Guest Profiles

Doing good, does you good.

It’s often said that it’s better to give than to receive, but did you know that this is actually backed up by research? While it’s easy to feel too busy or stressed to help others or volunteer somewhere, evidence shows that doing good for others is actually beneficial for your mental health and well-being. It can help reduce stress, improve mood, self-esteem, longevity and happiness. From volunteering to random acts of kindness, your good works can help others and yourself.
Below are some profiles and positive stories of real people who are making a difference in their home, schools, communities, countries and the world. We hope to elevate those who do good works not for recognition, but because they care and want to contribute. We also hope to motivate and reignite us all so we can find our own way, no matter how small or big, to help make our communities more positive, harmonious and solutions-oriented. So take a few minutes to read about our Crazy Amazing Humans and do something kind for a friend or a stranger today.

Profiles of Our Crazy Amazing Humans

In Order of Appearance on Our Podcasts

Dr. Tom Catena 

Tom “Dr. Tom” Catena was born in Amsterdam, New York. He went on to study mechanical engineering at Brown, in the U.S., before enrolling at Duke to study medicine on a naval scholarship. After he completed an internship at the Naval Medical Center San Diego in 1993, Catena joined the U.S. Navy, and for the next four years, he served his country as a flight surgeon. After his discharge from the Navy in 1999, Catena began residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana, while also participating in medical mission trips to Guyana and Honduras. Having received experience working at international missions, he moved to Kenya, then to Nairobi and South Sudan before finally settling in the Nuba Mountain region.

Since 2007, Dr. Tom has been on call 24 hours, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than a million citizens of Nuba amidst the ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. Humanitarian aid is restricted here. Very few NGOs still operate due to the Khartoum government’s blockade. Since 2012, while aid has not been expressly forbidden, none has arrived as volunteers are unable to travel into the region. Limited by his surroundings, Catena sometimes uses decades-old treatments and engages the local community to work as nurses and in other roles to assist him and the patients.

Being the only surgeon who is working in Nuba Mountains under the dangerous circumstances, Dr. Tom is the only hope for people living in the neighborhood. Patients frequently travel by foot or by cart for up to a week to reach the Mother of Mercy Hospital, where Catena practices.

Dr. Tom was recently profiled in the award-winning feature length documentary, The Heart of Nuba, where he selflessly and courageously serves the needs of a forgotten people, as the region is bombed relentlessly by an indicted war criminal, Omar Al-Bashir. Two things remain constant: Dr. Tom’s faith and his enduring love for the Nuba people.  The film can be seen on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon. Sony and the BBC.

For his contributions to furthering humanity and his efforts to save people’s lives, Dr. Tom has been awarded the $1.1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity in the 2017 awards ceremony, becoming the second recipient of the annual prize.

Kenneth A. Carlson

Director, writer, producer

Kenneth A. Carlson directed and produced the feature length documentary, THE HEART OF NUBA, profiling the courageous and selfless efforts of Dr. Tom Catena, the sole doctor for a million patients in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan.  THE HEART OF NUBA was released theatrically in the US and has been screened for US Congress on Capitol Hill, British Parliament’s House of Lords at Westminster Palace in London, the Italian Senate in Rome, the Sudanese Parliament in Khartoum and the International Criminal Court in Den Hague. It has been projected in every continent and screened in a host of film festivals from Hollywood to Shanghai. Maria Shriver serves as the film’s executive producer. The film is currently available on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon. Sony and the BBC.

Carlson and his wife created the Take Heart Foundation from which 100% of all funds go to the Mother Mercy Hospital in Sudan. To date they have raised over $750,000.

Carlson recently completed THOSE WHO SERVE, a long form documentary that documents the journeys of three psychologically wounded American combat veterans who’ve committed crimes and are now struggling to find a just outcome in the judicial system. The film gives viewers an unprecedented access to real-life courtroom dramas that takes painful, intimate, sometimes hopeful and sometimes sobering turns.

Carlson is currently in production on the documentary IN HIS DEFENSE about Death Row inmate, Kevin Cooper, who has been incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison for over 36 years. Interviews for this feature length film include Nicholas Kristof and Kim Kardashian.

Carlson’s other feature documentaries include GO TIGERS!, AMARGOSA, STEPPIN’, WILD BILL HOLLYWOOD MAVERICK amongst others. For nearly seven years, Carlson directed, produced and wrote more than 275 feature segments for AMERICA’S MOST WANTED which aired for 26 seasons on The Fox Network. His efforts have resulted in the capture and incarceration of more than 72 of the country’s most wanted criminals. For a full list of Carlson’s credits go to IMDB.

THE HEART OF NUBA/DOCTOR TOM is currently in development with ABC Signature to become a scripted series. Carlson will be executive producing along with Erica Messer.

Carlson’s love for photography has taken him from the Artic to Antarctica  while his images have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Lindblad/National Geographic Travel catalogs and numerous other travel and entertainment websites.

Karen Hawkins

Wife, mother

Karen Hawkins is a self-described Chinese-Japanese goofball born in Singapore. Here is her story:

I’m 5′ 3-1/2″, small but fiesty, funny, and loveable. Moved to the U.S. when I was about 9 years old and LOVE Southern California!! I’m married to a man Lee (he’s not Asian despite his name) who drives me crazy…oh wait, that might be me who drives him crazy. Either way, we’ve been together for 25 years and married for 23!!! Together we have two of the MOST incredible sons and three dogs. Our oldest son, Tyler is 18 and a senior in high school where he gets to shine his talent on the Varsity baseball team. Our 13 year old, Ryan has one of the most creative minds. His Lego building skills are like no other. He’s recently started Lacrosse to learn the basics of the game where he may want to tryout for the sport when he gets to high school. There’s NOTHING better than being a proud mama to these two.

At 41, I was finally in the best shape of my life, working hard at hot yoga, kickboxing, stand up paddle boarding and doing yoga on the boards. What started out as painful bloating, weird tingles, and finally sharp pains pushing up under my ribs, it came down to having a hysterectomy and removing a fibroid tumor which was thought to be the cause of the rib pain. During that surgery, it was found that I had cancer. Tumors pretty much covered every organ I had and I was labeled to be stage 3. Upon hearing this news, I knew immediately I had a journey to embark on and I was going to share it with whoever would listen. That’s where my Facebook and Instagram pages were started-A Warrior’s Fight. I’ve shared the highs, lows, good, bad, and the ugly. You get pictures, video, procedures, along with my thoughts and feelings. Most people have no idea what side effects can occur with chemotherapy. In less than 7 years, I’m about to go into my sixth fight. Through hell and back, I keep fighting. It’s been one of the hardest experiences, physically, emotionally and mentally. Bringing awareness to Ovarian Cancer and what cancer patients go through is an important part of my journey. I love helping others answering a lot of private messages with questions and concerns. Being there for family and friends who have or are fighting. I believe no one should fight alone.

In my almost 7 year journey, I started my infamous Bucket List. It began about 6 years ago when my dear friend Cindy was put in hospice. We had an unbreakable friendship which started on a day we shared a room where we were both receiving chemotherapy. She loved the beach and sun as much as I did and our friend Erin, gifted us with the most meaningful trip to Hawaii. Sitting by the pool one afternoon, I knew I had to start living, truly living my life to the fullest which meant facing my fears, trying new foods, visit countries/states I’ve been wanting to see. Most of all, I wanted to be an inspiration especially to my sons. Something I tell them all the time, is no matter how hard life can seem to be or how bad you may feel, know that you have two choices; one is to sit and have a pity party or you can get back up on your feet and make the best of it. While my Bucket List continues to grow, I feel I’ve accomplished the most fearful ones!! I always said NO WAY, NEVER will I ever go skydiving. Why the hell would I want to do that? Well that all change after a day in the indoor skydiving tube. It was when I opened my big mouth and said “Oh that was easy and fun.” Mr. JD didn’t waste a second and took the bait and replied, “Well, let’s go skydiving!” Damn it!!! And again my big mouth opened with “OK, I’ll do it.”

Now skydiving out of Oceanside, where the view was breathtaking to say the least, that was one of the MOST exhilarating, face your fears, poop in your pants just for a second kind of experience. I swear I can remember the hundreds of moments that happened in that experience. As of today, I have successfully accomplished 80 Bucket List activities. They stem from little fun things to meeting celebrities to experiencing the craziest activities. I encourage people to start a their list now! There’s no point in starting it when you are told you are dying. See the world and go experience things, seek adventures, LIVE your life to the fullest!! Share them with family, friends or on your own.

Most importantly, along every step, open your heart and ALWAYS be kind. I smile all the time and I can even during the most painful times. I try to make to make the best out of every experience and have a sense of humor. I never forget to say thank you to every nurse, doctor, tech, or human being I come in contact with. It’s the little things that mean the most. When people look at me, you wouldn’t in your wildest dream know I have cancer. I have my hair, skin color looks good, and I can be a ball of energy. You never know what someone else is going through and there’s never reason not to be kind. Live your own story. Make it a good one.

I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.

Please help us to spread these Crazy Amazing Humans’ stories by sharing these Journey’s and Profiles with your friends and via social media. 

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