Arriving with the two beautiful Lourdes’s, supporters of Mary’s Meals

 It is not easy to outshine the likes of Halle Berry, Demi Moore, and Bon Jovi (amongst many other Hollywood A-listers); but CNN’s Heroes of the Year 2010, hosted by Anderson Cooper, did just that at the Shrine Auditorium last Saturday evening (the show will air at 8PM EST on Thanksgiving evening). I want to be like them when I grow up – turning one small act of kindness after another into making a huge difference in the lives of many.


Anderson Cooper and the ten heroes nominated

That was the message of the evening loud and clear. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures that change the world. Each recipient, in their own humble way, refuted being anything other than an ordinary person who cared about others enough to help in little ways that grew into something extraordinary.
 

Bon Jovi (John Legend and Sugarland also preformed)

Take for instance my hosts for the evening Magnus and Julie Macfarlane-Barrow. After Magnus and his brother Fergus watched a report about refugees in Bosnia in 1992, “We began saying – wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just do one small thing to help?” So they collected supplies and drove them over to a camp in Bosnia. When they returned, they found a surplus of supplies people had continued to gather for the cause, and it inspired them to continue going wherever help was needed.

Mary’s Meals, Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow and Gerard Butler

Magnus founded Mary’s Meals, an organization striving to break the cycle of poverty by feeding children a daily meal at school, in Malawi in 2002. Now Mary’s Meals feeds over 460,000 children around the world – most recently extending that aide to the children and the elderly in earthquake ravaged Haiti. Learn more about how you can get involved with Mary’s Meals here.

Lourdes Diego, Patty Decker, and Julie MacFarlane-Barrow

What fascinated me was the multitude of ways in which these amazingly bright souls make a difference. Each one already a winner, but you will have to wait until Thursday to see who is named CNN’s Hero of the Year 2010. BTW, all of the Chilean coal miners were there too!

Lourdes Guttierrez translates for a Chilean coal miner

Demi Moore and the film about Anuradha Koirala’s work

There is the safe house run by Anuradha Koirala, a 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal, that have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of Nepal’s sex trafficking victims. Some are as young as nine years old, and forced to service up to sixty men a day. A horrific travesty against humanity she believes “one day we will stop it, the trafficking will end.” To learn more about Anuradha Koirala, Maiti Nepal and how you can help, click here.

The award up close and personal

Texan Dan Wallrath builds homes to help debilitated war veterans, many of whom end up living below poverty level after the brave sacrifices they make for our safety, as they transition back to civilian life. “I’m not the hero here – they are. I don’t know how to help them in other ways, but I do know how to build homes.” With donations from suppliers and contractors, Wallrath said, the group can build a $300,000 house for $25,000 to $50,000. Each house is fully furnished and customized to meet the needs of each family and is mortgage-free. The group also covers the taxes and insurance for two years. Find out more here.

Julie Anne Rhodes and Aki Ra, his story touched my heart

Aki Ra was separated from his family as a small child, raised by the Khmer Rouge (a regime responsible for the genocide of 1.5 million Cambodians), and given a rifle at age ten. “I had [bad] feelings, because sometimes we were fighting against our friends and relatives,” Aki Ra said. “I felt sad when I saw a lot of people were killed. A lot of people were suffering from land mines. [But] I did not know what to do, [because] we were under orders.” When the United Nations came in the early 1990s to help restore peace to Cambodia, Aki Ra saw an opportunity to begin undoing the damage he and others had done. Today he has cleared over 50,000 land mines, and along with wife Hourt, who sadly died from a stroke last year, has taken in twenty-seven orphans he promised to love as he does his own three biological children. Learn more about Aki Ra and Cambodian Self Help Demining here.

Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow and Gerard Butler at the after party

Susan Burton helps give repeat offenders a fighting chance to make it on the outside, Harmon Parker builds foot bridges in Kenya to save lives, Linda Fondren challenged her community in Mississippi (with the highest obesity rate in the United States) to lose 15,000 pounds, Chef Narayanan Krishnan has brought 1.2 million hot meals to India’s homeless and destitute, Evans Wadongo is lighting up rural communities in Kenya with solar powered lights “to bring the dark continent into the light”, and glamorous Guadalupe De La Vega has provided quality health care in Juarez Mexico (the murder capitol of the world) for thirty years – no one in need is turned away from either side of the border. Please go to the CNN Heroes facebook page where you can donate to all ten worthy charities.

So much gratitude to Magnus and Julie Macfarlane-Barrow for including me in this amazing celebration, and to my friend Milona for introducing us. I look forward to The Roving Stove being of service.

Jewels with hero Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow

What little acts of kindness will you start implementing as we all enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends? Do you know a hero you would like to nominate for next years CNN All-Star Tribute to Heroes Awards? Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

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  • November 23, 2010
    8:42 pm

    I love this. Thank you for bringing the good news to the forefront. You already are a HERO.

  • November 23, 2010
    10:33 pm

    Reading this, I couldn't help but get a little teary. So often, I find that I need to stop focusing on the minutiae of the day to day – there are people with way more important problems that need support. Thank you for spotlighting and I look forward to watching CNN on Thanksgiving to see the amazing people that are making a difference. Looks like a magical evening Jewels!

  • November 23, 2010
    11:22 pm

    So refreshing to hear 'good' news. There are so many big hearted people, it's easy to forget that in this world! Aki's story is inspiring!Beautiful & positive post. Thanks!Cupcake

  • November 23, 2010
    11:56 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to so many caring people. Celebrating the kindness of these amazing people must have made the evening so special, but tinged with a bit of sadness. It worries me that so many are in need in this age of technology. Shouldn't the vast strides forward be eliminating the need for help and aiding those unable to provide for themselves? Thank you for bringing this story to your post. Your words paint pictures that while painful to see, make an impression on our hearts. It is a season of Thanksgiving for all, regardless of your nationality or where you live. Take the time to make a difference in any way you can. Donating to food banks, finding and helping an organization that ensures that all children have a gift to open on Christmas morning or even helping out at the many facilities that put on dinners for those in need. There are so many ways to help. The question is which one of the many ways will you choose to make a difference?

  • November 24, 2010
    12:36 am

    You are a kind and good person, Julie Anne. I don't know you personally, but it is a strong gut instinct I feel when I read your entries. Thank you for sharing your night with heroes! 🙂

  • November 24, 2010
    6:42 am

    Dear Jewles, You are a compassionate and lovely person. Thank you for sharing with us and you look so so beautiful. Hugs, Joyce

  • November 24, 2010
    6:43 am

    Thanks for posting this. I'll be sure to watch Thursday. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

  • November 24, 2010
    4:21 pm

    Julie-Anne,Being able to see the need and to share things in the right way are a "symptom" of an open and generous heart.Thank you so much for posting this to all of us,With LoveMilona

  • November 24, 2010
    5:18 pm

    I'm so glad you went to this. What an amazing opportunity for you, and I'm sure more to come. Hope you are well!

  • November 24, 2010
    6:12 pm

    Oh to be in a position to help people like that . . . thanks for this inspirational story of people who DO make a difference, Julie Anne.Justine Owls

  • November 24, 2010
    6:12 pm

    It's not about position Justine. He runs this international charity from a tiny shed on his parents farm. It's just that his priorities are in a different place than ours perhaps are. What I took away from the evening is we can all make a difference with just small acts of kindness – doesn't have to cost lots of money – just opening your heart to helping others. Learning to love and care beyond our own families – to the one big family we really should be (and are meant to be).

  • November 24, 2010
    6:53 pm

    This is super cool! I got chastised yesterday for posting on Air1 site about wanting to help children and women with AIDS in Bwaise, Uganda and I was just asking how I could help get requested Bibles that they would love to have. I agree about helping others in need, not just seclude ourselves to America (but I do help here also don't get me wrong). It was sad to see how angry this woman was about helping others outside the U.S. also. Makes me want to say"If you were in a position where they are, with your kids, no anything, money, food, etc. Wouldn't you want someone to help? Even from another country?" I don't get the selfishness

  • November 24, 2010
    7:18 pm

    We do that around our tiny community here. Making it a safe place for the kids, looking out for each other … I will have to look in to doing MORE. Thank you for this thoughtful piece.Justine Owls

  • November 24, 2010
    7:18 pm

    I think what your doing IS more Justine. They say "put the mask over your own face first" on airplanes. By strengthening our own communities, those communities can then reach out to others until the whole world is covered.

  • November 24, 2010
    7:32 pm

    Carly – I'll be willing to bet this woman has never been to a truly impoverished country before if she feels that strongly. She has no idea of how severe real poverty can be. Obviously, if there is an emergency situation like Katrina here, or the earthquakes in Haiti, and Pakistan then aid should go where it is needed immediately – it is called being humane. However, under normal circumstances I believe you help where and how you can, and if the children and women with AIDS in Uganda call out to your heart, then that is where you are meant to help – it pays itself forward (see my comment to Justine above). I think you should be applauded for caring about and wanting to help.Just to prove I am no saint – my first reaction was why bibles? These people need medicine, food, shelter, and education – then I told myself not to judge, and realized they need hope more than anything else, so your idea must be spot on. Thank you for teaching me a lesson today.

  • November 24, 2010
    8:06 pm

    Very inspiring! ♥ Happy Thanksgiving Jewels.Sara Myron

  • November 24, 2010
    8:10 pm

    And to you and the kids Sara!

  • November 24, 2010
    10:45 pm

    Wow what an encouragement. A couple of years ago we didn't want the kids to keep having the gimmes at Christmas (though gifts are fun and we still do loads of em), so we started to also do a gift for someone else. This year we gave towards a charity that creates wells in areas where people are dying from no clean water. It's good to help our kids see beyond themselves so that tomorrow will be better through them. 🙂 Every time we took a drink of fresh water this year, we put some money in the pot for someone else's clean water somewhere in the world. We take even water for granted.so many though in our country are struggling right now. In our area, unemployment is up in the high teens and most of the houses around us are foreclosed (one very nice house across the street just went for $13,000 — less than my car!! Makes me sick to think about it)…so we've tried to give locally too to the organizations like Salvation Army that help so many with food and basics. Food pantries are all struggling because so many are cutting back on helping, so we've tried to round up our grocery bill and put the remainder on a card for the food pantry (our local Meijers and Kroger does this — not sure if it's national)…the help you give may one day be your own.

  • November 25, 2010
    9:38 am

    You're kind. Thank you again for spreadking the word. That is YOUR bit to helping. Well, ONE of them, anyhow.Justine Owls

  • November 25, 2010
    9:39 am

    You are so amazing in your capacity to care and bring these happenings to your post. With you posting, it's a guarantee that more people will get involved. Almost like Random Acts of Kindness, but reaching so much further. Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you spend it with your family or extended family, as long as it's where you truly want to be.Ruthee Mac

  • November 25, 2010
    9:46 am

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – you all are a blessing in my life. I'm so thankful you actually read what I write, try my recipes, laugh, and even shed a tear with me occasionally. Thank you for all the support.Jewels xo

  • November 25, 2010
    5:44 pm

    Have a GREAT Thanksgiving, Julie Anne. And thanks for putting things OUT there in the first place. That takes courage and you have such WONDERFUL things to share!! HUGS and best wishes.Justine Owls