Disaster Resilient Schools
Petra Nemcova is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and supermodel who epitomizes the statement “We can’t control nature, but we can control the actions we take.” When the 2004 tsunami struck, Petra’s life was altered forever. In a matter of seconds and without warning, she and her partner were swept away in the great Indian Ocean Tsunami. The power of nature was too strong for anyone and unfortunately, Petra’s partner lost his life. She miraculously survived the Tsunami by clinging to a palm tree for eight hours, with a pelvis that was broken in four places. She was found by a Thai man who risked his life to save the lives of strangers; another wave could have come any minute yet he chose through his selfless love to try and help.
Petra recalls that the most painful part of this experience was not the physical trauma but the emotional pain of hearing children screaming for help whilst she was hanging onto the palm tree. At that moment, she didn’t have the option to help them but now she has made it part of her life mission to aid children who survive natural disasters but are often forgotten. This experience has fueled her daily passion to make a tangible difference in the world around her and to help rebuild disaster-resilient schools and homes. With this passion as a driving force, Petra founded her charity, Happy Hearts Fund (HHF) in 2005 with the objective to rebuild safe, resilient schools in areas impacted by natural disasters.
From its inception, Petra was involved on a daily basis. Her initial work, in an executive capacity, helped establish the structure, vision, and strategy that positioned HHF for long-term success. Happy Hearts Fund rebuilt 171 schools in ten countries. Petra’s experience of the power of Mother Nature helps her connect with those in need of aid, empowerment, and hope after their lives have been shattered.