Arkansas-based Heifer International will receive the 2004 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, officials said. At $1 million, the Hilton prize is the world's largest humanitarian award.
Heifer is the first U.S.-based organization to receive the prestigious prize since 1997.
"Heifer International's success proves that it's often simple ideas that are the best," said Steven Hilton, president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, after announcing the international jury's selection. "Providing poor families with cows and other livestock, along with agricultural training, helps people become self-sustaining. Ideas on how to help the poor in our world come and go, but Heifer has produced a model that has endured for 60 years."
"The million-dollar Hilton Prize will be a powerful tool in Heifer's fight against hunger and poverty and will help to accelerate the vision of a world living in peace, equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet," said Jo Luck, president and CEO of Heifer International.
Also present at the announcement was Armine "Mint" Chermue, a member of the Akha tribal group in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Years ago, Mint's desperately poor family received a water buffalo from Heifer, which helped her family raise the money to send Mint and her siblings to school.
"I was lucky, because a lot of girls from poor families are forced to sell their bodies because of their economic situation," she said.
Heifer was founded in 1944 by Indiana farmer Dan West, who had worked as a relief worker during the Spanish Civil War. West believed that orphans and displaced war victims who were receiving reconstituted powdered milk needed "not a cup, but a cow."
Now, in 38 U.S. states and 50 countries, Heifer is providing more than 30 types of animals, along with training in environmentally sound agricultural practices, and other resources to assure that Heifer's original gift of self-reliance will be passed on from generation to generation.