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SHE SAW IT COMING AND TRIED TO STOP IT ~ Alayne Fleischmann Writing about—reading about—whistleblowers can be maddening. Here’s someone who’s trying to do the right thing, to help others, to protect others, who’s risking a lot to stand up to the powers-that-be, and what does she get for her troubles? Often, she gets persecution, harassment, damage of reputation, loss of career, and sometimes even physical threats. Not infrequently, the whistleblowing comes to naught: The bad guys persevere. Luckily, whistleblowers are by their nature made of stern stuff: They blow the whistle for two main reasons: One reason is to right a wrong. And the other reason—well, regardless of the consequences, it’s the right thing to do. Case in point: Alayne Fleischmann. Fleischmann grew up in a small town in British Columbia, Canada, and studied law, specializing in two somewhat different interests: human rights and banking securities. Early on, she got a job at JPMorgan Chase. Chase is no penny ante company: The global financial services firm has assets of $2.4 trillion, it operates in more than 60 countries, and it employs over a quarter of a million people. Fleischmann assumed it operated on the up and up. Alayne Fleischmann’s job was to examine Chase’s acquisitions to make sure they were of respectable quality. After all, you wouldn’t want your company to pick up, for example, dubious home loans and repackage them as mortgage securities. Soon, however, came a warning sign: Fleischmann’s department manager forbade the use of inter- or outer-office Emails, or of any other type of writing, when inspecting mortgage deals. “If you sent him an e-mail,” said Fleischmann, “he would actually come out and yell at you. The whole point of having a compliance and diligence group is to have policies that are set out clearly in writing. So to have exactly the opposite of that—that was very worrisome.” It would get even more worrisome. Fleischmann noted that some “deals” were clearly fraudulent, and to the detriment of Chase’s investors. Chase was buying up terrible loans and reselling them. “Everything that I thought was bad at the time,” Fleischmann soon realized, “turned out to be a million times worse.” She alerted her superiors to the problem. She gave detailed descriptions of what was going on. The mortgages being accepted by Chase involved overstated incomes, high risks of non-payment. They just didn’t meet Chase’s stated standards, and were likely to default. She was doing her job of making sure the deals were high quality. She was fired. The rest, as they say, is history. The economy of the US and much of the world went to hell, the machinations of Chase and other major banks were discovered, but nothing much happened as a punishment; the institutions were “too big to fail.” Fleischmann was not questioned; her exit from Chase included a gag order that she was honoring. Until she hit a breaking point, saying later, “I tried to go on with the things I was doing, but I just stopped sleeping and couldn’t eat. It felt like I was trying to keep this secret and my body was literally rejecting it." Despite the gag order she testified against Chase, helping the Justice Department raise the bank's settlement offer of $3 billion to $13 billion. Unfortunately, the terms of the deal did not include an admission of guilt and did include some maddening terms: $4 billion of the sum was “consumer relief” that would be paid not by Chase but by Chase’s victims. And Chase could treat $7 billion as a tax write-off. It was a flawed agreement, but Fleischmann was glad she testified. “It’s almost like I’m a part of the cover-up if I don’t say something. Securities fraud is just stealing. And I would never be a part of that.” A spokesman for the Better Markets financial reform group says that the settlement “was unprecedented in many ways, including being very carefully crafted to bypass the court system. There can be little doubt that the DOJ and JPMorgan were trying to avoid disclosure of their dirty deeds and prevent public scrutiny of their sweetheart deal.” After she saw reports of the U.S. Attorney General saying that no bank is “too big to jail,” she spoke to the media. She was interviewed again and again. She talked to anyone who would listen about what she’d found and about what had not happened, appalled that Chase had not been subject to criminal charges. “How is it possible,” she asked, “that you can have this much fraud and not a single person has done anything criminal?” Her going public did not help her job search, of course. Companies tend to be nervous about hiring whistleblowers. Jobless or not, she retains the soul of a whistleblower: “For me,” she says, “it’s not necessarily about winning. It’s about trying—and not being part of something I don’t agree with.”

Here's a Giraffe Hero who definitely understands Memorial Day. Michael Reagan, a veteran of combat duty himself as a Marine in Vietnam, gave up a lucrative post-service career as a portrait artist to do free portraits of the dead in US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving each grieving family a stunning remembrance of their lost one. You can follow his work at

CHOOSING HAITI AND HAITIANS' DREAMS If you could do just about anything you wanted to do, would you choose to assist the people of Haiti in achieving their dreams? That's what John Engle decided to do in 1991, and he's been on the job ever since. It hasn't been easy. There's been a military coup, a dictatorship, public corruption, random violence, an earthquake, epidemics, the day-to-day strain of living in an impoverished and dangerous place. "The legacy of violence, brutal exploitation, slavery, colonialism and the hatred that it all breeds, coats the fabric of this society," Engle has said. "I know it. I live it. This is a place where giving one person a job and not another can lead to death." But in and out of Haiti, Engle is on the case. He's started service non-profits there and introduced democratic community processes, all with the goal of assisting Haitians in doing what they want to do: build and run good schools, stop inhumane actions in prisons and violence against women and girls, end child slavery, construct safer buildings, and make society fair and efficient for all. He's a voice for Haiti in the halls of power, championing the nation to the World Bank, USAID, and to the world-wide public. And he wants you to know that it's not some joyless struggle. He describes himself as blessed by the people of Haiti, by their courage, humor, and their drive to make life better despite all odds. Keep up with his work at

A VISITOR GETS INVOLVED #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes To heal herself after the sudden death of her husband, Margaret Trost visited Haiti on a service project—and was so touched by the people’s spirit in the face of unrelenting poverty that, after she was home again in California, she couldn’t forget them. Trost describes conditions in Haiti in her book On That Day Everybody Ate: “Four and a half million people—more than half the population—live on less than $1 per day. Safe drinking water is not regularly accessible to over a third of the population. The countryside is 97 percent deforested. Haiti has a 70 percent unemployment rate, a 50 percent literacy rate and the worst health statistics in the Western world." While Trost was in Port-au-Prince, she heard a Catholic priest say that children constantly told him they were hungry. He dreamed of having food to give them. Once Trost was back in the easy comfort of her life in Berkeley, she remembered the priest’s dream and thought, What if I could help him with that? It didn’t take much. On an initial grant of just $5,000, Margaret Trost started the What If? Foundation, partnering with the Haitian priest to fulfill his vision. In March 2000 the Foundation was providing wholesome, hearty meals for 400 children every Sunday. In the years since, Trost has gone back into the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince any number of times, ignoring the dangers to herself, a blan (a white, a foreigner), so that she can meet with the Haitians handling the organization’s on-the-ground operations. “I think it’s critical to be working with the Haitian community, for them to be running the programs,” Trost said. “They’ve designed the food program so that it works.” They have, indeed. They have increased the frequency of the meals (from one to five days a week), they feed more children (2,000 at a time), and they've expanded the mission. What started in the kitchen has now moved into the classroom as well. Schools aren’t free in Haiti. The What If? Foundation is now investing in Haiti’s future by paying for the schooling of more than 200 students, and there are plans underway to build a new school, a community center, and to form a technical training facility. When a devastating earthquake struck the country in 2010, no one at the food center was hurt, the building remained intact, and within a few days of the quake, while food distribution was not working throughout much of Port-au-Prince, the What if? Foundation was successfully feeding as many as 5,000 people a day. Trost was soon back in Haiti again, working with the Haitian team. She said, “I love having the opportunity to be in partnership with these people of Haiti to right some of these wrongs, to do the little we can to help these children,” says Margaret Trost. “They’ve taught me that it’s always important to take a step, that every bit matters.” Follow her work at Year commended: 2011 Occupation: Homemaker

CHANGING THE EQUATION AND SAVING LIVES Victoria Hale was a pharmaceutical-company executive when she noticed an inhuman equation: only 10 percent of the industry’s R&D budget addresses infections in developing countries, where 90 percent of all infections occur. The reason? The diseases of poverty don’t bring in profits so for-profit corporations don't have the business model for creating and marketing such drugs. Hale, who is a biochemist, an economist, and a business visionary, decided to remove profits from the equation. In 2000 she formed the Institute for OneWorld Health, the first non-profit pharmaceutical company in the U.S., so that the medications to overcome debilitating and often fatal infections can be distributed to the people who most need them. It's interesting that, for the most part, these drugs have already been discovered. What Hale is doing is to set up the means by which they can be made available in the developing world. “When I was at the FDA,” she said, “I saw many companies walk away from beautiful medicines because the market just wasn’t big enough.” One case-in-point is an anti-malarial drug that can vanquish night sweats, fever dreams, and strength-sapping worms in the blood in three days flat. The problem was that at $1.50 a treatment cycle, the people who need this medication couldn’t afford to buy it. Hale stepped in, and put OneWorld Health on track to provide a steady supply of this medication for the 500 million people who become infected with malaria each year. OneWorld Health is also working to develop and distribute drugs to treat black fever, Chagas disease, plus parasitic infections of the intestine and the other diarrheal diseases that kill almost 2 million children every year. Hale asks, “Why in the 21st century are there people who have medicine for any disease, any complaint, while in other parts of the world, millions of babies die of diarrhea?” She left her fast-track career in the pharmaceutical industry after the miscarriage of her second child, a personally devastating event over which she saw that she had no control. At that point she began exploring ways she could make a difference in the world—the ambition that had led her to pharmaceutical work in the first place. In researching the grim realities of global health, Hale found herself haunted by one appalling but accepted fact: 10 million children die each year from infectious diseases. When she realized that every year 10 million sets of parents undergo the same personal tragedy she had experienced, Hale thought, “I have to do something about this.” Year commended: 2010 Update: OneWorld is now a program of PATH Drug Development.

TO THE RESCUE—AND FAST! Another Giraffe commendation from 1990-- Connecticut businessman Bob Macauley is an impulsive guy. In 1975 when he read about the crash of a planeload of Vietnamese orphans bound for the U.S., he picked up a phone and chartered a plane to bring the survivors to America for medical treatment and adoption. Then he had to find $251,000 to cover the check he'd written Pan American Airways. His struggling new business had him strapped, but he twisted arms to get a mortgage on his house; by Monday morning, the check was good. He’s still paying off the mortgage, but the kids got to the States and the care they needed. In 1982 when the Pope asked him if he could “do something” to help Poland, Macauley, who’s not even a Catholic, said, “Certainly, Your Holiness.” He then talked pharmaceutical companies into donating 85,000 pounds of urgently needed medical supplies, which he airlifted to Poland, plus 3.5 million pounds of chocolate for children’s Christmas treats. Macauley had found his mission, and his fast-moving organization, Americares, was born. Macauley boasts that he gets “more bang for the buck” than other relief organizations. The Americares budget is lean, and its distribution system is fast. Lives are at stake and Macauley vaults over red tape to arrive in record time. Macauley remains the driving force behind the organization. Though still chairman of the board of the successful company he built, he spends 95% of his time working the phones at Americares, contacting every corporate connection he has so that Americares can transform every dollar he raises into $50 worth of aid. He could be using those dynamite sales skills of his for his own profit, but Macauley is proud to say, “I’m just a beggar.” A world-class one--Macauley begged $100 million in aid last year which Americares sped to people around the globe. And it all started with a rubber check. Update: Bob Macauley was the CEO of Americares until 2002 and remained its Chairman until his death in 2010. Americares has distributed over $10 billion of aid to 147 countries (including the US), with an emphasis on disaster relief. Macauley has received many humanitarian awards for his efforts, including the President’s Action Award and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award. You can follow the work he started at #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes

RUNNING THEN, RUNNING NOW Here's another 1990 Giraffe profile, with a this-minute update: Would you run a mile for a good cause? How about 10 miles? 50 miles? How about 9,000 miles? That’s what @Brent Nicholson Earle did. The good cause was AIDS prevention, and in 1986 he ran in the American Run for the End of AIDS (A.R.E.A.), starting in New York City and covering 9,000 miles around the perimeter of the United States. Trailed by his mother in her old maroon Buick, Earle averaged 22 miles a day, six days a week for 20 months, confronting jeers, harassment, death threats, and one of his worst fears, desert snakes. He spoke about AIDS in every community he visited, hoping to bring awareness to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Earle also raised $300,000 with the help of local AIDS relief organizations. In the months of his run, 25 of his friends died of AIDS. Soon Earle himself found that he’d contracted HIV. If anything, it spurred him on to new activism. In 1990 he ran the “Rainbow Run” from San Francisco to Vancouver, British Columbia. This signaled the opening of “Gay Games III,” which sought to raise more funds to combat AIDS. Meanwhile, the disease continued to take its toll on people Earle knew. He kept on. In his third run in 1994, he led a team of seven on roller skates from San Francisco to New York, the site of “Gay Games IV.” Through his campaigns, Earle continually battled the negative stereotypes about the gay and lesbian community. He worked hard to shed a positive light on those who were instrumental in forwarding the culture of the gay and lesbian life in North America. Despite his own illness, he kept running—people had to understand what was happening. He was fighting against both AIDS and the homophobic mentality that pitted “us” against “them.” Since his initial runs, Earle has racked up some prestigious honors. He also founded the International Rainbow Memorial Run, which carries the rainbow flag from San Francisco around the world to the city hosting the next Gay Games. It promotes both AIDS awareness and breast cancer prevention. He lives in New York City and is still an activist. Update: Earle is still championing AIDS research and prevention and wants you to know there's an AIDS walk today in New York City.

A federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of Sister Megan Rice, who has been serving time for "sabotage." The court said there was no way Rice's actions were the danger to the nation the prosecution described. But it certainly was embarrassing that a little old lady could cut through a fence and walk into a supposedly secure nuclear facility. She sang hymns there, waiting to be arrested. Waiting for hours. She will be released very soon--and has a lot to say now about the conditions in which she and the other women prisoners are being held. Rice is 85.

BEFORE HER NOBEL, SHE WAS A GIRAFFE This is a 1990 Giraffe profile: Wangari Maathai, a professor of biology at Nairobi University in Kenya, could simply enjoy the prestige and security of being a highly educated, well-paid woman in a country where most women lead far different lives. Instead, she founded a movement that has set out to transform those women’s lives and the entire economy of her nation. This is clearly a positive mission, but it has put Maathai in great personal danger. Her Green Belt Movement has enlisted over 80,000 rural women in planting and tending over 20 million trees. Everywhere that the movement is strong, the villages and the countryside are green with gracious trees that give bananas, mangoes, and papayas to people who remember starvation and malnutrition. The people in these areas see that their own local women have brought about this transformation to health, beauty and economic independence. But to the one-party government of strongman Daniel Arap Moi, such independence is “subversive.” President Moi has blamed Maathai for giving so many people the idea that they can take charge of their own lives; he has had her imprisoned repeatedly for defying his dictatorship, but she will not be silenced. Working in the city as well as the countryside, she organized demonstrations to stop the building of a skyscraper in Nairobi’s only park. Moi put her in jail again, but the people’s protest and her letters to the building’s financiers caused them to withdraw from the project. The city of Nairobi still has a people’s park. And in the country, the women of the Green Belt tend their trees, feed their families, and walk tall—like Wangari Maathai. Year commended: 1990 Occupation: Community Organizer Professor Maathai died in 2011

THE YOUNGEST GIRAFFE EVER AND HER GIRAFFE BIG SISTER It started so simply. Ken Adams, who is half-Japanese, introduced his two daughters—Katherine, 6, and Isabelle, 9—to origami, the Japanese art of paper-folding. The girls got quite good at it, and the family decided this could be a way to raise funds for the needy. But which needy? Who should benefit? They’d heard that over two million people die each year from unclean water, and they knew of an organization, Living Water International, that helped build wells in countries around the world. So the girls looked at a globe and chose a country to benefit from their origami sales: Ethiopia. So in November 2011, the girls arranged to show 35 of their origami ornaments at a coffee shop near their home in Dallas; the first evening, all of the ornaments had been sold. They went back home to make more and sold all of those on the second night. The girls kept folding, kept selling, and were featured in a local newspaper article that attracted a one-to-one match from a Dallas businessman. At this point their income from sales was up to $3,400, and the match made it $6,800. Katherine and Isabelle increased their production of ornaments. “Folding like crazy,” said Isabelle. They raised $9,200, enough to build the well in Ethiopia. Then they set a goal to raise enough money for ten more wells, which would mean folding 37,000 more sheets of paper. This time they recruited friends, neighbors, classmates, classmates’ parents, and students from another school to help. In 13 months, they raised more than $120,000—$70,000 from origami sales and donations, and the balance from matching funds. All of it went to Living Water International. The girls have not only made ornaments; they’ve also publicized the need for clean water. They’ve appeared on TV, spoken at a United Nations conference, and met with the ambassador from India. Their project, “Paper for Water,” means that other girls halfway around the world have the opportunity to go to school because they won’t be lugging water all day. And it means that fewer people will die from the diseases borne in dirty water. The girls’ mother, Deborah, is astounded by it all. “The most incredible things have happened,” she marvels. “Every day when they’re leaving the house, I’m like, ‘Something amazing is going to happen today.’ And it does.” Not yet even teenagers, Katherine and Isabelle have already made their mark on the world. Update: Commended in 2013, the Adams girls and their recruits have now raised more than half a million dollars for clean-water wells in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, India, Mexico, Uganda, Peru, and Zimbabwe, as well as Ethiopia. That's a lot of paper-folding. Keep up with their work at

OK, the 24 hours of GiveBig have begun. Just click to the Giraffe Heroes Page set up by the Seattle Foundation and make a gift, large or small, to this work. The Foundation will add to your dollars and enter you in a drawing for a "door-prize." And we'll be madly grateful for your help.

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.

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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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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...