Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa Honor "CNN Heroes"Last weekend, CNN continued its annual tradition of honoring ten brave and thankless role models throughout the world. Headlined by Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa, the “CNN Heroes” award gala took place at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The two-hour live event featured clips detailing the work of each hero, and at the end, 2016’s Hero of the Year was revealed as chosen by the viewer audience.

From adventurous kayaker Brad Ludden’s First Descents to young father Sheldon Smith’s Dovetail Project, the organizations represented were truly diverse, with notables including those furthering progress in the developing world.

CNN Heroes kicked-off by celebrating Luma Mufleh and her organization, Fugees Family. Founded in 2004, Luma assists refugee children to the United States by offering free academic enrichment programs and coaching after-school soccer games. As a Jordanian refugee herself, she targets children displaced due to war, and tailors services to meet individual needs, whether overcoming language barriers, learning about American institutions or combating discrimination. To date, Fugees Family has assisted more than 850 kids from 28 countries.

Another highlight is Umra Omar’s Safari Doctors which began in 2014. Umra temporarily lived in the U.S. but returned to her home in Kenya to provide medical care to the remote Lamu archipelago near the Somali border. Faced with frequent threats and spillover attacks by Al-Shabaab terrorists, most professionals in health care and education fled the Lamu area. However, Umra looks past the danger and now delivers immunizations and other basic health services, arriving on her own by boat. She estimates that she has treated over 2,000 people so far and maintains that these dire communities would benefit most from the return of trained professionals.

Finally, the 2016 Hero of the Year? Jeison Aristizabal, a native of Cali, Colombia, began a project known as ASODISVALLE to assist disabled persons in one of the poorest areas of his home country. Jeison suffers from cerebral palsy and since 2000, has worked to triumph over prevailing stigmas for all. Part of his mission focuses on the identification of other disabled people in the region, but the more important part focuses on providing inclusive rehabilitation and educational services to integrate these citizens back into the community. He offers everything from job training to healthy meals, stimulating the opportunities and happiness of thousands in the area.

Hosts Cooper and Ripa were seen getting emotional more than once at the event, a testament to their support for such projects around the developing world. Cooper has been a part of the program since its inception 10 years ago, and Ripa joined just this year, though making appearances as a presenter during the last two ceremonies. Ripa is also a known supporter of UNICEF.

While the real stars of the event are undoubtedly the remarkable CNN Heroes honorees, it is likely that Cooper and Ripa will both continue to use their presence to draw attention to similar causes in upcoming years.

Zachary Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Red Nose Day
Jack Black checked up on a Ugandan teen that he met during last year’s Red Nose Day.

Red Nose Day, a fundraising campaign run by the non-profit organization Comic Relief Inc., was held this year on May 26. The campaign works to free children around the world from poverty.

The Red Nose Day Special is a live two-hour primetime television event that brings celebrities together to use the power of comedy to raise money. This year, the organization partnered with NBC, Walgreens, M&Ms and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.

Jack Black, an American actor, comedian, musician and producer, was one of the 2016 participants of Red Nose Day’s inaugural telethon. He took a look back on his experience last year, when he traveled to a Ugandan slum and met an impactful young man.

Black was brought to tears when he visited the slums of Kampala, Uganda, where he met the orphaned teen named Felix. Black spent two days with Felix, learning how the teen made his living selling plastic bottles and slept on the dangerous streets at night.

The experience stuck with Black. The telethon covered an update on Felix, showing viewers how the teen benefitted from the organization’s efforts and giving Black some peace of mind.

When Black visited the slums, he was shocked at how much it emotionally affected him. He found it unfathomable that teenagers were sleeping on the streets and had little to no access to basic necessities.

During Black’s trip, the teen asked if he could go home with Black, saying, “I want to go with you.” While holding back tears, the actor replied, “I don’t think I can take you home. I don’t think it’s allowed.”

After the emotional experience, Black now feels better knowing that Red Nose Day has helped teens like Felix. In the video clip update, Felix describes his life now, saying: “I’m not scared anymore. There is no scary place. I would like to do well at school and complete my bright future. Now I have a dream.”

Felix additionally thanked Black for sharing his story with the world. With the funds raised by Red Nose Day, Felix was placed in a counseling program and then with a foster family. He is also now receiving an education.

This year, Black took a comedic spin on tackling child poverty. He said the best way to donate is simply by buying a little red nose, noting that they are great stocking stuffers.

The little red noses must have been a hit, as Red Nose Day raised $31.5 million this year. This money goes a long way in aiding the global poor. According to the Red Nose Day organization, $4 buys anti-malaria to protect mothers and children against mosquitos, $5 buys antibiotics to prevent pneumonia in children, and $15 can keep a child safe and sheltered for a week.

Globally, Red Nose Day has raised $1 billion in the last 25 years. While half of the money is given domestically, the other half goes to the poorest communities in places like Africa, Latin America and Asia. The funds are directly given to children in need of safety, education and healthcare.

In 2015, $170,000 was given to provide vaccines to children under the age of five living in the poorest communities in Africa. $30,000 was given to children and families in Africa that do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

Some of the 2016 charity partners included the Children’s Health Fund, The Global Fund, OXFAM, Save the Children and Gavi.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr


We’re all busy. Hectic schedules and technology practically run our lives, so here are nine easy ways to make them work in your favor and become more globally aware.

1. Twitter
It’s not all celebrities and witty screenwriters. Worldwide news organizations like CNN, BBC, and the Financial Times host Twitter accounts. Follow them or have their updates sent directly to your phone. Keeping an eye on worldwide trending topics can also help alert you if news is breaking.

2. Google Alerts
More along the lines of a “target acquired” approach, Google Alerts allows you to plug any phrase, country, word, or person into the endless Google engine and have the new results delivered to your inbox whenever you’d like.

3. RSS Feeds
Most sites these days will have an RSS Feed option. Signing up for it allows you to have the most important news right on your tablet or computer without having to search the internet.

4. Global News Sites
Go directly to the source. Sites like BBC News and CNN allow you to see the most important articles around the globe and then divide them by continent and country.

5. Magazines
Political magazines tend to take the occasionally dull topic of foreign affairs and make them digestible for larger audiences. However, because they tend to be monthly issues, you only get the greatest hits.

6. Council on Foreign Relations Daily Briefs
Delivered to your inbox every morning, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) gives you a summary of the most important events around the globe, analyzes them, and explains why what they’re giving you is important. CFR tends to be nonpartisan, gathering analysis from both sides of the aisle.

7. News Television/Radio Channels
Turn that remote to your favorite news channel of choice and have it serenade you with factual goodies while working the evening away. Not a morning person? Turn on the news while making coffee or getting ready to help get the juices flowing.

8. Books
Transport the written word to your iPad or tablet and take it with you on the morning commute, or take a mental health break while waiting for a meeting. If non-fiction books aren’t your thing, try historical fiction like Khaled Hosseini’s novel, “The Kite Runner.”

9. Newspapers
They’re still alive! Subscribe to a newspaper and have it on your phone or tablet whenever you have time.

– Hilary Koss

Sources: CFR, Amazon, Financial Times, BBC News

Can Soap Operas Help Fight Poverty?While the era of the soap operas may be coming to a close in the United States, in many Arabic countries soaps are becoming more and more popular. This increase has come from the unusual mix of American melodrama characteristics (love, family turmoil, deceit, etc.) with cultural values that audiences can identify with.

Surprisingly, soap operas have a history of influencing impoverished communities for the better. In South Africa, a soap opera addressed safe sex and it was found that the viewers of the soap were four times more likely to use condoms than non-viewers. In Mexico City, a soap opera aired that discussed the issue of child literacy. This caused enrollment in literacy programs to skyrocket throughout the entire city.  Even in Colorado, many low-income families increased their child’s health insurance after viewing a soap opera discussing child health problems.

One of the ways in which soap operas can aid in the fight against poverty is through awareness. With such a large audience, a soap opera could be an incredible tool used for spreading awareness about social, health, and economic issues facing impoverished communities. In this way, altering the content of a soap opera to contain relevant content for viewers would only increase ratings.

Although the effectiveness of soap operas being used as an educational tool isn’t full-proof, the idea of altering soap operas, at least slightly, to educate impoverished communities on governmental and social issues seems like an effective strategy to raise awareness about social issues, injustices, and aid in the struggle against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Al Jazeera