DES MOINES, Iowa -- Wednesday September 26th would have been Governor Robert D. Ray’s 90th birthday and in recognition of his global humanitarian leadership, the World Food Prize Foundation will announce the recipient of the annual Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award.
This award is presented to Iowa leaders who are making a difference in whether people have enough to eat, whether they have enough nutritious food and whether their suffering is ended.
The SHARES award was conceived in 2013 and inspired by the humanitarian efforts of Governor Ray and his work on behalf of refugees.
There is a painting in the World Food Prize Foundation building that tells three separate stories of Governor Ray’s efforts.
The first story is about his time at a Cambodian refugee camp in 1979. The President of the World Food Prize Foundation Ambassador Kenneth Quinn was with him and said it was the worst thing he had ever seen.
“There were 30,000 people, it’s like the student body of Iowa State University, strewn over this open field, lying about, thin, emaciated, starving, sick, dying at the rate of 50 to 100 a day,” Quinn said.
This had such an impact on Governor Ray, when he came back he formed the Iowa SHARES Foundation. SHARES stands for Sends Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation. Through this Governor Ray raised a half a million dollars and sent food, medicine, volunteer Iowa doctors and nurses 12,000 miles away to help these victims of the Cambodian genocide.
The second story is about the people of the Thai Dom refugees who fled from Laos at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. They were fearful they were going to be split up and scattered all over America as refugees.
“They wrote letters to every governor saying please take us as a people, one governor responded, Governor Bob Ray. He read their letter at night, said I want to try to help them, goes to Washington, convinces the president that all the Thai Dom can come to Iowa, they came here, and they’ve been here ever since,” Quinn said.
Finally, the story of the Vietnamese boat people. These people were trying to flee their homeland by boat and no one in the world was accepting refugees. Governor Ray saw this on TV and went straight to the president and convinced him to take 168,000 refugees a year.
“Governor Bob Ray became the first governing official anywhere in the world to offer to take the boat people refugees and he led the effort and convinced the president who reopened America’s doors,” Quinn said.
Much like the humanitarian efforts of Robert D. Ray, the SHARE award is given annually to honor an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering, both at home and abroad.
The award will be given Wednesday morning and formally presented at the Iowa Hunger Summit Luncheon on October 15 in Des Moines.