Visionaries - Changing the World One Story at a Time

Season 07


Elderhosteler Helping Native American ChildIt's 10pm - Do you know where your grandparents are?? Maybe they're trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal...or hitching a ride on a camel in Cairo...Perhaps they're in Arizona fulfilling a lifelong dream to fly an airplane...or in Monument Valley volunteering on a Navajo reservation.

IsraelThere's no end to the adventure on an Elderhostel program. And the fun is just the beginning. Elderhostel, a nonprofit organization based in Boston, MA, is committed to lifelong learning. From astronomy to zoology, Elderhostel offers more than 10,000 programs around the world to people over the age of 55. Every program is an exciting combination of learning, adventure and travel. The learning experiences happen on university campuses around the globe and at community colleges in your own backyard. You may also find your classroom is in a boat on the Mississippi or Nile Rivers or on a train crossing the Canadian Rockies.

For 25 years Elderhostel has helped shatter the image of older Americans playing shuffleboard or knitting. As one experienced Elderhosteler put it: "If you can't find something you're interested in, you better check your pulse!" Show 701 & 702.

Pathfinder Village

PathfinderFrom its early heritage until today, Pathfinder Village has believed in shifting the lives of people with Down Syndrome from fenced-in institutions into the general community, allowing them full and complete participation in society. It quietly leads the way in the field of residential care, with a comprehensive agenda of research and education, residential services, health management, spiritual guidance and recreational programs.

The woman who made this vision a reality is Marian Mullet, once the volunteer nurse at the school that preceded Pathfinder Village. Marian was caring for her terminally ill son when she asked to take on the challenge of replacing the old facility with one that would meet tough, new regulations and provide the caring and warmth so necessary for happiness. With no funding, land, furniture or buildings, she set about building a dream.

Today, the only thing more remarkable than the care at Pathfinder Village is the spirit of joy here. This episode of the Visionaries captures the daily life of residents living independently as they work and play, attend school, take care of their homes, and deal with life's many curveballs. Show 703.

Outreach International

Outreach Cleaning a FieldIt's been called the worst tragedy to ever hit Central America. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch wreaked unprecedented havoc in the country of Nicaragua. Homes were destroyed, crops were lost and thousands were killed. While many families huddled in their cramped homes praying for salvation, the small mountain town of Santa Lucia mobilized to protect their families and their community. In this episode of The Visionaries, we follow the story of a small band of fiercely committed people, who helped the people of Santa Lucia prepare for any tragedy they might face. They are the staff of Outreach International, a Missouri-based organization that works around the world to empower people to solve the problems they face. Armed with a program brilliant in its simplicity, Outreach International's local staff help equip the people of Nicaragua with the most effective resource at their disposal - the power to organize themselves. Show 704.

The Austen Riggs Center

Austen RiggsIn this episode of The Visionaries, we visit The Austen Riggs Center, a small nonprofit psychiatric hospital and residential treatment center in the small town of Stockbridge Massachusetts. Riggs' patients are what other institutions and the managed care companies refer to as "treatment resistant" those who are unable to respond to brief hospital stays and prescription medications meant to cure them. Upon arrival, some patients have been hospitalized up to 100 times before; there therapy has become an exercise in crisis intervention and this is their last chance at combating the extreme emotional difficulties that accompany their illness. By providing long-term care, the Austen Riggs Center is one of the only places in the country that offers their patients both the time and the treatment necessary for them to take hold of their lives again.

The Visionaries will learn whether or not this treatment works, how it works, and will examine the safety issues involved for the community of Stockbridge, the staff, and the patients of this psychiatric hospital where there are no locked doors or seclusion rooms. Through the eyes of two former patients, we will have the opportunity to learn first hand how the Center's long standing commitment to recognizing the importance of an individual life succeeds in making a difference in the world. Show 705.

Visionaries Trilogy

1) The Academy

The AcademyThe Academy is part of the juvenile justice system of Allegheny County functioning as an alternative to institutional placement. Kids who have committed crimes are able to continue going to their own schools while attending The Academy evenings and weekends. Attendance is ordered by a judge and is mandatory- too many absences will result in the delinquent being remanded to court for further action. The Visionaries selected The Academy because of their commitment to helping delinquent youth by treating them with respect. The alternatives that The Academy teaches its students will hopefully prevent them from committing another crime.

2) Hadley School for the Blind

Hadley School for the BlindThe Hadley School for the Blind has provided correspondence education to over 80,000 graduates since its inception in 1920. William Hadley, a schoolteacher who lost his sight later in life, founded the school. Saddened and frustrated by the lack of educational opportunities for blind people, Mr. Hadley, in collaboration with leading ophthalmologist, Dr. E.V.L. Brown, decided to launch the Hadley School for the Blind. Since then, the Hadley School has provided free education to any blind person who asks for it with over 100 courses in six course areas to choose from. The school does not seek or receive any governmental funding and is funded solely by private donations. As the world's single largest Braille educator, Hadley students are located in all fifty states and over seventy foreign countries.


NEADSJohn Thompson is beginning a new life with Rangeley, after being paralyzed in a motorcycle accident; Rangeley is a yellow Labrador retriever, a highly skilled service dog, and John's faithful companion. The National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) is a non-profit organization that trains rescued dogs and donated puppies to assist people who are deaf or physically disabled in leading independent lives. This episode will show you why John and Rangeley are so lucky to have found one another. Show 706.

National Transplant Assistance Fund (NTAF)

Ryan Clark FishingSeventeen year-old Ryan Clark is like most teenagers. He likes to play video games, go fishing and dreams of the day he will cruise around town in his own Ford Mustang. But that day may never come. Ryan is one of 70,000 people awaiting an organ transplant that will save his life. He was born with cystic fibrosis, which slowly destroyed both of his lungs.

The National Transplant Assistance Fund (NTAF) of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania is helping Ryan and his family through this crisis. With an acute shortage of organ donors, the Clarks spend each day waiting for the phone call that will tell them a pair of lungs has become available for Ryan. In the midst of this struggle for survival, the Clarks are forced to deal with another harsh reality. They must raise $20,000 to cover the costs of Ryan's transplant not covered by health insurance. The Clarks turn to the National Transplant Assistance Fund for help.

Since 1983, NTAF has helped people from all over the country raise a total of $16 million for organ transplants. Through an innovative program, NTAF trains families to organize fundraising campaigns that will pay for their lifesaving operations. In this episode of The Visionaries, we see how NTAF helps the Clarks develop a fundraising strategy. While raising tens of thousands of dollars seems like an insurmountable task, the Clarks can find inspiration in another NTAF-assisted family.

Jamie Hadden of Grand Rapids, Michigan suffered from cystic fibrosis, and needed a double lung transplant. With NTAF's guidance, a family friend organized the Hadden's fundraising campaign, and raised more than $60,0000. The highlight of the program comes when we learn that Jamie has received her double lung transplant. It is a story filled with joys and frustrations, as the staff of NTAF helps families in their time of greatest need.

For more information on The National Transplant Assistance Fund, check out their website at

This Visionaries episode is sponsored by the F.M. Kirby Foundation. Show 707.

The Islamic Society of North America

The Islamic Foundation SchoolSince its inception as a student body in 1963, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has been assisting Muslim communities in North America to live in accordance with the spirit of Islam. The Visionaries episode about ISNA will focus on some of the activities it's establishes and nurtures to help Muslims practice their religion peacefully.

ISNA's annual convention is the nation's largest gathering of Muslims registering a visible presence of Islam. The Visionaries along with 25,000 Muslim men, women and children attended the 36th ISNA annual convention in Chicago dedicated to "Islam: Guidance for Humanity". Distinguished Muslims scholars explored topics such as Countering Distortions. "Spirituality in Islam" was explored by former musician, Cat Stevens known today as Yusuf Islam, who talked about man's relation with God. During an enormous gathering outside, where thousands had gathered to pray, the visionary Dr. Syyid M. Syeed delivered an emotional speech about American readiness to embrace Islam and get rid of prejudice in the next millennium.

Other ISNA programs explored in the documentary are its full time Islamic schools where students are taught Arabic and Islamic doctrines in addition to the regular curriculum, conversion sessions in prisons and the Mosque's role in supporting and guiding inner city African American Youth. Show 708.

Women's American ORT

Mejrima CosicWhen Masha Yezopkina's great-grandfather changed his name to escape persecution during the Nazi terror of WWII, he never could have imagined that one day his great-granddaughter would be able to receive a Jewish education.

But that's exactly what 12-year old Masha is doing in Odessa, Ukraine. As a student at the ORT school, opened in 1997 through the support of Women's American ORT, Masha symbolizes the rejuvenation of Jewish life that was repressed there for so long. And for ORT, banished from the Soviet Union by the Communists, this is a homecoming - combining Jewish education with the best in academic and high-tech classes.

With more than 280,000 students in 60 countries, ORT is the largest non-governmental network of vocational education and technical training centers in the world. And the Jewish commuity is not the only beneficiary. In this Visionaries documentary you will meet Mejrima Cosic, a 35-year old Bosnian refugee living in Chicago, and the Women's American ORT volunteers who are giving her the tools to build a future for her family.

ORT is taking the Jewish experience of persecution and survival and helping others around the world build new lives by training them for careers that will give them a lifetime of meaningful work. Show 709.

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

NAMIWhen two Wisconsin women met for lunch in 1977, mental illness was something to be whispered about. One woman was angry, the other, terrified. Each had a son with schizophrenia.

Harriet Shetler was furious at doctors' suggestions that family dynamics had driven her son mad. Bev Young just didn't know what to do next, having removed her son from college. Together the two women decided to harness the forces of fury and fear in order to organize what has come to be known as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).

Shelter and Young began NAMI because too often stigma, shame, discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, criminalization, social isolation, poverty and premature death mark the lives of individuals with the most severe mental illnesses. Today, the Alliance is the nation's lading grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to improving the quality of lives of persons with severe mental illnesses and their families.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary year, NAMI has a membership of more than 210,000 people and has local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Canada. NAMI efforts focus on support, research and education. Members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill are leading the way to creating full, productive lives for the millions of individuals suffering from the most severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and sever anxiety disorder. Show 710.

Little Sisters of the Assumption

Little Sisters of the AssumptionThe Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA), an order of religious sisters founded in 1865, support families who are marginalized from the larger society. Programs run by the Little Sisters encourage empowerment and self esteem while helping to create systems of support within the community. Through these programs the Little Sisters strive for the promotion, protection and preservation of the family.

In this program, The Visionaries visits three cities where the sisters live and work. In East Harlem, Boston and Worcester where the sisters are reaching out to support families in need of support due to health care needs in the family. Show 711.

Visionaries Trilogy

1) Housing Assistance Corporation

HACWhen we speak of the homeless it conjures images of downtrodden men lurking on city streets. This episode will take you to scenic Cape Cod where the Housing Assistance Corporation is grappling with the complexity of the issue that is hidden behind this stereotype. Not only will you discover the simple eloquence of the homeless, you will meet an organization that is addressing the entire spectrum of this growing national problem, from emergency to an innovative program to prevent homelessness.

2) Women's Lunch Place

Women's Lunch PlaceFor men and women who are homeless or poor, daily life is a series of disheartening and dangerous struggles, which leave many without hope that things will ever improve. Over time, this hopelessness itself becomes the biggest obstacle between those on the street and their chance for a better life. In this Visionaries episode you will witness how, in 1982, two young women created a safe place for women to go during the day. A place where they would neither be judged nor asked to justify their homelessness or poverty, where they could be in the company of other women and could find the energy to restore themselves. That place is the Women's Lunch Place on Newbury Street in Boston.

3) Merritt Community Capital Corporation

Merritt Community CapitalFinding a safe, clean and affordable home is a challenge for many people. For senior citizens, adults with disabilities and working families, it is often a nearly impossible task. In Oakland, California, what started in 1989 as a local effort to attract investors to a severely distressed city has become a way to address the issue of affordable housing nationwide. Today, Merritt Community Capital Corporation invests in a range of local developments, from single room occupancy hotels to multi-family housing developments, offering its investors a unique opportunity to earn competitive returns while addressing a critical need for affordable housing. Show 712.

Worldwalk Foundation

Neil Donohue with IdalmisDuring a medical mission to Peru, Dr. Neil Donohue discovered how he wanted to spend his life. He had traveled to the foothills of the Andes to treat people suffering from foot diseases and deformities, and came face to face with countless cases of people crippled by clubfoot and ravaged by disease. This experience moved Dr. Donohue so profoundly he launched a worldwide campaign to end these types of afflictions in 1997 by forming The World Walk Foundation.

In this episode of The Visionaries, we follow Dr. Donohue as he travels the globe treating people who have been struck down by illness or misfortune. Our story starts in Philadelphia, home of the World Walk Foundation, where Dr. Donohue provides diabetes education and care to the underserved in the inner city. We then travel to rural Venezuela with the World Walk team of physicians and witness as they perform life altering surgeries to those who may never have the opportunity to be helped again. This is an emotional story of how one man's vision to help others has grown and inspired others to join him on a truly noble crusade. For more information about the Diabetes Test seen in the show, contact the Bureau of Primary Health Care at 1-888-ASK-HRSA (1-888-275-4772 or log on at . Show 713.