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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

PROTECTING THE LAND FROM TOXINS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Very few people would be willing to put their bodies between some beautiful land and an airplane spraying the powerful herbicide 2,4—D. Giraffe Leon Carney did just that, determined to stop county authorities in Chandler, Minnesota from spreading the toxin over two sections of prairie he owned and had been carefully nurturing. A week later, the plane was back, this time with sheriff’s deputies in support. Carney was away and the spraying was completed without a hitch. The county then sent Carney a bill that he adamantly refused to pay. When everything he had planted on the land died – except for the thistles the sprayers were trying to kill – he sent the county his own bill for his loss–and they refused to pay. When the tug-of-war got to court, Carney proved he had taken safe and proper measures to control the thistles. A witness from the Nature Conservancy told the court that spraying thistles in late August, as the County had done, “is like pissing in the wind.” The County weed inspector said she had made her determination by surveying Carney’s hilly 320 acres with binoculars, from an adjacent town. It turned out she had no education in weed control and the judge ruled she should have gotten some competent advice before ordering the spraying. A higher court ruled that state law did not require that weed inspectors be competent, only that they be able to read and write and drive a car. Leon Carney is challenging the state on that one, demanding that these inspectors be trained in the knowledge of both weeds and chemicals. Carney wrote eloquently to a friend about his crusade: “I would be putting contempt in the face of God if I do not seek to protect His creation. Since my fight is of this nature, I cannot lose this war even if an occasional battle is lost. Whatever I win will be used to repair the damages to the earth and to motivate more repair. I think I have finally heard my calling…I will fight for it and chant for it from now until I am gone.” Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

NEW LIVES FOR BURNED WOMEN #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut According to the World Health Organization four million women a year are severely burned; more than half of them live in Southeast Asia, and almost all live in poverty. The burns are excruciating and often crippling, even life-threatening. And yet proper burn treatment is all but nonexistent for the world’s poor. Chandini Perera MD is changing that in Sri Lanka. Perera is a plastic surgeon who does reconstructive surgery on her country’s burn victims, and helps them rebuild their lives in a society that considers them outcasts. She has established Sri Lanka’s only burn center, a place where burn victims, usually women who are desperately poor, receive the surgery, treatment, and rehabilitation that are often necessary for a burn victim to have a productive life. Within a day of receiving a burn that affects 20% or more of the body, the victim goes into shock. If the burn isn’t treated, the skin contracts and affected parts of the body become fused. “Then the person becomes disabled, truly disfigured,” Perera said. “A severe burn is a painful condition,” Perera has said, “emotionally and physically. The treatment is painful. The follow-up is painful. The response from society is painful. Burn survivors are like someone with a terminal illness, except that they don’t die. They actually live, but you can’t see them. They can’t come out because society will not accept them.” Perera’s work is not highly valued, even within the medical community. She has trouble getting other sections of her own hospital to allow burn victims into their waiting rooms because their disfigurement is considered an ill omen. Treating burn victims is a low priority for most other plastic surgeons, she reports. They want the satisfaction of making their patients beautiful. “You can’t make a burn beautiful,” Perera said, “but you can make it better. You take a person who has been deformed or crippled or defaced, and you’re able to make that person better. That person can be functional again. Then it’s the beauty of the person who has survived all of this that comes out.” Burns are the only injury that happens more frequently to women than to men. Some severe burns happen by accident where open fires are used for cooking. Some burns—all of the acid burns—are domestic violence or homicidal acts. But fully 75 percent of the burns Perera treats are self-inflicted by women who have been so abused and crushed by the circumstances of their lives that they’ve tried to kill themselves. Perera speaks out publicly about violence against women, a subject people do not want to hear about, but she feels the most important work she does is to encourage and empower women who felt their only option was self-immolation. The needs Perera is trying to meet are at times overwhelming and the work itself can be exhausting. There were times, especially in the beginning, when she wanted to quit. But the satisfactions of the work keep her going. “In the clinic a really good day for me,” Perera said, “is when a patient who has been seriously burned, has been depressed, comes in with a smile, dressed well, and says, ‘Did you know my children are in school… I’ve just started a business.’ With that they’ve just given me so much more than I ever gave them. They’ve given me something I could never buy.” Chandini Perera has helped heal and empower more than 15,000 burn victims. You can follow her work at http://www.resurge.org/transforming_lives/story_kanchana.cfm Photo by fellow Giraffe Hero Phil Borges. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

DOING A 180 INTO A LIFE OF SERVICE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut The early years of Robert Alsbrooks’ life did not bode well for him or for anyone around him. As a 17-year-old drug dealer he had a flashy car, cash to burn and a reputation for being dangerous. That reputation was proved out when he was sentenced to seven years for shooting a rival dealer. Now, he’s a dad, a computer programmer, the founder of a nonprofit that’s transforming his old neighborhood, and co-founder of another one that’s bringing hope and change to communities in Africa. All the energy and drive Alsbrooks once put into dealing is now focused on making positive change in the world, despite the ever-present lure of illegal money and the constant taunts of the neighborhood tough guys. Alsbrooks says prison was a huge wake-up call, describing the emotional impact of seeing hundreds of black men behind cell bars. He determined that he would break free from the life that could put him back behind bars again and again, like his fellow inmates. When he returned to his Philadelphia neighborhood, Alsbrooks caught the attention of the late GIRAFFE HERO Herman Wrice, who knew a potential community activist when he saw one. Wrice said that Alsbrooks had come out of prison without bitterness and determined to do right. The older man backed the younger one with capital to start a fruit-selling business and with the wisdom of his own years of doing right in the community. Alsbrooks got a research job at the University of Pennsylvania, took classes at a community college, and made plans to attend the Wharton School of Business. At Wharton, he met GIRAFFE HERO Eddie Bergman, with whom he co-founded Miracle Corners of the World, a nonprofit that’s doing community projects in Tanzania. Alsbrooks has made repeated journeys to that country to assist in community development. Back home, one of his many nonprofit programs teaches entrepreneurship to people in his own neighborhood. It’s quite a schedule. But Rob Alsbrooks, a man who has chosen to recast his life as one of service, is not about to slow down. You can try to keep up with his action here: http://mcwglobal.org/Accordion.asp?cid=12 Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

Giraffe Heroes

"In this world everything changes except good deeds and bad deeds; these follow you as the shadow follows the body."— Ruth Benedict #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote

This one bears repeating--not to freak you out, but we think she was right. We hope menny menny good deeds are shadowing you.

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 https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Bill-Thomas-43716439314/?fref=ts 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.

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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