Los Angeles, California (CNN) — A woman whose group has rescued more than 12,000 women and girls from sex slavery has been named the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year.
Anuradha Koirala was chosen by the public in an online poll that ran for eight weeks on CNN.com. CNN’s Anderson Cooper revealed the result at the conclusion of the fourth annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.”
“Human trafficking is a crime, a heinous crime, a shame to humanity,” Koirala said earlier in the evening after being introduced as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010. “I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters.”
Koirala was introduced by actress Demi Moore, who along with her husband, Ashton Kutcher, created DNA, The Demi and Ashton Foundation, which aims to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide.
“Every day this woman confronts the worst of what humanity has to offer,” Moore said of Koirala. “She says, ‘Stop. Stop selling our girls.’ By raiding brothels and patrolling the India-Nepal border, she saves girls from being sold into the sex trade, where they are being repeatedly raped for profit, tortured and enslaved.
“Since 1993, she has helped rescue more than 12,000 women and girls. Through her organization Maiti Nepal, she has provided more than a shelter for these girls and young women, she has created a home. It is a place for them to heal, go to school, learn a skill, and for some who are infected with HIV/AIDS, it is the place where they can spend their days surrounded by love.”
Koirala will receive $100,000 to continue her work with Maiti Nepal, in addition to the $25,000 awarded to each of the top 10 Heroes honored.
“This is another responsibility to me to work with all your support,” Koirala told the audience after being named Hero of the Year. “We have to end this heinous crime. Please join hands with me to end this crime. … Please try to respect the youth. They are the ones who are going to build the next generation. Thank you so much.”
Koirala’s speech capped the gala event, which was taped November 20 before an audience of nearly 5,000 and premiered Thanksgiving night on the global networks of CNN.
The show opened with a salute to the 33 Chilean miners and five of the people who rescued them last month after the miners spent 69 days underground.
“For 69 days we were amazed by these 33 brave miners,” Cooper said in welcoming the miners onto the Shrine stage. “Their ordeal was unthinkable; their rescue, unbelievable. No one has ever been trapped underground so deep for so long and survived.
“They endured a nightmare, experienced a miracle, and in the end became each others’ brothers and heroes. On behalf of CNN Heroes, we salute all 33 Chilean miners.”
After the miners sang the Chilean national anthem, two of them — speaking through a translator and holding the Chilean flag — expressed their appreciation.
“We want to thank the world, and we want to thank God for your prayers,” Luis Urzua told the audience in Spanish.
“Our families suffered. Our children suffered, too. But thanks to the prayers of the whole world, we could come out of this difficulty,” Mario Sepulveda added.
“Some of our rescuers are here with us tonight,” Urzua said. “Thank you for bringing us home. You are our heroes.”
CNN brought the miners and their rescuers to the United States to attend the tribute show. The five rescuers were selected to represent the many thousands whose talent and effort led to the dramatic rescue.
The top 10 CNN Heroes, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from an initial pool of more than 10,000 nominations from more than 100 countries, were each honored with a documentary tribute and introduced by a celebrity presenter.
The program also featured performances by Grammy Award-winners Bon Jovi, John Legend and Sugarland.
Rock legends Bon Jovi performed “What Do You Got?,” a new song from their greatest hits album, which came out earlier this month. Legend performed “Wake Up Everybody” along with hip-hop artist Common and R&B singer Melanie Fiona. Sugarland performed “Stand Up,” a new song from their album “The Incredible Machine,” which made its debut in October.
All three performances echoed the spirit of the CNN Heroes campaign, which salutes everyday people whose extraordinary accomplishments are making a difference in their communities and beyond.
Celebrity presenters included Halle Berry, Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Kid Rock, LL Cool J, Renee Zellweger, Gerard Butler, Kiefer Sutherland, Marisa Tomei, Aaron Eckhart and Holly Robinson Peete.
“CNN Heroes has illustrated the best of humanity through the telling of stories of selfless acts of kindness, courage and perseverance” said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. “We are honored to bring these Heroes the recognition they so deserve. It is a program the entire CNN family is proud of and excited to share with our viewers on Thanksgiving night.”
Again this year, producer/director Joel Gallen served as executive producer of “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” Among his credits, Gallen produced telethon events supporting victims of the Haiti earthquake, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. He won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for “America: A Tribute to Heroes.”
Preceding the tribute broadcast, CNN and HLN aired a red carpet special, “Showbiz Tonight @ CNN Heroes,” at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Hosted by A.J. Hammer and Brooke Anderson, the special featured exclusive coverage of celebrity arrivals and interviews, as well as a celebrity-hosted social media suite tapping into the worldwide online passion and interest in the Heroes event.
Here are the 2010 top 10 CNN Heroes in alphabetical order:
Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega founded a hospital in Juarez, Mexico, that cares for about 900 people daily — regardless of their ability to pay. Despite the escalating violence in the city, the 74-year-old travels there several times a week to make sure residents get the care they need. Learn more about Guadalupe
Susan Burton was once caught in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Today, her nonprofit A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides sober housing and other support services to formerly incarcerated women in California. Learn more about Susan
With her weight-loss challenge, Shape Up Vicksburg, Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown battle the bulge. Through free fitness activities and nutrition classes, residents have lost nearly 15,000 pounds to date. Learn more about Linda
Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal’s women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims. Learn more about Anuradha
Narayanan Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India’s homeless and destitute — 365 days per year — through his nonprofit Akshaya Trust. Since 2002, he has served more than 1.2 million meals. Learn more about Narayanan
Since 1992, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow has dedicated his life to helping people in need. Today, his program, Mary’s Meals — run from a tin shed in the Scottish highlands — provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world. Learn more about Magnus
Harmon Parker is using his masonry skills to save lives. Since 1997 he has helped build 45 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya, protecting people from flash floods and predatory animals. The bridges also connect isolated villagers to valuable resources.Learn more about Harmon
Aki Ra is helping to make his native Cambodia safer by clearing land mines — many of which he planted years ago as a child soldier. Since 1993, he and his Cambodian Self Help Demining organization have cleared about 50,000 mines and unexploded weapons. Learn more about Aki Ra
Evans Wadongo, 23, invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar power. Through his Use Solar, Save Lives program, he’s distributed an estimated 10,000 free solar lanterns. Learn more about Evans
Since 2005, Texas home builder Dan Wallrath has given injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans homes of their own — mortgage-free. He and his Operation Finally Home team have five new custom homes under construction. Learn more about Dan
This story appeared on the CNN website On November 20, 2010