CNN Hero 2012: Congrats to Pushpa, Indira and many other social workers

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First of all, I want to congratulate with Pushpa for being awarded the CNN Hero of the Year. The award is such an amazing achievement for a young determined lady who decided to dedicate her life for the disadvantaged and vulnerable kids.
Pushpa chose a very difficult cause, offering human relief to children victim of national prison system.
We all know the dire state of the correctional establishments and just we imagine how tough is any intervention that tries to address the human suffering inside the jails.
I met Pushpa a couple of time through Change Fusion, the social entrepreneurship and activism promoting organization led by my friend Luna. I never really had any serious or long discussion with Pushpa but I was impressed: very simple but at the same time you can feel the power of her energy and determination emanating from her.
Pushpa made a clear choice of life as she truly and literally decided to be a real social worker, not by simply hanging a nice degree on her house walls.
At a very young age, she took an extremely bold decision by setting up the Early Childhood Development Center, a local organization promoting comprehensive childhood development, child protection and education for kids who would have never dreamt to have a chance, in their life, to grow to be “someone”. Thanks Pushpa and her endless efforts, they can and they will.
Yes Pushpa deserves a real standing ovation from all of us. Many people supported her bid to become CNN Hero and this was a fantastic example of collective campaigning for a just cause.
At the same time, I have some reservations with these kinds of events, where sensationalization plays “big”. It seems to me that CNN Hero offers a kind of “commercialization” of public good, being delivered, no doubt, by incredible and of course praiseworthy individuals.
This leads to some sort of personification of the social cause that can probably be seen as an indispensible marketing strategy to create a bond with people, potential source of donations.
Positively, this process of identification can motivate individuals not only to donate money but can get them involved in the cause.
At the same time, the “mass” mobilization to support Pushpa’s bid, can be also seen other way around as the related voting system to choose the Hero is basically flawed.
Indeed, the final voters by endorsing a person, give an unconditional support to the cause and this is not bad in itself, rather the opposite, I would say; still no serious nor professional evaluation is carried out to determine the impact of the work of the aspiring “Heros”.
Do not get me wrong, I am sure CNN folks and audience all over the world were able to screen and select the best candidates in an accurate due diligence  but still the way the final voting happen clearly shows the limitations of this kind of awards.
So at the end of the day, the CNN Hero is an hero” inter pares”: all the finalists, to my opinions, are real ‘heroes”
But what’s about the “invisible” rest, those deserving individuals who do not even dream, often by choice, to run for this kind of global awards? Aren’t they heroes too?
I mean when the spotlight goes on few selected social workers, activists and so called change makers, what happen to the hidden heroes the world over is plenty of?
Imagine Nepal with thousands of NGOs and literally millions of activists. Of course some of them are working on “bogus” organizations but the great majority offers genuine, life changing services for those at the bottom of the pyramid. A good number of NGOs have really exceptional people behind them.
Unfortunately, a good number of them go unnoticed.
For this reason, it will be extremely important to find out a way to properly recognize these efforts of altruism and generosity so common and spread around the country,
Having said this, we should all be glad for Puspha, her children and importantly the team behind her efforts. Pushpa’s achievements should be viewed as a collective success.
Now a deserving note goes to Indira Rana Magar, a real pioneer of working with children in the jails of Nepal. Indira and the organization she set up, Prisoners Assistance Nepal, have provided a huge contribution to the cause of human rights in the correctional system too.
Indira, an acclaimed international human rights activist and former Ashoka Change Maker deserves lots of credit and her endless efforts to improve the human conditions in the prisons all over Nepal, remains a source of great inspiration for all. Yes Indira is also a real Change Maker, no doubt on this.
I know Inidira very well, we are close friends, we have been working together in the past.
Indira  is an incredible strong lady, quite a character I would say. Indira is so strong, so passionate so “one color” and simple that she can be a real “typhoon” of energies, unleashing an endless stream of enthusiasm and passion.
Prisoner Assistance Nepal is still a relatively small organization but it grew a lot in the last 5 years, expanding programs all over the country, offering a very interesting combination of grassroots advocacy and direct care service within and outside the prisons.
Indira, with the help of her team and an incredible number of international volunteers and supporters, built several children homes and integrated programs, also in terms of livelihood and income generation that are real examples of best practices in child protection coupled by an innovative quality pedagogy, Junkiri, shaped and devised by Indira herself.
It is a pedagogy based on practicality; it is a way of imparting knowledge in a very “hands on” manner. It is also a stepping stone for future leaders, as most of the children assisted by Prisoner Assistance do speak very good English and grow as confident citizens. In all this Pushpa and Indira have so much in common.
I have not met Indira in a while but I am sure she is extremely happy for Pushpa as their cause can really get a needed boost to achieve systemic change.

More importantly, average citizens, inspired by persons like Pushpa and Indira, can decide to pick up an issue and start doing something. Any cause is good, it must come from your heart and you need to feel passionate about it. In this way, every single citizen can become a CNN Hero.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good


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