JEISON ARISTIZÁBAL – 2016 CNN Hero of the Year
Jeison grew up in one of the poorest areas in Cali, Colombia and has cerebral palsy. A doctor once told his mother that he would “amount to nothing.”
Very early in his childhood, Jeison realized that there were thousands of children with physical and cognitive disabilities in his community who were not as lucky as he was, because thankfully, his family was able to provide him the support needed to live an independent life.
As he told CNN during a recent interview, “There are children who spend years in bed…because their families don’t know how to care for them.”
That is one of the reasons that 15 years ago, the now 33-year-old Aristizábal, started working hard to try and change perceptions and give young people with disabilities a brighter future.
Jeison is the founder of ASODISVALLE (Association of Disabled People of the Valley), a non-profit organization that offers a range of services that have helped transform the lives of more than 1,000 young people and their families – – all for free.
His inspiration to help other children with disabilities came when he met a child in a very poor house, a boy who grew up on a bed for eight years! “I think that boy really touched my heart because he reminded of me when I was in the same situation. So, I started collecting and donating wheelchairs so that boy and may other children could at least move.” Jeison said during a recent CNN interview.
At present, Jeison is in Law School and his greatest hope is to change laws and the way in which his government treats people with disabilities. He is trying to learn as much as he can about the legal system of Colombia in order to help many more families and children and will continue to work hard so that many more disabled kids can study, have a family, go for walks, have fun, and most importantly, so they can dream.
For more on ASODISVALLE, go to: http://www.asodisvalle.com/
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Each year, CNN hosts its award-winning television special, CNN Heroes. It was started in 2007 to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.
The nominees are introduced during the fall of each year and each gest a $10,000 cash prize to help their efforts. The winner is chosen by an online vote from the general public and becomes the CNN Hero of the Year. During the special TV Broadcast, each nominee is introduced by a celebrity who actively support their charity work.
The winner of the online vote receives an additional $100,000 for his or her cause!