CNN Announces Heroes of the Year

Connor Murphy ’15, Contributor

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Pashpa Basnet cannot imagine life without the children she helps.

This year’s edition of the CNN Hero of the Year was given to Basnet, who lives in Kathmandu, Nepal. This marks the second time in three years that the honor went to a social activist from Kathmandu.

Basnet, 28, works with Nepalese children. This is no ordinary community service: she created an organization to help those children whose parents are in jail. In 2005, she discovered that, often, when a parent went to jail they only had two options: take their child to prison with them or leave them out on the streets. Only two months after a visit to a women’s prison that inspired her, she created the Early Childhood Development Center. Her friends thought she was crazy for pursuing her dream, but her success has resulted in worldwide attention.

Basnet’s life is all about caring for others: since she launched her organization in 2005, Basnet has assisted 100 children. During the day, she runs a day care for young children. Older children live in a residential service she manages, called the “Butterfly Home.” She gives them the opportunity to learn, eat, sleep and receive medical attention in a safe environment.

Basnet’s ultimate goal in her endeavors is that the children staying with her reunite with their parents once their parents are released from prison. She sees herself as a sort of bridge between families.

The other nominees for the award comprise a global list of 10 heroes involved with a diversity of organizations. Several of the organizations, like Pushpa Basnet’s, are generally geared toward helping kids.

Connie Siskowski runs a service helping young people who take care of a disabled older relative. Leo McCarthy runs Mariah’s Challenge, a nonprofit with a focus on prevent drunk driving amongst teens. When Wanda Butts lost her son in a drowning accident, she created the Josh Project to help teach thousands of African-American children how to read. Thulani Madondo started the Kliptown Youth Program in South Africa. His organization focuses on providing academic support for 400 kids in a country still recovering from the incredibly divisive Apartheid movement.

Razia Jan, one of the top ten recognized heroes, is in charge of the Zabuli Education Center, giving hundreds of girls in Afghanistan a free education. She presented her cause to the BC High community earlier this school year.

Mary Cortani runs an organization in California called Operation Freedom Paws that helps military veterans train their own dogs. She helps the veterans she works with overcome trauma, severe stress and anxiety brought on by their time in the Armed Forces.

The CNN Hero of the Year series gives $300,000 to each year’s winner. Pushpa Basnet hopes to use the money to help her organization grow as she tries to ensure that nobody’s childhood is spent in jail.

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CNN Announces Heroes of the Year