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  • WELCOME

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!

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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

BECAUSE CORRUPTION MUST BE STOPPED #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Jacob Zuma is the president of South Africa, and here’s what 23-year-old journalist Kavisha Pillay says about him: “South Africa sometimes seems like a broken home, with Zuma being that father who left.” She’s written that to him and about him. Why? Zuma has used almost $20 million of taxpayer money to renovate his private estate and has refused a demand from South Africa’s Public Protector to pay it back. Pillay has no tolerance for such graft: “As a result of Zuma’s actions, we are going backwards as a country. Because of how he has acted, he has plunged a promising country into a deep moral crisis.” She has repeatedly chastised him publicly for his actions. In 2012, Pillay graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a degree in journalism. Soon after that, she joined Corruption Watch, an activist organization, as a “digital communications manager.” Looking into public corruption, her eyes were opened. She’d had no idea of the amount of corruption that seems to be rampant throughout South Africa: “My job is to keep people informed about what’s happening around corruption in this country. Right now, there’s, unfortunately, a lot to say.” For example, 10 principals of South Africa schools were caught pocketing money that was meant to feed impoverished students; Pillay’s work at Corruption Watch helped expose them. The country’s Department of Education took note and announced that it was taking steps to make sure such behaviors don’t recur. As might be expected, however—especially by those who are familiar with the plights of whistle-blowers—there was also a negative result: Pillay reports that several members of the ruling African National Congress Party have let it be known that, “Corruption Watch should really be mindful about the people they hire, and it shouldn’t employ people like me.” Others disagree with that, particularly the 10,000 people who have already reported corruption to Pillay and her organization. Pillay is not as concerned about her job as she is about her country. On the one hand, she’s continually depressed by how much corruption she sees. On the other hand, she’s buoyed by the support she’s received from her fellow citizens. “Maybe because of my age,” she says, “I’m still naive and I feel like I can change the world, but I don’t think I was put on this earth just to consume oxygen. I think I have a greater purpose. . . . Why not do something that is not in your own self-interest but benefits the rest of society?” Update: Mounting public outrage has led to demands that Zuma pay back the stolen funds and resign from office. He survived an impeachment vote but the demands for his resignation continue. And Pillay continues to report on corruption wherever she finds it. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

COACHING TEENS INTO BETTER LIVES #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Mel Blount was a star cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and voted into the Hall of Fame. But it’s not just sports fans who think Mel Blount is great. Since he retired from football, he’s been sticking his neck out to provide a home and positive direction to young men in trouble. Mel Blount started his first youth home in Vidalia, Georgia, his home town, where hundreds of young men who were once in trouble have turned their lives around. When Blount moved to Claysville PA, he bought a 250-acre farm and built his second youth home there. He was greeted by a smear campaign and threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Undeterred, Blount opened the doors of the Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville, taking in hundreds more troubled teens. Blount’s football career had begun quite inauspiciously—he did so poorly he even thought about quitting. But with the help of his coach, he changed his attitude and improved 100%. Blount now gives that coaching to the young men in his youth homes, which he would like to expand all over the US. Blount says, “There’s one thing we need to understand as black people. We’re losing our kids faster than we can even imagine. We’ve got to get behind one another, support each other, and get together to make a difference.” You can follow his work at www.mbyh.org. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

THE ONE-WOMAN SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCY #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Environmentalist Lilyann Brannon didn’t expect to be helping the homeless when she set out to protect the Guadalupe River in her hometown of San Jose, but that’s what happened. While organizing clean up days at the river, she began noticing how many homeless people were camped in the area, and it just came naturally to help. She brought food to those who were hungry, provided blankets and clothes, and even created an occasional Sunday barbecue by the river. Her efforts grew to preparing weekly meals for over 200 people, using her own money from her job as a receptionist at Apple Computers, and her own kitchen. She served meals at a local park in San Jose until the city closed the park, then she moved to a local social service center. The more she got to know the homeless, the more they trusted her. She even provided alarm clocks or bus fare for those who needed to make it to a job interview on time. “Whatever they ask, I just try to help out, like a relative – which we all are,” explained Brannon. Brannon became a one-woman social service agency to a forgotten group of people. Her work doesn’t just threaten her pocket book – some of the areas where she works are extremely dangerous. But because of Brannon, 4 out of 6 people who have been living under the San Fernando Bridge for the last four years are now well on their way to becoming contributing members of the community. “When you go to bed at night and put your head on the pillow, you think: ‘Gosh, there are people who don’t even have a pillow, don’t have a door to close,’” says Brannon. “But they’re just like us, people from all walks of life. They’re people too.” Brannon’s work with the homeless doesn’t get in the way of her environmental efforts—in 1976 she helped establish four organic community gardens to help the poor become more self-sufficient. She’s fighting to save the only one left – the West Garden by the San Jose library, which is in danger of being turned into a parking lot. “Once you see what’s going on, you can’t just walk away,” she says. “That’s all there is to it.” Update: We did this story in 1989. Brannon told us this week, "I'm still vertical." And she's still that one-woman social services agency, at 94. She's renting storage units for homeless people, providing bus tokens, and giving them lifts to interviews and appointments. "I got my driver's license renewed last week." Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

RESCUING THE CHILDREN OF WAR #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Dr. Michael Viola and his wife, Kathleen Viola, dodge missiles in war-torn countries to deliver medical supplies and bring children back to the United States for care. We all know that children shouldn’t be casualties of war. But they often are. And when children are injured or become sick in times of war, they frequently can’t get the help they need because medical supplies are unavailable and hospitals don’t function at full capacity. After the first Gulf War, the Violas and the group they founded—Medicine for Peace—brought three-year old Sarah, a Turkomen from northern Iraq, to New York for surgery to close a hole in her heart. Rasha, a three-year old Sunni Muslim from Baghdad, had the same surgery in New Jersey. Six-year old Saif, who suffered terrible burns after a bomb blew up his Baghdad home and killed his parents, had a series of surgeries on his face and hands. A small nonprofit organization, Medicine for Peace can bring back only a few children each year; they choose young patients who suffer from surgically fixable problems and are well enough to travel, and they recruit U.S. doctors and hospitals to donate their services. It can be heartbreaking to recognize the amount of need in places like Iraq, whose health care system has been set back decades by war. But the Violas are sure they're doing the right thing. “I’m not saying you get an enormous reward,” Michael explains. “There’s nothing rewarding about mass graves or large numbers of children dying of starvation, but you realize you’re having an impact in some small way.” Medicine for Peace was born during the civil war in El Salvador. Dr. Viola, then head of the cancer center at SUNY/Stony Brook, organized a group of doctors to collect and send medical supplies to village clinics in that war-ravaged country. War can cripple the medical systems of any country. Before the first Gulf War, there were 40 high quality hospitals in Iraq, 10 of which were considered world class. “Now they practice a different kind of medicine,” says Michael, “the kind doctors did in the 1920s.” In 1991 Iraq, 70,000-100,000 children died under the age of 6, compared to 20,000 just two years earlier. Medicine for Peace helps children in El Salvador, Bosnia, Iraq, Haiti, and the United States. The Violas are aware of the political implications of the organization’s work. In Iraq, for example, they are met with surprise and sometimes hostility by people who believe that Americans are the enemy. “Perhaps it will be important later at a human level,” he says. “It’s good for the Iraqis to know that some Americans feel differently about the war and the embargo and the kids who are sick.” Kathleen Viola is amazed by the Iraqi families who send their children to the U.S. for medical care. “I was impressed with the trust these people have in us,” she says, “and the responsibility we have to care for and protect their children when they are here.” Follow their work at www.medicineforpeace.org. Like these Giraffes? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

In a few days, you'll have a great chance to help us honor real heroes, tell the world their stories, and give people the tools they need to make a difference in the world. On Tuesday May 3, the Seattle Foundation will add some bucks to every gift we receive online, large or small. Stand by, OK? We'll send you the link, and we'll deeply appreciate anything you chip in.

BECAUSE PEOPLE NEED THE RESPITE OF NATURE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Pharmacist Claude (Tony) Look rallied his community to preserve old growth trees near Cupertino, California. He’d seen first-hand what happens when denuded hillsides can no longer absorb heavy rainfall; his family’s grave sites were washed away when a flood destroyed the town of Bull Creek. It was the 60s, and commercial interests were pressing to develop the slopes near the Big Basin Redwood State Park. Look got the community involved and managed to raise enough money for the State to buy the land and keep it open to the public, giving city dwellers access to this magnificent heritage. He revived the dormant Sempervirens Fund, and set up its operations in the back room of his pharmacy. For 8 years, he donated his time as director, then retired from the pharmacy to lead the Fund full-time. The Fund has bought 6,500 acres for Big Basin and 2,000 acres for Castle Rock State Parks—all with donations from individuals and organizations. Another of his accomplishments: He marshaled more than 1,000 volunteers to build the 33-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail—in one weekend. The key to continued success, Look believes, lies in linking the idea of preservation with urban development, so people in burgeoning cities have the respite of undeveloped land nearby. “We need development, yes, but we also need open space,” he says. “It’s important that we plan carefully for both.” Update: Tony Look died in 2006. He was 88. His work goes on at https://sempervirens.org/, tagline: "Between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean / Where People and Wildlife Thrive." Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

Recent Giraffe Heroes

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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.

This is an injury that women can...

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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.

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

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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.