The appointment was announced during the Aurora Dialogues in Berlin. Dr. Catena joins the organization during a period of significant growth and will be responsible for engaging key humanitarian stakeholders, working with global partners and overseeing Aurora’s educational and outreach projects, including the internationally recognised, Aurora Prize. Aurora was established three years ago, and has impacted the lives of displaced individuals, children in conflict zones, refugees, migrants and vulnerable citizens around the world. Since 2016, the Aurora Prize has awarded over $3.3 million to unsung heroes and has supported 23 projects in 11 areas of humanitarian assistance globally. This year, the Aurora Prize supported over 375,000 Rohingya refugees. A further 62 students from conflict areas have been recipients of the Aurora Gratitude Scholarships program to study at United World Colleges around the world and the American University of Armenia.  

In May 2017, Dr. Catena was named as the Aurora Prize Laureate for his courageous work in the Nuba Mountains. Since 2008, he has served more than half a million people as the sole surgeon at the Mother of Mercy Hospital, an institution he has been dedicated to since. He has been based in Sudan’s war-ravaged territory for the last decade where humanitarian aid is restricted. Known as “Dr Tom” by locals, he provides treatment for people suffering ailments and war wounds. He will continue his role as Medical Director at the hospital working with a team of doctors, sourced by the Catholic Medical Mission Board in cooperation with the African Mission Healthcare Foundation, to work in the Nuba Mountains in parallel with his new responsibilities with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative.  

According to a joint statement from the Co-Founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative: “We are delighted to welcome the first Chair of the organisation. Dr. Tom Catena truly embodies the spirit of Aurora and will be a driving force in taking our global vision forward by helping to empower individuals to embrace our shared humanity and express gratitude to those making an impact. It is gratifying that the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate is also the first chair of this organization.”

Dr. Tom Catena, the new Chair of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative said: “It is a true honour to chair the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative – I am grateful for the impact of the Aurora Prize on my life and the financial support provided to the Mother of Mercy Hospital that has helped transform the lives of the Nuba people in Sudan. I believe in the simple yet powerful force of humanity in addressing today’s critical humanitarian challenges and will remain committed to elevating the Gratitude in Action philosophy in my new role by supporting Aurora’s work empowering those in desperate need to create their own futures.”

In 2015, Dr. Catena was recognized by Time Magazine as one of its ‘100 Most Influential People’ in the world. He has been recognized with Honorary Doctorates from Brown University and Yerevan State Medical University. He also formerly served as a flight surgeon with the US Navy.   

As part of the leadership team changes at Aurora, the Executive Board has also appointed Dr. Hayk Demoyan, former Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute as the Chief Operating Officer of the Initiative. He started this position on 19 November 2018. Dr. Hayk Demoyan is author of numerous monographs and academic articles published in Armenian, Russian, English and French. From 2011 to 2015 he was appointed as a Secretary of the State Commission for Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide centennial.

About the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

Founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to empower modern-day saviors to offer life and hope to those in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid anywhere in the world and thus continue the cycle of giving internationally. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is Gratitude in Action. It is an eight-year commitment (2015 to 2023, in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) to support people and promote global projects that tackle the needs of the most helpless and destitute and do so at great risk. This is achieved through the Initiative’s various programs: The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues, the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the Gratitude Projects and the 100 LIVES Initiative. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the vision of philanthropists Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan who have been joined by more than 440 new supporters and partners. The Initiative welcomes all who embrace a commitment to our shared humanity. 

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is represented by three organizations – Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Foundation, Inc. (New York, USA), the 100 Lives Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) and the IDeA Foundation (Yerevan, Armenia). 

Further information is available at