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Amsterdam native wins humanitarian award

Amsterdam native wins humanitarian award

Dr. Tom Catena treats poor in mountains of Sudan
Amsterdam native wins humanitarian award
Dr. Tom Catena accepting the 2017 Aurora Prize at a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia, on May 28.
Photographer: Aurora website

Amsterdam native Dr. Tom Catena was named laureate of the 2017 Aurora Prize For Awakening Humanity on Sunday for his humanitarian work in war-torn East Africa. 
Since 2008 Catena has called the Nuba Mountains of Southern Sudan home, where he provides medical care for an area of the country where roughly 750,000 Nuba live. A press release by the Aurora Prize organization said Catena, who is known simply as “Dr. Tom” to his patients, performs more than 1,000 surgeries per year. 
“Patients have been known to walk for up to seven days to receive treatment for injuries from bombing attacks and ailments varying from bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria,” said the press release. 
Catena is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital, which is caught in the crossfire of a civil war between Sudan's government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement.
Catena operates in defiance of a government restriction on humanitarian aid in the country. At one point during his time in Nuba government planes bombed the hospital, though no one was injured. 
The Aurora Prize awarded Catena with $100,000 to further his humanitarian mission as well as $1 million to donate to charities of his choice. He announced at the award ceremony May 28 in Yerevan, Armenia, that he would split the $1 million in prize money between the African Mission Healthcare Foundation, Catholic Medical Mission Board and a group called Aktion Canchanabury based in Germany. 
Catena was selected as this year’s Aurora Prize recipient from more than 550 nominations submitted from 66 countries. The Aurora Prize Initiative was founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, in which it’s estimated 1.5 million Armenians died between 1915-1923. 
The Aurora Prize is given to recognize individuals for their exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes, according to the group’s website. The principal funders are Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan, co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. They both have Armenian roots.
“Dr. Catena embodies the spirit of the Aurora Prize, and we extend our deepest gratitude to him and the people and organizations around the world that support and inspire him to continue his noble work despite immensely challenging conditions,” said Ruben Vardanyan. “We are honored to share his story with the world to shed light on the goodwill that exists in the world so that helping others becomes part of our global culture.”
At the award ceremony Catena said his Catholic faith is an inspiration for him to continue his work in such a dire environment. 
“We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future,” he said. “With my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place.”
Catena’s brother, Felix Catena, is a County Court judge for Montgomery County.

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