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The Lessons Petra Nemcova Learned from a Tsunami

By ROBERT PACE

December 21, 2012

In 2004, Czech model Petra Nemcova was enjoying a holiday vacation with her fiance when a tsunami abruptly engulfed her hotel, injuring her and claiming the life of her fiance. Eight years late, Nemcova is the founder of a non-profit dedicated to rebuilding schools in areas stricken by natural disaster. As she reflected on the life-changing occurrence, she revealed what she has learned from that moment.

"I've learned a lot through that experience, many important lessons about living in a moment because the next second--you never know if it comes," she said. "So, really being present and enjoying all the gifts and living fully and meaningfully [is important]...We have a choice to focus on negative or positive and if you're able to, even in the worst situation...focus on five percent or one percent of the positive, we can empower ourselves and become strong and empower others."

VIDEO: Nemcova, Tsunami Survivor, Praises 'Impossible'

A film called The Impossible will be released today on the 2004 South Asian tsunami that claimed over 230,000 lives and ravaged the South Asian coastline. Nemcova, who attended the Los Angeles premiere of the film, had high praises for the film and its impact on her.

"The film was done in such a sensitive, beautiful, powerful way. It could not have been better," the 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model said. "From the director to all the actors, they just [have] done a great job and it's very hard to do it because you can either overdo it or underplay it, and...they shared the story in a beautiful way and I hope they get lots of rewards for it."

Nemcova returned to Thailand after nursing her wounds, including a broken pelvis, from the tsunami and was inspired to create a foundation called The Happy Hearts Fund (HHF), which strives to improve the lives of children in disaster-ridden areas through education.

VIDEO: Tsunami Survivor Petra Nemcova Reacts to Latest Disaster in Japan

"Schools have such an incredible impact on healing from trauma for children. It gives hope for the whole community that they can rebuild [the] rest of their homes," she examined. "...It's really...a tipping point that after [a] natural disaster either they can go down the spiral or they can actually have the opportunity to rebuild better and have [a] better future for the whole community."

As the model and philanthropist continues to build HHF, her non-profit formed a partnership with cosmetic company Clinique to create a special HHF fragrance and T-shirt with a portion of the proceeds being donated to HHF.

Click the link for more on The Happy Hearts Fund and watch Nemcova's full interview to hear her holiday traditions at home in the Czech Republic.

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