The tsunami that hit South Asia in December of 2004 claimed more than 230,000 lives and affected 12 countries. Before that, Petra Nemcova was known as one of the world's top models. She was vacationing in Thailand when the tsunami hit, and barely survived. Since then, she has become heavily involved in charity work to help children, around the world, who have suffered loss and devastation.
Twenty-seven-year-old Czech model Petra Nemcova was a top model who appeared on the cover of the 2003 annual swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. That was before she lost her fiancé and nearly her life to the tsunami that hit South Asia in 2004.
Nemcova and fiancé photographer Simon Atlee were vacationing in Thailand when they found themselves in the middle of the tsunami. Nemcova held onto a tree for eight hours before being taken to a hospital to be treated for a broken pelvis and serious internal injuries. Atlee did not survive.
"The whole experience of the tsunami was a very hard experience,” Nemcova said, “and not just for me, but for millions of people, because millions of people have been affected and especially in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Thailand."
Her charity, Happy Hearts Fund, aims to help children who have suffered loss or hardship as a result of natural, economic or health-related disasters.
The model recently visited a Washington jewelry store to raise money for her charity. She was promoting a new "love" bracelet. Jeweler and watchmaker Cartier is donating 100-dollars to Petra's Happy Hearts Fund for each 500-dollar bracelet sold.
Cartier Boutique Manager Fariba Jaahanbani explains why Nemcova was chosen as the spokeswoman. Jaahanbani said, "She portrays the true meaning of love, commitment and passion."
The idea of the love bracelet was created in 1970 by Aldo Chipolo in New York City to celebrate universal love. Several celebrities have their own versions of the bracelets to raise money for their respective charities.
Nemcova started Happy Hearts a year ago, and is thrilled to see it is making a difference. She said, "In less than a year, we have raised more than $1.5 million, and supported 13 local charity projects in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand. And we're growing so much. I just came back from Pakistan, from the earthquake zone and other places. From a little thing, it's been growing and I can't say thank you enough to everyone who's been supporting Happy Hearts Fund, and so many wonderful people came aboard and donated time."
Petra Nemcova has released a personal memoir detailing her tsunami experience called "Love Always, Petra." She plans to travel to the tsunami-affected areas of South Asia later this year.