Pushpa Basnet, a Nepalese woman who supports children so they don’t have to live behind bars with their incarcerated parents, was named the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year on Sunday night. 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. 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.
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.”