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After 21 years as a successful art dealer, Gregory John Smith auctioned off all his business and belongings and moved to Brazil to work with Sao Paulo’s street children.

writes Geraldine Royds.

Gregory had never forgotten the economic disparities he had seen while traveling with his family during his childhood and in 1993 he established the Children at Risk Foundation (CARF).  Initially, Gregory lived on the streets with the children, getting to know them and the circumstances that brought them to the streets. Many of them came from backgrounds of extreme poverty and violence and many had special needs.

   

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One cold January morning in 2008, at a subway station in Washington DC, a man wearing a baseball cap arrived carrying a violin.

He spent the next 45 minutes playing a series of pieces by the great German composer, Johann Christian Bach. During that time 1,097 people hurried past but of these only seven stopped to listen. A three-year-old boy was among the most interested. He would have been happy to hang around but his mother dragged him away. When the recital finished the man was greeted by silence. Nobody noticed him packing up. No one applauded. He left unrecognized. He had made $32.  Vida Adamoli investigates

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Ory Okolloh, is one of Africa’s most powerful online activists and legal minds. Born into a poor family who could barely afford to pay her school fee’s she graduated from Harvard Law School Kenya to found Mzalendo.com – a ‘watchblog’ that demands accountability from Kenyan MP’s by monitoring what they do, writes Geraldine Royds.

 

 

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Thomas Quasthoff, standing just four feet three inches tall, was one of thousands of Thalidomide babies born severely deformed when their mothers took the anti-sickness drug during pregnancy in the 1950s and 60s, writes Vida Adamoli.

 

He spent his toddler years encased in a sort of plastic shell and his arms are three-fingered flippers. But there is so much more to him than this. Quasthoff’s is a German bass-baritone, a truly inspirational artist with an extraordinary ‘burnished, burgundy-coloured voice’. It is his ability, not his disability, that distinguishes him.

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What do the films Syrianna, Good Night and Good Luck and Darfur Now have in common, apart from George Clooney?  They are produced by former eBay President, Jeff Skoll, says Geraldine Royds

 

As eBay’s first President, he was a key player in the growth of the company from a start-up into an outstanding success with millions of users. When he was 35 years old,  Skoll left the business world with a reported $2 billion in his pocket and began to devote his time and money to charitable causes.

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‘…sometimes it's just a trip down the corridor between heaven and hell. It was 3.16pm when Joe's skin turned a duskier shade of pearl and a nurse stopped smiling. When she wheeled him off on a silver trolley to intensive care, and we chased her down the corridor, it was as if she'd taken our insides away.’

Joe was born in 1998 to Nia Wyn and her husband, Alex. Their joy was short-lived, shattered by the revelation that their beautiful son was severely brain damaged. They were told he would be blind and incapable of walking or talking. Even worse, he'd be so retarded he would never recognize them as his parents.


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Artist Tyree Guyton has waged a personal war on urban blight, transforming a broken down neighbourhood on Detroit’s East Side street into a living art gallery.

 

Geraldine Royds looks at The Heidelberg Project. 

Prior to becoming an artist, Tyree Guyton worked as a firefighter, an autoworker and served in the army. Following his stint in the military, Tyree came back to his childhood neighbourhood and was astonished to see that it look like a bombsite.  The area had begun to deteriorate after the 1967 riots in Detroit and seventy five percent of the locals were now on the poverty line. Tyree began The Heidelberg Project partly as a political protest.

 

 

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