The Huffington Post
By Aaron Sankin
On Sunday, December 26th, 2004, Petra Nemcova‘s life was changed forever.
The Czech supermodel was staying at the Khao Lak resort in Thailand when it was hit by a devastating tsunami triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean. The body of Nemcova’s fiancee, photographer Simon Altee, wasn’t found until months later. Nemcova herself suffered a broken pelvis and only survived by clinging to the top of a palm tree for eight hours.
Out of that tragedy came the Sports Illustrated cover model’s decision to dedicate the rest of her life to helping those affected by tragedy. The following year, she founded the Happy Hearts Fund, a non-profit providing emergency disaster relief–especially rebuilding schools–in counties around the world.
Nemcova recently stopped by the Current TV’s The Gavin Newsom Show to chat with the California Lt. Governor about how her own personal tragedy inspired her humanitarian work.
“Coming back to Thailand after I could walk again, I went with my sister and my friends to see how we could help find a sustainable solution,” Nemcova told the Lt. Governor. “Giving rice and mattresses was not enough.”
“We visited hospitals, schools, temporary shelters, learning what are the needs [people have] and what are the most impactful solutions for the long term,” she explained. “Understanding that a school is such a center of a community, and when you rebuild safe schools it helps children heal from a trauma, it gives them a great education so they can get better employment and through that they can help their own family.”
“When children are at safe schools, their parents can go and start working to feed the children,” she continued. “Because school is such a center of the community, it almost becomes a community center. Even if all the houses are still damaged it gives the community hope to rebuild.”
Newsom’s interview with Nemcova, not to mention another interview with former U.K. Prime Mister Tony Blair, airs this Friday at 11 p.m. PT / 2 a.m. ET on Current TV.