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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Nicolás Castellanos, Vicente Ferrer, Joaquín Sanz Gadea and Muhammad Yunus

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1998

In consideration of their unselfish and tireless efforts and exemplary contribution, in different geographical areas and spheres of activity.

Nicolás Castellanos

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Antonio Nicolás Castellanos Franco (Mansilla del Páramo, León, Spain, 1935) is a Spanish missionary. In 1991, he resigned from the Diocese of Palencia to dedicate himself to missions and since then resides in Santa Cruz (Bolivia).

He entered the Order of St Augustine as an adolescent, taking his first vows in 1953. After completing his ecclesiastical studies in the monastery of Santa María de la Vid, in the province of Burgos, he was ordained a priest on 12th July 1959. In 1973 he was elected Provincial of the Augustinians. When serving his second term as provincial, he was appointed Bishop of Palencia in 1978. He resigned as bishop in 1992 to devote himself to missionary work, since then Monsignor Castellanos has resided in Santa Cruz (Bolivia) with a group of priests, clergy and laypersons with whom he set up the Proyecto Hombres Nuevos [New Men Project] with the aim of improving the living conditions in the city’s most underprivileged districts. Over the years, various projects have been launched to serve women and children: canteens, schools, social housing and hospitals. He combines all this work with periodic visits to Spain to raise funds and give talks.

He is president of the Nuevos Hombres foundation, which manages 15 schools and has managed to enrol more than 15,000 children. They also boast a scholarship programme covering more than 500 university students and manage a hospital, five canteens for children, a health programme in schools, two day centres for working children, a home for the blind and a microenterprise incubator. The constructions built by the foundation include the “city of joy”, an area with recreational zones, water wells, social housing and churches. It also has a sociocultural entertainment programme, a music band, a symphony orchestra and a cultural centre.

Monsignor Castellanos was awarded the Municipal Medal of Merit by the Honourable Municipal Council of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) in 1998 and was named “Personality of the Year from León” in 1999. He has also received the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers Award for humanitarian work in favour of poor children (2001) and the Human Values Award from the Community of Castile and León (2002). In 2006, the Spanish Government awarded him the Gold Medal for Work.

Vicente Ferrer

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Vicente Ferrer (Barcelona, Spain, 1920 – Anantapur, India, 2009) after entering the priesthood and joining the Society of Jesus (1944), moved to India in 1952, where he has continued to perform his apostolic work. Between 1952 and 1969 he lived in the Manmad region (Bombay) where he was known as the "missionary of the wells" for the support he gave to the peasants in the construction of water wells, creating the "Rural Development Association"-one of the first organisations dedicated to the development of rural areas in India. With this period ended, the Society ordered his return to Europe; his refusal caused the Jesuits to banish him from their order. At the same time the New Delhi government ordered his expulsion from the country, a decision that was later overturned after massive protests of pariahs. Moving to the state of Andra Pradesh, he again set up irrigation systems, this time in a desert area that was completely barren. The cooperative work method that he instituted there goes by the name of "linked brotherhood": help is given to each peasant in digging his own well, with material and foodstuffs for the length of the work; when this is finished the peasant-who now can consider himself to be all but rich-helps others just as he was helped. In the face of the rigid Hindu caste system, Ferrer groups the untouchables together in democratically run communities, which has received criticism from several Hindu sectors. In Anantapur, Ferrer´s work has produced results that are truly remarkable. With a radius of action covering an area as large as Extremadura, with 1,100 villages and two million inhabitants, the following has been built: 2,500 houses (1,200 more are to be built this year and nearly 13,000 were repaired), 2 hospitals (a third of them are under construction), two family planning centres, two centres for the handicapped, hundreds of schools, numerous women´s associations. Married with three children, his work has been sponsored by the non-governmental organisation Ayuda en Acción, whose honorary president is H.R.H. Doña Pilar de Borbón. This organisation raises funds through its "sponsor a child" program.

Vicente Ferrer died on June 19, 2009.

Joaquín Sanz Gadea

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Joaquín Sanz Gadea (Teruel, Spain, 1930 - ), after graduating from the University of Salamanca with a degree in Medicine and Surgery, went on to study Tropical Medicine at the Sorbonne and Gynaecology and Surgery at the Complutense in Madrid. He has been medical director of the Buta Hospital in the eastern province of the Congo, where he began working in 1961 after being selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the "Operation Congo" campaign. He worked in this country for fourteen years, and during his vacations in Spain he made numerous arrangements aimed at obtaining plasma and medical and surgical supplies for area hospitals. Sanz Gadea has also performed other medical tasks of a marked humanitarian nature, as a leprologist in the Maleke Leprosarium at the Stanleyville Hospital and as the head of the Surgery Unit at the Onatra Hospital of Matadi (Congo). Sanz Gadea has also been Surgeon General of the Sahara and has written such books as "What Every Saharan Should Know About Trachoma" (1975). He has been a member of the Spanish Academy of Surgical Medicine since 1978 and is honorary consultant to the Fernando el Católico Institution. Among his many honours, he is the recipient of the Zaragoza Delegation´s "San Jorge" Award (1968) and the "Dag Hammarsjoeld" International Award for humanitarian achievement.

Muhammad Yunus

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Muhammad Yunus (Chittagong, Bangladesh, 1940 - ), banker, economist and founder of the Grameen Bank, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He studied Economic Science in New Delhi and then went on to further his education in the USA as a Fulbright and Eisenhower Fellow, obtaining his PhD from Vanderbilt University. He subsequently taught economics at Middle Tennessee State University (United States). In 1971, he returned to Bangladesh –which had gained independence– to teach at Chittagong University, where he held the position of Head of the Rural Economy Department until 1989. In 1974, he proposed a form of social organization for rural villages called Gram Sarker (village government). The proposal proved to be practicable and useful and so was officially adopted by the government of Bangladesh in 1980. Since that time, due to the famine that was ravaging this country (one of the poorest and most populated countries in the world), he became aware that you can only escape poverty by sidestepping the laws of the market, providing micro-credits: unsecured solidarity loans to the neediest so that they can carry out independent, creative activities. In 1976, in spite of the enormous resistance and the numerous rejections of the Bangladeshi banking entities, he managed to found the Grameen Bank (rural or village bank), which in 1983 obtained the status of an autonomous bank.

He is considered to be the architect of the microcredit revolution. His bank will only grant loans to the very poor, who then become shareholders of the entity; the number of whom now exceeds 2.5 million people, of which 94 per cent are women. At the time of receiving the 1998 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, it had over 22,000 employees working in nearly 38,000 of the country’s 68,000 villages and over a thousand branches. The average loan is 75 dollars and the maximum, 300 dollars, with a 98% repayment rate. The bank goes out to look for clients and encourages self-employment; it uses a system that is now functioning in more than 50 countries, organising clients into small groups. In the words of Yunus, the system attempts “to do away with financial apartheid. We believe that a loan is more than a business proposition and that it, like sustenance, is a right of man.” He has also stated, “Poverty has a place in museums, but not in a civilized human society.”

Yunus has received honorary degrees from more than twenty-one universities around the world and has received a score of awards, including the Ramon Masagay Award (Philippines), the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (Switzerland), the Pfeffer Peace Prize, the World Food Prize and the Gleitsman Foundation Award (all three in the USA) and the Simon Bolivar Prize (UNESCO), the Man of Peace Award (Italy), among others. In the last 20 years, it is estimated that the Grameen Bank has lent more than two thousand million euro to three and a half million poor people.

In 1996, UNESCO awarded Muhammad Yunus the International Simón Bolívar Prize. In 2005, the Foundation for Justice awarded him the 5th Award of the same name, taking into account the contribution of his work as a teacher in the field of eradicating poverty. On 13th October 2006, Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”.

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