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CNN honors unsung heroes of the world

November 23, 2010 | 12:07 pm

Hollywood award shows come with glamorous stars, popular bands and tearful acceptance speeches, and CNN's laurels offered all of that along with a rare humanitarian twist. The globetrotting cable news channel is celebrating regular people who toil -– against the odds -- to improve the lives of others.

"The world does not need another award show, but we wanted to turn the tables and shine a spotlight on people who really deserve to be honored," said Anderson Cooper, who hosts "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which will be broadcast Thanksgiving night at 8 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. PST. 

Aanuradha "These are people who do not have a lot of money, who do not have access to power, and some are not even liked by the leaders of their communities. But each one woke up one day and decided it was up to them to start filling a need," Cooper said in an interview. "They are truly extraordinary people."

Cooper presented the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year award to Anuradha Koirala, who has spent two decades working to prevent the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal's women and girls. She and her supporters have raided brothels, educated villagers and provided a haven for some of the more than 12,000 Nepalese women and girls that her group has rescued from a life of prostitution. 

CNN taped its high-wattage show Saturday night at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium. The 33 recently rescued Chilean miners were flown to Los Angeles to take the stage and kick off the gala. Halle Berry, Renee Zellweger, Jessica Alba, Demi Moore, Kid Rock, LL Cool J, Gerard Butler and Kiefer Sutherland presented awards to the 10 recipients from around the world. Grammy-winners Sugarland, John Legend and Bon Jovi performed musical numbers.

Each of CNN's heroes received $25,000 to help with their missions, and Koirala collected an additional $100,000 for her organization, Maiti Nepal.

Others who were honored by the Time Warner Inc. network included a Scottish man who formed an organization that feeds hungry children, a Cambodian man who once was a child soldier but now works to clear deadly land mines, a Texas man who builds homes for injured U.S. service members, and a Los Angeles woman who provides shelter for women newly released from prison.

CNN's honorees were culled from more 10,000 submissions from 100 countries. About 2 million votes were cast online to select the hero of the year.

The nine other recipients are:

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow of Argyll, Scotland: He founded Mary's Meals to make a small dent in world hunger by providing at least one free meal a day at school for impoverished children in 15 countries, including Haiti and in Africa. 

Dan Wallrath of Houston: Determined to make sure that veterans who have been injured while serving the U.S. have a first-rate place to call home, Wallrath launched an organization five years ago that builds homes for injured service members.

Aki Ra of Siem Reap, Cambodia: He heads the Cambodian Self-Help Demining team to clear land mines, some of which he planted years ago when he was a child soldier during the regime of the communist Khmer Rouge.

AndersonTopTen Harmon Parker of Lexington, Ky.: In 2003, this missionary started a nonprofit organization called Bridging the Gap, which oversees the construction of foot bridges in Kenya to help villagers make safe passage over sometimes deadly flood-swollen rivers.

Susan Burton of Los Angeles: With funding from private foundations, she provides housing and support for up to 22 women who have recently been released from prison and have nowhere else to go.

Evans Wadongo of Nairobi, Kenya: This native of rural Kenya devised solar-powered LED lanterns, which he has distributed to hundreds of villagers in the hopes that they can improve their lives if they do not have to spend their meager resources on kerosene for lighting.

Narayanan Krishnan of Madurai, India: An award-winning chef, he quit his job eight years ago to feed and care for the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill, and abandoned elderly people.

Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega of El Paso: She works to promote the Hospital de la Familia, a health center that she launched more than 30 years ago in drug-war ravaged Juarez, Mexico.

Linda Fondren of Vicksburg, Miss.: Through her yearlong initiative, "Shape Up Vicksburg," in which she provided free fitness and nutrition classes and lobbied local eateries to add healthy meals to their menus, Fondren campaigns to end obesity in her community. 

-- Meg James

Upper photo: Anuradha Koirala accepts her award. Credit: CNN

Middle photo: The 33 Chilean miners take the stage at the Shrine Auditorium. Credit: CNN

Lower photo: Anderson Cooper and the 10 honorees. Credit: CNN