Tag Archives: Faith

Marian Wright Edelman

Origin:
Bennettsville, South Carolina
June 6, 1939

Marian Edelman is a human rights activist and lawyer (graduated Yale Law in 1963) who started her career as an advocate for the NAACP in New York and then Mississippi.  She dealt with a number of racially charged issues that were tied to the civil rights movement.

In 1968 Marian’s work continued by organizing the Poor People’s Campaign of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Soon after she setup the Washington Research Project; a public interest law firm. This created a new passion to assist childhood development and poverty-stricken children.

Marian’s new passion lead to her creating the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission: “is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”

The fund has 4 major focuses which are as follows: the securing of comprehensive health and mental health coverage for every child and pregnant woman; to prevent youth from taking life paths that can often lead to; the development of the next youth leaders who will be advocates for children’s rights in generations to come; ending of child poverty and stabilizing families.

Since the early 1960s, Marian has been a tireless advocate for human rights, but her work with the Children’s Defense Fund has persuaded Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected.

Submitted by:
Kit Bennett

Sources:

Wikipedia

Children’s Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman Institute

Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)

Origin:
Wadowice, Poland
18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005

John Paul II, formally named Karol Jozef Wojtyla, suffered great losses early on in his life as his mother and older brother died before he reached the age of 15. Attending Jagiellonian University, John Paul II studied poetry and theater for a short time until the Nazis took over the country and shut down the school. John Paul then secretly began to study at a seminary in Krakow until 1946 when he was made a member of the clergy.

After being named the bishop of Ombi as well as the archbishop of Krakow, John Paul was considered a leader in the Catholic Church and took part in the Second Vatican Council. Belonging to the group, John Paul aided in the recognition of the Church throughout the world. By 1967, he was a high-ranking priest, or cardinal. For the first time in over four hundred years, John Paul, a non-Italian pope, was leading the Catholic Church in 1978.

John Paul spread his belief in religion and advocacy in human rights as he traveled around the world and spoke to many groups of people. He voiced his stance in disapproving capital punishment, and is said to have helped in Poland’s halt in communism. Having much respect for the younger populations, John Paul II created World Youth Days, where populations were brought together throughout the globe.

On April 2, 2005, John Paul II died, as millions of people stood in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to pay their respect. Although one must wait five years to be named a saint, Church authorities carried out the process immediately for John Paul II to be recognized.

Submitted by:
Erin Sehnert & Mary-france Oudin

Sources:

Wikipedia

Vatican

Remembrances, Reflections, and Tributes

Liz McCartney

Origin:
Unknown

Liz is the co-founder of the St.Bernard Project, a non-profit that helps Katrina survivors return to their homes. After Liz and her boyfriend Zack Rosenburg volunteered in the aftermath of Katrina, they knew more had to be done. They left their home behind in Washington and permanently relocated to the St. Bernard Parish, an area hit severely by the Hurricane, with all 67,000 residents losing their homes.

Both knew nothing about construction but were determined to fund-raise and organize support to help rebuild the parish. Their key focus was to help those hardest hit, i.e. families with children and senior citizens, but their aid has gone far beyond that. Over the course of 8 to 12 weeks they are able to build an inhabitable home for just $12,000. Two years since the project started they were able to bring back just under half of all the residents that lost their homes – a staggering achievement considering the overwhelming odds.

To date, 15,000 volunteers and 5,000 donors have contributed to the re-building through the St. Bernard Project. The project has been recognized on numerous occasions and include the following: The Manhattan Institute’s Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the Friends of New Orleans Hero of the Storm Award, and CNN Hero of the Year.

The St. Bernard Project believes that housing is a human right and that their work should affect all the members of the community without regard to race, creed, gender, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or physical ability.

Submitted by:
Kit Bennett

Sources:

CNN Heroes

Wikipedia

St. Bernard Project

Ruby Bridges

Origin:
Tyler Town, Mississippi
September 8, 1954

At just six years old, Ruby Bridges became a girl that would be talked about for years to come in elementary schools around America during Black History Month. Ruby was among the first black children, among chants of “two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate!” to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Accompanied by her mother and multiple armed US Marshals, Ruby went to school daily even though many individuals threatened bodily harm, families pulled their children from the school, and singled Ruby out until she was the lone child in her classroom.

With the help of that loving teacher and her own perseverance, Ruby triumphed through the first year of school and paved the way for other black students to attend the previously all white schools. Charles Burks, U.S. Marshal (Ret.) stated of Ruby Bridges: “For a little girl six years old…she showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. And we’re all very proud of her.”

Even today, Ruby Bridges works towards equal education for all students through lectures and the Ruby Bridges Foundation. Ruby Bridges Hall states “I wish there were enough marshals to walk with every child as they faced the hatred and racism today, and to support, encourage them the way these federal marshals did for me. I know there aren’t enough of you, but I do hope that I have inspired some of you today to join me again by dedicating yourselves to not just protecting but uplifting those you touch because that will enable us to rise together as a people, as a nation, and as a world.”

Submitted by:
Lisa and Zachary Leibrand

Sources:

Wikipedia

Home Page

PBS

Tim Coulsen

Origin:
England

Tim Coulson was an Art and Design teacher at a local school. On July 7, 2005 Coulson left his home to attend a teacher training conference instead of going into school that day. Coulson, like hundreds of others, was aboard the fateful train that was blown up as part of the 7/7 London Bombings. Like all disasters, there are always stories that emerge of the everyday heroes who acted in these situations. Coulson’s is one of these.

After the deafening explosion of the bomb went off people began evacuating the tunnel as quickly as possible. Many were scared of other explosions possibly going off. However Coulson, and a couple of others that day decided to stay amongst the wreckage and try to help some of those that were in serious pain. The first man Coulson came across, he later found out, was called Michael “Stan” Brewster, who was also heading towards a conference that day. Brewster appeared trapped in hole, however when Coulson went underneath the train to try and pull him out, he saw that Brewster’s body had been severed from the top half. Coulson immediately went back up into the train to comfort Brewster in final moments amongst the chaos. Once Brewster died, Coulson pulled him from the wreckage, closed his eyes and said a prayer for him. Coulson had already stayed longer than most others but even still he did not leave the tunnel.

Alison Sayer was another passenger on the train who had been knocked unconscious after the blast and awoke in the darkness of the tunnel. Coulson heard her calling for help and immediately went to her aid. Coulson stayed with her for approximately an hour until the medical services arrived. He had no medical background but knew the importance of keeping her awake and calm until she could be rescued. Sayer’s leg and sight were later saved by doctors but she credits Coulson with truly keeping her alive. His impact on her life is evident as she still remains in contact with him despite moving to Australia. Coulson acted in the moment despite huge risks to his own life in order to help others. He is the definition of a Real Action Hero.

Submitted by:
James Renton

Sources:

The Telegraph

Channel 4

Lady Godiva

Origin:
Coventry, England
1040–1080

Lady Godiva was a pious noblewoman who married Leofric, the Earl of Mercia. She was a landowner in her own right and Coventry was one of her favourite properties.

Leofric had imposed a hated tax on his people and Lady Godiva reportedly stood up to him and demanded that he abolish the tax. He told her that she would have to ride through Coventry naked before he would change his mind.

Lady Godiva did ride through Coventry naked, surprising her husband so much that he abolished the tax. It is said that she was totally naked, with only her long blonde hair covering her body.

The residents of Coventry loved Lady Godiva so much that they stayed indoors with their windows shuttered so as to not see her naked. It is said that one man named Tom was the only person who dared look at her and he turned blind. This is where the term Peeping Tom originated from.

Lady Godiva was a hero for her people, showing care and selflessness by putting them before herself. She stood up to an oppressive husband and demanded he treat Coventry fairly. She put her dignity and honour at risk to save the common people.

Submitted by:
Cassandra Langdon

Sources:

Wikipedia

HistoryNet

Harvard Magazine

Efren Peñaflorida

Origin:
Cavite City, Philippines
March 5, 1981

“When people regard me as a hero, I always tell them that they should look inside them too because I believe that there’s a hero inside every one of us and all we have to do is just to open our eyes wide and feel what’s going on, then let our hearts be willing to accommodate the needy, the desperate and the hopeless simply by extending our hand to them, and there you will unfold the hero that is in you.”

Efren’s comments will hopefully ring true with many people and his work will become a monument for courage and commitment to something you believe in. Efren’s Dynamic Teen Company is an organization that uses a pushcart to re-create a classroom that can teach valuable skills in the most unusual of places, be it a trash dump or cemetery. He is reaching out to a youth population that often resorts to gang membership in an attempt to lift themselves out of poverty, despite the many associated dangers of gang life.

Efren knew from a young age that education was key to his upward movement out of the shanty towns. He was challenged daily at school by gang members and refused to be beaten. Since 1997 his courage has been the springboard that has facilitated over 1500 children being positively affected by his program. The children are learning to read, write, understand basic mathematics, as well as practical skills such as good hygiene.

Efren motivates his volunteers with the following words: “you are the change that you dream and I am the change that I dream. And collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.” In 2009 Efren won CNN’s Hero of the Year award recognizing his immense efforts to enact change in the Philippines.

Submitted by:
Kit Bennett

Sources:

CNN Heroes

Wikipedia

Dynamic Teen Company

Elie Wiesel

Origin:
Signet, Maramures County, Romania
September 30, 1928

Elie Wiesel was born in a small town of Transylvania, where many different languages were spoken and various cultures practiced. Wiesel knew many languages including Yiddish, German, Hungarian, and Romanian and used them in his everyday living activities. Religion was his main focus, as he enjoyed learning the history of his practiced religion, Judaism. His family felt safe from the disturbing violence of World War II until 1944.

In 1944, all of those who practiced the Jewish religion living in Wiesel’s town were taken the the concentration camps in Poland. Wiesel, who was 15 years old at the time, was transported to Auschwitz and immediately split from his mother and sister who he never saw again. Managing to stay with his father for the following year, he was exposed to near death experiences as he was beaten, physically worn, undernourished, and transported like cattle to different camps. Wiesel’s father did not survive the last months of hardship, and Wiesel had to find a way to make it on his own.

After his liberation from the concentration camps, Elie moved to France to study the language as well as philosophy, working as a choir master and educator of Hebrew. His journalism career began here, as he wrote articles in French and Israeli newspapers. However, he wrote nothing of his experiences in the concentration camps for years until 1955, when he wrote, in Yiddish, a 900 page work, the title translated “And the World Kept Silent”. This writing was then downsized and titled “La Nuit”, or Night. Wiesel finally found a publisher after many attempts, however, sold very few copies at first. “Night” is now a well known publication throughout the world.

After moving to New York City, Wiesel became a U.S. citizen and continued to write for newspapers and publish many books, essays, short stories, and plays. He is now a professor at Boston University and continues to reside in New York City. He has been a chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and his awards include the Congressional Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Submitted by:
Erin Sehnert

Sources:

Wikipedia

Elie Wiesel Foundation For Humanity

Academy of Achievement

Phymean Noun

Origin:
Kampong Cham province, Cambodia

Phymean Noun was a child living in extreme poverty in Cambodia.  At the age of fifteen she lost her mother to cancer and the rest of her family fled to refugee camps, leaving her alone to care for and raise her two year old niece.  In Noun’s home, school was not free.  She had to pay a study fee to attend, while also finding a way to support herself and her niece.  Noun struggled through this difficult time in her life, preserving her dignity and self respect as she went.  Refusing to sacrifice her education, a value instilled by her mother, Noun hand copied books late into the night for just a few cents pay in order to make ends meet.  She worked by day, attended school by night, her niece in tow, and worked again into the wee hours.  Noun’s commitment paid off, allowing her to create a stable home for herself  after many years.

Noun eventually worked for the UN and an international NGO, but ultimately sacrificed her job and all of herself to make a difference to other children living in poverty in Cambodia.  After lunch one afternoon Noun threw leftover chicken bones into a trash heap and watched in horror as children scrambled to retrieve them to eat any bits left remaining.  In talking with these children, she learned that they lived or worked in the trash heap, collecting cans and scraps to sell in order to support their families.  Education was not an option for them, as their families depended on their income and could not afford school fees.

Noun quit her job within weeks to begin the People Improvement Organization, an organization committed to providing free, safe education to the children of Cambodia.  Noun spent $30,000 of her own money to get her first school funded and running, and Noun now provides free education and health services to more than 240 children near the dumps in Phnom Penh.

Noun provides more than education and care to children.  By devoting her own life to supporting their growth and development, she is acting as a role model, demonstrating how determination, commitment, and sacrifice can move one child, and a whole community, forward.

Submitted by:
Karen Langdon

Sources:

CNN Heroes

People Improvement Organization

Jude Ndambuki

Origin:
Kenya

Jude Ndambuki grew up in Kenya in poverty, the second oldest of eight children.  His education came at the expense of his brother’s, as their widowed mother could not afford for both of them to go to school.  Becoming a teacher in Kenya, and then traveling to the United States to take a teaching position in New York, Ndambuki never forgot his roots.  He was determined to give back to the community and show the Kenyan children how to access a positive future.  One evening walking home from classes he discovered the way he was going to do this.  A perfectly functional computer was discarded in the trash on the side of the road.  Ndambuki picked it up to take home, and thus began his mission to provide education, technology, and hope to students in Kenya.

Ndambuki founded the “Help Kenya Project,” an organization committed to teaching Kenyan children about technology, as well as fostering civic responsibility.  The organization sends a forty foot container filled with refurbished computers to Kenya once a year, and Ndambuki travels there as well every two years to teach computer classes and work with students.  In exchange for the computers he asks Kenyan student to plant trees.  Erosion is a huge problem in Kenya as much fuel comes from wood burning, and planting trees provides an important opportunity for students to give back to the community.  Ndambuki sees the relationship as symbolic of giving life.  Technology gives new life and hope to the students, the old computers are given new life by the Help Kenya Project, and the students give life to trees in their community.

The Help Kenya Project has expanded its services, and while continuing to provide Kenyan students with access to computers in school, it also provides educational scholarships, supports women’s programs, sponsors educational seminars for teachers, and sponsors the construction of computer laboratories and water reservoirs.

Jude Ndambuki, a child of poverty himself, has made it his mission, and the mission of his organization, to eliminate extreme poverty in Kenya.  Over two thousand computers and 150,000 trees later, the Help Kenya Project is making this dream possible.

Submitted by:
Karen Langdon

Sources:

CNN Heroes

Help Kenya Project