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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

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.

PROTECTING THE CHILDREN #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Rena Brashear was horrified when she learned that her county in Kentucky had the highest rate of child sexual abuse in a five-county region—and no programs to prevent, diagnose, or treat the effects. Instead of just being outraged, she went into action. A lot of people didn’t want to face the problem and wanted Brashear to shut up. “Families don’t talk about things like that,” she says. “They just endure them.” But in just two years, Brashear made real changes. Resisting attempts to silence her and spending significant money from her own meager funds, she created the Preserve the Innocence of Our Children Society (PICS) and set the stage for a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) project. Even though a prominent community member told her she should “go back to being barefoot and pregnant,” Brashear is leading PICS in helping county professionals spot and report child abuse. PICS has found a county physician willing to be certified in the diagnosis of sexual abuse so children no longer must be taken on a two-hour trip to Lexington. When child-abuse cases go to court, a CASA volunteer interviews each child who must testify about his or her abuse and works with the presiding judge to see that decisions are made in the child’s best interests. Brashear was soon coordinating the efforts of seven other eastern Kentucky counties that were also setting up CASA programs. Brashear operates on so little money she can’t buy a typewriter, instead driving 60 miles to reach a volunteer typist, but she never veers from her commitment to stop child abuse. “Get your butt off the couch,” she says to herself. “Quit crying in your milk, and help the kids.” Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

THE ONE-BOY BICYCLE FACTORY #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Like lots of American kids, Justin Lebo used to spend his allowance on movies, video games, and treats. But not anymore; 12-year-old Justin has become a one-boy bicycle factory. Using his allowance, earnings from doing chores, and birthday checks to buy new parts, he’s refurbished over 40 bikes and given them to kids who can't afford to buy bikes. When Justin was ten, he and his dad rebuilt an old bike they had found at a garage sale. Justin enjoyed stripping off the old dirt and paint, replacing the broken and worn parts and making the bike like new. He decided to rebuild another and then another. But what to do with the bikes? Justin took them to a nearby orphan asylum to give to the boys living there. The 20 boys were really excited because now they had three bikes to take turns on. But Justin thought it was important to have a bicycle of your own. His mom says, “When he saw how much those kids liked the bikes, he told me that he wanted to get one for every boy there by Christmas.” Justin spent the rest of his summer vacation fixing bikes. He worked every day, and when school started he worked every weekend. He and his mom scoured thrift stores and garage sales for bikes – it take from three to six old bikes to make one good new one. Justin added new grips, seat, pedals and brakes. He gave each one a new paint job and flashy decals. As Christmas approached, Justin began to worry. He had 15 bikes ready, but he’d run out of battered ones to rebuild. A story in the local newspaper brought in so many junkers that Justin reached his goal – every boy at Kilbarchen had a bike by Christmas. He went on to rebuild bikes for eleven boys at a second home, and he keeps a good supply of spare parts on hand so he can fill requests from individual needy families. Some of the kids at school began to call Justin a big-shot after the story in the local paper, but Justin doesn’t think he’s doing anything so special. He says lots of other people are doing much more import things. Update: The year after we did this story was the UN's Year of the Child, 1990. Every attending head of state was escorted to the Assembly by a child from that state. Justin accompanied the President of the United States. Later that year, 30 young Giraffe Heroes were invited to tour Ukraine and Russia. Justin was chosen to be one of them but declined the invitation. When the Giraffe Project director called to try persuading him to change his mind, he acknowledged that it would be a great adventure but "I've never slept away from home before and I think Moscow is too far to go for the first time I do that.” It seemed reasonable. 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.