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You may remember Petra Nemcova‘s story. She is the gorgeous super model who was critically injured in Thailand during the tsunami, which also took the life of her fiance. She has turned her tragedy into positivity with the creation of the Happy Hearts Fund, which helps communities rebuild after natural disasters. Learn more about her cause here!

OK!: What is the happy Hearts Fund, and how does it work?

Petra Nemcova: We focus on rebuilding schools in areas impacted by natural disasters. We work in the time period after first responders leave, and the children are forgotten. We have a very targeted mission, targeted in terms of what we do and where we do it—only in areas impacted by natural disasters. We started with the tsunami in 2004, rebuilding in Thailand, and we are currently in seven countries. We’re aiming to build two more countries before the end of the year. We have built over 75 schools, and our goal is 100 schools by the end of this year, which will be the 10th anniversary of the tsunami.

OK!: What are some of the big problems with an issue like this? Do people lose steam?

PN: Oh, yes. There’s lot of different disasters, not just natural, and people go from one thing to another. What they see is what’s on their minds. If it’s not in the media, it’s not on people’s minds anymore, which doesn’t mean the problem is solved. After a disaster, you have first responders rush in and they do crucial, life-saving work. And then, 6-9 months later, first responders start to pull out. One of my long-term goals is to find a better sustained response. Right after a disaster, people are very generous, but there is a lack of knowledge about the money they give. It doesn’t help to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals, the important infrastructure.

OK!: For those of us who see it in the moment, what is the best place for our funds? The Red Cross made it easy to text money, but is that a good idea? What’s the best way to help?

PN: It’s a good question, because when you have people’s attention, it’s when support is being created. I would suggest to do a two-step approach to make sure the support of the donor lasts. If they have $10, they spend $7 to first response, whichever they like. The $3 they should give to an organization that is rebuilding—homes, hospitals, schools. That way, their support will go to the crucial, life-saving support, and for the rebuilding of communities, the lasting support.

OK!: You’re having a gala this week. What is the goal?

PN: The goal is to celebrate everyone’s caring hearts and efforts for the last 10 years, where many people have helped to rebuild 75 schools and 46,000 children. To celebrate our supporters, our partners. And the goal is to reach 100 schools by the end of the year, by the anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami. John Legend is singing for us, and he sang at the very first one! It’s very meaningful for me. It meant a lot that he made himself available while he’s on tour.

petra-nemcova

OK!:Your Instagram has the most beautiful travel photos. Where is your favorite place you’ve been, and where is left to go?

PN: My favorite place is Haiti, which i call home now. It’s a place I have a very strong connection to, and it makes me the most happy. It’s where i feel the most alive, because of the spirit of the people, the rich culture of music and art. The beauty of nature is breathtaking, the beaches and mountains. I’m posting pictures after this interview, so check it out! The place I haven’t been to is Mongolia. It’s still rural and not too discovered, in a sense. There is a lot more! I have a long list.

What do you think of Petra’s cause? Do you remember where you were during the tsunami in 2004? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @OKMagazine.

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