Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and locations. Some heroes are even animals, such as a service dog for someone in a wheelchair or with a disability. What makes a hero? How do you spot a hero? Everyday heroes are among us because most heroes are quiet about their work as they diligently focus on finding solutions. They are in the world spreading help, assistance and kindness.
Recently, CNN named its 2016 Hero of the Year, and you’ve probably never never heard about him unless you know him personally. The CNN 2016 Hero of the Year is Jeison Aristizábal from Cali, Columbia, a very poor area to live. Television hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa awarded Jeison in New York City. Jeison has cerebral palsy, and he has done incredible things for children with disabilities in Columbia.
As early as age three, Jeison’s doctors were quick to label him as basically incapable. They suggested his mother find a box to sit him in and have him shine the shoes of passersby. His family and Jeison refused to believe that his life had no other purpose. So, he persevered to do more.
Jeison is now 33 and living a life full of purpose. Out of his parents garage, Jeison began an advocacy organization that serves many young children and adults who have disabilities to achieve bigger and better things. Jeison is studying law and is a world traveler. His organization provides education, therapy, medical support, and schooling to youth with disabilities. All children are welcome, but his targeted area is disabled youth.
Unfortunately, in Columbia, people who have disabilities aren’t seen as equal citizens. Families are not properly educated about how to help them, and they are seen as punishment from God. Sadly, many children with disabilities just stay in bed due to lack of knowledge. Jeison had decided to turn around this negative way of thinking about disabilities and start helping others along the way.
Jesison opened a nonprofit organization named His nonprofit, ASODISVALLE (an acronym that translates to Association of Disabled People of the Valley.) What they offer for children with disabilities is absolutely incredible — physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical services, education and equipment, all for free.
Jeison grew up with a supportive family who enrolled him in school and tried to do the best they could for him. They scrambled for money so he could have surgeries, but sometimes they needed to wait for the surgeries. Jeison felt influenced to make a difference when he met a boy who had a disability and was stuck in bed. Jeison figured out a way to get him a wheelchair so he could at least move. From there, he worked on therapies and other things to help him.
Quickly, he added more children and soon they had 20 children to help. Helping them was all done in his parents’ garage and house. Now he has his own facility that helps 1,000 children. The most common disabilities he sees are cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. His goal is to help them be the best they can and be happy.
With the $100,000 award for being named CNN 2016 Person of the Year, Jeison can continue doing amazing things for people with disabilities. Jeison also travels the world as he studies law to educate societies about what people with disabilities can accomplish. After he earns his law degree, he wants to try to change the laws in Columbia so they help people with disabilities be successful and happy citizens.
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