Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong, who offers families from remote Peruvian villages free housing, meals and comprehensive support while their children undergo medical treatment, has been named CNN’s Hero of the Year.
The award was presented Sunday in New York City by actor Ted Danson and actress Mary Steenburgen.
As part of his medical training, Dr. Pun-Chong spent time doing rounds in hospitals throughout Lima, Peru. Day after day, he noticed families sleeping on the floors. Many of them, he learned, had come from faraway villages, with little or no money, to get medical treatment for their children.
Since 2008, Dr. Pun-Chong’s nonprofit, Inspira, has provided free housing, meals and overall support for sick children and their families while they undergo treatment. The organization has helped more than 900 families who’ve come from all over Peru.
While accepting his award, Dr. Pun-Chong stated “We can start building now our new shelter with this prize and we can triple our assistance, our support.”
Hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Kelly Ripa, the 12th Annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute aired live from New York City.
The ceremony also featured Grammy Award-winning artist Lenny Kravitz who performed Here to Love from his album Raise Vibration.
Each of the Top 10 CNN Heroes will receive $10,000 in recognition of their work. After winning the global vote, Dr. Pun-Chong will receive an additional $100,000 grant to further aid Inspira.
Here’s how the top 10 CNN Heroes are changing lives in their communities:
- Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, a computer programmer in Lagos, Nigeria, teaches impoverished women in the city’s slums how to code through a program run by the Pearls Africa Foundation.
- Maria Rose Belding launched MEANS, a platform that reduces food waste by connecting restaurants and businesses with extra food to charities that feed the hungry.
- After she was paralyzed in a ski accident, Amanda Boxtel started Bridging Bionics—a nonprofit that provides high-tech physical therapy to people with mobility impairments near Aspen, Colorado.
- Dr. Rob Gore, an emergency physician in Brooklyn, New York, founded the Kings Against Violence Initiative, which leads anti-violence programs in his community.
- Luke Mickelson quit his high-paying job to found Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit that builds and delivers beds to children in need.
- Susan Munsey escaped from a life of sex trafficking and in 2009 started GenerateHope, a group that provides housing, therapy and more to survivors of sex trafficking.
- At age 87, Florence Phillips still leads her nonprofit—ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada — which provides free English, computer and GED classes to immigrants.
- Ellen Stackable is a former English teacher who founded Poetic Justice, a nonprofit that teaches creative writing to incarcerated women in Oklahoma.
- Former US Army Corporal Chris Stout started the Veterans Community Project, which connects homeless veterans with housing and other essential services.
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