September 23, 2002 01:00 PM

The Emmys weren’t the only awards handed out this weekend. In Washington, D.C., Ricky Martin was honored for his musical achievements and his humanitarian efforts at the 16th annual Hispanic Heritage Awards, PEOPLE reports. NBC plans to air the show Oct. 12.

An emotional Martin, 31, shed tears when three young orphan girls whom he recently helped rescue from the streets of Calcutta surprised him by stepping forward to present him with his Heritage Award medal.

“I think I’m freaked out. I had something planned. But forget it,” he said. “Sorry. This really comes from my heart. I have to thank my mother and my father for giving me such strength, to believe in love, to believe in the power of healing, to believe in God, of course. And well, hopefully, this is only the beginning.”

Martin, who sponsored the children through the Sabera Foundation, was praised by Spanish-born supermodel Esther Canadas, 25. “Ricky joined us on one of our rescue missions in Calcutta,” she said. “Travelers had been warned that war was possible … It was very dangerous. But for Ricky the reason for going outweighed the dangers.”

Gloria Estefan and Trudie Styler, the wife of Sting, also paid tribute to Martin by appearing on videotape. But it was Canadas’ words, spoken live, that left the greatest impression.

Telling more of his visit to India, she said: “To the rest of the world he’s Ricky Martin, international star. But to our children in Calcutta, he’s simply Uncle Ricky.”

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