The World Food Prize Foundation

About the Iowa SHARES Award

The World Food Prize Foundation established the Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award in 2013 to honor the former Iowa Governor on his 85th birthday. The award recognizes an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering either at home or abroad, much as Governor Ray did on behalf of Asian refugees during his time in office. 

The award was named after the Iowa SHARES campaign, which Governor Ray created in 1979 in order to send desperately needed food, medicine, Iowa doctors and nurses, to assist suffering and dying refugees from Cambodia. Iowa S.H.A.R.E.S. stands for Iowa Sends Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation. 

Governor Ray’s Iowa SHARES program is memorialized in the featured painting of a Cambodian woman holding her child. It is based on a photograph taken by Governor Ray in the Sa Kaew Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in October 1979. There, the Governor and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn observed the incredible suffering of the more than 30,000 Cambodians who had just escaped from the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The refugees were dying at the rate of 50 to 100 a day due to the starvation, malnutrition and barbaric living conditions they had endured.

Also included in the painting are smaller-scale depictions of several other events that transpired during this period and on which then Governor Ray provided extraordinary political leadership, including providing a home in Iowa to ethnic Tai Dam refugees and rescuing the Vietnamese “Boat People.” Governor Ray was the first governing leader in the world to offer a home to these refugees who were drowning at sea because no country in the world would accept them.

This piece by Iowa artist Rose Frantzen hangs in the Iowa Gallery at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.

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