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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN 2016 Hero of the Year. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 9, 2016 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: That's it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. CNN Superhero, Above and Beyond, a CNN Hero tenth anniversary special, starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: They're rebuilding homes for victims of natural disasters.

LIZ MCCARTNEY, CNN HERO: Look at that.

COOPER: Bringing education to children in the Philippines. Helping women in need safely deliver their babies in Indonesia, caring for the children of incarcerated parents in Nepal, and cleaning up rivers and water ways across the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just make piles every hundred feet.

COOPER: Over the past decade, all five have been honored as the CNN hero of the year for their efforts. And tonight, we catch up with them to see where they are now.

This is CNN, Superhero, Above and Beyond.

Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper.

It's the 10th anniversary of CNN Heroes. And throughout the years, we've celebrated hundreds of remarkable individuals who found their own way to make the world a better place.

As part of our 10-year celebration, we're honoring their commitment and courage to change the world. Their stories of compassion and perseverance truly embody the very best of humanity.

These heroes saw a need and stepped up. They've changed lives. They've saved lives. Each year at our annual CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute, we honor 10 amazing individuals and we reveal who viewers chose to be the CNN Hero of the year.

Tonight, we catch up with five of our CNN Heroes of the year to see where they are now, how much their work has grown, how their lives have changed since being named CNN Hero of the year.

From New Orleans, community crusader, Liz McCartney. Efren Penaflorida championing children in the Philippines. From Indonesia, medical marvel, Robin Lim. Pushpa Basnet for taking the powerless in Nepal. And from the state of Illinois, Chad Pregracke defending the planet. But before we get started we want to kick off something special to

mark our 10th anniversary. Starting tonight, right now, in fact, we want you to choose which of tonight's five past CNN Heroes of the year will be named the CNN Superhero this Sunday night.

Voting is open. CNNheros.com and continues all weekend and into Sunday night's all-star tribute. Watch tonight to learn all about this best of the best, and let us know who you think should be named the CNN Superhero and win $50,000 to further their cause.

To kick things off, we're going back to the beginning. To our very first CNN Hero of the year, Liz McCartney. When we met Liz in 2008, she and her boyfriend Zach had started a non-profit to rebuild homes for victims of hurricane Katrina.

Back then she'd helped more than 100 families return to homes in New Orleans. And today, Liz and her team rebuilt more than 1200 homes around the world. And she's still at it.

This year, torrential rain swamped more than 20 parishes across Louisiana, destroying more than 60,000 homes and properties. We caught up with Liz outside of Baton Rouge, where she and her team were hard at work on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: So, we are in central Louisiana, helping to rebuild the home of Ms. Linda and Mr. Jesse. He is a Vietnam vet. They don't live in a flood zone. They weren't expecting this to happen.

LINDA MARCUS, FLOOD VICTIM: We opted for no flood insurance. That was one of the things we opted out of. We've lived in this home for 40 years. We had never flooded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Over the course of seven days in August, nearly 7 trillion gallons of rain pummeled southern Louisiana. A sucker punch resulting in the worst United States disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCUS: We stayed in the parking lot of the church for the night. And then the next morning, the water was still coming up. Our neighbor came over the wooden fence in his boat, and he took pictures and then would send it to us so we could see exactly how high it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: When the Marcus family finally returned home, their property and belongings had been destroyed. They were advised to gut their home because of contamination and health hazards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCUS: We started with wheelbarrows, and shovels and started taking everything to the road. Our mountain of belongings were put in a truck, and we watched them lift it and dump it in the truck. Things that we worked all our lives for.

MCCARTNEY: We're setting up an office in Baton Rouge and working with other organizations. So, we've been sending volunteers back and forth from Baton Rouge to support the immediate recovery efforts there.

You're hired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

[22:04:58] MARCUS: I got a call from Liz one day and everything from then on started falling into place.

MCCARTNEY: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For a full decade, our first CNN Hero of the year, Liz McCartney, has helped families like the Marcus's move back into their homes.

MCCARTNEY: Look at that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Liz started rebuilding homes in 2006 in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and she hasn't stopped since then. CNN Heroes honored Liz and her organization, the St. Bernard Project, in 2008. Today, her organization is called, simply, SBP, and they're stronger and larger than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: Please join us. Together, we can continue to rebuild families' homes and lives. Thank you.

We've rebuilt almost 1200 houses with help from over 130,000 volunteers from every state in the country. From over 70 countries from around the world. It's been like an extraordinary outpouring of support.

SBP now works in seven different disaster-impacted communities across the country. New York, New Jersey, a community in Texas, in Columbia, South Carolina and parts of West Virginia. And now, most recently, in Baton Rouge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, disaster recovery is Liz's full-time job. She and her team are keenly focused on prevention and safety, as well.

MCCARTNEY: I think we've learned over the years that we have to dig in and try to address the root cause of the problem. And actually, it's one of the things I tell our partners now in Baton Rouge. And it always makes me cry. It'll make me cry now and say, you don't want to be me in ten and a half years, like still helping families get back home.

So let's figure out how to do this as efficiently and as smartly and cooperatively as possible. So, yes, it's really been a journey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: SBP launched the disaster a resilience and recovery lab to help home and business owners prior to a disaster. And afterwards, they're there for homeowners, charities and government officials to share best practices and insight.

Over the years, SBP has also started mental health support groups, affordable housing projects and veterans assistance programs.

When CNN Heroes met Liz, the project was a grassroots initiative. Today, her team receives support from major sponsors and SBP is recognized internationally in disaster recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: The Heroes program helped us, it helped so many more people because it attracted people to the organization. And it's just a way to like let folks know there is a huge need out there in communities that are impacted by a disaster, and there is a way that they can help very meaningfully that will change people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, SBP's new headquarters in New Orleans is used as a hub for experts to gather.

MCCARTNEY: How is it coming to you, guys?

COOPER: So far, SBP has had more than 130,000 volunteers working on more than 1,000 projects across America.

MCCARTNEY: It's going to be good.

COOPER: More than half of the volunteers have been in New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY TRAPANESE, SBP VOLUNTEER: I've worked on about a dozen or so homes since moving down here in about an eight-month period. It's easy to kind of assume that, you know, everything has been taken care of. But it's not true. There's a lot of work to be done. It's inspiring, you know, seeing those people who come down here with real energy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm pretty sweaty, too.

MCCARTNEY: The reality is, it's all about having a great team, and we're surrounded by a lot of very dedicated, extremely hardworking people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The fruits of SBP's efforts and other groups working in New Orleans have paid off. In many ways, the city is thriving. Tourists are back. And new businesses are opening.

But Liz says there are still displaced residents. More than 10 years after Katrina, people who want to come home but can't.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: It's 11 years after Katrina, and many neighborhoods look like this one. You know, they're vibrant, people are back home, life is very much back to normal. I think the biggest problem that we're seeing is that we're still working with families who were impacted by Katrina who are not home yet.

The real challenge is that the overwhelming majority of these people are victims of contractor fraud or theft or vandalism. And they've just run out of resources. And they don't have a clear path home.

ROBERTA HENDERSON, FLOOD VICTIM: We were here for Katrina. We had six and a half feet of water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Hurricane Katrina struck in August of 2005, leaving New Orleans and its residents reeling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL HENDERSON, FLOOD VICTIM: I went in there, it looked like somebody had taken a bomb and just blew up everything. It was unbelievable.

R. HENDERSON: Unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For 10 years, the Henderson's struggled to rebuild until they submitted an application to SBP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. HENDERSON: Someone called me, and she said, "Ms. Henderson, we have your application and we're going to help you out to get back in your home." This is the living room, and this is the dining room. When I saw it, I was like, wow! It's beautiful.

C. HENDERSON: I had nothing to do with the colors. I do all the outside work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:10:01] COOPER: Liz McCartney has spent the last decade baring witness to Katrina's destruction and helping flood survivors find a path home. She was recognized as a champion of change by the White House.

And in January of 2013, Liz was one of the citizen co-chairs of President Obama's second inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: I also am always like, it's not me. We have this great team, right? I don't know. We get a lot of people stepping up and saying, I can do my part. And I will do my par

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For Liz McCartney and co-founder Zach Rosenberg, who continue to run the organization together, their professional journey has been mirrored by a personal one. The co-founders got married in 2010. And today, they're raising a family of their own in New Orleans. Liz says neither journey was planned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: When Zach and I started, we were, I think, we were like naive enough that we thought, we'll come down for a little while and try to help. And I never would have imagined that we'd still be here doing this work.

The thing that's always inspiring and a little bit scary to me is when people look me in the eye and they say, I'll keep coming until you tell me to stop. I think, I got to keep showing up every day then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Liz and her team are doing tremendous work. And we cannot wait to see where they're going to be in another 10 years.

In the meantime, who will be named the CNN Superhero? Vote now at CNNheros.com. And watch this Sunday night's 10th annual CNN Heroes all-star tribute to find out which past CNN Hero of the year will win $50,000 to further their cause.

Next up, we're going to catch up with a young man who started his mission to change the world as a teenager and hasn't stopped since.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EFREN PENAFLORIDA, CNN HERO: Whenever we go from one community to another community, children were running towards us. They were waiting for us and smiling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: CNN Hero of the year Efren Penaflorida used to push a single cart of books and supplies to teach kids in the slums of the Philippines. Today, his push carts are everywhere, and his classroom on wheels has been replicated around the world.

Meet a real hometown hero when we come back. [22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Superhero Above and Beyond.

In the Philippines, kariton means a push cart, a cart on wheels. Seven years ago, when we met Efren Penaflorida, his non-profit the dynamic team company, had been pushing four of these carts, stocked with school and supplies for more than a decade.

Teams of teenage volunteers brought the classroom on wheels to kids who had been forced to drop out of school in the Philippines. Efren was just a teenager when he started the project in the slums as a way to combat gangs and the bullies who threatened him at school. He hoped to engage kids through learning instead of violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: In 2009, when the CNN Heroes met me and the volunteers pushing the carts, people were laughing on us. They would discourage us. They would say that it's a waste of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The CNN Hero of the Year is Efren Penaflorida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: But after CNN Heroes featured us, it changed everything.

You are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream. And collectively, we are the change that this world needs to be. Mabuhay.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Efren says the Heroes recognition came at a time he need support more than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: After we were featured, people were like, you're doing a good job. It changed everything. It changed the perspective of a lot of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In a country where nearly a quarter of the people live below the poverty line, Efren's story of hope helped put a struggling population on the map. And as the world began to focus on the plight of children living in poverty, more kids got the chance to learn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: Whenever we go from one community to another community, children were like swarming around, running towards us. They were waiting for us and smiling. And they really has this hunger for learning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, Efren's simple little cart and a team of passionate volunteers have brought education to an estimated 40,000 children around the world.

Many of these kids were sold into prostitution or working in garbage dumps or had been coerced into gangs. And Efren is helping them learn and get back into school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: We gather all the children. We hold the programs here for health care, for feeding the children. And we have activities like school supplies giving. We have regular volunteers gathering, providing them encouragement, empowering them as much as we can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My life before was really a miserable life. I became a dropout student. And then I've been also in prostitution, in child prostitution, child labor. The cart on classroom is not just a school for me, but also a family for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This year, in one month alone, Efren and his team got more than 1,200 kids from the streets back into the school system. And on top of decreasing the dropout rate in his hometown, Efren has made waves around the world.

He's received awards, done television interviews and was the focus of a TV movie. But Efren says that more important than the accolades are the results that his program has inspired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: When we started the organization, gangs, street wars are very rampant. We saw that there's a tremendous decrease of the issues of gangsters and gangs around, and we are glad that we're one of those people who help in making the place better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Taking the push cart classroom to new levels, Efren has recently teamed up with the Department of Education in the Philippines and with other international groups to replicate the push cart classroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: The kariton classroom here in the Philippines is a symbol of hope and education. We have counted 83 replications all over the Philippines. Plus, we have two aboard in Indonesia and in Kenya.

That idea has gone a long way. It reached thousands of children, and it touches their lives.

We believe that education is a powerful tool. It can make someone's life become productive. And it can really change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: With prize money from CNN Heroes, Efren has also built new educational facilities. And in 2012, his group opened up a new high school, solar powered safe haven for high school students who had fallen through the cracks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:20:08] PENAFLORIDA: We go from house to house and try to get high school students who still want to go to school but don't have the opportunity, so we give them a free education and help them graduate in secondary education.

We're going to have our first batch of graduates in 2018. So we want to create a higher education program for these young people so that they can fulfill their dreams and hopefully get a decent job in the future.

Giving them an opportunity and helping them fulfilling their dreams, that's, for me, more rewarding than other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Efren says his CNN Hero colleagues have also stayed close.

PENAFLORIDA: X minus 1 equals to zero.

COOPER: When a typhoon Haiyan decimated areas in the Philippines in 2013, killing more than 6,000 and causing widespread destruction, Efren mobilized his own team to help in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit areas. He also issued a rallying cry to his fellow CNN Heroes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: I contacted all my co-honorees. And they responded. Doc Henley was there. He was able to bring water filters to each community. Robin Lim was there also to help pregnant women. And when the three of us met together in Tacloban, we're like avengers coming together and help the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, Efren is 35 years old. He works on his project full time and teaches a math class. He continues to push his cart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENAFLORIDA: I was saved by this kind of program. I was encouraged to continue my education and love learning and embrace it. And that's what we are trying to share with these children. Not to give up on their life. Not to give up on their dreams.

And so we believe that education is a powerful tool to make these children become productive in life and help us help change the world. We're never too young to give back to society. And one is never too ordinary to be a hero.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Efren's work has come a long way since we met him. And kids all over the world are getting an education because of one simple idea.

Don't forget to vote now for Efren or one of our other amazing heroes. Vote now at CNNheroes.com and watch this Sunday night's 10th annual CNN Heroes all-star tribute to find out which past CNN hero of the year will win $50,000 to further their cause.

Next, they call her Ibo which means mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN LIM, CNN HERO: We believe that it's a human right to have respectful care, prenatal care, birth services, and postpartum care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In Indonesia, Robin Lim helped thousands of mothers safely deliver their babies. Find out how her work has grown since she was profiled as a CNN hero when we come back.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Superhero Above and Beyond.

For more than two decades, the well-being of mothers and babies has been the focus of CNN Hero and licensed midwife Robin Lim. A mission she embraced after her sister died from complications during pregnancy.

CNN Heroes honored Robin in 2011 for bringing safe and free maternal health care to women in Indonesia. Since being named a CNN Hero, thousands more babies have entered the world safely, thanks to Robin and her Bumi Sehat, the healthy mother earth clinics. Today in Bali, where her main clinic is located, Robin is always ready 24/7 for the next delivery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: Mothers sometimes come by boat, ferry, and then they have to find a ride on a motorcycle in the rain to get here in the middle of the night. And then when they get here, they get a hug. And they get midwives ready 24/7 to care for them.

Sometimes in the middle of the night, we're exhausted. And another motorcycle comes. Another mother in labor. Then we start over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: After being selected 2011 CNN Hero of the Year, robin used her prize enough and international recognition to launch fundraising for a clinic she'd long dreamed of.

Today, that dream is a reality. A new community health and child care clinic for Robin and her staff to serve mothers and babies in need on a much larger scale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: Back in 2011, we didn't have this beautiful space. You take a dream, and you add CNN money. Put them on TV, shake it up. More donations. And we have this amazing place. Amazing.

We're able to help more people than ever. And now that we have a big enough space, we're able to do all kinds of things. We're able to do free ambulance service. Ultrasound. Acupuncture. Nurses and midwives present 24/7. Doctors every day.

We help the people who are falling through the cracks, and those mothers know they're going to get the same beautiful, loving service here as wealthy people get. It's all the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Since she launched her mission in 1995, Robin helped more than 300,000 patients with a range of medical services. And today, her team assists in more than 1,000 deliveries every year. We caught up with Robin recently at her new center. The night before, she'd helped deliver four babies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: Oh, darling. This baby is less than one day old. She has not got a name yet. And her mom is taking a little rest while I hold her. If this baby's mother had given birth in a hospital somewhere else and did not have the money to pay, they would be forced to leave the baby in the hospital until they could find the money to pay.

You'll see them outside the hospital, sleeping on newspapers to stay warm. To wait for someone in the family to try to bring them money. This mother, of course, her service here for childbirth, all her prenatal care, everything, postpartum care will be free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:30:13] COOPER: In 2011, when CNN Heroes was filming Robin's story, she received a visit from supermodel and health care advocate, Christy Turlington Burns, whose own maternal health care initiatives were in line with Robin's?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIM: In 2011, I have heard of Christy Turlington Burns but I didn't

know her. When she showed up, she was this bright light. She walked around the village with me, and the children were so excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That visit was the beginning of a lasting relationship. In 2012, Robin delivered a baby whose mother was HIV positive. An emergency resuscitation, Robin was exposed to the HIV virus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: Here in Bali, the HIV problem is huge. And so I sat down and I sat at my computer. And I wrote an e-mail to Christy Turlington Burns. And I didn't know what to do, you know. And her response, by the next day, was you need a lab. And she said, OK, every mother counts. We'll finance it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Christy Turlington Burns and her non-profit, every mother counts, along with an international community of supporters, teamed up to fund the Bumi Valentino Lab.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: We have a full lab now. Something we did not have in 2011.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: An on-site facility at Robin's clinic. Now, Robin and her team can get test results quickly and start giving mothers with HIV antiretroviral medication to reduce the risk of infecting their babies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: You're the one that kept me up all night, yes. And I think for me, knowing that we have friends out there that will do anything for us when we're in need, and since we've had our lab, we recently have nine mothers who are HIV positive that are all on antiretrovirals. I do not have HIV. I am so blessed. I can tell you that that medicine saves lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, there are three Bumi Sehat clinics, two in Indonesia and one in the Philippines, with midwives staffed year round. Robin also offers training and scholarships and has been able to expand her educational programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: We travel to other islands in the Philippines. Here in Indonesia about 13,000 young midwives a year and nurses have a half-day seminar with me and with our midwives. Also, we have a classroom now upstairs. And we have groups coming.

Some of the midwives that you see here are midwives that came from very poor families that had no chance of an education. If a girl has a dream to be a nurse, a midwife or teacher, we find a way. We find a sponsor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Robin's group is also at the ready to respond to international disasters and other emergencies.

In 2013, she and her team of midwives were on the ground immediately following the deadly typhoon in the Philippines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: After the big superstorm Haiyan, the government health centers, the lying-in clinics, all gone. Completely reduced to rubble. Everything was gone. And yet, we were able to set up a tent.

And in a two by two and a half meter tent, we had 277 babies. Doctors were bringing us mothers in the middle of the night, and we have to handle it there. When a woman is pregnant and a disaster strikes, she still has to have her baby if there is no hospital

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Robin set up a permanent clinic in the Philippines high risk typhoon zone and continues to offer aid and assistance after natural disasters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: We believe it is a human right to have respectful care, prenatal care, birth services, postpartum care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In Bali, where Robin has lived more than 20 years, she's a mainstay in the villages and looks forward to continuing her work around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIM: Well, I'm turning 60 this November. So I've grown a little bit older. I hope I've grown wiser. We have a saying, our job is to take care of the least, the lost and the last. And that's our vision and mission is to take care of the people no one wants to care for.

I'm just so blessed to walk down the street and see the faces of these kids. Most of them, I've seen them arrive into this world. And when they run up to me and hug me, just makes life worth living.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Robin's commitment to maternal health has made a huge impact on so many lives. To vote for Robin Lim or another past hero of the year to be named the CNN Superhero. Go to CNNheroes.com and be sure to watch this Sunday night's 10th annual CNN Heroes all-star tribute to find out which CNN hero of the year alum will win $50,000 to further their cause.

Next up, children growing up in prison though they've committed no crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:34:59] PUSPA BASNET, CNN HERO: I think the smile and the hope and the dream that they have, I think, yes, that really keeps me inspired to do more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And Pushpa Basnet of Kathmandu, Nepal, found out kids often live with an incarcerated parent, she created a center to help them reclaim their childhood, go to school and to thrive.

When we come back, Pushpa proves that despite pushbacks and hurdles, she won't ever stop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Superhero Above and Beyond. Our next hero, 2012 CNN Hero of the Year, Pushpa Basnet, long dreamed of having a place that her kids could call home.

For than a decade in Nepal in a small building she rented in the busy section of Kathmandu, Pushpa cared for an educated kids who had been living inside Nepalese prisons with their parents because there was no one to care for them while their mothers and fathers served their sentences.

Pushpa first butterfly home named so that children would grow wings and fly it was a safe haven for these kids with no safety net. Providing them food, health care and schooling. But Pushpa felt the kids deserved more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: My kids used to walk to the road. Every time, people used to look at them in a negative way. Oh, you know, they are running a small orphanage or shelter, you know, that looks after the kids out of prison.

[22:40:04] But always I had that passion or dream that people looked at our butterfly home they would say, whose house is that, is that a resort?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: With the prize money she received as 2012 CNN Hero of the Year, Pushpa took the first step in making her dream come true. She bought a plot of land. The property was high above the congested and poverty-stricken areas of Kathmandu and a short walk from the children's school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: It should be close to nature because, you know, all this childhood life they were spending in a prison, in a big wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In 2015, the home that Pushpa had long imagined was on its way to completion. Four new structures were up, and construction was in full swing. With all Pushpa's earnings and dreams invested in the project. And then, the unthinkable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: Suddenly, what I hear was, you know, people were screaming. Earthquake! Earthquake!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: On April 25th, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: My van was moving up and down. People were coming in the road, you know. I just jumped off from the van and I said, no, I need to go and save my kids, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: More than 8,000 people were killed. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless. Entire villages were flattened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: I could not even think anything. You know, I was, like, this is it. It's the end of our world, and it is the end of our family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Remarkably, all 42 of Pushpa's children survived. In the days, weeks and months following the earthquake, Pushpa and her kids took shelter under a tarp. Pushpa learned that her new butterfly dream home was destroyed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: Forty five seconds, everything fell down. Everything. My dreams were all scattered. It was gone. I literally sat down and cried like anything. I could see my dream coming, of such a beautifully it was taking a shape. It was a huge impact on myself, but I could not show it because I don't want to prove that I am a weak person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Pushpa says she felt hopeless. She faced challenges before, but this time, she didn't know how she would rebuild. Displaced with 42 kids to care for, Pushpa says it was ultimately the children who rekindled her hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: We stayed in a field for three, four months. Every day, I used to see my kids in the field, you know, they were playing, singing, dancing. And I think I had a hope that my kids are all safe, I'm safe, my family are safe.

I am a strong person, you know. I have to be strong for myself and for my 40 kids living with me. The life is something that if it's gone, it's gone. The house is something we can redo it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Resilience and determination have long defined pushpa's life. She was a 21-year-old college student when she first learned about the plight of kids living in Nepal's prisons. Alarmed by the discovery, she soon took action.

Pushpa started a non-profit called ECDC, Early Childhood Development Centre, to care for the kids of inmates. She started with four children in 2005 and grew the program to care for more than 40.

From Kathmandu, it's Pushpa Basnet. She'd been on it for more than a decade. Little support from local government or the public when CNN Heroes honored her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: This is for my children, and this is back for my country, Nepal. And thank you so much for everyone who voted for me and who believed in my dream. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The global attention she received when she was announced as CNN Hero of the Year was something altogether new.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: After becoming the CNN hero of 2012, you know, after coming back to Nepal, everything changed in my life. The first thing I encountered in the airport was my father. I never got a hug from my father. I think that was the first time in my life that my father hugged me. And maybe he felt that, oh, I'm proud of you. What you've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Pushpa says the spotlight inspired her to work harder. Since 2012, she's been able to substantially reduce the number of kids living inside prisons.

She also offers scholarships and works with the Nepalese government to improve conditions for kids living in prisons with their parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: We've been working with 27 prisons, but now, our government are more aware of giving a right for the kids living inside the prison. So almost, they have to travel for two days to come here, you know, by bus or by walking, you know, to get a better future.

[22:45:02] But we make sure that they are connected with their parents. Because that's the most important thing, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: After the earthquake destroyed her new home, Pushpa's story of hope and loss reached millions around the world.

In 2015, a charity group in Germany stepped in and gave Pushpa the money she needed to rebuild the house. On February 3rd, 2016, Pushpa and her children moved in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: This is my dream world, and this is my dream world for my kids. We have a separate building for boys. A separate building for girls. And we have recreational room, we have library, computer room, a study room.

And so we have a kitchen and open dining hall. We have a garden. We have a solar panel, which runs the butterfly home with the solar. And we have vegetable garden. Definitely, I think the most important thing we have that love within our self, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, Pushpa is 33 years old. She and her kids are stronger than ever and have plans to open their home to even more children in the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: So I think the stigma has changed. Now, people say that, look at this kids, they have such a fortunate life, you know? They have so blessed to have a good education, good environment, good family and everything, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For Pushpa Basnet, the last 12 years of hard work has paid off. Through her various programs, she has helped educate and care for more than 150 kids. She may be a CNN hero, but to her children, she's mamu, a Nepali word for mother. And mamu has no plans to stop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASNET: When someone calls me a CNN hero of the year 2012, are you Pushpa, when they call me up, I do blush out. I do really blush out. My face color changes. My kids are my hero. Because they are the one who really inspired me to do this work.

The hope that I have for kids living in the prison or living under the poverty in Nepal, that all kid should have a normal life, a better education, a better environment for them. I would expect them to get a better education so that tomorrow they can have a better future.

But the most important thing is that what we have to create is a happy, smiling face on these kids. For them to see that if you dream, if you have that passion, we can change the world, you know. So I think the smile and the hope and the dream that they have, I think, yes, that really keeps me inspired to do more.

We love mamu!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Pushpa has been a joy to follow. Her laughter is contagious and her work is improving the lives of so many children. And now Pushpa Basnet and four other former CNN heroes are in the running to be honored as our first ever CNN superhero.

Vote now at CNNheroes.com and watch Sunday night's 10th CNN Heroes all-star tribute to find out which past CNN hero of the year will win $50,000 to further their cause.

Next up, a million trees planted in millions of pounds of garbage pulled out of America's waterways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAD PREGRACKE, CNN HERO: Four boats, three cars. Over 255 gallon barrels. Thousands of tires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I met Chad Pregracke when he first got started. And today, the impact he's had on the planet is plain to see. When we come back, life on the river with a man on the mission to make this country cleaner, fresher and better for all of us.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Superhero Above and Beyond.

CNN hero Chad Pregracke maybe the only guy around who is trying to make his garbage collection bigger. Chad has spent the last two decades cleaning up waterways across America.

He and his environmental nonprofit Living Lands and Waters have removed millions of pounds of waste, trash, and toxic chemicals from rivers across the United States.

Chad has long been vocal about the need to protect and save our planet.

Chad Pagracke. But in 2013, when he was announced the CNN Hero of the Year, Chad, who is rarely at a loss for words, admits he wasn't prepared at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: Certainly I've winked a lot in my life. But that night I was not prepared to give a speech.

Walking up there, I felt like bad to win just because everybody has got great cause, everybody is just as passionate, and again, the world wins.

You know, I've met so many great people today, the other heroes, and like I'm really moved by all their stories and all the things they do around the world. And I'm just going to give 10 grand to each of them, because they're awesome.

So, that's why I split the money and I gave 10,000 to each different hero, the other nine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chad says his decision to share his prize money with the other top CNN heroes was a spur of the moment call. But he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his portion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: A little less-known thing that Living Lands and Waters does as we grow our trees. And a lot of people know it's for river cleanups. My goal was to get a million trees planted. So, I used the money to help expand the nursery.

Since 2013, we have planted our 1 millionth trees, which is really cool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Planting trees, removing the trash, keeping the planet cleaner, Chad says that his involvement with CNN heroes has helped him do all of this and more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

So, since 2013, a lot has happened. By the end of this year I'll have done and helped facilitate over a thousand river cleanups. And have worked side by side with over 100,000 volunteers.

Just make piles every hundred feet.

And removed over 10 million pounds of garbage.

All right.

It's really cool. All you need to do is just change your world. Whatever that is. The river for me was my world. Well, it's a freezer.

You know, I didn't like the problem, I was doing something about it.

All right. Let's tie your bags up and we're headed back.

(CROWD CHEERING)

Thanks a lot, man!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chad and his group have invested in state of the art equipment. He's taking garbage removal to a new level.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: And we're able to make such a big difference in like a quarter of the time. So, it's really rewarding, really. I mean, just mountains of garbage that would have taken 30 times as long. It's really the excavator as well that's been helping us.

So, I mean, our new goal is a million pounds a year for many years to come. And it's amazing. It's like, the escalator with people power mixed. It is a completely different operation than it was in 2013.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:55:11] COOPER: Chad Pregracke has spent much of his life getting dirty in order to keep the planet clean. Today, he and his crew have cleaned up 23 rivers in 20 states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: What is this thing, dude?

COOPER: We caught up with Chad recently on the Ohio River near Cincinnati where his operation was in full swing.

PREGRACKE: It's dusty.

So, we've been on the Ohio River for almost two months and we've done 241,000 pounds of garbage in like -- it's like a 30, 40-mile stretch.

In the last 30 days we pulled out four boats, three cars. Over 255 gallon barrels. Thousands of tires. Millions of plastic bottles. There are places, the whole river just rafts of plastics. It's really bad. It's really bad.

OK. Let's see him up there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For Chad, the operation is also a family affair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: What's really cool is I live with my wife on the barge and our daughter. My wife Tammy sets up all of our big events. Schuyler is now here now, my daughter. She's been running with escalator. Like that's what she's really getting good at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: On top of the push to clean up rivers, Chad and company also want to spread the word, and educate the public about the harmful effect that trash and waste have on America's rivers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: This is a lesson on sustainability. What does "sustain" mean?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chad's crew built a floating classroom so that teachers and students could come on board and learn firsthand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: Garbage is just one of the problems. But the fact that all these cities and towns along the rivers, they all pull their drinking waters directly out of it.

Seventeen bags.

And the stuff we're pulling out, I mean, barrels, and a decent amount have substances in them, you know, from oil to chemicals to you name it.

A new front door, Tammy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

PREGRACKE: There's no other agency or anything coming out here to do this. So, we're pretty much the only people with the scale of an operation doing this like this. And it needs to be done.

In conjunction with all our cleanups, adding education in there, it's a necessity. By the end of this year, we'll have had over 10,000 either teachers or students through the classroom. That's how you not only get the river clean but keep it clean. It's through education.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: But the amount of garbage continues to pile up. Just when Chad has started to wonder what to do with it all, some sponsors stepped up to help him with recycling efforts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: What's great in the last few years too, is that we built some good partnerships. They've taken our tires and doing different recycling things with it.

Pulling the stuff out of the river is one thing but then disposing of it properly is another thing. And actually putting them back in plastic parts and shredding it and recycling it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine.

PREGRACKE: Ten bags.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chad says what he does is not just about the environment. It's an expression of patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: Twelve bags.

Green is great. I think what we're doing really is more red, white, and blue. I think it's a patriotic thing to do. There's a lot of different ways to serve your country. I certainly feel like all these volunteers have come out here.

I mean, my crew of people that I work with and all the other great organizations doing different things. It's really -- that's just being patriotic. It's making -- it's making the country a better place.

We want to clean up some rivers today. You guys ready?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Decades of diligence and determination have paid off. But the results Chad sees didn't happen all at once. There were years and years in the making.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREGRACKE: Another fridge down.

It really does make me pretty proud that we are able to make such a big difference. You know, I didn't start out with like a master plan, like, you know, I'm just like an average person doing a unique job. And it's had big results. But I think if nothing else, like this is a perfect example of like an average person can make a big difference, with a lot of help from a lot of people.

The game, the game, the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PREGRACKE: We got it.

And like it happens. You can do it. So, do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So there you have it, five of our past CNN heroes of the

year, each in the running to be named the 10th anniversary CNN super hero.

We're incredibly excited to see who you will choose. Vote now in all weekend to CNNheroes.com and tune in to Sunday night for the 10th Annual CNN Heroes all-star tribute.

We'll honor this year's top 10 heroes, find out who will be named the 2016 Hero of the Year and who you have chosen to be the CNN super hero.

[22:59:58] I'm co-hosting with Kelly Ripa. It's going to be a great night. Thanks for watching. Good night.