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  • WELCOME

This nonprofit honors Giraffe Heroes—compassionate risk-takers 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.

When we tell their stories over social and traditional media, others are moved to stick their necks out too, helping solve significant public problems important to them. Our books, blogs, curricula, speeches and trainings help them succeed.

As long as there are Giraffe Heroes , there's hope. Telling the series of heroes may be the oldest strategy in the world for motivating people into brave, compassionate action—and it works.

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STANDING UP FOR CAMBODIAN LIVES #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Pung Chhiv Kek made a promise when she was a very sick child–if she recovered, she'd be a doctor and help other children live. She did just that. When she was seven years old, she contracted malaria. Cambodian medical services being what they were at that time, it was not diagnosed accurately, and she was given antibiotics. She lost a lot of weight and a lot of hair. "I was very skinny," she said, "and waiting to die." She promised herself that if she recovered, she'd study medicine and spend the rest of her life helping others, especially children. Luckily for Kek, her father—who was a government official not a doctor—diagnosed the disease, gave Kek quinine, and saved her. Jump ahead a couple of decades: Kek has now kept the first part of her promise and earned a medical degree, in France. She provides medical services in not only Cambodia but also Canada, Brazil, and Angola. But in the 1970s, Cambodia is torn apart by war. Not only that, but in 1971 Kek's parents leave Cambodia for their own medical reasons and, for some unknown reason, they're labeled as traitors and forbidden to return. Years later, however, Kek is in the right place at the right time. She meets soon-to-be-elected-president-of-France Francois Mitterand, who promises her that if he's elected, he'll help with the situation in Cambodia. He wins, and he and Kek arrange negotiations between the warring parties. In 1991 the Paris Peace Accords are signed, and Kek returns to Cambodia. There, she creates the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights—LICADHO (a French acronym). LICADHO monitors human rights violations in Cambodia, provides legal representation and humanitarian assistance to victims of abuse, monitors prisons, and offers programs to protect women's rights and children's rights. It also supports unions, offers training, and conducts public advocacy and outreach. LICADHO started with a staff of 10; that has grown to well over 100. Today the organization has a main office in Phnom Penh and subsidiary offices in 13 provinces throughout the country. It has not been an easy road for Kek or LICADHO. Not everyone agrees, for example, that women and children should have rights. Many of the staff have been threatened, sued, or arrested. "Many times," says Kek, "our staff . . . receive threats on the phone asking them whether they want to die, how many bullets do they want, et cetera." Kek herself has had to flee Cambodia several times because of these threats. Still, the child that so many years ago promised to help others has come through. "For me," says Kek, now in her 70's, "human rights are a part of your life—universal and for everybody. We have to stick to that principle. You can't say we'll think of feeding our stomachs first and the rights will come later. We don't negotiate on human rights." Please click on Like This Page at Giraffe Heroes so you can see more great stories. And do Share with friends–we all need enCouragement, right?

PROTECTING US LIVES AND TAX DOLLARS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Matthew Hoh, a promising young US diplomat, blew his own diplomatic career out of the water when he publicly protested his own presence in Afghanistan and more importantly, the presence there of US combat forces. Hoh submitted a 4-page letter of resignation that was printed word for word in The Washington Post, explaining why his conscience prevented him from serving any longer in Afghanistan, saying that the US was, in effect, fueling the very forces it was trying to fight. “I have lost understanding and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” Hoh wrote in his 2009 resignation. “To put it simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war.” A former Marine captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had served in uniform at the Pentagon and with the State Department in Iraq. At the time of his resignation, he was the senior US civilian in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, a Taliban hotbed. Hoh became director of the Afghanistan Study Group and in 2010 released a 16-page report on the US war there that excited even more public debate than his letter of resignation had. “I’m not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love,” Hoh said in an interview. He takes the practical view that many Afghans are fighting the United States simply because US troops are there. “I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers." Update: Now a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, Hoh continues to criticize the waste of US lives and tax dollars in military actions this combat vet sees as wrongly undertaken. Thank you for liking this story. Please share it with friends. And please click on Like This Page at Giraffe Heroes so you can see more great stories.

FROM GRIEF TO AN "ARMY" OF CARING #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Emily Cook is a 4th-grade teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2012, she gave birth to a baby, Parker, with severe developmental disabilities; Parker lived only 48 days. Despite the devastating loss, Cook thought of the people who helped her during Parker's brief life and made the decision to help others herself. She started "Parker's Army" to help newborns and their families, but she's expanded it to assist people in need all over the St. Louis area. Parker's Army has organized blood drives, packed thousands of meals for cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, and made legwarmers, bibs, blankets, and hats for newborns. Parker needed blood transfusions, so his Army works with the Red Cross to solicit blood donations. Because of all the medical equipment attached to his body, Parker wore nothing more than a diaper, and that's why Cook's group makes all kinds of warm coverings to give to the families of newborns. Cook relives her own painful experience every time she explains to recruits the history of Parker's Army, every time she organizes people for a new activity, every time she makes public requests for supplies. Emily Cook is grieving, but she hasn't let that stop her from working to see that there's less grieving for others. Thank you for liking this story. Now pleeease, LIKE Giraffe Heroes, the whole Page. That way you'll get to see more Giraffe stories. And please Share the story. Everybody needs to know there are Giraffes among us.

SO OTHERS CAN LEARN TO READ #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut From our classroom materials for kids... Television producer Toni Cordell traveled the world filming shows. She’s been charged by an angry water buffalo, searched by gun-toting soldiers, and attacked by a snake charmer’s cobra. But nothing ever scared her as much as the fear that someone would discover that she could barely read. Cordell kept her secret for 35 years. When she was a kid, other students called her a dummy, and teachers treated her like she couldn’t learn. She knows now that she should have gotten help for her problem. Instead she just got angry; being a poor reader made everything so difficult. When she grew up her children couldn’t understand why she never read them storybooks or helped with their homework. Only Cordell knew that by the time her son was in fifth grade he could read better than she could. She had to read a book three times before it made any sense to her. Cordell thought it was too late to do anything about her problem, but she changed her mind after seeing a movie about a grown man who admitted his illiteracy and learned to read. At age 45 Toni Cordell signed up for adult reading lessons and within a year she was teaching other people. She was so happy to be literate that she wanted to do something to let other non-reading adults know they weren’t too old to learn either. It had to be something unusual, so that newspapers and TV stations would notice and cover the story. That’s when she started rolling for reading. She roller-skated across her home state of Oklahoma, talking to students and community groups along the way. That trip brought a lot of attention to the problem of illiteracy, so she began to plan something bigger. She decided to become the first woman to roller-skate across the United States. She took off from San Gabriel, California, and skated into Jacksonville, Florida, five months and 2,300 miles later. She skated 15-30 miles a day, and gave talks in the towns she passed through. It was hard work physically and the costs of the trip ate up her savings, but she got a tremendous boost from knowing she was getting kids and adults fired up about reading. At one school an eleven-year-old boy stood up in the crowded auditorium and told her, “I’m just like you. The kids make fun of me. They tell me I’m stupid.” She spoke to him right from her heart. “I think you're one of the bravest people I ever met,” she said. “You’ve just proven that you’re not afraid of what people think of you. Just because other people call us names doesn’t mean they’re right.” She told him, “If you’re not learning the way the information is presented, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or stupid. It simply means you need to be taught a different way.” Toni Cordell knew how illiteracy could make you feel like and outsider, but she knew it could be overcome. That’s why she was rolling for reading. Thank you for liking this story. Please share it with your friends. Annnnd, please click on LIKE PAGE at Giraffe Heroes so you can get more great stories.

REPORTING THE TRUTH~NO MATTER WHAT #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Journalist/publisher Paul DeMain has angered people both in and out of the US Native American world, following the news wherever he finds truth taking him. Born an Oneida-Ojibwe, he was adopted and raised by a white family in Wausau, Wisconsin, the first steps in a life of bridging that racial divide. When he was Indian Affairs Advisor to the governor of Wisconsin, DeMain worked for the state, representing the interests of the tribes, 30,000 Native Americans in 11 nations, each with a separate government. DeMain then founded News from Indian Country, a nationwide newspaper, published twice a month, both in print and on-line. He’s the managing editor as well as an owner. News from Indian Country is the oldest continuing, nationally distributed publication that is not owned by a tribal government. The paper offers national, cultural, and regional news, as well as “the most up-to-date powwow directory in the United States and Canada.” The newspaper, with a staff of 12 plus several dozen free-lance writers, has subscribers throughout the United States, Canada, and 17 foreign countries. In his role as editor, DeMain speaks on behalf of Native Americans while seeking the truth, no matter where it takes him. Sometimes that can be tricky. In 2003, DeMain’s dogged eight-year investigation to identify those responsible for crimes within the American Indian Movement (AIM) eventually led to the indictments of two former AIM members for tribal murders that had gone unsolved. He took considerable flack from the Native American community for stirring those waters. DeMain’s career includes serving as president of the UNITY Coalition of Journalists, coordinating the vice-presidential campaign of Winona LaDuke, and giving talks to organizations and colleges about his two passions: Indian Country and the media. DeMain’s long-term plans should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him or who has followed his work: “My goal is to continue serving Indian Country with news and information, helping build a reservation-based economy and develop a grass roots training program for American Indians, utilizing digital technology.” It’s a difficult balance, this telling the truth as a journalist and risking anger from your community. But if anyone can do it, it’s Paul DeMain. A former Wisconsin governor says of him: “He doesn’t shy away from something if he thinks he’s right.” We're happy if you like this story. We're delighted if you Share it with your Friends. We're ecstatic if you LIKE Giraffe Heroes so you can see more great stories.

#GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Gail Story has quite a story. She lives in Bumpass Cove, Tennessee, a place so small it’s not on most maps. Story got married at 13 and told us she’d never done anything but “birthin’ babies and watchin’ television.” Then, several years ago, her family became dramatically ill. Her three-year-old daughter went into convulsions and Story herself began to have strange symptoms. There were local rumors of a toxic waste dump nearby, but no one wanted to believe it. Then a flood washed bottles and chemicals right into Bumpass Cove and there was no denying the truth. Story roused her neighbors to stand in the road, blocking the way to the dump—a frail human chain against the trucks. That was the first step of protest and the beginning of the Bumpass Cove Concerned Citizens Group; it became the last stop for the toxic-waste trucks. It wasn’t easy. Along the way, Story’s campaigning against the dumping brought her anonymous phone calls, verbal abuse, even a threat on her life from people who thought she was a “subversive” and a “trouble-maker.” Well, she IS a trouble-maker—for those who would arbitrarily dump toxic wastes where they will hurt people. Story helped her community organize, knowing that she couldn’t wait for someone else to do it. “You’ve got to help yourself,” she says, “even though you may think somebody else could do the job better.” She believes that anyone can stand up and be counted. “It just takes concern.” The dump in Bumpass Cove is officially closed now, and the citizens' group has disbanded. Story shared the information they learned with other communities and with schools and citizens' groups, helping to see that what happened in Bumpass Cove didn’t happen elsewhere. And if any other community is threatened, Gail Story is ready to go back into action. UPDATE: Gail Story’s name is now Gail Sams. She and the Bumpass Cove Concerned Citizens Group were featured in a documentary by Lucy Massie Phenix You Gotta Move, Stories of Change in the South. Story-Sams continues to advise other threatened communities.

BEING THERE FOR WOMEN – LONG TERM #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut From our archives: Canadian Louise Summerhill thought it was wrong to tell a woman to go through with an unwanted pregnancy unless you were willing to help her every step of the way. So she created an organization to do just that, devoting decades of her life to the work. Summerhill founded Birthright in Toronto in 1968 to provide that long-term emotional and material help. At Birthright, volunteers work one-on-one with women, forming friendships and support systems that last for years. The group’s motto is, “We’re in this for life.” Summerhill has taken flack from pro-lifers as well as pro-choicers. She will not condemn a woman who decides that an abortion is the right choice for her situation. A Roman Catholic herself, Summerhill maintained Birthright as an independent group, keeping the personal needs of women foremost. Here, there is no moralizing and no red tape. If you ask Birthright for help, you get it – medical advice, counseling referrals, shelter homes, adoption information, baby supplies, and educational guidance are all provided, free. Birthright grew to have over 630 centers worldwide. Summerhill refers to the organization as her own “unwanted child.” The mother of seven, she’s never really had the time to spare for this work, and at times it’s been an enormous burden. She had six kids at home when she started the group, including six-year-old twins. At times it’s been a financial burden, too. Summerhill has directed Birthright all these years without pay. But the job has clear rewards, She told us, “it’s a wonderful feeling to look at a child that wouldn’t be born if you hadn’t gotten involved. And the mothers—it’s wonderful to see women get a new lease on life, to turn their lives around." Update: After Louise Summerhill died in 1991, three of her daughters became co-presidents of Birthright International, all of them committed to ensuring that her legacy lives on, as long as Birthright is needed. Thanks for liking this story. Now pleeeease LIKE Giraffe Heroes so you can get more great stories. And Share with your Friends. Thanks!

AN UNRELENTING CHAMPION OF THE POOR #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut “Every community needs a Cora Tucker,” said a former U.S. Congressman. He was right. Cora Tucker changed her Halifax County community, changed Virginia politics, and changed the outlooks and prospects of thousands of African Americans. Tucker was born poor. Her father died when she was only three years old, and her mother and eight brothers and sisters sharecropped tobacco and corn for a living. They were not treated well; Tucker likened it to slavery. Even as a teenager, she was protesting and organizing. “I vowed then,” she said, “that I was going to learn about help for poor people and was going to tell everyone how to apply for help, where to apply, and would help them take on the racist class system that keeps poor and black people on their knees.” In high school, she won an award for an essay on “What America Means to Me,” a scathing account of the indignities suffered by Blacks. Traveling with her mother to Richmond to pick up her prize, she found that another indignity awaited her. A teacher read her essay aloud, but it had been changed to make it appear that Tucker’s experiences were all positive: “They tried to make me sound like a happy little girl.” When it was time for the governor of Virginia to present her with the prize, Tucker refused it, keeping her arms by her sides. She quit school at 17 and married a farmer and eventually had seven of her own children to care for. She worked as a seamstress in a factory for years, saving money and getting increasingly involved in politics, seeing that so many things in southern Virginia were so wrong, so racist. In the mid 70s, she founded Citizens for a Better America, running the organization from home: writing and distributing newsletters, speaking in front of church groups, and attending—and making plenty of noise at—county council meetings. She did all this while battling spinal cancer; in fact, she interrupted cancer treatments so that she could spend time registering people to vote. Blacks were shut out of many processes at that time and place. The Old Boy Network controlled everything, despite almost half the county’s residents being African Americans, about 17,000. She complained to federal authorities about school hiring, and the county was forced to hire black principals; she complained to federal authorities about county hiring, and they eventually gave in, too. She organized boycotts of local businesses that didn’t hire minorities: “Where Blacks are not hired, Blacks should not buy!” She wrote letters to the local newspaper several times a week. Many white people doubted she wrote them herself; after all, she was black. The reaction to Tucker was brutal: She received threatening phone calls. The tires on her car were slashed. A man in the post office walked up to her and spat in her face. She was run off the highway. She came home to find her bed soaked in flammable fuel. A man approached her in her yard with a shotgun. And perhaps worst of all, her daughter got hit by a car whose driver circled their home twice before coming off the road toward her. No official police investigation was ever conducted on that attack. But slowly, things changed. Blacks got hired. There was some turnover in the decision-makers. Tucker became known—for good or ill—throughout the state and even the country. President Carter appointed her to a presidential commission on women’s issues. Of course, many people in Halifax County hated her. Tucker didn’t care: “If you stop doing things because somebody says something bad about you or does something to you, then you’ll never get anything done.” In the ensuing years, Tucker remained an indefatigable advocate for the poor and disenfranchised on a multitude of issues: getting a recreation center built, improving the local jail, getting roads paved, integrating clubs, challenging corporate boards, stopping a nuclear waste dump from opening in the county. Both reviled and revered, Tucker never stops. Cora Tucker has always followed her philosophy: “Change doesn’t come from the top. You have to pull the grass up by its roots.” Update: Cora Tucker died in 1997, and was mourned by many. Up to the end of her life, she was accepting leadership positions throughout the country and giving lectures, teaching classes, and training community organizers. If you Like this hero, please Share it with Friends and LIKE this whole Page, Giraffe Heroes, so you can see more Giraffe Heroes' stories.

MAKING GOVERNMENT DO THE RIGHT THING #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut When David Snow bought his kids a volleyball set, the "Family Fun" box also contained two other games, one of them a set of sharp, heavy "lawn darts." Snow thought them dangerous and left them in the box. But one day some neighborhood children found them, and seven-year-old Michele Snow died in her father’s arms, a lawn dart embedded in her skull. Snow and his family were devastated. They couldn’t believe a toy so dangerous was sold next to the Barbie dolls and carried only an unobtrusive printed warning. When Snow heard of another death from the darts, he took unpaid leave from his job and set out to get the toy banned. In his early meetings with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), Snow was horrified to discover that lawn darts had already been banned, after an earlier death. The ban had been lifted by the Commission after a legal challenge by the manufacturers, but certain restrictions remained. The darts were not to be sold in toy stores or toy departments; they could not be packaged with other games, and they must carry a bold warning label. When Snow bought the Family Fun box, all 14 manufacturers of lawn darts were marketing them illegally. He was appalled. “There are too many people in this world with their brains in their billfolds,” he told us. Snow spent over a year traveling back and forth between his home in Riverside, California, and Washington, D.C. Since the CPSC was unwilling to enforce safety regulations, Snow arranged to give testimony at Congressional hearings to reauthorize the Commission. His plea for stronger regulation of hazardous toys had a tremendous impact on legislators already convinced the Commission was dragging it feet on safety issues. Veterans on Capitol Hill said they’d never seen anyone as dedicated and persistent as David Snow. Snow’s lobbying began to pay off. His senator and congressman sponsored a bill to ban the darts. After “60 Minutes” took an interest in Snow’s quest, the ban was finally put through by both the CPSC and Congress. It was a victory, but one that came too late for 6,100 people, mostly children, who had been badly injured by the darts, 200 of them with skull penetrations. Lawn darts were removed from stores and banned from sale in the United States. Canada followed with a similar ban. David Snow didn’t quit with that. He created the Michele Snow Foundation to act as a national voice to protect children from the many unsafe toys and household items still in our stores. According to Snow, “Lawn darts were just the tip of the iceberg.” Like this Giraffe? Thank you. Please Share it with friends and please LIKE this whole page, Giraffe Heroes, so you can see more real heroes' stories.

CHAMPIONING CHICAGO'S CHILDREN #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Student Norvell Smith spoke out against gangs in Chicago, despite serious threats to silence her. Norvell had been only 12 when she was surrounded by high school girls who demanded that she join their gang. They offered protection in a dangerous neighborhood–-and the chance to earn money selling drugs—but she refused. Kids Norvell knew were killed every year, either as participants in gang fights or by being caught in a crossfire. When she was in the 8th grade, her best friend was killed by a ricochet. Soon after that terrible event, there was a speech-writing contest at her school and Norvell wrote about gangs. When her speech won, she went on stage in front of almost a thousand of her fellow students, many of them wearing gang colors. Summoning up all her courage, she looked directly into the faces of gang members and talked about her sorrow and her outrage. Despite threats to her and her family, she spoke again and again, at her own school and at others in the city, telling kids that gangs would destroy them. She urged kids not to join gangs and, if they were already members, to quit. Recruiting other students to join her in working against the gangs, Norvell Smith vowed, “I plan to keep talking about them until they’re cut off everywhere.” Norvell was one of 29 young Giraffes who toured Russia and Ukraine in a diplomatic mission sponsored by the Giraffe Project and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. She also received 1,000 “pints of lite” from B&J, which she distributed to her classmates, a moment of laughter in a grim situation. Update: Now Norvell Smith Batie, she’s still making life better for kids in Chicago–she's been teaching third-graders in the inner city for 20 years, and is raising two daughters.

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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