Once every four years, 50 “unsung heroes” are chosen from around the globe to be given a unique and sacred award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On February 23, 2014, His Holiness recognized Hands to Hearts International’s founder and director, Laura Peterson, as an Unsung Hero of Compassion.
“These individuals have been selected as representatives of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who quietly serve the disenfranchised and work to improve our communities through their personal efforts,” says Dick Grace, founder of Grace Family Vineyards and board chair of Wisdom in Action, the organization hosting the unique celebration. “We don’t see them or hear about them in the daily news, but they exemplify a humanism and heroism to which we must each aspire.”
Watch the entire ceremony, Laura is awarded at 1:19.50
Laura was among this elite group of honorees for her creation and efforts in running HHI as a nonprofit dedicated to training and empowering the caregivers to better the health and overall development of the world’s most vulnerable children, in their earliest years. To date HHI’s training has been led in India, Uganda, Russia, and Nambia, for almost 42,000 parents, caregivers, and health workers, who in turn are able to better care for the 144,300 young children they serve.
Laura was nominated by Ann Down, the founder of The Good Works Institute, Inc., who believed her work through HHI was an outstanding example of the Unsung Heroes’ values and mission. “HHI’s training is significant in several ways,” said Down. “It’s benefiting thousands of children, many of them orphans who suffer a complete lack of emotional care. By teaching essential bonding and affection in the earliest years, it’s preventive, which is much more cost-effective than trying to deal with the negative health and mental health traumas later in life. And HHI’s model is unique, in that women who are trained can in turn train others, which quickly empowers entire communities.”
Laura was thrilled and surprised to be named among 2014’s class of Unsung Heroes. “These people are among the most remarkable, selfless, and giving individuals in the world. The things they are doing are globally game-changing. To be included among such a select few is an honor that’s both gratifying and humbling,” she said. (Read about why Laura was awarded)
Co-hosting the event with Dick Grace were Peter Coyote, actor; Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries; Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Indian Elder of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz; and Furyu Schroeder, Zen priest from Green Gulch Zen Center.
Wisdom in Action (WIA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of compassion in action. WIA hosted Unsung Heroes of Compassion 2014, the fourth event of its kind since 2001, to raise awareness that it is each individual’s obligation to help the disenfranchised among us and to acknowledge that each act of compassion makes an important difference to the world.
Our deepest appreciation to Dick & Anne Grace, Ann Down, Christine Wright, Valerie Tate, Elizabeth Share and the many others who made this incredible honor possible.
If you don’t know Laura’s back story about what led her to launch HHI almost 10 years ago, check out this short video and hear her explain why.
Laura’s premise and HHI’s focus is to awaken love, kindle compassion and save lives – literally! And, we have seen this come to life – bettering the lives, and yes, even saving them, in some of the most desperate areas of the world.
While Laura is the one who received this award, HHI has become this force for love, nurturing, empowerment and health globally because of an incredible team, the most generous donors ever and committed local partners. Thank you for being a part of this incredible adventure!