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Previewing CNN Heroes

Aired December 2, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight we span the globe and we'll find six people who are truly changing the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never treat Allah as though he's disabled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you too, my buddy.


KING: From the brothels of Cambodia and the mountains of Rwanda to the villages of Nicaragua, ordinary men, women, children, doing extraordinary things simply by lending a hand. We call them heroes. You'll meet them next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Thanks for joining us. Throughout the years, CNN and have been introducing you to some special people; we call them "CNN Heroes". They've been recognized in six different categories. And you've been voting on for the ones that have inspired you the most. Tonight we're going to introduce you to the top vote getters in each category and this Thursday, the hero getting the most votes will be announced on "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" to be broadcast live at 9:00 p.m. Eastern from New York and seen around the world right in our own time slot. But now let's meet these remarkable people.

We start in Tampa, Florida, with Pat Pedraja. Pat is 12 years old. He has leukemia, but that's just where the story begins. Watch.


PAT PEDRAJA, CNN HERO: The doctor came in and she said, you have leukemia, and it was devastating, horrifying and scary. All I knew about cancer was that both my grandparents had died from it. I was in the hospital and I watching the TV and a Hispanic girl died because she couldn't find a marrow transplant match. You're most likely to find a match within your own ethnicity. I'm half-Hispanic and I decided to change it because it could affect me too. I said mom, I want to do something. Let's have a bone marrow drive, and she said what. And I said yeah, we're going to have a drive for these bone marrow donors and then it turned into "Driving for Donors".

Hi. My name is Pat Pedraja and I'm 12 years old and I'm trying to sign people up to the National Marrow Registry. It's our responsibility as a human being to watch out for someone else. "Driving for Donors" is a 30-city national marrow drive. We sell advertisement spots on the bus and on the head and have raised close to $100,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Patrick is doing is something that it comes from inside him. It's something that's very personal to his heart. My sister died of leukemia because she could not find a match within the Brazilian community. Seventy percent of the case you do not find mach with your brother and sister, but have to find a match in the National Registry.

PEDRAJA: If you sign up to the registry, it just a cheek swab and then you know that you could be the one to save a kid's life.

And you are going to be on the registry until your 61st birthday, which is a really long time away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a 12-year-old, he's showing that each one of us can do so much to save other people's life.

PEDRAJA: People don't know that it's such a big issue and that people are dying each day and I want to change that.


KING: Amazing, Pat. First, how is your leukemia doing?

PEDRAJA: My leukemia is in remission. I am doing great as of today, and I do not need a bone marrow transplant.

KING: How long does remission last?

PEDRAJA: I will be on a program called maintenance until July 9th, '09 then I am in complete remission, no more chemotherapy and then I will go in for yearly checkups for it on the doctors.

KING: How did you come up with the idea of "Driving for Donors"?

PEDRAJA: When I saw a Hispanic girl because she couldn't find a marrow transplant match and it really hit me hard and I wanted to do something about that, and then I found out about the critical need of minority donors that three in ten will get their marrow match and the critical shortage of people in the registry with only seven million people out of our country and I wanted to do something about that.

KING: You signed up 6,000 people. What's the goal?

PEDRAJA: My goal actually was only 2,007. And we surpassed that less than halfway through and then I had shot for 5,000 and we completed that, and then we went to 6,000.

KING: How do you sign up?

PEDRAJA: You sign up, you can go to our Web site, and it will show you how to sign up there, and all it is, is just a check swab and 10 minutes of paperwork. And if you're lucky enough to be picked as a match, then all it is, is just like giving blood.

KING: How did you come up with the idea of selling space on your head?

PEDRAJA: Well, my hair was falling out, and I didn't -- I loved my hair. I didn't want it to fall out. And I liked the -- I like my mass. I like stuff up here. So I decided to put tattoos on it and then we realized it could help "Driving for Donors", and it did. It helped us raise about $100,000. It helped sign up people because it costs about $52 to sign a person up.

KING: How many places have you gone to?

PEDRAJA: We went to over 30 cities this summer, and next summer, I'm going to do "Driving for Donors" international and sign up over 50,000 people, and can I come and when we get close to that, can I come and maybe see you again?

KING: Are you kidding? We'll have a parade for you in Los Angeles, be on the air with me right here.

PEDRAJA: That would be awesome.

KING: What do you want to do when you grow up?

PEDRAJA: I want to do a lot of things. I mean, I want to inspire, I want to keep doing "Driving for Donors" and I have plans of a TV show that shows how young people are helping in the community today and I want to do my "Driving for Donors" internationally and that's what I want to do when I grow up.

KING: Pat, very few things are predictable. This I predict. You will have your own show.

PEDRAJA: Thank you.

KING: Go get them, Pat. Pat Pedraja one of our nominees for the "Hero of the Year". What a kid. We'll be back. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a lot of people trying to destroy me everywhere. Trying, trying, but I just want to say to them, no way.



KING: Welcome back to this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, our look at "CNN Heroes".

Joining us now from Phnom Penh, Cambodia is Somaly Mam. She has worked tirelessly, rather, to help those who, like herself, have been victimized by sex slavery. Here's her story.


SOMALY MAM, CNN HERO: In Cambodia prostitution is illegal. But right now you can see everywhere we have the prostitutes. Because of the corruption, the brothel owners, they force them to have sex. They hit them. They receive a lot of violence. I remember when I was young. I was sold into the brothel. I was forced to have sex. And I was raped.

When I need the people to help me -- I need the people but nobody helped me. My name is Somaly Mam and my mission is to help the victims to take them out from the brothel. Many of them they have HIV/AIDS. Sometimes they cut themselves. Sometime they try suicide. I just say to them, you have your pain full. Everybody treats you so bad. Why you treat yourself bad. It's not your fault.

My work is so dangerous. You face the police who are corrupted. You go in the courts, sometimes they are so corrupted. I have a lot of people trying to destroy me everywhere. They are trying, trying. But I just want to say to them, no way. My organization we have counseling, we have all kinds of training like sewing, hair dressing and then give them opportunity to work. And then reintegrate them into society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel like I have a new life. I was so upset before. It seems like everything was destroyed. Now I have a new life.

MAM: I just want to give them love, for real. It's what I needed.


KING: A courageous amazing lady nominated in the "Fighting for Justice" category and by the way, she has a Web site. And if you want to the learn more about Somaly and her organization, you go to Somaly, are you driven to help these girls because of what happened to you?

MAM: Yes, you know, what happened to me is I cannot forget it all my life so why, you know, today I understand that. It's not easy to survive with these problems; it's not easy to survive with all the violence. Like I say, you know like (INAUDIBLE) when I was in the brothel, help the people. So why today our mission is helping a girl who had been forced to have sex in the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: How did you get out?

MAM: How I got out is so long way, it's not easy. But the one thing that I remember that my friend -- she's friend of mine and she was killed in the brothel in front of me. So when she was killed, you know it's like everybody, like all the girls they are crying they are so afraid, but not me. I just look at them, at her and I just say like, I should do something and help her.

KING: How do you get other people out? MAM: We have a long process (INAUDIBLE), so we have -- we have -- we work with the police, with the government. We (INAUDIBLE) girl from the brothel and then obviously we have a shelter like we can keep the girls, give them an opportunity to work (INAUDIBLE) because a lot of them they have big problem of psychology and then (INAUDIBLE) integration into society.

KING: Psychologically, they must be pretty bad off. How do you help them in that area? How do you deal with them psychologically?

MAM: Psychologically, you know if you talk about the psychology like we have all the problem -- even a girl right now, they are in the shelter. We still have that, but we should survive. So I say to every girl when I meet them, you know, how I can talk to you, it's not easy to talk about the psychology, but I (INAUDIBLE), I will get something so when I need something and I know that they need like me so just take her hand, look at her, it's kind of you know talking together but I don't know (INAUDIBLE) it's not easy. And then (INAUDIBLE) that our life is not easy. It's so difficult. You know, I know that. (INAUDIBLE) me too, I have the same problem that you right now and we have two choice, (INAUDIBLE) and work and then helping other people because (INAUDIBLE) girls have been sold again in the brothel.

KING: Are children ever sold outside of Cambodia?

MAM: Yeah, sure. We have, you know in Cambodia it's like we call like -- (INAUDIBLE) so the people, you know like we have a lot of girls who have been sending to Thailand, to Malaysia, Taiwan and sometimes (INAUDIBLE) Europe. It's not just selling in the country.

KING: You're an amazing lady. If it stops, you'll stop it. Somaly Mam, our "CNN Hero", the choice -- category is "Fighting for Justice". And again the Web site to learn more about Somaly and her organization, We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen sewage -- kids playing in sewage puddles and also drinking from the same water.



KING: Our next hero tonight joins us here in our L.A. studios. He's Aaron Jackson. How does a college dropout save the world one child at a time? Here's Aaron's story.




AARON JACKSON, CNN HERO: Haiti is the most water poor country in the world. It is probably the most environmentally destroyed country in the world. In Haiti people get their water sometimes from puddles, streams. I've seen kids playing in sewage and also drinking from the same water. Haiti not having proper sanitation a lot of people are infected with intestinal parasites; when you see a child with an extended belly, that's intestinal worms.

The average worm eats up to about 20 percent of the child's nutritional intake and this is the difference between life and death in a lot of situations. My name is Aaron Jackson and it is my goal to de-worm the entire world.

I grew up in Destin, Florida playing golf every day of my life. I decided to travel. When I traveled, it really opened my eyes to what the world was really like. In Haiti we have (INAUDIBLE) intestinal parasite program and also medical clinics.


JACKSON: When we show up to a community to de-worm, we educate the people on ways to prevent to get worms again. Watching the vegetables, cooking the meat a little longer, wearing shoes when you go outside are ways to help prevent catching the worms. When we first go into an orphanage and we de-worm them, the children look very zombie like, no livelihood in their face.

It's a scary thing because you have to tell kids that tonight worms will be leaving your body in some shape or form. And then after we de-worm, they come back to life. Literally within weeks, you can see that they're playing again and smiling. For a pack of cigarettes, you can de-worm 250 children, a whole school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aaron is a great person and I'm so blessed to know him and work together with him. Investing in children is investing in the country.

JACKSON: Me and the children we've become like family. You know they call me papa Jackson. These kids are my kids.


KING: Aaron Jackson is nominated in the "Medical Marvel" category and he is certainly that. He helped start "Planting Peace", which has provided de-worming medicine to thousands of Haitian children. How? How did this start for you?

JACKSON: Well basically I was in the countryside building a school and I asked what causes the belly to extend? You know why did all these children have big bellies? And the friend I was with said oh these are worms in their belly and I was like wow, I could not believe, just could not fathom that children are having worms in their belly. So I asked you know how much does it cost to treat one of these kids and he said oh about $20. And it just so happened I had $20 in my pocket. So I took the kid, gave him -- sent him off to the doctor and it turned out that that child would have passed away if we wouldn't have helped him out.

KING: What were you doing in Haiti in the first place?

JACKSON: Building a school.

KING: Why?

JACKSON: Just to you know have a charity and that's what we decided to do you know because about 80 percent of the children don't have formal education so...

KING: Well how does it work? How do you do what you do? How do you raise the money? How do you help? How does it get from them to them?

JACKSON: Right, well there's different ways we raise money and the general public (INAUDIBLE) so is The Homeless Voice, which is non- profit out of South Florida, they give us a lot of donations to help us out, just different avenues. And once people figure out that you know that we can de-worm 250 children for the price of a pack of cigarettes, people are you know are astonished by that, so...

KING: What's the process of de-worming?

JACKSON: Well we will go into a community. We educate the people on why they have worms. You know, what's causing that. We give them the pill. It is just basically one pill, a very strong dose and once you give them the pill, the worms usually come out within 24 to 48 hours.

KING: No kidding.

JACKSON: Yeah, it's amazing. You see the difference. I mean it is literally the difference between life and death once the worms come out of them, you know, they start becoming more alert.

KING: Is it caused by poverty?

JACKSON: Yes, you know, dirty water, things of that nature.

KING: Has the Haitian government helped?

JACKSON: Not -- no, not really. Not really. The United...

KING: A dictatorship.

JACKSON: The United Nations, they have de-wormed about 700,000 people which sounds like a lot, but considering the medication is so cheap it really isn't. You know our organization you know by the end of the year hopefully we will have de-wormed almost two million people, so here you have the U.N. with their you know mighty big budget and my little organization, so...

KING: Haiti the poorest country in the world.

JACKSON: Yeah, it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

KING: Average income is what?

JACKSON: About $2 a day so...

KING: Two dollars? Is this what -- you're 25?

JACKSON: Twenty-six.

KING: What you want to do with the rest of your life?

JACKSON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

KING: The rest of your life...

JACKSON: Absolutely. Just trying to -- you know we have a lot of major issues going on, you know about 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed every day. Thirty thousand children die every day from starvation, 150 million children will be homeless on the streets at night, so yeah, it is you know, just trying to bring a little peace to the world.

KING: How much time do you spend in Haiti?

JACKSON: I try to go at least every month. Haiti is not the only country I work in, but I try to go every month.

KING: And you have orphanages too?

JACKSON: Yes, I have four orphanages in Haiti, orphanage in Ecuador and a homeless dropping (ph) center in Guatemala.

KING: How do you deal with all this? How do you travel around?

JACKSON: That's a good question. That's a good question. I'm still trying to figure it out, but just by the grace of God I guess.

KING: The children appreciative?

JACKSON: Oh, absolutely. They're just beautiful children, beautiful children.

KING: Are there efforts in Haiti to improve the water and the sanitation?


KING: Any program?

JACKSON: There are. There are. Not really any government problems but there -- one of the major problems in Haiti is there are no trees. The U.N. predicts one to six percent of trees are left, so you know there's no purifying system for the water, so it's really, really bad. There are organizations that are trying to do stuff, but it's still, it's such an overwhelming problem.

KING: What does the government do about anything?

JACKSON: I don't know. Do you know?

KING: It's a throwback to "papa doc", right?

JACKSON: Yes, basically, basically so.

KING: So do you plan to expand this?

JACKSON: Oh, absolutely. You know, we do work in other -- we do have this in other countries. But our main goal is to de-worm everyone in the country. The World Health Organization says by de- worming the community you can improve that community's health by 20 percent. So yeah -- so guess is we de-worm the whole island -- we can de-worm the whole island by 20 percent and it's only about $160,000 to de-worm everyone in Haiti.

KING: Do you have a Web site?


KING: What is it?


KING: Simple as that, and people can go to that to help?

JACKSON: Yes, sir.

KING: Good luck.

JACKSON: Thank you.

KING: Aaron Jackson, he's one of the nominees. You'll see him Thursday night in this extraordinary salute to heroes. He's nominated in the "Medical Marvel" category and his Web site is We'll be right back.




KING: Welcome back. We're continuing our look at the CNN heroes and don't forget to watch Thursday's special "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" featuring performances by Norah Jones, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow and others. And it is live 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night.

But joining us now from Nairobi, Kenya is another "CNN Hero", Eugene Rutagarama. It's his work to save Africa's mountain gorillas that has earned him the distinction of hero. Watch.


EUGENE RUTAGARAMA, CNN HERO: When we approach a group of gorillas, it's the first feeling that you are approaching a relative, a human being. In this region, we have been able to bring conservationists from the three governments together to sign an agreement to protect these mountain gorillas. Having rangers to cover the park with their patrol means that we keep the poaching at the lowest level, but the poaching is still there.

My name is Eugene Rutagarama. My work is to protect mountain gorillas in their habitat. When I came back from Burundi, Rwanda was devastated by the genocide. You would see the bodies of dead people, thousands of people. The whole country had to resume from scratch.


Eugene Rutagarama "Defending the Planet."


My attention went to the national parks. If these parks were not protected, it means that we have lost the mountain gorillas, which is a hobby for many tourists. It brings foreign currency to this country which helps to conserve this park.

Gorillas can't really do much if a human being has decided to decimate or to kill the gorillas. They need to be defended, they need to be protected by human beings.


KING: Eugene is nominated in the defending the planet category.

Why do you care so much about gorillas, Eugene?

RUTAGARAMA: Yeah, gorillas actually can't defend themselves, huh? Gorillas are actually our closest relative, and when live in you -- you need to protect them because they don't have any other help than human beings. So mile decision, my -- I have decided to look at them as my focus for my career

KING: Are they a friendly animal?

RUTAGARAMA: They are, they are. Despite what people can fear. You approach them because they fear people when they approach them, but after some minutes, being with them, they are very friendly. They can even approach you and (INAUDIBLE) you, so they are friendly. They are good animals

KING: Are you optimistic about their survival?

RUTAGARAMA: Since three governments and the local community are really convinced that they should conserve this mountain gorilla population, I think I can be a bit optimistic. But still, the threats, like poaching by traffickers, like conflict in the area, which we don't control, those are threats or even a business because they can be contaminated by human diseases, all the threats can (INAUDIBLE) the population. But at this level, when you see the level of commitment from conservation organization, from the governments in the region, from the local community, I think one can be optimistic, but still being alert.

KING: You're an amazing man, Eugene. We salute you. We wish you every good fortune and good luck on Thursday night, as well. Eugene Rutagarama, one of our "CNN Heroes" in the defending the planet category. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allah (ph) was in a war zone, in dire circumstances with a sincere risk of losing his life.

Say hi.

And if I hadn't done something about that, the question is, who would?



KING: Welcome back to this special heroes edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Join us now a Major Scott Southworth and his son Allah. How they became father and son is what makes Scott a "CNN Hero." Watch.



SCOTT SOUTHWORTH, CNN HERO: No soldier goes to war with the expectation of coming home and adopting an orphan from the war zone.

My name is Major Scott Harold Southworth. I'm a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the proud father of an Iraqi orphan by the name of Allah Adem (ph).

Come on, Allah.

My soldiers and I volunteered at the Mother Theresa Orphanage in Baghdad, Iraq. I did not choose Allah, Allah a chose me.

When the sisters informed me that they were going to have to move him to the government orphanage, I instantly told them that I would adopt him. There were a number of obstacles to bringing him to the United States. Not having enough money and not having a stable enough career, not having a wife.

But I could not, as a Christian man, walk away from that little boy.


Scott Southworth, "Championing Children."


It really was a step of faith for me to just put that into action. Who's a good little boy.

ADEM: I am.

SOUTHWORTH: I know you are, OK.

It's been what, two and a half years since I picked Allah up in Baghdad?

Nice steps today, OK?

He's learning how to walk. He's doing addition and subtraction; he's learning to read the English language. He's just a brilliant little boy.

Come on, kick those legs. Work those legs. Work those legs.

He's limited by some of the things he can do physically, but I never treat Allah as though he's disabled.

ADEM: I love you, papa.

SOUTHWORTH: I love you too, my buddy.

I felt a ton of sympathy for Allah when I was in Iraq, but Allah didn't need my sympathy, what he needed was some action.


KING: Joining us now from Madison, Wisconsin is our honoree in the category of "Championing Children," Major Scott Southworth, Wisconsin Army National Guard, a true CNN hero. With him but not miked is his adopted son Allah. What is Allah's disease -- major.

SOUTHWORTH: Allah has a condition called Cerebral Palsy and it affects his ability to balance and stand up.

KING: What made you go to the orphanage in the first place?

SOUTHWORTH: Well, our mission was really to not only replace a dictatorship with a democracy, but also to change the hearts and mind of the Iraqi people and to do that, we wanted to show them that we truly loved and cared for them and the best way to do that while we were doing our mission in Baghdad was to go and volunteer with some of the most needy people in Iraq and that was disabled orphans.

KING: When did you know you wanted to adopt someone?

SOUTHWORTH: It was on or about Christmas day when I found out that Allah was going to be moved to a government orphanage about a year from then and I immediately said that it was the right thing to do to adopt him. And so I told the sisters of the orphanage that I would adopt him and I began to make plans to make that happen.

KING: Being single, were there complications?

SOUTHWORTH: Well, it's very difficult to be a single guy and raise a child. It's even more difficult when the child is suffering from sort of disability, in Allah's case, Cerebral Palsy, but really God just led the path -- opened the path for to us make this happen, and really has provided for Allah and I, and we're real happy together

KING: How old is he?

SOUTHWORTH: Allah just turned 13. We made his birthday on the day that we met in the orphanage, September 6th of 2003.

KING: Is he learning the language?

SOUTHWORTH: He's actually fluent in both Arabic and English and he's adapted his dialects of English to match our good Midwestern dialects and just doing super. The last few weeks he started to read English in school.

KING: What about school? What kind of schooling?

SOUTHWORTH: He goes to public school and he's in the fifth grade. He's just a brilliant little kid, and has a lot more friends, I think, in just a short period of time he's been here in the United States than I've made in my 35 years here on the earth.

KING: What do you do for a living, Major?

SOUTHWORTH: I am the elected district attorney of my county. So, I'm a prosecutor. I prosecute criminal actions, here in my county.

KING: Wow. So you've got quite a load here. What are your hopes for Allah?

SOUTHWORTH: Well, hopefully, he's going to some day be able to walk independently and we're working on that, and at the same time, Allah and I are both out there really promoting a special needs adoptions because there's so many kids here in America and around the world that need loving homes that have mental or physical disabilities.

KING: Is it true that Allah found you?

SOUTHWORTH: That is true. I was actually -- first day at the orphanage and I was talking with a little girl and Allah pulled himself across the floor because he couldn't walk, so that he could sit by me and he began to talk to me and we immediately formed a pretty strong bond.

KING: Do you have to go back to Iraq, by the way?

SOUTHWORTH: I, at this point in time, have not been called up or mobilized to go back to Iraq. If I am called up to go back, I will do that and I'll do my service with honor and integrity.

KING: And who watches out for Allah when you're out being district attorney? SOUTHWORTH: Well, he's in school and other than that, I've got a great support network, my mom and my dad and my girlfriend and everybody has really stepped forward to make Allah's life, here in the United States, just a great life.

KING: Allah, welcome to America. And Major, you are a genuine hero. Thank you for joining us.

SOUTHWORTH: Thank you, sir.

KING: We'll be right back.


It's very difficult to explain to people how remote it is here on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. It's very remote. They have a serious energy problem here. Only about 20 percent of the coast has access to electricity.



KING: Welcome back. Our next "CNN Hero" is Mathias Craig. He's here with me in loss Angeles. But it's the work he does this is Nicaragua that makes him a viewer's choice and a hero. Here's the story.


MATHIAS CRAIG, CNN HERO: It's very difficult to explain to people how remote it is here on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. It's very remote. There are no roads, essentially anywhere, so all transportation is by boat.

Monkey Point has always been an abandoned community. They have a serious energy problem, here.

In these isolated communities, only the wealthiest people have generators. And most people in the community will never have access to that power source.

My name is Mathias Craig and I work to bring sustainable energy services to isolated communities.

Going to be good when we raise it.

We're really based around the wind turbine. And then we have a power system with batteries where we store the energy produced by the windmill.

This converts battery power to alternating current. This is what is being transferred down to the school.

The school also doubles as a community center.


CRAIG: Our interest is in delivering sustainable energy services, so we wanted to build our systems from scratch here and train local people here through the process of building, people would learn how to service them.


Mathias Craig, "Community Crusader."



CRAIG: It has a tremendous impact. Any path they choose pretty much requires electricity and clean water. So, by providing one of those basic services, you're opening up a whole new world of opportunities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We is living in a historical moment right now, having electricity in Monkey Point is something great to have and the envelopment in the education level.

CRAIG: My most satisfaction that I can receive is really getting a chance to be in the community and see how the energy is being used and seeing the benefit that it provides.


KING: Mathias's category is "Community Crusader."

How did you get the idea? Why? Why do you do this?

CRAIG: Why wind power? I guess it really started back -- the history starts back with my mother who started working in Nicaragua in 1985 with Rama Indians on the Caribbean coast, documenting their language, she's a linguist -- documenting their dying language and she would take my brother and I with her traveling to that area. So, we formed a really strong bond with those communities along the coast there, and then it's just a question that the need is so strong on the Caribbean coast for energy, only about 20 percent electrification on the Caribbean coast.

KING: How are you financed?

CRAIG: The financing for our program, so far, has come from primarily from international development agencies. The Canadian International Development Agency, the Finnish government, we recently just got a new grant from the Dutch group called EVOS.

KING: Are the Nicaraguans appreciative.

CRAIG: They're very appreciative. I think, as you can see in the video, getting electricity for the first time in the community is bringing tremendous impact, primarily in terms of lighting, that's sort of the first technology that comes in, but we're working on vaccine refrigeration, ice creation for fish storage, communication...

KING: What are determines what communities you work with?

CRAIG: We really look for communities that -- well actually, we try not to go look for the communities, we try and wait for them to come look for us. In the beginning we had to go put ourselves out there and build a few systems, but now that we sort of have our reputation started and we have a couple example systems out there, now we wait and see which communities organize themselves and come to us as sort of a value proposition.

KING: You had a consortium called Blue Energy, which is what?

CRAIG: Well, Blue Energy, as a consortium is a group of organizations. We have an office in France, we have an office in San Francisco, one in Managua and one in Blue Fields in Nicaragua. All of our project work, right now, is in Nicaragua. We're really using that as a proving ground to prove the Blue Energy concept that we can replicate it through Nicaragua and then throughout the region and throughout world.

KING: Do you think we're being on our way to being self-serving energy-wise?

CRAIG: I think we are because we -- there's an absolute need. This isn't a question of whether this is something we want to do, this is something we have to do. So, I think some people are tackling it from the big utility scale. We're tackling it, really, from the grassroots level. We're going into communities sort of left out of the discussion of how you do national power systems.

KING: Do you feel like a hero?

CRAIG: I feel that Blue Energy as a team, the acts that we are doing are heroic.

KING: Obviously.

CRAIG: I don't know if I personally -- I mean, I'm really flattered by the title. I feel like it's doing something that I love, so I get a lot of benefit out of it, as well. But, I do think that the act that the entire organization is doing is heroic, yes.

KING: You're extraordinary. Thank you.

CRAIG: Thank you Larry, it's been a pleasure to be here.

KING: Mathias Craig.

When we come back, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour talk about CNN's star-studded heroes special on Thursday. Plus, CNN president Jon Klein. Stay with us.


KING: We close out tonight's special tribute in advance of our Thursday night special "Heroes: An all-star tribute" by meeting three of the people very, very involved in it. In London is Christiane Amanpour, she will co-host the show along with Anderson Cooper. Anderson joins us from New York. And in Miami is Jon Klein, president of CNN U.S.

Jon, how did this idea come about?

JON KLEIN, PRESIDENT CNN/U.S.: Well, your own senior executive producer, Wendy Walker, raised an idea with me, she showed me about an idea that takes place in Britain where they give a national award to the national heroes and it's a huge event there and we just thought, man, you know, CNN reaches about two billion people around the world every month. That many people have the chance to watch. And we thought, wow, what if you did something like that on a global scale, given it all the amazing reporters we have going it every corner of this planet turning up a lot of incredibly inspiring people, what if you brought them all together in one place and honored them and that was the spark that led to the event now.

KING: And where will it be held Thursday night?

KLEIN: We're doing the gala at the American history -- American Museum of Natural History in New York, which is a fitting place because it's grand and it befits both the people we're honoring and people like Christiane and Anderson, as well.

KING: Anderson, what's your reading on heroes? Do you think we've forgotten what a hero is?

ANDERSON COOPER, AC-360: Yeah, you know, I think the term is used a lot, but when you actually meet these people, you're reminded of what it really is about, it's people, everyday people who find themselves, you know, lending a hand to strangers very often, people who, you know, they have no real connection with but they form a connection and it's a remarkable thing when you actually see what some of these people have done, the lives that they have changed, often in very simple small ways, you know, small, little changes that have a huge impact on people's lives.

KING: And we've met six of the nominees, if we call them that, although they're all winners on this kind of, already show tonight. Christiane, this is also a show, right? They'll be entertainment?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just hope that the heroes themselves will be very entertaining and the concept itself is not just enlightening, but entertaining as well, because a lot of people who I've talked to about this program have said to me, wow, what a good idea to do something that actually does show some good news and some real spotlight on those who often sort of toil in the darkness and never get their deeds highlighted at all.

So, I think it will resonate with a lot of people who perhaps have a weariness with some of the incessant cynicism and darkness that we tend to cover, because that's what, you know, the world is about, so often.

KING: Jon, do you think that we are still looking for heroes, or is the fear that it's passe.

KLEIN: I think a lot of the public has gotten very jaded. Some of that is the fault of the news media, which tends to focus on bad news, let's face it. But, I was blown away by the stories that we're going to be seeing on December 6th, on Thursday night. You met some of the people tonight, and their stories are so dramatic. These aren't soft, squishy Hallmark cards. They overcame incredible obstacles to do the good that they wanted to do. So, it's very inspiring and kind of edge of your seat dramatic.

By the way, we're going to be -- you asked about entertainment, Norah Jones, Wyclef, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, are all going to be performing, so it's going to be a lot of fun, as well as a real inspiration

KING: Anderson, what kind of person puts him or herself out to help others? What kind of individual is that?

COOPER: Yeah, you know, I would say a remarkable individual, but we have seen time and again, we saw it in the tsunami, we saw it in Hurricane Katrina, we see it all around the world, Christiane and I and all CNN viewers who watch our programs, in the worst of times, the best often comes out in people.

And yeah, the news often does focus on the worst in people and bad situations, but I mean, I think back to Hurricane Katrina, I think back to the tsunami where strangers literally reached out to others and saved their lives and that's the kind of thing this show is really about. It's about people helping one another in small ways and large, but really stepping up at a time when others may be sort of stepping down or running away.

KING: Well put. Reportorialy (ph) Christiane, is it the kind of story you like to cover?

AMANPOUR: Well, yes, and actually, you know, Anderson's described the ordinary people who are able to rise to the occasion and help, not just themselves, but those around them. And there are the other kind of heroes, if you like, who are the professionals who have knowledge, who have an ability to scale up their knowledge to help other people. I'll give you a couple of examples on people that will I've covered recently.

There's a brilliant American philanthropist, based in Chicago, who herself, was a pediatric nurse, she then married, became very rich and has given away a lot of her money to the medical profession. I visited one of her clinics which was a state-of-the-art clinic in Africa, in Kenya, which is just very simple concept of good and accessible healthcare and it's helped some hundred-thousand people in that region.

A group here in England, a couple who are experts in motorbikes. They figured out that they could use their knowledge of transport, motorcycles and take medicine to the needy. In other words, it's no good just having a hospital and having the sick people, if you can't get the two together, it doesn't work. So, these people, heroes in their own rights who figured out how to make it work by figuring out the links and how to have their expertise play on a big scale.

KING: And Jon, finally, will this be a yearly event?

KLEIN: Yeah, we are planning on it for next year already. We're already looking for the next wave of nominees out there. We know that there are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of amazing stories that never get told and we figure CNN Worldwide is the place to tell them.

KING: Thank you all very much, Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper and Jon Klein. Thanks to all our guests. This has really been a special show, tonight. And don't forget to watch Thursday night, 9:00 Eastern, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."

And now, stay tuned for Christiane's special, "Russia: SIU Czar Putin." It starts right now.