2019 ADVOCACY AWARD
Children Mending Hearts
In 2005, filmmaker Lysa Heslov took in a family displaced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, an act which inspired her to visit the war-torn country of Sudan later that year. This experience changed her life forever. Struck by how children who struggled in war-torn countries faced similar battles as underprivileged children here in the United States, she began to dream of a way to empower children everywhere and teach them how to become empathetic global citizens through art, creativity and connectivity.
Over the next two years, Lysa’s philanthropy efforts became more focused. In 2007, she participated in an aid trip to Darfur’s refugee camps where she was confronted by the devastating effects of genocide on the country’s most vulnerable victims—children. Lysa sought to connect them through art. She made kites with a group of children who beamed with rare smiles as they watched their hand-made creations take flight. For a brief period of time, they experienced nothing but the simple joy that comes from creative work. These experiences had a profound effect on her, and she found herself wanting to empower children in the U.S. to show empathy and help other children affected by poverty, violence, or other painful circumstances.
Soon after, Children Mending Hearts was born. The organization has served the city of Los Angeles for the past 10 years, combating bullying and intolerance by inspiring empathy in children through art and service-learning programs.
Lysa’s dream is to inspire future generations of compassionate and socially conscious citizens who will change a culture of bullying into one of empathy and action. She believes that empathy is transformative … that it can reduce the chance of a child being bullied; enable world leaders to find peaceful solutions; inspire nations to open their doors to families fleeing war and violence; and inspire future generations of loving and compassionate global citizens. She believes that empathy can change the world.
Children Mending Hearts started with 39 kids. Since that time, the organization has provided free art education programs to thousands of children throughout Los Angeles County. This year the organization expanded and now has classrooms in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
Lysa and her husband—writer, director, producer and Academy Award winner—Grant Heslov have two daughters of their own.