Bob Geldof

In 1984, when reports of the famine in Ethiopia shook the world, the country found an unlikely hero in rocker Bob Geldof. He launched Band Aid, one of the first relief efforts of its kind.

"People were dying," Bob said. "So I thought it required something more than the charitable impulse and it required an effort of self, and all I could do, badly, as it was turning out, was write a couple of tunes."

One of those tunes, Do They Know It's Christmas? sold out in record time and millions of dollars starting pouring in for relief to Ethiopia. But Bob did not stop there. Next was Live Aid, two concerts of epic proportions held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. For 10 hours on a day in July, 1.5 billion people, that's one-third of the entire planet, tuned in to see the biggest names in music perform to save a country.
Canadian reporter Brian Stewart

The haunting image that inspired Bob Geldof to start Band Aid and Live Aid was that of a young, dying Ethiopian girl named Birhan. Her story came to life after a Canadian reporter named Brian Stewart, among many of the world's journalists, began to report of the daily tragedies Ethiopia was experiencing. Brian had filmed a father preparing to bury his famine-stricken 3-year-old daughter, Birhan, who was on her deathbed. But the girl turned out to be quite a miracle—she fought back to live.

"Until that moment, I had not seen in all my time in Ethiopia one good story," Brian says. "One story that gave any hope whatsoever and suddenly, looking at this face, I thought if she can make it, maybe Ethiopia can make it. And maybe the world will respond."
Birhan, Ethiopia famine survivor

Birhan is more than a miracle. She's now 23 years old and in college.

"Look at me," Birhan says. "I look very beautiful and very healthy. I'm very strong, and I'm very proud that all the hardship is past already."

Brian now sponsors Birhan and her siblings' education. Birhan says she looks at Brian as her second father.

"This is one child that I didn't want to turn my back on, because she represented, I think, a kind of hope for Ethiopia and also her personal story," Brian says. "So I was tormented for years and then went back to try and find her four years later."
Sharbot Gula

Seventeen years ago, this haunting photo (left) appeared on the cover of National Geographic and the world took notice. Those piercing green eyes belonged to a 12-year-old Afghan refugee. The picture of this unknown girl put a face on the ravages of war. Just two years ago, the photographer found this girl living in a remote village in Pakistan. Now 30 years old, Sharbot Gula is a wife and mother. Time and hardship have erased the innocence of her youth, but not her spirit of survival. She says her dream is for her daughters to go to school, so in her honor, the National Geographic Society established the first all girls' school in Kabul last year.
Child taking picture for Salvation Army card

In a groundbreaking holiday project, award-winning photojournalist Linda Solomon gave homeless children in a Detroit shelter a unique and creative way to show us all what is in their hearts. The children were given cameras and asked to take pictures of their wishes for the holidays. Instead of wishing for toys, the children wished for homes, having their own beds, peace and, of course, love.

Their powerful pictures are now holiday cards on sale through the Salvation Army this year. The children's photography program was sponsored by the Taubman Company and due to the generosity of the Taubman company, 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the cards will benefit homeless children in America.

Linda's work can also be seen in People We Know, Horses They Love.
Filmmakers of 'The Dying Rooms'

Over 1 billion people live in China and, in 1979, the government decided to limit its growth by whatever means necessary. This was the beginning of the one-child-per-family policy. The policy led to vast numbers of baby girls being abandoned in markets, at state orphanages or even killed. In 1996, a group of daring filmmakers brought to light the devastation of China's "one child" policy and the desire for families to only have boys. They traveled to China posing undercover as American orphanage workers. What they discovered was horrific.

In their film The Dying Rooms, the filmmakers showed the unbelievable living conditions in the orphanages they came across. They also found an actual "dying room" where an unwanted baby girl was left 10 days earlier to die. She was named Mei Ming, which means "no name." Mei Ming gave up on her fight to live four days after the filmmakers filmed her. The orphanage denied she ever existed, but the film proves otherwise.

As a result of The Dying Rooms, organizations like Amnesty International and Save the Children took notice and began focusing on the subject. And, according to the filmmakers, the United Nations also became more strict on China, and American families have also adopted more Chinese girls than any other nation.
Lisa Ling

Almost a decade since The Dying Rooms was made, Lisa Ling traveled to China to find out what is happening now to China's unwanted girls. She was part of the first camera crew allowed back in by the government to cover this topic since The Dying Rooms.

Today in China, Lisa found that baby girls are still being either aborted or abandoned by the thousands and boys outnumber girls by 17 million. Although the one child per family policy still stands, Lisa says families do have sons and daughters. "In the countryside, you can have more than one child. If your first child is a girl you can try to then have a boy," Lisa says. "The problem is that no matter how you try, you can't force yourself to have a boy. So if you continue to have girls, a lot of these families, they continue to give away or kill baby girls until they have a boy, and some may never have a baby boy.

"It sounds horrifying to give away the baby girls and it is. But in China, the boy will stay with the family and his wife will come live with the family so they can work the fields and stay in the home. Whereas if you give birth to a baby girl, [the girl] will [eventually] leave your family. So what the Chinese government is trying to do now is convince the people that women are productive members of society, too."

Lisa says that China has made "tremendous, tremendous strides in fixing the problem" including relaxing restrictions on International adoptions.
American family adopts Chinese baby girl

In 1998, China eased adoption restrictions allowing thousands of unwanted baby girls to find homes in places like the United States. It's estimated that since then over 35,000 children have made that incredible journey to America. As part of her special report for Explorer on the National Geographic Channel, Lisa Ling accompanied American families on their journey to meet their Chinese baby girls for the first time—an experience something rarely captured on tape. It's a special report that Lisa Ling says she's most proud of.

"That's why I really loved doing this story so much," Lisa says, "because as you saw in The Dying Rooms, these little girls are the most rejected, discarded members of Chinese society. They are left in boxes. They are left on the side of the road. They are left in parks. And these amazing people who have the desire to have kids, they go and they adopt these baby girls. And in a way, these little girls kind of get the last laugh because they come to America, they have access to education, you know, you have to have some resources in order to go and do this foreign adoption. They come here and they become educated. And I truly believe that they're going to go back and change China."

Richard and Denise adopted their daughter Marissa from China three and a half years ago. In every way Marissa is an ordinary American kid, but this American kid was abandoned in a park in China when she was three days old. Now, Marissa and her parents have traveled back to China to adopt another baby girl. Lisa documented the event and witnessed the Halls welcome a little sister into their family.
Oprah holding Chinese footbinding slipper

In 1931, American author Pearl Buck, who grew up in China, published a daring novel that gave the world a glimpse into its mysteries. In The Good Earth , she featured many of the shocking sights that she had witnessed first hand, like the ancient practice of footbinding.

For 1,000 years, over 4 and a half billion Chinese women had endured this torturous practice. Considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and beauty, the perfect adult woman's foot was no longer than 3 inches!

"I had no idea that it was this small!" — Oprah

Dig into The Good Earth to uncover the culture of footbinding and more!
FROM: Children Who Shook the World and Oprah's Book Club
Published on December 02, 2004


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