Two Indian Americans All Set To Be Recognized As CNN Hero Of The Year 2017December 11, 2017 11:32
(Image source from: post-gazette.com and mysanantonio.com)
WASHINGTON: Two Indian-Americans; Samir Lakhani from Pittsburg and Mona Patel from Texas are to be among the 10 finalists picked for the prestigious CNN Heroes of the Year award for 2017. Both of them have been actively involved in community services for many years now. They are to be recognized at the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” on December 17th.
Lakhani runs a non-profit organization which recycles discarded bars of soap from hotels across Cambodia. They then distribute the soaps to villages which are in need of these essential items. From 2014, as a college student, Lakhani first traveled to Cambodia where he observed that this bar of soap was a much sought after luxury for people of Cambodia and which they can not afford.
“I remember quite vividly a mother bathing her newborn in a basin filled with laundry powder and water. It is an image I’ll never get out of my mind,” Lakhani stated. She was still studying at the University of Pittsburgh when he started the Eco-soap Bank.
This organization has now grown upto four recycling centers all across the US. This not just works in providing soaps but also is a great employer with jobs to over 35 local women. First they gather used soap bars and then they are sanitized and remolded into new bars by melting down into liquid soap first.
More than 650,000 people have benefited so far, from the NGO’s soap and hygiene education. “What I love most is that we are killing three birds with one stone,” Lakhani said. “We are keeping waste out of landfills, employing locals and spreading soap all over the country,” he added.
While on the other hand Mona Patel’s non-profit organization aims to help amputees rebuild their lives. Her organization offers peer support, resources and recreational activities for handicapped. From her experiences, she began this organization. More than 15 years ago, she was hit by a drunken driver while walking to attend a class at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California. "I flew up about 12 feet," Patel said. "And then he pinned me between his car and a metal railing, and that's what smashed my leg and my foot." Patel's body, and future, were forever changed.
But this did not deter her determination, and when Patel got out of the ICU, she underwent her first amputation. She had the challenging seven years of surgeries in attempts to salvage the remaining part of her leg. Her strong will power led her to earn a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees while the turmoil in her life, and eventually she became a social worker.
Patel's nonprofit, the ‘San Antonio Amputee Foundation’, aims to help amputees rebuild their lives as this is not an end to their dreams. This group offers peer support, education and recreation opportunities, also the much needed financial assistance for modifications in their homes to suit their disabilities and also to pay for a prosthetic limb.
Patel has been active and pioneering in fitness and health programs for amputees. She also sponsors amputees to participate tennis tournaments and endurance climbing. In year 2015, a group of amputees along with Patel climbed the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
"When somebody becomes an amputee, maneuvering through the system is sometimes just scary," Patel, a below-knee amputee, said. "I think the big catalyst of me doing what I do to help the amputee community is because I lived it," she added.
Online voting is open for public and the Winner will receive USD 100000 for their charitable cause.
By Minu Manisha