Visionaries - Changing the World One Story at a Time

Season 01

Refugees International

Refugees International is a Washington-based advocacy group dedicated to easing the suffering of those around the world who are displaced from their homes by war, famine and natural disaster. Judy Mayotte gives of herself every day, speaking for those displaced by war and famine. Discover why this unpaid fifty-six year-old former nun travels the globe on behalf of millions of people who not only have no home, but have no country. In one of the most harrowing episodes ever captured on tape, the video crew accompanies the refugee advocates into the war zone of southern Sudan, dramatically illustrating how they risk their lives every day to stand up for the voiceless victims of war. Show 102.

American Liver Foundation

Little Vinny Grasso

Follow the parallel stories a generation apart to learn how visionaries are often born out of the depths of great tragedy. Thelma Thiel lost her son to a rare liver disease over twenty years ago and responded by founding the American Liver Foundation to promote prevention and treatment of the more than 100 liver diseases affecting millions around the world. Dan and Laura Grasso's son was born with the identical liver ailment but, thanks to treatment and transplant options, has embraced a new life thanks in large measure to the work initiated by Thelma Thiel. Show 101.

Human Service Alliance

HSA VolunteerWhat if there were a place where people could go to practice giving, where people could directly experience the magic that occurs when one person helps another? There is such a place in North Carolina where the volunteers "leave their egos outside the door" to provide hospice care for the terminally ill, respite care, and chronic pain care services -- free of charge with no insurance or government aid whatsoever. The Human Service Alliance is the essence of service, raising the experience to a new level: It goes beyond the rewards of freely giving; it is about the life of the gift of giving in itself. Show 103.

Salesian Fathers

Father XavierTen thousand children, including now doctors, lawyers and civil servants, and half the members of the Bogota Symphony, have been helped off the streets of Bogota, Columbia through a 15-year-old program run by Father Xavier, a Catholic priest from Italy. From the dark and dangerous urban streets to the stunning beauty of the Amazon basin, a four-phase program enables children to move from street life to daily shelter and stability, to receive education - high school diplomas and vocational training - and, in the final phase of the program, to return to their agrarian roots in a self-sufficient 1,000 home community and begin to build a new life. Show 104.

Christian Relief Services

Gene KrizekAfter working within the US government system - first as a congressional aide and eventually as a State Department executive - Gene Krizek (pictured left) converted his wealth of experience and contacts into an organization that works with other visionaries all over the US and the world bringing humanitarian aid to those who need it most. Gene Krizek saw that tapping the indigenous resources - people, supplies, aid, delivery systems - makes things happen in a way that is self-sustaining, and promotes dignity as people learn to help themselves.

Gladys SylvestreCRS supports multi-service initiatives in US cities, rural Native American communities, and overseas. The Visionaries profiled four extraordinary projects: a farm in rural Kenya where Olympic runner Kip Keino and his wife Phyllis have made a home for nearly 200 orphaned children; a food pantry in Appalachia; Haiti's first children's hospital, built by Gladys Sylvestre during the embargo; and a social service program designed to keep the Lakota people both self-sufficient and to connect them to their native American roots in South Dakota, founded by another Olympian, Billy Mills. Shows 105 & 106.


AirservAs a pilot deeply involved in the international nonprofit community, Bob Lehnhart saw the need to provide safe, reliable air transport services to other relief and development agencies working under tremendously stressful conditions in war zones, famine areas and other crisis situations. The pilots and technicians volunteer their considerable talents to aid relief efforts underway around the globe. Show 107.

Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation

Bajou Girls DancingPatti Lyons worked every day with the victims of poverty, abuse and neglect; Consuelo Zobel Alger loved children and saw the desperate need to provide them with safe alternatives to the streets, vocational training to give them a leg up out of perpetual poverty and education in the ways of positive living. Through a series of miracles, these two amazing women who lived a world apart were introduced, and their visions of a different world are being realized every day. From an area controlled by Muslim rebel factions to a garbage heap which is home to more than 3,000 families, programs sponsored by the foundation Mrs. Alger endowed help bring hope and dignity to thousands. Through initiatives like a self-help housing program in Hawaii and a Muslim schoolhouse built on stilts in the Jolo region of the Philippines, the Alger Foundation provides new opportunities and hope for thousands of families. Show 108.

Pan Mass Challenge

Cyclists coming up hillIf ever an individual thinks there is nothing one person can do to make a difference, they should meet Billy Starr. In the late 1970's, Billy lost his mother, uncle, and a cousin to cancer. Part of an athletic family, Billy wanted to create a sporting event that would help raise money for cancer research. The Pan Mass Challenge has grown from only 36 cyclists in 1980 to become the largest per capita bike-a-thon in the world, an annual event that now attracts 2000 cyclists who pedal over 200 miles across Massachusetts in just 2 days. To date, participants have raised 21.3 million dollars that directly funds research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Jimmy Fund. Show 109.

Group B Strep Association

Gina Burns and her husbandHow can a bacteria you have never heard of be the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns, with 15-35% of all women carrying it? Gina Burns turned the tragedy of losing her own baby to this infection into the Group B Strep Association -- a coalition of parents, doctors and medical researchers who work together to stimulate national awareness and treatment options, advocate for routine screening for pregnant women, and lobby for the development of a vaccine. Show 110.

Maryknoll Sisters

Sister May AnnelIn 1981, the world was shocked by the murder of two Maryknoll Sisters in El Salvador. Walking in their shadow today, is Mary Annel. Many of us do not know what nuns actually do. Their commitment to those in need is astounding. The Maryknoll Sisters continue their work in El Salvador, acting upon what they learn about what people there really need, and not what the church deems appropriate. Mary Annel is also a medical doctor who treats patients, trains medical students and educates the community about public health issues, taking a strong lead in promoting AIDS awareness and prevention. Show 111.

Casas Por Cristo

Building a houseTeams of volunteers travel every year to Juarez, Mexico to help local families build homes. Volunteers, many of whom are college students on spring break, raise money for building supplies and to offset travel expenses. They build a community together with their own hands, their own tools and their own hearts, in just four long, hot days. Show 112.


INROADSFrank Carr grew up as a white man of privilege, but he recognized the inequities rooted in race that existed all around him. He heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in 1963 about his dream of equal treatment, of equal opportunity for all people. A few years later, he took a night job in order to make his own version of this dream a reality. Frank Carr dreamed that, by teaching minority students how to survive in the predominantly white corporate world, through leadership, professional and personal development training, counseling and community service, they would have the tools to not only achieve personal and professional success, but also to give back to their community and to other youngsters. Nearly 5,000 graduates are living this dream, making a difference every day. Show 113.