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George Clooney renewed his endorsement of a million- dollar peace prize Sunday when he spoke of the power of “individuals to make a difference” in addressing the world’s various humanitarian crises.
In a video address at the awards ceremony of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, held late Sunday in Yerevan, Armenia, the Oscar-winning actor, humanitarian activist and father-to-be, to laughter and applause quipped: “I really would have been [in Yerevan] but if I came there and my wife had twins while I was there, I could never come home.”
Clooney’s wife, Amal, a prominent international human rights lawyer whom he married in a private ceremony in Venice in September 2014, is due to give birth in June, though pediatricians say twins often come early.
Clooney, who was in Yerevan last year when he presented the award at the inaugural Aurora ceremony, is co-chair of the award’s prize selection committee. A co-founder of humanitarian organizations The Sentry and Not on Our Watch, he has highlighted humanitarian crises in Sudan, Darfur and other parts of Africa.
Sunday’s $1.1 million Aurora Prize went to American doctor Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, N.Y., who has saved thousands of lives working as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains.
“As violence and war continue to threaten people’s spirits and perseverance, it is important to recognize, empower and celebrate people like Dr. Catena who are selflessly helping others to not only survive, but thrive,” Clooney said. “Dr. Catena is a role model to us all, and yet another example of people on the ground truly making a difference.”
Speaking to the press after Sunday’s award, Catena said: “It is very helpful that we have people like George Clooney…that are very dedicated to the struggle [in the Nuba Mountains].”
Catena received a $100,000 grant to support his work with the $1 million shared between three charities of his choice: the U.S.-based African Mission Healthcare Foundation and the Catholic Medical Mission Board; and Germany’s Aktion Canchanabury.
The founders of the Aurora Prize, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and former Brown University president Vartan Gregorian, American businessman Noubar Afeyan, both of whom are of Armenian descent, and Yerevan-born, Moscow-based entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan, designed the prize-money split as an “opportunity to continue the cycle of giving.”
The Aurora prize, launched last year, was set up to honor the survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 and to inspire others today to follow the example of people of all nationalities who at that time came to the aid of people suffering in one of the earliest and, at the time, biggest humanitarian crises of the 20th century.
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