Location: Stoneham, Mass.
In 1990, Ray O’Brien and his wife adopted a daughter from Calcutta named Joanna Caitrin. When she was six, she asked O’Brien what India was like. He didn’t know what to say because he had first met Joanna at Boston Logan airport, when the girl was just an infant. “I realized I had no idea where she came from,” he tells Fortune. In 1996, the truck mechanic, who has worked for Ryder (No. 407) for 31 years, for the first time boarded a plane for India, where he visited the orphanage from which he had adopted Joanna Caitrin and a second child, Melissa. He returned from the trip feeling so shocked by the poverty he saw in that city that he decided to return every year. “It’s not a crime to be born and you’re part of earth’s family,” says O’Brien. “I think the world can do a little better for children to educate them and take care of their medical needs.” He founded the non-profit group Children Are Angels from Heaven, to collect donations of school supplies, walking canes, shoes and other supplies that he would deliver on his annual trip.
O’Brien now visits Calcutta around Thanksgiving for three weeks every year. He visits local orphanages and schools, where he distributes as many as fifteen boxes full of donated supplies he’s collected and shipped to India. Children are Angels has also paid for two cleft lip operations and three eye surgeries for children that O’Brien has met on his visits. O’Brien and his family also adopted a severely handicapped child that he met at one of the orphanages. He named the child “Raymond.”