Giraffe Heroes India

Giraffe Heroes India (GH/India) aims to bring Giraffe vision, strategies and tools for change to the 1.3 billion people on the Indian subcontinent – making it potentially by far the largest Giraffe global affiliate launched to date.

Vijay Saluja, GH/India’s new Director, hosted Giraffe Heroes International Director John Graham for twelve days in May, and the two worked together on setting up the new venture. Saluja, like the Directors of Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone and Giraffe Heroes Nepal, is a Giraffe Hero himself. Saluja was honored in 2004 for his courageous 20-year stand against the mismanagement and unfair and unethical practices in the New Delhi City Government, where he himself worked as a senior engineer. That experience makes him perfect to direct an operation whose purpose is to move more and more citizens to stick their own necks out, working to help solve important public problems ranging from poverty, corruption and discrimination against women to injustices still remaining from India’s traditional caste system.

Like all Giraffe operations, GH/India will tell the inspiring stories of the country’s heroes, motivating others to become heroic too. GH/India will also offer practical tools citizen activists need to succeed, as well as Giraffe civic engagement programs in schools, helping young people build lives as courageous and compassionate citizens serving a vibrant India.


B.V. Rao, Editor of the magazine Governance Now; Giraffe Hero Bunker Roy;
John Graham, Director of Giraffe Heroes International; and
Giraffe Hero Vijay Saluja, now Director of Giraffe Heroes India.

Saluja and Graham visited dozens of India’s leaders in government, business, media, education and the world of NGOs, seeking their advice and support. Everyone they talked to was very enthusiastic and offers of help have been pouring in. A two-hour meeting with the Maharaja of Jodhpur was important, but the Giraffe idea seemed to resonate among Indians of all ranks, who see the need for building more of the public-spirited courage necessary to take on the country’s daunting challenges.

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GHI Director John Graham, Maharajah of Jodhpur, GH/India Director Vijay Saluja,
social activist and educator Varun Arya, taken in the Maharajah's palace

They were gratified by the offers of support and Graham came back very excited by what he saw, and by the energy that Saluja and he were able to generate, even in a short time. One of the many high points for Graham was meeting with traditional village leaders (sarpanches) in the Rajasthan desert, explaining how bringing into their villages stories of Giraffe Heroes—people from all over India solving the kinds of problems they all face—could help them generate enthusiasm and action for local change. Saluja and Graham gave three public presentations, combining Saluja’s inspiring story of his own anti-corruption fight with Graham’s stories of thirty years of working with and learning from Giraffe Heroes.

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from left first row: Saluja, Varun Arya and Graham with village leaders

A solid beginning was made with India’s major media, including well-placed articles in major newspapers and an offer of support from Governance Now, a prestigious news magazine that has agreed to carry the stories of India’s Giraffe Heroes when they are ready.

ghi-india"From the Director"

February 2, 2004 was a very special day for me. On this day, I received a letter from Ann Medlock, the Founder of Giraffe Heroes Project which said:

`I am happy to tell you that you were chosen by our most recent jury to receive the enclosed Giraffe Commendation, joining over 900 people who have been honored as Giraffe Heroes since the Giraffe Project began in 1982.’ The letter stated that this was for sticking my neck out to fight corruption in civil government.

It was unbelievable! I had received the Red & White Bravery Award in 2002, but this Giraffe Commendation came at a difficult time and was a HUGE morale-booster! It was a matter of great honour, pride & privilege to be ONE of the distinguished family of Giraffes. My years of trodding on the lonely path, which was very rough & uneven at times, had finally brought me to the doors of a family consisting of brave, caring & committed people.

I was still in the local government of New Delhi, fighting a long legal battle with my own organization. I had filed a case in the High Court in 1993, for a look into the unethical & unfair practices followed by my seniors which had resulted, to my mind, in a huge misuse of public funds. They were encouraging, pampering & protecting unethical colleagues, at the same time that they were harassing & hounding me in every possible way. I was making a stand for professional values & ethics. My good record was changed to damaging assessments of my work, making it impossible for me to advance in my career.

I finally won the legal battle, arguing the case myself against the organization in which I had worked since 1969. In May of 2004 I was appointed the Chief Engineer[civil]-HEAD of my Department.

Why have I given my personal example? It’s about something Ann mentioned in her letter. She said, “the aim is to tell others about you so that they will follow your example.” And that is the aim of this new organization, Giraffe Heroes India. This new non-governmental organization will tell the stories of India’s heroes, so that people all over the country can be inspired to stand tall on public problems they see.

Being appointed DIRECTOR of the Giraffe Heroes India Programme, is a matter of great honour & privilege for me. But having said that, it brings with it huge responsibilities. I’ll be rallying supporters for the cause, calling for nominations, organizing a jury, enlisting media to tell the stories.

1009Saluja and Graham with Dr. George Mathew,
Director of the Indian Institute of Social Sciences

Pravin Purang, Somnath Bharti, Graham and Saluja
at the Indian Institute of Technology

But, I am happy to tell you that there have already been very enthusiastic & positive responses & I am confident that Giraffe Heroes India will start kicking soon like the operations in Sierra Leone, Egypt, Nepal & the UK.

I welcome your ideas and support.

With best wishes to all & for Giraffe Heroes India

Vijay K. Saluja
New Delhi-India
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Giraffes of India

Murlindhar “Baba” Amte walked away from a Brahmin life of privilege to create a community for lepers, Anandwan. Amte became a physician so he could provide their medical care; he used his training as an attorney to advocate for them; and he learned, with them, the skills that made Anandwan self-sustaining. full story

Dr. Mabelle Arole of Maharashtra, India gave up the comforts of a professional's life to develop a community-based health program in her country, training health workers in their own villages. As a result of her program, more infants survived and the number of unplanned pregnancies dropped. full story


Jaya Arunachalam, a woman born into India’s wealthy elite, has spent her life battling to expand economic opportunities for some of the poorest women on the planet: India’s street vendors, silk weavers, washerwomen, and their many hardworking sisters. She devised a revolutionary system for micro-loans that gets money into the hands that need it most. full story

Chandi Prasad Bhatt of Uttar Pradesh, India, has devoted his life to guiding the Chipko movement in northern India, fighting powerful logging companies who were destroying Himalayan mountain forest environments. Thousands of villagers joined Chipko, literally hugging trees to prevent them from being clearcut. full story


Ela Bhatt of Ahmedabad, India, championed disadvantaged women by organizing them into a credit union, the Self-Employed Women's Association. Over 15,000 women who sell goods and produce on India's sidewalks have joined SEWA, opening new markets, getting and repaying loans, and improving their families' economic and social status. full story


When she was 13 Neha Gupta overcame personal health problems to found “Empower Orphans,” a non-profit that involves young people in championing orphaned and underprivileged children. full story

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Giraffes of India

Sunitha Krishnan is tiny in physical stature, but she stands tall for the victims of sex trafficking. The non-profit organization she cofounded, Prajwala, has rescued more than 3,000 women and children from sexual slavery in central India. A rape victim herself, Krishnan has been beaten dozens of times in the course of her rescue work. full story


Usha Narayane stood up to local thugs in the slums of Nagpur, India, an area that had been terrorized by criminals for decades. After standing the predators down, Narayane organized job trainings for hundreds of women in the community, helping them escape poverty as well as physical attacks. full story


Born into an upper-caste Indian family and educated at his country’s best schools, Bunker Roy chose to learn from indigenous villagers, people who know how to cook over fires, dig wells, deliver babies. Roy established the Barefoot College, setting up such competent villagers as faculty, passing their knowledge to thousands of others. full story

Vijay Saluja, a civil engineer in New Delhi, has fought for decades to end the corruption that has slowed or prevented needed infrastructure improvements in the city. full story


Govindappa Venkataswamy of Madurai, India, a skilled eye surgeon, gave up a comfortable retirement to open a 20-bed hospital offering eye care to the poor. His innovations and dedication have served literally millions of people. full story


Do you know of a hero in India – someone who is sticking his or her neck out for the common good, helping solve a significant public problem? Giraffe Heroes India wants to hear about such heroes; in telling their stories all over India, Giraffe Heroes India will inspire many more Indians to get active too, helping create change where it is needed most.

There are three main criteria for this honor – the action must be for the common good, it must involve significant risk and it must be sustained over time. For now, to send a nomination, you can use the instructions and form on this website.

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