Pushpa Basnet is revealed Sunday night as the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year
Basnet supports children in Nepal so they don't have to live behind bars with their parents
For being named Hero of the Year, Basnet receives $250,000 to continue her work
Since January, CNN Heroes have been profiled every week on CNN and CNN.com. These Heroes were chosen from thousands of nominations submitted through the CNN Heroes website.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries, and space is very limited in the few group homes affiliated with the government. So when a parent is incarcerated and no other guardian can be found, children have little choice but to live in prison as well.
Basnet, 29, is determined to give these children another option.
She started a home in Kathmandu where children can receive education, food, medical care and a chance to live a more normal life. She also runs a day care program for children who are too young to be separated from their parent.
“These children have done nothing wrong. They are simply caught in something they do not understand,” Basnet said during “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” which took place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and honored her and the other top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012. “We want to work with the government to bring them all out from of prison. And they deserve a better future.”
Since 2005, Basnet has helped more than 140 children through her nonprofit, the Early Childhood Development Center.
Basnet was chosen as Hero of the Year through a nine-week public vote held on CNN.com. For being named CNN Hero of the Year, she receives $250,000 to continue her work. That is in addition to the $50,000 that each of the top 10 Heroes are receiving.
When accepting the Hero of the Year award, Basnet relayed a message to incarcerated children in Nepal.
“Mamu’s going to take you out from the prison, and you’re coming to my place,” said Basnet, who is called “Mamu” by many of the children. “This is for my children, and this is for my country Nepal. Thank you so much everybody who voted for me and who believed in my dream.”
This is the sixth year of the CNN Heroes campaign. In that time, more than 180 CNN Heroes have been profiled on CNN, chosen from more than 45,000 nominations submitted through the CNN Heroes website.
Each year, the campaign culminates with a live tribute show that brings together some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
The celebrities who took part in this year’s show included movie stars Susan Sarandon, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Harvey Keitel and Josh Duhamel; athletes Jeff Gordon and Cullen Jones; and hip-hop artist 50 Cent. Television stars Rainn Wilson (“The Office”), Rico Rodriguez (“Modern Family”), Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Miranda Cosgrove (“iCarly”) and David Spade (“Rules of Engagement”) also participated.
There were two musical performances during the show. “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips performed “Home,” and three-time Grammy Award winner Ne-Yo sang “Heroes.”
In addition to receiving $50,000, this year’s top 10 Heroes will also receive free training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide. Each Hero will receive a customized version of the Annenberg Alchemy program, which provides practical guidance on fundraising, communications, management and much more.
“We have found that the most effective nonprofits are like the CNN Heroes – organizations with strong and visionary leaders and a bold, new approach to getting the job done,” said Wallis Annenberg, the foundation’s president, CEO and chairman of the board. “Our hope is that in supporting them – especially smaller nonprofits, still struggling to survive and to thrive – we will help them get wider attention and become models across the world.”
Here are the top 10 Heroes of 2012, in alphabetical order:
Pushpa Basnet was shocked to learn that many children in Nepal have to live in prisons with their parents. In 2005, she started a children’s center that has provided support, such as housing, education and medical care, to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents.
Wanda Butts lost her son in a drowning accident six years ago. In his memory, she started the Josh Project, a nonprofit that taught nearly 1,200 children – most of them minorities – how to swim.
Mary Cortani is a former Army dog trainer who started Operation Freedom Paws, a nonprofit that helps war veterans train their own service dogs. Since 2010, she has worked with more than 80 veterans who have invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Catalina Escobar is helping young moms in Colombia, where one in five girls age 15-19 is or has been pregnant. Since 2002, her foundation has provided counseling, education and job training to more than 2,000 teenage mothers.
Razia Jan is fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan, where terrorists will stop at nothing to keep them from learning. She and her team at the Zabuli Education Center are providing a free education to about 350 girls, many of whom wouldn’t normally have access to school.
Thulani Madondo struggled as a child growing up in the slums of Kliptown, South Africa. Today, his Kliptown Youth Program provides school uniforms, tutoring, meals and activities to 400 children in the community.
In memory of his daughter who was killed by a drunken driver in 2007, Leo McCarthy started Mariah’s Challenge. The nonprofit gives college scholarships to teenagers who pledge not to drink while they’re underage. Nearly $150,000 in scholarship money has been awarded.
Connie Siskowski is helping young people who have to take care of an ill, disabled or aging family member. Since 2006, her nonprofit has provided assistance to more than 550 young caregivers in Palm Beach County, Florida.
After beating his addiction to drugs and alcohol, Scott Strode found support through sports. Since 2007, his nonprofit, Phoenix Multisport, has provided free athletic activities and a sober support community to more than 6,000 participants in Colorado.
Malya Villard-Appolon is a rape survivor dedicated to supporting victims of sexual violence in Haiti. In 2004, she co-founded KOFAVIV, an organization that has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.