UPDATE, December 9, 2011: The voting for the 2011 CNN Heroes campaigned has ended. Check out CNN’s Heroes section for all coverage and results!
As 2011 comes to a close, we’re keeping a close eye on the 2011 Heroes campaign that CNN, the cable news network, mounts at the end of every year. Two nominees, Amy Stokes of Infinite Family and Derrick Kayongo of the Global Soap Project, work directly with causes based in Africa.
During a trip to Johannesburg in 2003 to adopt a child, Amy Stokes bore witness to the plight of thousands of young South Africans who were orphaned after their parents passed away from HIV/AIDS. Many of these children were raising their brothers and sisters as the heads of households, without adult guidance that a parent would usually provide. Moved to help these fast-growing young adults, Ms. Stokes founded Infinite Family, an organization that matches young South Africans with virtual mentors based in the United States. Every day, mentees reach out to their mentors via Skype to discuss everyday issues and problems, like saving while grocery shopping or dealing with bills, as well as more ever-present problems such as emotional distress in raising a family. To date, the program boasts 400 mentors across six countries and 25 U.S. states, and Infinite Family helps to build computer labs in South Africa to keep young South Africans connected.
It’s difficult to fathom exactly how much 100 tons of soap looks like. If walls could speak, then the walls of Derrick Kayongo’s warehouse in Atlanta, GA might be able to tell us the answer. Founded in 2009, the Global Soap Project took shape when Mr. Kayongo, a humanitarian with previous experience at various NGOs, decided to take a leap and move forward on an idea he had developed after his experience at a refugee camp. In 1979, Mr. Kayongo and his family fled Uganda during the murderous dictatorship of Idi Amin, and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya. There, he saw that without access to soap and water, diseases had the potential to kill thousands around him. His idea involved engaging hotels to donate used soap instead of disposing it. Through a process of sanitizing, heating, and re-shaping dust made from the donated soap, Global Soap soon began shipping thousands of soap bars to refugee camps in Africa. One hundred tons have been shipped so far, and the list of hotels engaged in the program is ever-growing.
We’re proud to support Ms. Stokes and Mr. Kayongo in their bids to become the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year. Visit CNN’s Heroes of the Year voting page to cast your choice now!