and social involvement are some of the common traits of all the 2018 award winners. They are all a great example of how the solidarity-based initiatives of people and organizations help improve the lives of those around us. As explained by Antonio Huertas, president of Fundación MAPFRE, during the ceremony, “We are so fortunate for the time in which we live, because it is also up to good people like us, at this crossroads in development and transformation, to contribute to redesigning our world to make it more inclusive, fair and equitable”.
During the act held in the Madrid Casino, which was presided over by Her Majesty Queen Sofia and which was also attended by Nadia Calviño, Minister for Economy and Business, the four award winners collected their awards and managed to inspire everyone in attendance with their commitment and motivation.
The first award handed out in the ceremony was the Award for the Best Initiative in the Agricultural Sector which this year went to the Brazilian company Agrindus S.A. for their innovative production system for easily digestible milk for people who have a certain level of intolerance to cow's milk. On receiving this award, the company president, Roberto Hugo Jank, was thankful for this recognition which also highlights the fact that their clients consume “high quality and natural products”, that their cows “receive the best care possible”, and that they promote environmental sustainability “across all the project's activities”.
Following on from this, the Award for the project or Initiative with the Best Social Impact was awarded on this occasion to Cirugía en Turkana (Surgery in Turkana). In 2004 a group of surgeons from the Ramón y Cajal Hospital formed a team and set off for the Governmental Hospital in Lodwar, on the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya. This initiative has expanded and taken shape and in 2018 a hundred professionals working as volunteers assisted 836 patients in consultations and carried out 260 surgical procedures at the hospital in this remote region of Africa. Elena Mendía, one of the four surgeons who carried out the first campaign 15 years ago collected the Award and chose to dedicate a few words to the Turkana women. "These women take care of their children, they feed them, they give birth while still being only children themselves and they are also the ones who, in desperation, have to watch them die. Their weapons are their determination, their self-denial, the sacrifices they make, their love for their children and their calm resignation when faced with setbacks. This is why we go to Africa every year. We go there to give them what we have and they do not: health, by means of our operations”.
The Award for the entity with the best track record in social causes went to Mary's Meals, a Scottish organization which has managed to feed 1,425,013 children in school canteens in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. The president of the organization in Spain, ElisaleX Löwenstein reminded us of the origins of the project as she collected the award and made special mention of all the women who volunteer to do the cooking in the 18 countries where they have operations, and stated that: “The work of these women is immense and absolutely essential. They leave home in the early morning, before the sun rises, they walk for one or two hours, they fetch the water from the pump, they cook in huge pots and they sing, laugh and dance. They are happy. The classrooms fill up, absence rates go down, grades go up and everyone's health improves. These children are absolutely desperate to study”.
The José Manuel Martínez Lifetime Achievement Award went to Emilio Aragón (Havana, Cuba 1959) who, for over 30 years has been a leading creative figure on the artistic and audiovisual communications scene in Spain. His professional life is well known and deserves our full acknowledgment, but on this occasion this Award seeks to shine a light on his more socially engaged side, which has led him to support social organizations combating hunger and poverty and to get involved in projects to bring about inclusive education and the use of music as a tool for integration. In his speech at the ceremony, this storyteller and musician professed himself to be hopeful about the future given the number of people channeling their efforts into improving the living conditions of others, but also because of his strong conviction that things are changing. “I remain convinced that there is a solution to hunger, and it is closer than we think” stated Aragón, who has been a member and vice chair of Acción contra el Hambre for the last 15 years, among a number of other initiatives in which he is involved. He went on to point out that in the last 10 years acute malnutrition has gone down by 10% and chronic undernourishment by 40%. With this award we want to highlight his immense humanity and the way in which he manages to convey to society the crucially important values of generosity, humility and the capacity for hard work.