I don’t know how many of you watched CNN heroes last Saturday. It was an award show, and if you are thinking it’s another one like the Oscars, you are mistaken. These awards were for real life heroes who are making a difference to the society in their own small way.
What stuck me when I watched these people and their work was the power of human will. Whatever situation life thrusts you in, it is possible make the best out of it. I was reminded of a quote from Fountainhead “I feel like an alchemist, who took the worst of human refuse and converted it into diamonds”. All these people were selected through online and on-air polls conducted over a two month period.
The story that moved me the most was that of 12 year old Pedreja. He was diagnosed with leukemia. He found that the bone marrow donors, especially in the minority community were very less. He decided to change this even as he was undergoing treatment. He drove across the country and encouraged people from minority communities to register as bone marrow donors. He made good use of the bald head which he developed as a result of chemotherapy. He used it to raise funds for his campaign by selling advertisement space on his head. In three months he raised $100,000 and signed-up more than 5000 people to his registry. I loved the way he ended his acceptance speech, “You are never too young to make a difference”
Keyla had an autistic cousin sister whom she was very close to. This 18 year old girl realized that her cousin was very good with music. She was able to memorize songs easily. So she developed a new teaching method using piano keys. She assigned alphabets to the keys and used melodies to teach language and even emotions. This is an area that doctors have grappled with for decades and her methods have created a break-through in autistic research. Although she has won many awards, she says nothing compares to the gratification she felt when she could communicate to her cousin. I understood exactly what she meant when they showed a video, at the end of which her autistic cousin Lorena said, “I love you Keyla”
These two children made the biggest impression on me, although the others were no less inspiring.
There was Peter Kethene who lost his parents and several of his siblings to an unknown disease in Africa because his village did not have doctor. He decided that the only way he can help his village is by educating himself. He worked hard and got into a prestigious high school at Nairoi and then university of Washington to study medicine. Even as he was studying he raised funds for setting up a clinic in his native village. In the two years since its inception, the clinic has provided service for more than 18000 patients who previously had no medical care. He ended his acceptance speech with a message to Africa, “Hang in there, the world is watching over us”…………. Is it really?
There was Steve Piefer who went to Kenya after he lost his child. He fed the starving children in schools and set up computer labs powered by solar energy for them. His work has benefited 11,000+ children.
Maya bought to my attention another inspiring story of S.Ramakrishnan, one of the nominees for the Heroes award. He was one of the three finalist is the category ‘Medical Marvel’. He was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident when he was 32 years old. He decided to build a haven for severely disabled children and adults in India. Amar Seva Sangam has become one of India’s largest centers for disabled people and serves thousands of people in 330 villages in Tamil Nadu. The program empowers the disabled through vocational training, operates a school for hundreds of disabled children and offers another specialized school for children with cerebral palsy and mental retardation.I am truly proud of this fellow Indian. Hats off to his courage.
If you are interested in knowing the stories of all the winners and the nominees you can visit http://cnn.com/heroes