Started in 2007, CNN Heroes honors local humanitarians who have made extraordinary contributions and aide to local or international communities.  Each year 10 individuals are recognized for their efforts in a televised broadcast.  This year, CNN Heroes 2017 will be hosted by Anderson Cooper & Kelly Ripa this Sunday, December 17 at 8 PM ET on CNN.  The broadcast will be televised from New York’s American Museum of Natural History and will include notable actors Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Amber Tamblyn (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), Diane Lane (The Godfather), Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black), and stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan.  Each year all 10 honorees are awarded $50,000 each.  Although voting has already closed for this year, people can vote for the Honoree of the Year who is then awarded an additional $250,000.  This years honorees include Samir Lakhani & Mona Patel.

Samir Lakhani graduated from University of Pittsburg in 2014 with a degree in Environmental Studies.  While studying, Lakhani focused his time on social entrepreneurial work including agriculture and nutrition projects in northern Cambodia, solar lighting solutions in Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia, and founding his own non-profit Eco-Soap Bank.  Eco-Soap Bank recycles & sanitizes soap from hotels and delivers them to needy communities in Cambodia, where poor hygiene practices and the resulting diseases can account for 1/5 deaths in children.

Samir’s work also aims to generate education and employment for local women.  Gently used bars of soaps from local Cambodian hotels are sanitized in 1 of 4 recycling centers that directly employ local women.  Through Samir Lakhani & Eco-Soap Bank’s direct efforts, over 650,000 Cambodians have been provided access to soap and hygiene education.  Although only currently in Cambodia, Samir & Eco-Soap Bank are looking to expand into several other developing countries.

Mona Patel was walking to class at Cal Poly University when she was hit by a drunk driver.  She suffered several injuries and after significant time spent in the ICU her leg required amputation.  The next seven years were a struggle as Mona underwent several other surgeries (over 20 total) in attempt to salvage what was left of her leg.  During this time, Mona really struggled with her new disability and the lack of amputee support groups.  This prompted her to found the San Antonio Amputee Foundation in 1997.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – November 11, 2017: CNN Heroes 2017 – Mona Patel 27437_007 Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – November 11, 2017: CNN Heroes 2017 – Mona Patel 27437_007 Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman

Over the past 10 years, the foundation has provided support to over 1000 amputees in the form of support group meetings, home & car modifications and health programs.  In 2015 Mona led a group of amputees to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

If you would like to support the efforts of these programs, please consider donating by clicking here for the San Antonio Amputee Foundation or here for the Eco-Soap Bank.

Don’t forget to tune into CNN this Sunday at 8PM ET to see which honoree will be CNN Hero of the Year.

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