Ann M.
In the US, it's the season of giving thanks. Wherever you are, I hope you're finding some reasons for gratitude, no matter how difficult the times are.

In this Heads Up, we send you a bonanza of people to be thankful for. There are eight new Giraffes below~people sticking their necks out to make the world a better place.  

Take a breath, sit back, give yourself the gift of savoring each of them and what they've done.

As long as there are Giraffes, there's hope.  
~Ann Medlock, Founder~Giraffe Heroes Project
New Giraffe Heroes ~ November 2010
Taking them in alphabetical order, we start with Mary Balikungeri.

Mary BalikungeriWhen her home country, Rwanda, was deep in a terrifyingly violent civil war, Balikungeri, a widow with two small children, was living safely in her adopted country, Switzerland. She could have stayed there. But reports of newly widowed Rwandan women and of orphaned children drew her home, despite the dangers. Arriving when there were still bodies in the streets, Balikungeri began her rescue efforts, which now include health care, education, job training, and advocacy to stop future violence. See her work at http://www.rwandawomennetwork.org/

From Rwanda to Arizona.

An active volunteer since she was a teen, Cynthia Bowers went above and beyond the usual Cynthia Bowersvolunteering when she called a Phoenix hospital and asked if she could donate a kidney to a child. There was no program for such donations so Bowers urged the hospital to start one. They did and her gift went to an 11-year-old boy who was dying of kidney failure. When she recovered from the surgery, Bowers left her job as a human resources executive to start two nonprofits that assist hundreds of her fellow Arizonans in volunteering their time to good causes. Bowers works a part-time job to pay the operations' expenses. There's more information at http://www.phoenixvolunteers.org and at http://www.employeereach.com.

Keep going ~ to England, and meet a peace-making imam
Musharraf HussainMusharaff Hussain is the director of the Karimia Institute in Nottingham, a center that provides focus and support to thousands of Muslim families living in that part of the United Kingdom. With violent extremists taking the headlines all over the world, Hussain, popularly called "Dr. Musharraf," is a voice for peace, despite threats against him by those extremists. Hussain has gone into Iraq to negotiate the release of a British hostage, has invited British soldiers returned from Iraq to speak at his mosque, and repeatedly calls all Muslims to live in peace. His words and actions have brought him threats, but also the Order of the British Empire. And a Giraffe commendation.

Sushil Koirals
Now to Nepal
Sushil Koirala, a physician, has spent no time building the personal prosperity his medical training allows him. Instead, he's been devoting himself to the social/political well-being of his country, Nepal, a cause that's put him in physical danger and brought him no income. Koirala (the man in the hat in the photo above) has spoken out for peace and democracy in Nepal, organizing and demonstrating, while he volunteers at a hospital. He's become a role model for other young, educated Nepalese, who are following his lead and turning down offers to leave their country and prosper in safer, more comfortable settings. http://www.epeacefornepal.org

On to India
In Hyderabad, India, Sunitha Krishnan, who is all of four-and-a-half feet tall, is Sunitha Krishnanstanding tall for women and children trapped in sex trafficking. Krishnan, herself gang-raped when she was 15, refused to accept the silence expected of her, instead channeling the rage she felt into rescuing others. Her Prajwala nonprofit physically rescues children and women from sex traffickers, shelters them, nurses them, and trains them for self-supporting jobs. Krishnan has been beaten up repeatedly on rescue missions but is undeterred. Be warned that watching her describe her work may appall you, but you will come away filled with awe and respect for this giant of a woman.

From Alabama to Kenya
Sherri MillsSherri Mills was on a tourist safari in Kenya when she found out that most Kenyan children had little chance of ever getting an education. A longtime advocate for kids back home in Alabama, Mills couldn't ignore what she now knew about kids' lives in this place so far from her home. Despite increasingly debilitating health problems, Mills dived into creating a school for poor kids in Kenya, fundraising, organizing, and traveling there regularly. Check out the Makena Children's Foundation.

India again, and another champion for the powerless
Usha Narayane is an "untouchable" woman in Kasturba, Nagar, who stood up for her Usha Narayanecommunity against the criminal actions of a man of higher caste who came repeatedly into the Kasturba slum, beating, raping, murdering and stealing at will. When Narayane spoke out against his crimes, he threatened to mutilate her with acid. She still reported him to the police, who ignored her reports. Emboldened by Narayane's defiance, almost two hundred victimized women gathered at the court, where he was under protective custody. The women killed him, ending years of his crimes and the authorities' collusion. Narayane was arrested for his murder but released; she wasn't even there. The women of Kasturba said, "Arrest us all." Unprotected by the system, they had ended the horror the only way left to them. Narayane, the one who would not be silenced, now runs a vocational training program for the women of Kasturba, women who now live and raise their children in safety. [If you see vigilantism in this story and disapprove, imagine yourself living without the police and the legal system that protect you and your family from such predators. What would you, a caring, responsible adult, do to stop the assaults on your family and neighbors?]

Leaving Illinois for Mexico
Donna QuathamerPart of Donna Quathamer's job as a campus minister was to take students on service missions to Mexico. There, she saw needs so great that they haunted her each time she returned to Illinois. She had to do something. When she asked hundreds of desperately poor, hard-working women in San Miguel de Allende what they most needed, they said it was a day care center for their children, who were home alone while the women worked. With no money, no experience in creating such a center, and close-to-no Spanish, Quathamer moved her life to the town and started figuring out how to do what the women wanted. A decade later, the Casa de los Angeles provides 83 families with day care, emergency shelter, schooling, a health clinic, a summer camp and a loving focal point for their days. Quathamer's Spanish is now fluent, as is the joy she expresses in seeing precious lives changing for the better.
What more can we say?...
...except that we are grateful, not only for Giraffe Heroes,
but also for you, there, wherever you are, reading about these people,
treasuring what they do, knowing how much the world needs Giraffes. 

Please pass this along to everyone you know
who could use some new reasons to give thanks.

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