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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