This nonprofit honors compassionate risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world.

We offer you here a free database of those real heroes ~ A way to nominate a hero you've spotted ~ Materials for classrooms from kindergarten through high school ~ Speakers for events ~ Coaching tips to help you move into action yourself on problems that concern you ~ News of Giraffe Heroes around the world ~ Stories of courageous compassion that little kids can listen to ~ Annnd some cool "giraffenalia"—T shirts, mugs, and such.

You believe in real heroes, right?

So keep us going!


If you need to know more, review Giraffe basics

The Giraffe Heroes Project is an Accredited Charity of the Better Business Bureau, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Recent Facebook Highlights

STAND-IN GRANDPARENTS FOR STUDENTS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Mabel Barth met with skepticism from all quarters when she began talking about a simple idea to reduce the loneliness and alienation of college students, loneliness she had witnessed on her own return to college in her middle years. In Barth's vision, a grandparent stand-in sat at a small table in a busy student lounge, sharing fruit, peanuts or cookies, and listening to a student—not advising, not counseling—just listening. Since 1979, when Barth set up the first Listening Post at Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver, she has put her life into the creation and expansion of the program. Now more than 4,000 students a week talk to 400 trained "grandparents" at Listening Posts on 85 campuses across the US and Canada. Her own education was delayed--when she was 8, her father died and her dream of a college education was put on hold for many years, but she finally graduated Phi Beta Kappa from West Virginia University when she was in her 50s and had seen students' need for someone to talk to. For 12 years the main office of the Listening Post was in Barth’s apartment, where she kept in touch with Post managers. She used her own limited personal funds to pay the bills, including those for all the student snacks the grandparent stand-ins dispersed. Barth still puts in a 60-hour week doing administrative duties, volunteer trainings, and her own shift at a Listening Post. When asked why she works so hard, she said, "You cannot pour the perfume of happiness on others without spilling some on yourself." UPDATE: Mabel Barth died in 2012. She was 103 years old. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

#GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut When Jason Crowe was nine, he lost a beloved grandmother to cancer and announced that he was going to raise money for cancer research, “so that no one else should ever have to lose their grandma to cancer.” But Jason didn’t save up chore money or lemonade-stand profits—he became a publisher. His monthly newspaper for kids, The Informer, grew to have subscribers in 29 states and 15 foreign countries, with the proceeds going to cancer research. Jason researches, writes, and edits articles on conservation, non-violence, religious tolerance, racial unity, and animal rights, all with a viewpoint that kids can help make the world a better place. Jason’s theme is “kid power.” Jason told his subscribers a story that he couldn’t stop thinking about: the story of the Cellist of Sarajevo. During the siege of that city, 22 men, women, and children standing in a line to buy bread were killed by a mortar shell. Cellist Vedran Smailovic lived nearby and saw it happen. For 22 days after the massacre, Smailovic, dressed in his concert tuxedo, sat in the rubble of the bakery at the hour the people had died, and played his cello. Totally exposed to the snipers and the artillerymen who had killed so many innocent people, Smailovic sent beautiful music out of the crater, into the hostile air. Jason determined to keep the story alive as a way to remind people that harmony was the antidote to war. He organized a cello concert at the University of Evansville to honor Smailovic; he organized a vigil and memorial service for the dead, inviting artists, writers and musicians to perform. Then he had a bigger idea: if the French could send the Statue of Liberty to this country, we could send a statue of the cellist to Sarajevo. Jason enlisted authors, politicians, teachers, students, celebrities and a sculptor in his cause. He wrote a book about the courage of Bosnian children and about all the kids around the world who were trying to help them, all proceeds, of course, to help pay for the statue of The Cellist of Sarajevo. In a letter asking his support for the statue project, Jason reminded the US President that he had said in his Inaugural speech, “Nothing big ever came from being small.” “Even though I am small literally,” Jason wrote, “I don’t think small.” Jason Crowe, organizer, humanitarian, peace activist, editor, publisher, researcher, and writer had just turned 11 when he wrote that perceptive description of himself. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

KIDS AGAINST CRIME #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Linda Warsaw of San Bernardino, California, was only 11 when she founded the nonprofit group, “Kids Against Crime” (KAC). She began the program after her family’s home was burglarized and she and her mother started volunteering at the Victim Witness Assistance Program of the San Bernadino County District Attorney’s Office. There she met and befriended several young people who were victims of child abuse and learned about the many crimes committed against children. She started KAC to teach children how to prevent crime and what to do in case a crime does occur. She worked with communities to provide graffiti cleanups, the fingerprinting of children so they can be identified if kidnapped, a hotline for youths-at-risk manned by young people, and educational workshops where children act out skits about crime prevention. Within eight years, KAC had grown to more than 4,500 members in the U.S. and abroad; it was responsible for the fingerprinting of more than 20,000 children, and the federal government provided KAC with two VISTA workers to help with office work. In June 1990, Warsaw was one of 30 young American leaders who were selected by the Giraffe Project to meet with their counterparts in the Soviet Union to exchange cultural ideas and traditions, and to talk about making a positive difference in the world. One of the Ukrainians she met while on the trip started a branch of “Kids Against Crime” in Kiev. UPDATE: Warsaw is now Linda Warsaw-Gazzola, with children of her own, and a real-estate business. She continues to help young people cope with the effects of crime—training teenagers to run a hotline for crime victims, and sponsoring graffiti cleanups. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

NEW LIVES FOR THE ELDERLY #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut William Thomas, M.D. has invented something that reduces patients’ infections and medications by 50%, and their death rate by 25%. A new drug? No. A garden—actually a Garden of Eden. When Thomas became medical director of a large nursing home in upstate New York, he soon understood why so many people would rather die than go into one. Nursing homes were sterile, barren places that cut elders off from all signs of life. Thomas started rocking the boat,making changes that he knew could get him fired, possibly even cost him his license--for professional misconduct. There was even a serious legal problem: a State law said there could be one animal in the entire institution. Thomas brought in parakeets, then dogs and cats—137 animals. He filled elders’ rooms with live plants that they took care of along with their pets, he turned the lawns into tilled patches where residents could grow their favorite vegetables and flowers. Then came the chicken coop. And the rabbit hutch. He created a flourishing world for his patients, and they too flourished. Some of the original staff quit--they liked the old way better. But the state inspector didn’t make trouble--he decided to ignore the rules when he saw residents rejuvenating, happy to be needed by their pets and plants. He also saw that staff turnover dropped from rapid to almost non-existent—the lively atmosphere pleased them too. The costs of medications also plummeted; the residents no longer needed the drugs they’d been given before. Thomas added children to the equation, starting an on-site daycare center whose kids spilled into the residents’ rooms for visits. Older kids arrive after school, to spend their afternoons with the elders instead of as latchkey kids in empty homes. “The Eden Alternative” was taking shape. Today hundreds of nursing homes have Edenized, changing dead zones into lively, nurturing, happy places where elders are thriving. “Most nursing homes make a desert look great,” says Thomas. “What they offer people is loneliness, helplessness and boredom. It’s a toxic environment.” Looking at the effects on residents’ health at other homes that adopt the Eden Alternative, he declares, “There’s no way I as a physician could get results like that, even if I saw every patient every day. It’s all happening because of the new environment nursing homes are creating.” And because one dedicated physician was willing to follow his instincts and stick his neck out for a radically non-medical approach to elder care. Update: Thomas has created something he calls The Green House, a radically new approach to long-term care in which nursing homes are torn down and replaced by small homey structures. As a professor at The Erickson School on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus Thomas also led development of the nation's first emergency department designed for older adults. You can keep up with his work at Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

EMPOWERING INDIA'S POOR #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Mabelle Arole MD of Maharashtra, India gave up the comforts of a professional, upper-class life to train health workers in villages and to champion India's women and all the nation's poor. As a result of her work, more infants are surviving and the number of unplanned pregnancies has dropped. After a rigorous training in medicine, which included undergraduate work in South India, a residency in medicine and surgery in the US, and then a master’s degree in public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Arole returned to India with the goal of helping the poor and disenfranchised of her country. She and her husband, Raj Arole MD, founded the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in the village of Jamkhed in Maharashtra. Gaining the trust and confidence of an oppressed, lower caste population, Arole secured full community participation. Ownership by the people is a core theme at CRHP, which is designed to empower the people, especially women and all the poor, through mobilization, health education and training more health workers. As a devoted champion of all Dalits and of all women and children, Arole is known for her determination and excellence. Highly lauded as a doctor, she endures with humor and grace the pervasive stereotyping inflicted on women in her country. Dr. Arole influenced prominent organizations as an advisor to UNICEF and WHO, moving her wisdom and expertise worldwide. Update: Dr. Arole went on to author two books, one with her husband entitled Jamkhed: A Comprehensive Rural Health Project, and VOICES of South Asian Women, her interviews with South Asian women who faced violence and repression at all stages of their lives. Mabelle Arole died in 1999. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

HOW TO LOBBY CITY HALL #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeck Out When James Ale of Davie, Florida was 8, a friend who was playing in the street was hit by a car; his leg was broken. James knew it wouldn’t have happened if the kids in the neighborhood had a safe place to play. He got on the phone and let the media know that his neighborhood desperately needed a park with a playground. He campaigned on behalf of “Children of Davie,” for a year and a half, often putting in 40 hours a week in the summertime. He made phone calls and wrote letters to city officials, most of which were never answered. But James wouldn’t give up. He showed up at the Mayor’s office with a briefcase and a typed letter signed, “James Ale for Children of Davie.” His efforts finally paid off when a new park was opened. The mayor of Davie said, “James Ale could teach a lot of adults I know about lobbying your local government.” She asked for James’ endorsement when she ran for re-election. James was one of 29 young Giraffes who went to Ukraine and Russia in 1990 to meet with young activists there. UPDATE: When he could still be described as the "youngest person ever" to do it, James ran for Davie's City Council and came within a hair of beating a well known attorney for the seat. He kept after the Council about that playground, however, making sure it was refurbished when it got rundown. He became an expert in computers and in finance, got married, and addressed his lifelong issue of overweight with gastric bypass surgery. Work and health went well for a few years, then things began to go terribly wrong. After several more surgeries and long hospitalizations, he was recovering, and planning to get back to work. His mother told us he was having a really good day, walked her two dogs over to an eldercare place where he was much loved by the residents, came back smiling. The next morning, Memorial Day 2012, he was dead. He was 32. Taking a lesson from her son's awesome persistence, his mom pressed the City Council again and again until they did the right thing: the playground he'd started lobbying for when he was 8 is now named for James Ale, an amazing young man. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

CREATING THE BEST DAMN PLACE FOR POOR WOMEN #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut It’s almost impossible to believe what Kip Tiernan accomplished after the day in 1968 when she walked away from a 20-year advertising career to join an urban ministry. Speeches by Father Daniel Berrigan and representatives from the United Farm Workers and the Black Panthers sent her down a new road, and she’s never looked back. Since that day Tiernan has been involved in organizing more than 13 social services in the greater Boston area—everything from soup kitchens to emergency shelters and a fund-raising coalition for small neighborhood groups. She started “Rosie’s Place” in 1974, which she calls “the best damn place for poor women there ever was.” Appalled that the need for this emergency shelter is even greater 15 years later, Tiernan is now attacking the causes of homelessness. Tiernan “walks her talk.” She now lives below the poverty line herself, and speaks with that added credibility about the needs of the poor. Update: Mary Jane “Kip” Tiernan died in 2011. She was 85. Besides “Rosie’s Place,” Tiernan helped start the Boston Health Care for the Homeless program, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the city’s Emergency Shelter Commission. She also established the Kip Tiernan Social Justice Fellowship. The Fellowship is awarded annually to a woman to develop and carry out a special project in New England that will improve the lives of poor and homeless women and further the mission of Rosie’s Place. You can keep up with Rosie's Place here: Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

A LIFETIME OF WORKING FOR JUSTICE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut "I’ve decided to do what is right, and my satisfaction lies in following the dictates of my conscience.” That's Anthony Thigpenn, community organizer extraordinaire, someone who prioritizes the welfare of others above just about everything else. Thigpenn grew up in 1960s Los Angeles, an African American in a Latino neighborhood. In high school, he was elected student body president on a platform of easing tensions between those two communities, and he has followed that strategy throughout his life. Thigpenn turned down a scholarship from Ford Motor Company to attend the University of Michigan; instead, he moved to Oakland, attended a local college, and joined the Black Panther Party, getting a taste of activist politics. He returned to Los Angeles and, after two of his friends were killed by the police, helped organize the Coalition Against Police Abuse. One consequence of that group’s actions was that the Board of Police Commissioners adopted a stricter policy on when police could use their firearms; deaths by police shootings dropped. But the thing that really motivated Thigpenn was the disconnect between spending on the military and spending on human needs. In 1982, he started the National Jobs with Peace Network to lobby for a reallocation of federal funds. Two years later, he formed Los Angeles Jobs with Peace. The idea was to organize communities and build coalitions with groups in the peace, labor, civil rights, and women’s movements. Jobs with Peace took off. Two hundred active organizations became part of the coalition, increasing voter turnout, passing referenda, and getting people to fight for their own needs. Jobs with Peace trained over a thousand people in registering, educating, and turning out voters. “Single-issue movements by themselves don’t really have the power to make the changes we want,” says Thigpenn, explaining his strategy. “Until a coalition of movements and neighborhoods is organized, we won’t have the power to take on the military and the corporations.” Thigpenn is dedicated to his work, and his work provides his motivation: “It's my vision of a more just society that keeps me going.” Update: Anthony Thigpenn has continued, expanded, and intensified his activism: · He founded Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education—SCOPE—which seeks to prevent community violence and to offer job training to low-income people. · He helped run city council races, always trying to create multiracial coalitions. · He developed a “Power Analysis” tool that delineates strategies for social justice organizations to win campaigns; the tool has since been used by hundreds of organizations. · He’s been a key organizer for political candidates who share the goals of peace and justice. · He currently heads California Calls, a coalition of 31 organizations in 12 California counties. The goal of California Calls is to achieve tax reform by bringing low-income voters into state decision-making. You can follow his work at Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

How we captured 40k gallons in the last storm!

If you’ve visited our headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park, you may have noticed a circular grate, the top of a 216,000 gallon cistern!

Giraffe Andy Lipkis, founder of TreePeople, is urging Los Angelenos to capture rain water. TreePeople's own massive cistern is collecting huge amounts, and they're distributing rain barrels for home use. In an increasingly thirsty world, this is vital work.

SITTING IN AND STANDING TALL #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut One afternoon in the ‘60s, Pat Callair saw a news photo of two black college students “sitting in"–alone–at a whites-only lunch counter in her home town of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Only 14 at the time, she showed the article to her brother and the next day, without telling their parents, they joined the two students at the counter. “We were young enough not to know the real risks, but old enough to know that our actions drew attention to something that was basically wrong,” says Callair. By the third day of the sit-in the news had spread to the “mill whites” who came after work with baseball bats and sticks to threaten the demonstrators. “My mother told us, ‘You’re not going to do this anymore. You’ll get killed. You can’t do this.’ But after she realized there was no stopping us, incredibly she joined us. She knew the danger but she figured her best bet to protect us was to stand watch, and she organized other parents to do the same.” Spartanburg’s black community boycotted the store with the segregated lunch counter and within two summers, stores in the city were integrated. As a college student, Callair was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). When she returned to Spartanburg, she began working as a teacher and kept up her work with the NAACP. One day she saw an ad describing the formation of a local chapter of the National Organization for Women. She was intrigued. The meeting was on a snowy February evening in a middle class white neighborhood, an area of town where Callair had spent little time. She listened to women expressing many of the concerns she had heard in the black community. The women were talking about the need for child care, comparable wages and health care. She saw “a wonderful opportunity to create a coalition.” But when she presented the idea to her friends at the NAACP, they were appalled, urging her to drop it and keep her energies focused on the needs of blacks only. Her NAACP colleagues were important to Callair and the women’s rights movement was new and untired. But the idea of a coalition of women across racial lines was too important to give up. She became a NOW activist, moving up to be State Coordinator, then to serve five years on the National Board. Callair described South Carolina’s record on legislation in support of women as dismal. “We have the worst record in the States when it comes to enforcement of child support,” she says. “Yes, we have the legislation to garnish a father’s wages but no way to implement and enforce it. We also have a health care problem for women, particularly single and or divorced mothers, who earn too much to quality for public assistance, but earn too little to pay for preventive health care or major medical expenses. Most of these women get no health insurance with their jobs.” “We have no comparable wage law,” Callair continues, “and our other big issue is the number of toxic waste sites in our state. Women are in the forefront of the work to get legislation to clean up and reduce the number of these sites.” As co-director of the Southern Women’s’ Project of Grassroots Leadership Callair has chosen to work on the process by which women can get to know one another across economic and racial lines so they can form effective voting and lobbying alliances. “Until we overcome that hurdle, we’ll have trouble getting good legislation for women’s issues.” "When we let the ERA slip by, we lost partly because women didn’t pull together and work hard enough. Like my father used to say, ‘It’s a poor dog that won’t wag its own tail.’” Callair’s father, a mill worker, was a strong influence on her life, along with that mother who joined the sit-in. Her dad taught her to stick up for herself, believe in her own competence and to throw a mean curve ball. “He gave me all kinds of road maps. I could move ahead, be different. He had so much faith and respect for me as a human being.” There is depth and determination in Callair’s voice when she says, “Women have to make connections with all kinds of women. When we’re divided, we lose.” Pat Callair works to build bridges–coalitions–between women of differing incomes and colors. “There will always be the chance to work on specific issues, but I’m paying attention to the process of how the work is done. I’m in it for the long haul.” UDATE: A teacher, a counselor, a social worker, an addiction counselor, and a psychotherapist, Callair founded Camp Pegasus for children and families who have experienced violence. She is now Founder and CEO of Center for Healing and Wellness, P.C., and she continues to supervise counselors and social workers. You can see her work at Like this Giraffe? LIKE the Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

FROM RUBBLE TO TREES AND VEGETABLES #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Eddie Santos grew up on the lower East Side of New York City seeing the empty lots filled with trash and debris and watching the drug dealers make their transactions. When he was nine years old, he noticed a man clearing an empty lot of the rubble and garbage. Santos asked him what he was doing, and the man answered, “I’m making a garden. Do you want to help?” The little boy picked up a wheelbarrow and started moving piles of broken bricks. But Santos not only began to help the man; he also decided to do something to change his neighborhood for the better. He organized his neighbors and began reclaiming another empty lot. First, they hauled away loads of rubble and garbage. Then, with some donated plants, they began creating a garden. As the nine-year-old organized the activities, people kept asking him, “Why are you doing this?” The answer was simple: Santos believed that what he was doing was important. And there was a more prosaic reason as well: As he said years later, “I enjoyed working on the garden using tools that I never used before.” As the community garden began to take shape, the drug dealers grew more displeased. Many people in the neighborhood began to visit the space, so it was no longer an inconspicuous place to conduct illegal activities. Santos told the drug dealers to just go away. He contributed countless hours to the garden, and got other children in the neighborhood to help out. He told them that they could do something better than just “hang out.” As the garden evolved, it became an educational resource for the adults and children in the neighborhood, as well as a functional vegetable garden. People grew their own vegetables in individual plots; they planted flowers and built a gazebo in the center; they laid out the garden to be wheelchair-accessible. And eventually they added a playing field, a pond, and a stage. Eddie Santos had made a real difference in the lives of his Lower East Side neighbors. In 1990 he joined 28 other young American Giraffes for a journey to Russia and Ukraine where they met with young activists there. UPDATE: Santos, a Park Manager for the New York Restoration Project, has been deeply involved in reclaiming neglected city parks. He says of the park he helped create when he was a boy, “Every day there are hundreds of people who come to that park to enjoy the lovely environment.” A 12-year-old visitor to a park Santos is now managing says, “It’s one of the great things in life, because in places like New York you don’t see all of this.” Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

Recent Giraffe Heroes


This is Sister Megan Rice, a nun for most of her 80+ years and a peace activist since the 1980s. She had been arrested more than three dozen times and had done time twice when she and two other peace activists performed what was called the most serious security breach in the history of US...


Andy Hall, a Brit, works for Finnwatch, a world-wide nonprofit that spots human abuses around the world and works to stop them. When Hall called out Thailand's National Fruit Company for the way it treats its workers, he asked to work...


This is Catherine Hamlin MD, who left her home in Australia in 1959 to provide gynecological care to poor women in Ethiopia. At 90, she's still doing that, focusing on one of the most distressing medical/social issues imaginable: obstetric fistulas.

This is an injury that women can...


This is Hanna Hopko. She braved snipers' bullets in Kiev during a citizens' uprising that brought down a corrupt government there. Now she's leading a rapidly growing citizens' movement that's doing more than rising up and demanding...


Imagine you're 11 years old and your body is twisting from scoliosis, causing you constant physical pain and making you look very different from other kids. You're scheduled for surgery to straighten your spine and your mom takes a "before" picture so you'll have a history of how you once...


Bob Bajek, a reporter on a small-town newspaper in Illinois, came up with a Big Story: the town's recreational lake, where residents fished, swam, and boated, was highly toxic--a now defunct military base had dumped Agent Orange in the water....


There were no protections for whistle-blowers in South Africa when businesswoman Wendy Addison reported her own corporate bosses for breaking the law. She was fired, got death threats, and was blacklisted, even in England, where she took her...


This is veteran environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. He's 12. And he's been working to save his beloved Colorado for half of his life. It started when he saw that the forest near his home was changing. Trees were dying, plants...


Allan Adam is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan nation, whose lands lie within Alberta, Canada. These First Nation people have formal treaty rights that protect their lands from being taken or used by outsiders, but that treaty has been...


Sangduen Chailert, known as "Lek," puts in 18-hour days caring for sick and injured elephants in a protected reserve she co-founded, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The dwindling elephant population is a world-wide...