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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.

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GOING BACK–TO SAVE LIVES #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut In the 70's, Frank Noe (MA), Bill Johnson (CT), Gene Spanos (IL), Mike Wallace (KS) Nate Genna (MA), and Robert Dalton (MD—not shown in the photo), were young US Marines laying land mines in Vietnam. Years later, at a reunion of the 11th Engineers' Battalion, they talked about their concern that the mines were still there. The Vietnamese government says that thousands of people—many of them children—have died from grenades, bombs and land mines since the end of the war. The men don't apologize for laying the mines during wartime. But they don't think it's right that the US military didn't clear the minefields, as they had after previous wars. There was an important task undone. Married now, with children of their own, the six veterans thought that something had to be done. Frank Noe told us, "In my heart, if children are getting hurt, that's the worst. I'll do anything to stop it." They formed Vietnam Revisited to go back and help the Vietnamese pinpoint and remove the minefields. Maps of the fields weren't available, so the men would have to rely on their memories. With an anonymous donor paying their expenses, they spent ten days in a changed Vietnam. The six vets worked with the Vietnamese Army defusing and clearing US-made mines. On their return, Nate Genna wrote the Giraffe Project, "...innocent people are, in fact, still being killed and injured from explosive junk left over from the war." The former Marines hoped their return to those fields will save innocent lives. Like this story? Great. Now please LIKE the whole page so you can get more great stories.

A CHAMPION FOR RAPTORS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut It all started when Steve Hoffman was young. First, there were the family camping trips; the “great outdoors” made quite an impression on him, especially the large birds that are called “raptors." Then there was the “hawk watch,” and that sealed the deal. It was the fall of 1969; he was a freshman at Albright College in eastern Pennsylvania. Hoffman’s biology professor took the class to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in order to, well, watch hawks. But hawks weren’t the only birds there: Twelve other species made appearances that day—thousands of birds mingling, migrating, and making Steve Hoffman realize what we wanted to do with his life. When he attended graduate school at Utah State University, he found a similar “hawk mountain” and spent long hours there, figuring out how many were migrating and how they were doing. He knew watching hawks is more than an entertaining pastime: these raptors are a primary indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem. The status of this population is an indicator of habitat degradation, pollutants, climate change, and human interference, and that, in turn, can lead to effective conservation measures. Hoffman began his professional life as a biologist, first with the Bureau of Land Management and then with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But his heart and mind remained with raptors. On his own, he began conducting migration counts with some friends and soon was devoting all his free time to the effort. He was devoting his money to the effort as well, and finally, in 1986, decided to go all out: He founded the Western Raptor Foundation, which soon became HawkWatch International. HawkWatch International counts, bands, and assesses data on migrating birds. It studies all aspects of their lives. It partners with government agencies, land owners, and other groups and individuals to protect raptors. It informs and educates both professionals and non-professionals so that everyone can understand and implement the actions that are needed to protect the entire environmental system. The new organization was not easy for Hoffman to establish—or to sustain. Wildlife preservation was not many people’s priority, and Hoffman had to essentially become a one-man public relations firm to make the public aware of the environmental issues involved and to garner enough donations to keep the nonprofit afloat. He spent all his savings and had no income as he put in 80-hour weeks. Eventually, his message struck home: It resonated with scientists and environmentalists, and today it’s a success story—for the raptors, for the overall environment, and for Steve Hoffman, who sacrificed a secure career in a government agency to follow his dream of protecting the magnificent birds he first glimpsed on a family camping trip when he was a kid. Update: After over three decades, HawkWatch is still going strong. Hoffman left the organization in good hands in 1999 and became Executive Director of the Montana Audubon Society. His ardor for raptors, particularly hawks, has not waned: After all, he says, they “eat at the top of the food chain, so they’re a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem. They help to show the connection between humans and all forms of life.” Thanks for Liking this story. Now please LIKE this whole Page so you can get more great stories.

STANDING AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut From Our Archives... Seventeen-year-old Catherine Herne risked ostracism in her Ithaca NY high school by speaking out about her fellow students’ subtle forms of homosexual discrimination. Herne founded YEAH, Youth Educators Against Homophobia, a discussion group that meets weekly. Her goal is to eliminate anti-homosexual attitudes through education, aiming at the entire student body of the school. YEAH sponsors educational programs, and does student surveys about homophobia. Some members of YEAH have been harassed for their association with the organization. But students at the school have reported that more of their peers are standing up for gays and lesbians since YEAH started. One of the posters YEAH put up in Ithaca High School halls and classrooms reads, “How many times have you seen the words, ‘lezzie,’ ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ on the bathroom wall? What does this have to do with sexism and racism? What does homophobia have to do with you?” She says, “On a big level, I want to see people looking around them and then changing themselves, changing their language, changing the way they act.” Herne has been contacted by students in nearby towns who want to start their own such groups. YEAH’s founding sponsor is Planned Parenthood of Thompkins County, whose director said of the YEAH group, “One of the first things they did was educate themselves about their own homophobia. That’s a more mature approach than most adults might take.” Update: Catherine Herne earned a PhD in Applied Physics and went on to teach at Ithaca College, NY. Please LIKE this whole Page so you can get more heroes' stories!

BECAUSE WOMEN NEED GOOD-PAYING JOBS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut When Leslie Lilly pondered the fact that peanuts grow underground, she realized that lots of things are not as they appear. That recognition of hidden possibilities and the mystery of how things grow inspired her to found the Southeast Women’s Employment Coalition—SWEC—in the late 1970s, with an aim to breaking through the gender blockades to the financial flourishing of working class southern women. At the time, the women’s movement was mostly fostered by middle-class women in urban areas, not blue collar women from Appalachia. Then Lilly stepped in. Born to a poor southern family herself, she had few job opportunities beyond waitress, maid, secretary, or textile worker, the traditional options for poor women. Lilly roamed Appalachia speaking to women in their communities, enlisting a strong group to help her start SWEC. Operations began out of Lilly’s own home, with an initial focus was placing women in traditionally male jobs. “We started giving a name—occupational segregation—to what was going on,” says Lilly. “That was the first step in ending it.” SWEC got women good-paying jobs as coal miners and truck drivers. Then they did a lot of publicity shots of women in hard hats operating big machinery and pressured the road construction industry—big business in the South—to hire more women. SWEC added African-American women to their board at a time when that was daring and dangerous in the South; they became a multi-racial support network for political activists, providing political and technical training for political organizers as well as educational materials to the public around issues such as sexual harassment and tenant rights. “We had a deep sense of appreciation of the risks that we took,” said Lilly. “Not only in how we did the work, but also in how we brought issues of diversity and equality in decision-making into our organization.” UPDATE: Leslie Lilly is a columnist for Florida Weekly, covering politics, public policy and philanthropy. Her championing of women workers continued through other outlets including several years as president and CEO of a foundation that supports families in crisis, and now as a board member of Communities by Choice in Berea, Kentucky and the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio. Thanks for Liking this story. Now please LIKE this whole Page so you can see more great stories.

BECAUSE PEOPLE NEED LIGHT AND WATER #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Edwin Keyt was a contented guy. After being parted by WWII and by marriages to other people, Keyt was happily married to his childhood sweetheart, Barbara, and both were working at jobs they liked a lot at Evergreen State College in western Washington. Life was good. But there was a war in Nicaragua they cared deeply about and when a young engineer who was building rural dams and hydroelectric plants there was murdered by the Contras, Keyt, an engineer in his 60s, decided to take the murdered man's place. The Keyts drove to Nicaragua in April 1988—it took three weeks. Barbara flew back and Keyt stayed to help build those dams and hydroelectric plants so rural Nicaraguans could have power for electricity and clean water. Keyt and the shop where he usually worked came under hostile fire repeatedly. But he believed that the work was important, and he stayed. It was supposed to be for a few months, but there kept being more to do. For five years he trained machinists, built structures, and he tried to adapt to living in a country where the government was in chaos, and he was repeatedly ill and constantly homesick—all at an age when most Americans have retired. When Keyt finally returned and resumed his quiet life, he made several more trips to Nicaragua because there was still so much more to be done. Speaking of Ed's struggles in Nicaragua, Barbara Keyt says, “It wasn't easy, but we knew he was doing something that was really necessary.” There are people across the Nicaraguan countryside who have light and clean water because Ed Keyt gave five years of his life to make it happen. Update: Keyt died in December of 2009. Like this Giraffe Hero? That's great–now please LIKE this whole Page so you can get more great stories. (Liking just this story isn't enough for Facebook's system to see you. We know. It's ridiculous.)

TURNING PAIN INTO PURPOSE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Shalisa Hayes knows too much about violent deaths; she was only five years old when her father was killed. She grew up wanting to help children like herself—children whose families had been shattered. Then her own teen-aged son, Billy Ray, was killed by random gunfire at a party. For many, such horrors drive them into devastated silence. But Hayes had a mission. Billy Ray had said their East Tacoma neighborhood should have a community center. A community center, he said, would be a place for young people like him to have fun, be safe, and not get in trouble. “I stood up at his funeral in front of five hundred people,” remembers Hayes, “and said, ‘He wanted a community center. We've got to make it happen.’” Since then, getting that center for the kids has been the overriding purpose of Shalisa Hayes’ life. Wanting a community center doesn’t mean getting a community center. Hayes set about learning how to put together the money it would take. First, a group of Billy Ray’s peers raised more than $700. Then Hayes formed the Billy Ray Shirley, III Foundation to bring in more donations and government grants. She gives talks in front of groups, advocating for the center, for giving East Tacoma’s kids a safe place to be. She goes after grants from government and foundations. After long, arduous efforts, she had enough to begin building a 60,000-square-foot community center that will include a gym, a social hall, a pool, a recording studio, and even test kitchens where people can learn to cook. The center is due to be completed in 2018. In our photograph, she stands on the land where the community center Billy Ray wanted is being built. But Hayes has done more than secure funds for a building. The Foundation provides “programs and resources necessary to engage youth in conversation and activities that will promote positive life choices.” It does outreach to young people like Billy Ray and helps them stay on a safe and secure path to adulthood. Everything she's doing to create the center reminds Hayes of her son’s death. Through the work, she's come into contact with other mothers who have experienced similar heartbreak. So Hayes helped start Mothers of Magnitude which offers peer support group meetings and grief coaching with a goal of “transforming pain into purpose.” The organization brings together mothers who have lost a child and helps them resolve their grief and contribute to their communities. “Transforming pain into purpose”: That’s exactly what Shalisa Hayes has done, transforming her son’s death into a legacy that will help many young people in the future. You can follow her work at www.billyray.org and at www.mothersofmagnitude.com. Like this Giraffe Hero? Please LIKE this whole Page so you can get more great stories. And do Share!

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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...

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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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....

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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.

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Nobis Est - It's Up To Us

Meet people who stick their necks out for the common good, all of them commended by the Giraffe Heroes Project, the nonprofit that's "EnCouraging today's heroes - training tomorrow's." Check out http://www.giraffe.org for more stories, and for a way to honor your own hero.

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