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.

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SAVING LIVES WITH CLEAN WATER #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Decades ago in the Sudanese desert, the rival tribes of Salva Dut and Dep Tuany fought each other over scarce and precious resources – “over river, over cattle, over land,” says Tuany. But these two refugees went on to work together to bring life back to their shared homeland. When they were young, both men were “Lost Boys” – two of the thousands of children orphaned by the civil war in the Sudan. The war devastated the country’s resources, killed more than 2 million people, and displaced 4 million more. Separated from his parents during the war, 11-year-old Salva joined fellow villagers on the long journey to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and was helped into the United States by a church in New York State. He was in college when he learned that his father was alive, in a UN hospital back in the Sudan. After a 16-year separation, Salva Dut traveled home to reunite with both his mother and father, and his life took on a whole new purpose. “My father was ill because he didn’t have drinking water,” Mr. Dut remembers. “The doctor told him to drink clean water. But there was no clean water in my village.” That’s when Water for Sudan was born – a well-digging operation Dut created to bring clean water to the southern Sudan. Water is the foundation of life in this desert country, but it’s in short supply and in many areas dries up for months of the year. Some village women and children walk for hours daily to collect water. And even when there is water, it’s shared between animals and humans, used for washing and drinking, and harbors many diseases. Sudan’s surface water is contaminated, but there’s an underground aquifer with plenty of clean water. Water for Sudan rigs can dig wells up to 200 feet deep to access this supply. At first, Water for Sudan brought wells to the land of the Dinka – Salva Dut’s tribe. But when they expanded operations to include Nuer villages – Dep Tuany’s part of the country – Mr. Tuany and his local rotary club in San Diego got involved. Tuany had already been helping refugees by running a community center for them, but he wanted to do more. He knew from experience how precious clean water is. During his own family’s escape to Ethiopia, his 14-month-old son died because of contaminated water. But a new well is going into Tuany’s home village, where his mother still lives. “I will be the one to give her a cup of water,” he says. “It will be so beautiful…” Water for Sudan has dug 17 wells serving 51,000 people. Both Dep Tuany and Salva Dut spend half the year in the US and half in the Sudan, working on Water for Sudan. Their working together, despite the history of fighting between their tribes, is a sign of new hope and possibility. “For my people seeing me work with Salva, with the Dinka, is a great thing,” says Tuany, who predicts the collaboration will bring more than just clean water to their shared homeland, but also “so much unity, so much love and goodwill.” You can keep up with this work at Update: Water for South Sudan has now drilled so many wells (282!), the drill they affectionately call the Iron Giraffe is wearing out. Salva Dut is leading a campaign to replace it before it collapses completely—school children all over the world are chipping in. A best-selling book, A Long Walk To Water, tells the story of what the Iron Giraffe has achieved. When the organization drills a village well, it also does health education sessions in that village and works to heal the wounds of war with peace and reconciliation talks. Dep Tuany is now giving all his time to the South Sudan Community Center in San Diego, helping refugees from his home country adjust to life in the US. Like these Giraffes? LIKE this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

BLAZING TRAILS FOR THE INJURED #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut When bad things have happened to Constance Miller of Seattle, Washington, she's blazed a trail through them and pulled others along behind her. An advocate of good health care for women and for the poor since the 1970's, Miller has helped thousands of people who share the health problems she's experienced herself. After a Dalkon Shield caused her illness and injury, Miller became one of the country's foremost experts on the shield and its effects on women's health. The product was ordered off the market in 1984; she still runs a service that assists Dalkon Shield-injured women. In 1982, a car accident left Miller with a "closed-head" brain injury; there was no visible wound, but she was experiencing pain, memory loss, dizziness, blurred vision, and mood swings. Most physicians told people who were having such symptoms after accidents that they were imagining them. Miller went into research mode, finding information only in sports medicine, where football and boxing injuries have left athletes with symptoms she recognized. She's worked with physicians to create treatment plans for their brain-injury patients and to update these caregivers on developments such as the diagnostic imaging technology that can show microscopic lesions on the brain­—the first hard evidence that closed head injuries are real. Miller also spends a great deal of time educating attorneys about close-head injuries, through her Brain Injury Resource Center. Miller has put everything she's learned into a "self-advocacy guide" called From the Ashes. She also runs the Head Injury Hotline to advise people on the syndrome, on good care-providers, on legal options, and on social and career services available to them. Miller donated copies of From the Ashes to head injury survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. She's called on other injury, self-help authors and publishers make similar donations after major disasters. Asked why she devotes herself to these causes, Miller says, "When there's a job to be done, you just jump in and do it." You can track her work at Like this Giraffe Hero? LIKE this whole Page so we can keep sending out great stories.

#GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Our photo is Michael Guarrine all grown up, but he was commended as a Giraffe when he was a seventh-grader. Back then, Guarrine spent up to 20 hours a week on environmental work—leading the ecology club he started at his school in Mount Prospect, Illinois, writing weekly newspaper articles, and teaching students, teachers, and community groups about environmental issues. During Lent, Guarrine and two of his classmates at St. Raymond’s School publicly "gave up" individually wrapped cheese slices and aerosol deodorants in order to bring awareness to environmental concerns. The students began speaking at area churches and conferences on how plastics harm the environment and the ozone layer and what everyone can do to prevent the damage. “We used a few props like a paper bag, a plastic bag, the toilet paper that comes wrapped in paper instead of plastic, and so forth,” Gaurrine said. “We explained the difference between the terms ‘degradable’ and ‘biodegradable’.” Guarrine formed a student-council committee called “Save A Valuable Environment” (S.A.V.E.). It was Guarrine’s idea. “I came up with it during grammar class one day,” said Guarrine at the time. “One day I would like to take it worldwide.” Guarrine was chosen as one of the young US Giraffe Heroes to meet with young Russian and Ukrainian activists in 1990. He decided when he got to the group's rallying point for departure on the journey across the world that he wasn't ready for traveling that far from home and headed back to Illinois. UPDATE: As an adult, Guarrine served as the Supervisor of Community Outreach at Illinois Action for Children, managing a team of 40 outreach volunteers. He then became Director of Health and Leadership at the Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago, Illinois. The nonprofit promotes a just and inclusive society by strengthening low-income—primarily Latino—families.

A PIONEER OF THE REAL-FOOD MOVEMENT #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Manhattan multimedia developer Wendy Dubit had a dream—she wanted to connect fellow New Yorkers with a rapidly disappearing part of America: small farms. Dubit went into action when she learned that a lot of city kids don’t know where the things they eat and wear come from. Many think tomatoes, zucchinis, squash and the like originate in grocery stores. Some thought wool and cotton just appears somehow as sweaters, ponchos and tube socks. To Dubit, such ignorance was cultural illiteracy on a grand and insidious scale. In 1986 she threw all of her time, energy and money into founding Farm Hands/City Hands, a unique nonprofit organization with a simple mission: keep small-scale agriculture alive by linking farm and city for the enrichment of both. Her method was equally simple: put urbanites to work on the many small farms dotting the Hudson River Valley. Over the years since, Farm Hands/City Hands has bused thousands of city kids and adults from all walks of life out to the country to work for farmers who need extra help, but can’t afford to pay regular wages. The farmers offer up room, board, and the experience of farming, first hand. The city hands get acquainted with onion patches, herb gardens, and the business end of a dairy cow. They breathe clean air and eat foods minutes after they’re picked, instead of days or months. Dubit expanded Farm Hands/City Hands by inventing a program she calls Project OnGrowing which trains homeless people and those living in shelters to do farm work and food services like catering. Participants eat the produce they grow; excess crops are sold, and the profits rolled back into training and recreation programs. Every week, participants go to work planting, tending and harvesting their own crops in a large garden that grows out at Green Chimneys Farm Center in Brewster, NY—a full-service nonprofit agency that is home to Farm Hands/City Hands and Project On Growing, and numerous programs for children and families. Dubit isn’t telling anyone to pull up stakes and go live off the land, but she knows the vital importance of small farms to everyone’s well-being and she’s sure that, “There’s a farmer inside every one of us.” Wendy Dubit is determined to save small farms by outing all those inner-farmers. Like this Giraffe Hero? LIKE this Page so we can keep sending out great stories.

For people who care, who want to do SOMEthing but don't know what that might be, consider the example of this self-described "69-year-old-white man from a small Midwest town" who figured out what to do over 40 years ago, and has never stopped. Giraffe Hero Daniel F. Bassill has been mentoring kids in Chicago's toughest schools, and training other volunteers to do the same. You can access his treasury of how-to-mentor at

A MID-LIFE TURN ~ INTO PIONEERING SERVICE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut It's grand when people use their skills to do good–people like Harry Gaynor. He'd been a marketing executive for a New Jersey electronics firm for 28 years. But one day, while he was searching through a fire safety report for some marketing ideas on a new fire alarm, he saw something horrible. It was a child who'd been seriously burned. Photos of her damaged face, after many operations, haunted him. Gaynor knew where he was needed—he wasn't a doctor but he knew how to spread the word about things that were important. To the surprise of both his boss and his family, he quit his job. For the next two years, money didn't matter, security didn't matter. "I wanted to learn, to drink in everything I could on the subject," he said. "I took a step that changed the course of my life." A WWII gunner on a bomber, Gaynor had been shot down, captured, and escaped a POW camp—he was one determined guy. The step he took after researching burns was the founding, in 1974, of the National Burn Victim Foundation, a nonprofit "to assist and educate burn victims and their families." Its motto: "Recover and Rebuild." And he set out to use his skills as a marketer to get the job done. The Foundation would offer assistance to burn victims 24 hours a day throughout the year. What Gaynor decided to do that was different— even revolutionary—was to have burn specialists come to the victims, rather than expecting the victims to come to the specialists. He solicited money, volunteers, and equipment—including airplanes and helicopters. Many scoffed at his plan; after all, why mess with the status quo? What possible difference could he make? But Gaynor convinced enough people to help that the operation was ready to roll when needed. In November 1976, Gaynor's foundation was tested, and it scored an A. In Queens, New York, a factory had caught fire and a lot of people were burned. New York's emergency services called New Jersey's emergency services, and New Jersey's emergency services called Gaynor. The Foundation zoomed into action and quickly moved more than half the victims to hospitals in a three-state area; it then continued with follow-up care. The reach of the National Burn Victim Foundation soon extended to most of the eastern seaboard. When Gaynor received his Giraffe Commendation, the foundation had responded to over 2,400 emergencies and helped thousands of burn victims. (Along the way, Gaynor was elected mayor of his hometown, South Plainfield NJ.) Gaynor didn't do all this without stress; he had three heart attacks. Still, he perseverd. As he said from his hospital bed, "You have to feel good about what you're doing, know that you want to do it, and know there's a need." Update: In 1989, Gaynor and a pediatric burn surgeon traveled to China to research a burn cure: The Chinese had reported healing thousands of burn patients without bandages or antibiotics, using only an herbal salve. Gaynor then went to work on getting the salve tested, approved, and accepted in the United States. Gaynor published A World without Tears: The Case of Charles Rothenberg, a book that profiles a man who deliberately set fire to the bed where his six-year-old son was sleeping. Gaynor wanted to use the information learned from the episode to help protect other children from abuse. He wrote papers and gave talks about child abuse, and helped law enforcement identify abusers who had burned their children. Harry Gaynor died in 2003; he was 82. Like this Giraffe Hero? LIKE this whole Page so we can keep sending out great stories.

More 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.

This is an injury that women can...


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...


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...


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...


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 for more stories, and for a way to honor your own hero.

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