Two Indian Americans – Samir Lakhani from Pittsburg and Mona Patel from Texas – are among the 10 finalists for the prestigious CNN Heroes of the Year award. Samir Lakhani from Pittsburg and Mona Patel from Texas are among the finalists for the annual award to be given on December 17. Lakhani’s non-profit recycles discarded bars of soap from hotels across Cambodia and distributes it to villages in need, CNN reported. It all started in 2014 when as a college student, Lakhani traveled to Cambodia where he experienced first-hand that for many in Cambodia a bar of soap is a luxury they cannot afford. “I remember quite vividly a mother bathing her newborn in a basin filled with laundry powder and water. It is an image I’ll never get out of my mind,” Lakhani told the channel. While still attending the University of Pittsburgh, Lakhani started the Eco-Soap Bank, the report said.
The organisation now has four recycling centres across the country, providing jobs to 35 local women. The used bars are sanitised and remolded into new bars or melted down into liquid soap. According to Lakhani so far, more than 650,000 people have benefited from the group’s soap and hygiene education. “What I love most is that we are killing three birds with one stone,” Lakhani said. “We are keeping waste out of landfills, employing locals and spreading soap all over the country,” he added. Mona Patel’s non-profit aims to help amputees rebuild their lives by offering peer support, resources and recreational activities. The San Antonio Amputee Foundation, aims to help amputees rebuild their lives. The group offers peer support, education and recreation opportunities, as well as financial assistance for basic home and car modifications and prosthetic limbs, it said.
Every month, 30 to 60 amputees get together to shares stories and testimonies of strength and resilience, the report said. “When somebody becomes an amputee, manoeuvring through the system is sometimes just scary,” Patel, a below-knee amputee, said. “I think the big catalyst of me doing what I do to help the amputee community is because I lived it,” she added. In 1990, she walking to class at Cal Poly University when a drunken driver slammed into her. She was 17. “I flew up about 12 feet,” Patel told CNN. “And then he pinned me between his car and a metal railing, and that’s what smashed my leg and my foot.” Patel’s body, and future, were forever altered. People can vote for “CNN Hero of the Year” online and the winner will receive $100,000 for their cause.