Do you have a favorite super hero? Maybe Superman? Catwoman? Spiderman? Thanks to CNN's annual Hero of the Year award we have a more realistic line up of heroes to chose from. These men and women have sacrificed their time, money and sometimes safety in order to help others, which makes all of these extraordinary citizens worthy of super hero status.
Every year CNN asks for nominations of "everyday people whose extraordinary accomplishments are making a difference in their communities and beyond" to be considered for the award. These heroes come from diverse fields such as youth and adolescent care and community development, environmental conservation and protection, human rights and health. Not only do they represent the entire development spectrum, but they also hail from around the world: this year's top 10 hero list includes change makers from Tennessee to New York, the Philippines to Zimbabwe. CNN will be airing their special thanks to these global heroes and announcing the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year on the dedicated day of thanks in America, Thurs., Nov. 26.
We here at Worldchanging think this contest is a great idea, and have selected a few of our favorites who will be honored Thursday night. Check out CNN.com to read all of their amazing stories.
There is a myth in Zimbabwe that a man infected with HIV or AIDS will be cured by having sex with a virgin. This cultural lie has led to an enormous number of rape victims who are often overlooked because of the stigmatism attached to reporting such a thing. This amazing lady experienced this problem firsthand and decided to step up and do something about it.
She used her role as a teacher to start an open space for women and girls to talk about these problems and potential solutions. This was the beginning of the Girl Child Network. In 2001 she opened the first Empowerment Village, where abused girls could come to receive counseling, health care, education and learn to take back their spirit. There are now three Empowerment Villages across Zimbabwe, and the project has helped more than 300,000 girls. Makoni was forced to flee her homeland in order to protect her safety, but still oversees the project from her new home in England.
While taking a break from college to travel, this bartender from North Carolina discovered the world's water crisis. When he eventually arrived back home, he realized that he had access to something that was capable of changing the world -- relationships with his bar customers. He used these contacts to host wine tastings and raise funds to implement water projects in the developing world.
His plan was to give the funds raised from the "Wine to Water" events to organizations dedicated to solving the water crisis, but instead found himself in Sudan developing and implementing the project himself. Wine to Water doesn't just put in new water pumps, it focuses on education -- teaching the local community how to create and repair the wells themselves. His small organization has brought clean drinking water to more than 25,000 individuals in five countries.
In 2004, Jorge Munoz discovered how much food was being thrown away by businesses near his home in Queens, New York. His organization, An Angel in Queens, began when he saw this wasted food as an opportunity to help the less fortunate. The first few months of the program were spent with him handing out "brown bag lunches" to underprivileged men three nights a week.
He soon realized the demand for this food was much greater than the amount he had. Rather than giving up or sticking with his original plan, he re-envisioned the impact he could have. He began collecting food donations and enlisted his mother to help him prepare 20 home-cooked meals every night. He now drives his mobile soup kitchen to his spot in Jackson Heights every night where men line up for a hot meal. The number of mouths he feeds each night is consistently increasing, reaching 140 in recent months. The only consistent part of this operation is Jorge. He knows that these men count on him and therefore cannot bear to miss a night.
Photo Credit: CNN Heroes via Flickr
good on them!
We the people are the most effective means for change. We often forget how powerful we are.
"I am here to serve."
The Window Man