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412My role in Larry King and CNN Heroes, This Thursday 9 pm to 10 pm EST

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  • Tara Copp Connolly
    Jun 9, 2009

      Family and Friends,


      Thursday night, between 9 and 10 p.m. EST on CNN, I will get to be a part of something I am very proud of.

      Back in 2003-2004 or so, I started to build a friendship with my regular manicurist, a pretty Ethiopian woman named Lidia. We'd just have small talk. But one day I decided to ask her about a tip jar she had on her table, for a school.


      She told me her story, and I was floored, humbled and promised to help her.

      Lidia grew up in a small village in the Northeast corner of Ethiopia, until she was about 12. She got to come to the states in 1979 and eventually started a career as a manicurist. she's been at my salon for 20 years now. She would send money home to "adopt" several kids -- pay for their needs.


      After all of her years as a manicurist, Lidia had been able to achieve "the American dream" as it were. She owned a nice townhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland, and a car she owned. She would go back to Ethiopia every year or so to help the village.


      In 1994, one of the little girls Lidia was sponsoring was killed by a hyena on the way home from school. How? Because the children had to walk three hours to join other regional children, so they could learn to write under a large shade tree. They would learn for four hours, and then walk the three hour walk home. All the families feared the hyenas, because they would stalk the kids. And it was rare that a little girl would be allowed to go to school; the families kept their daughters at home because some were raped on the walks. Medhine, 9, fell asleep on the way home, and hyenas got her.


      Lidia was spurred to action. On her next visit home, she promised the children a school.  One that was in the town, so the children would not have to walk so far. She spent the next ten years raising money for it. She worked three days a week to pay her bills, and three days of her work was donated to the school. She got her customers involved, and saved their tips. Some customers even donated money to buy a door, to buy backpacks, to buy books.


      By 2003 Lidia had $58,000. She was told it was not enough. so she did what very few of us would do, simply because she refused to give up her promise.


      She sold her home. She sold her car. She sold all her major possessions. She moved into a rented room and started taking the bus. Every dime that she would have spent on car insurance, on gas, etc – went to the school.


       A few weeks ago, when CNN filmed her in the salon, they asked her how she could so easily give up the American Dream.


      “It wasn’t my dream anymore” she said.


      The school – now 8 buildings large, has changed the village – almost 1,500 students attend – and 800 girls. It has created a small community around it – families are building their homes close to it.


      Lidia – one of the least powerful people, has created a powerful change.


      Some of you know I have written about her and for a few years I have designed and managed a website for her: www.LidiaSchool.org. This year we updated the website, and I decided I would try and promote her to CNN as one of their “Heroes.”


      I got a call from them about a month ago, and we have been flying ever since. CNN sent a crew to Ethiopia, they came to the salon. And on Thursday night, she will be on Larry King.


      So please help us celebrate this. Watch Larry King on Thursday – sometime during the show she will be on. We will all be watching from the salon in downtown D.C. Please visit the website I built, www.lidiaschool.org, and donate to her cause.


      And keep rooting for her: This interview is the first step in what could be an even bigger dream. She is now an official CNN Hero and her story will be on their webpage starting Thursday. And if she is one of their 10 finalists, she will get $25,000 for her school. And if she’s the “CNN Hero” of 2009, she will win $100,000 at a live ceremony on Thanksgiving.


      Sorry this is so long. But I have never met anyone like Lidia. And if this email can get one more person to support her school, it is worth it.


      Thank you!