Special Report

Hero Humanitarian Workers You Should Know About Now

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Every year, Americans spend millions of dollars going to movies about superheroes. These comic book characters possess all kinds of special powers that enable them to save humanity.

But we don’t have to sit in a movie theater to appreciate the exploits of superheroes. They are among us, as school superintendents, librarians, drug-addiction survivors, doctors, environmental saviors, and just plain good neighbors.

In acknowledgment of World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of 15 hero humanitarian workers you should know about. We compiled our list from various sources such as the Good News Network and media sources.

World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to recognizing humanitarians and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. Thankfully, everyone on this list is still with us and doing work to further humankind.

Some names may be familiar, like Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, the women’s education advocate and youngest Nobel Peace Prize ever. Yousafzai’s courage after surviving an assassination attempt won her admiration all over the world. These are the most admired men and women in 2018.

Others less familiar but no less deserving are Dr. Tom Catena, who is providing medical care on a heroic scale in strife-torn Sudan. In June, 633 divers at Deerfield Beach in Florida set a Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup. Here are 30 other heroes fighting to save our oceans.

Click here to see hero humanitarian workers you should know about.

Source: Courtesy of Marietta City Schools

Grant Rivera

Grant Rivera, superintendent of the Marietta school district in Georgia, is donating his $10,000 bonus — his first as superintendent — to help defray costs for each student applying to college. The money will go to the Marietta Schools Foundation, which will disperse the money to the students. Rivera has been superintendent since November 2016 and earns about $190,000 a year.


Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool / Getty Images

Greta Thunberg

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is embarking on a new venture to draw attention to the climate crisis. The 16-year-old set sail from Plymouth in England earlier this month aboard a solar-powered yacht for the United States. She plans to reach the U.S. before the start of climate talks in America in September, then continue on to South America and arrive in Santiago, Chile, ahead of a U.N. climate conference in December.

Source: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai

Mala Yousafzai, champion of education for young women in Pakistan and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, has expanded her activism. The 21-year-old was in Scotland earlier this year to put the focus on how homelessness limits young women’s access to educational opportunities. Yousafzai is partnering with the homelessness charity Social Bite to draw attention to the issue. She and the charity plan to hold international “sleep-out” events that encourage people around the world to sleep on the streets in solidarity with those who are homeless.

Source: renal / Getty Images

Las Cruces, New Mexico

As a number of asylum seekers from Central and South America gathered at the U.S. border earlier this year, American customs officials dispersed migrants to various locations, among them Las Cruces, New Mexico. There, the residents welcomed about 1,600 new arrivals with food and shelter. The community also held donation efforts to gather food, clothes, and medical supplies.


Source: Elysiumm / Getty Images


The Amish are a tight-knit and mostly misunderstood Christian religious group living primarily in the states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. Their strong sense of community was evident when a beloved pizzeria near where they lived in rural Delta, Pennsylvania burned down. About 30 Amish people rallied around the owner of the pizzeria and helped the restaurant rebuild.

Source: Courtesy of The Cedar House

Patti O’Malley

Patti O’Malley survived an addiction to opioids, but her son did not. After she lost her son in 2012, the Abilene, Kansas, resident decided to open her home to other women with addiction problems who needed a place to stay after completing a rehabilitation regimen. Her house became Cedar House, a six-bed facility serving the community. Today Cedar House also has a food bank and a farm with a greenhouse.


Source: Courtesy of Dixie Divers

Dixie Divers

In June, 633 divers at Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier in Florida broke the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup. The group, known as the Dixie Divers, retrieved well over 1,000 pounds of debris, garbage, and fishing equipment. Locals say the record-breaking cleanup has noticeably improved the quality of Deerfield Beach’s water, and they are optimistic the area’s marine life can thrive as a result.

Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Too Small to Fail

For many parents, trips to the laundromat can be a challenge as children typically just have to wait until the laundry is done. But the Too Small to Fail initiative is working to brighten those children’s days while also promoting literacy. The group brings books to laundromats and other unexpected places and hosts librarians who put on story time. The program hopes that by transforming what was once idle time into a chance to learn they can narrow the literacy gap between higher- and lower-income families.

Source: Carrie Jernigan / GoFundMe

Carrie Jernigan

When Arkansas mom Carrie Jernigan went to a Payless shoe store in the mall in July, she thought she would just get shoes for her kids. But when her daughter asked to buy shoes for a classmate who had shoes that did not fit, she decided to buy the entire inventory of the soon-to-close store and donate the shoes to those in need. That’s when the idea snowballed into a full-blown charity drive. Hundreds in the Alma, Arkansas, community helped put on The 2019 River Valley Kickstart campaign, where children received back-to-school supplies and medical care — in addition to shoes and other items.


Source: Kid's Rights / Wikimedia Commons

Michaela Mycroft

Michaela Mycroft was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was less than a year old. Instead of letting her disability hold her back, the 24-year-old is working to make the world a better place for other people who face mobility challenges. Mycroft co-founded the Chaeli Campaign, which aims to make South Africa a more accessible and accepting place for those with special mobility needs. Advocacy group World of Children recently named Mycroft one of its Hero Award Honorees.

Source: Victor Boyko / Getty Images

Dr. Tom Catena

Sudan has spent a good part of the 21st century in war and conflict. This strife has made it difficult for much of Sudan’s population to find access to quality health care — especially in remote areas like the Nuba Mountains, where humanitarian aid is restricted. Dr. Tom Catena is currently the only doctor permanently stationed in that region as part of the Sudan Relief Fund. Catena estimates that he performs over 1,000 operations annually.


Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Umra Omar

Umra Omar is the founder and director of Safari Doctors, a group that provides medical care to people along Kenya’s coast. This project fills a void left after a previous medical aid project in the area was scrapped because of security concerns over terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Across eight villages, Omar and Safari Doctors help treat hundreds of patients every month. The team has been lauded by the United Nations, CNN, and others.

Source: Rich Polk / Getty Images

Dr. Jane Aronson

Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatric physician, was named one of 2019’s Top Global Humanitarian Leaders for her work as CEO of Worldwide Orphans, an organization that provides education, medicine, and emotional support for orphaned and abandoned children across the globe. The organization has reached children in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Source: Courtesy of Resilient People

Janet Fanaki

Things looked bleak for Toronto resident Janet Fanaki’s husband Adam in 2016. Adam was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Adam embarked on a long treatment and recovery process, and Janet, a public relations executive used the experience to create a website called Resilient People, where people share inspiring stories of those who have bounced back from cancer and who refused to let the disease define their lives.

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