Children Mending Hearts Team
Founder of Children Mending Hearts
Lysa Heslov is a Director and Producer who is also the Founder of Children Mending Hearts, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering disadvantaged youth in the US by connecting them with an international community of children in need through educational and humanities programs that build empathy and global citizenry.
In 2005, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Lysa and her husband, opened their home to a family that had lost everything in the storm. For five months the families co-existed, offering her a new way to look at her life, and eventually a new career. Soon after, the death of her best friend and sister-in-law inspired Lysa to raise over $40,000 for cancer research, firmly establishing herself as a working philanthropist and true humanitarian.
In 2007, Lysa’s efforts became more focused when she participated in an aid trip to Darfur’s refugee camps where she witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of genocide and poverty. Moved profoundly by this experience, Lysa’s mind turned to at-risk children in the United States, and, soon thereafter, she created Children Mending Hearts (CMH). Lysa’s dream is to empower at-risk children in the United States by giving them a global education and connecting them internationally to children in need. CMH uses educational and art programs to facilitate a new world-view, one without borders, motivated by empathy and a desire for peace. She imagines the day when all disadvantaged youth are proud global citizens who realize their ability to effect change not only in their own lives, but also in their community and around the world.
With CMH, Lysa has traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Darfur, Kenya, Rwanda and Haiti as well as several cities in the United States where she, and her team of professionals, have served thousands of children with arts workshops specifically designed to empower and connect children worldwide.
In 2012, Lysa launched her flagship program – CMH Global Arts After School, a dynamic arts-based enrichment program that creates global awareness, develops international relationships, builds social activism and fosters empathy in disadvantaged youth. Starting with only 20 students at one site in south central Los Angeles, CMH Global Arts After School has rapidly expanded and currently serves approximately 500 students each week at 6 different sites throughout Los Angeles. In huge demand (there is a waiting list for these classes!), CMH Global Arts After School is on track to expand steadily within the city of Los Angeles, and national expansion is slated to begin in Fall 2014.
In addition to having a heart for children all over the world, Lysa is proud mother to Olivia and Maya, her two beautiful daughters with her husband Grant Heslov, Academy Award winning producer/writer and director. They also have four lovable dogs Sammy, Lacey, Charlie and Apple.
In an effort to continue to serve children in the most meaningful way, Lysa is currently studying for her Masters in Child Development and is always seeking new opportunities to expand her message.
- In January 2009, Lysa traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to conduct an art exchange between at-risk children in the U.S. and their brothers and sisters in Africa.
- In Darfur, Lysa facilitated kite-building workshops, which ultimately culminated in the first-ever Darfur Kite Festival.
- In February 2010, she again returned to the DR Congo, this time traveling with Women for Women International. Lysa and her team conducted letter writing, painting and puppet-making workshops with refugee children, as well as children of the women enrolled in the WFW training programs in Bukavu. They also traveled to the southern end of Lake Kivu where they worked with children in an orphanage.
- In September 2010, Lysa and her team worked with over 900 at-risk children at a Global Arts Exchange Workshop. The children wrote letters, painted t-shirts and created scrapbooks to be given to the children in Haiti.
- Lysa traveled to Haiti in February 2011 where she worked with over 600 children in the camps for Artist’s for Peace & Justice and Sean Penn’s camp, J/P Haitian Relief Organization.
- In addition to her work in Haiti, Lysa spearheaded the Panty Up! Campaign, encouraging children in the US to collect over 5,000 pairs of new underwear for Haitian children in need of them.
- CMH has worked with over 10,000 children in the past four years.
- CMH partners include After-School All-Stars, Watts-Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club, Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative, Children Uniting Nations, CoachArt, Sean Penn’s J/P HRO, Artists for Peace & Justice, International Medical Corps and Women For Women International
Office Manager & Assistant to Founder
Loria has worked for 20 years has a personal assistant in the entertainment industry, spending close to 10 of those years with late comedian, Richard Jeni. She also spent a couple of years with music composer James L. Venable, who scored projects like Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, The PowerPuff Girls, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II. Loria found herself working with Lysa Heslov 8 years ago by way of an exploding toilet and a small home flood. Once everything dried, she stayed on with Lysa and got to help out with the beginning of Children Mending Hearts.
Loria brings her organizing skills and eye for details to running the office at CMH and helping with the various moving components of a start-up non-profit. Loria received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and currently resides in Santa Monica with two fearless bunnies.
Barbara Rivera joined the Children Mending Hearts organization in 2016. Prior to joining the CMH team, she served and managed afterschool programs under After School All-stars, Los Angeles. There she discovered not only the need, but also her desire to work with youth. She is passionate and committed to addressing the needs of children and youth facing the greatest obstacles.
Although she many not be the best at all, Barbara enjoys any outdoor activities and adventures with her closest friends and family. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from California State University, Northridge.