Feel-Good Pictures of the Day

Two Norwegian guys rescuing a sheep from the ocean.

The sign at an awesome drycleaner’s. (Plaza Cleaners in Portland, OR, helped over 2,000 unemployed workers who couldn’t afford dry cleaning. The store’s owner estimated that it cost his company $32,000 dollars.)

A man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeiro.

Firefighter with cat rescued from a house fire.

Two children collaborating to rescue a dog who had fallen into a ravine.

Two best friends on a swing.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com

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Ruidoso Bear Rescue Mission

The Amazing Story of Hilde Back–How One Woman’s Small Acts of Kindness Changed Over 350 Lives

When we consider the vast number of people who need help, being part of the solution can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of thousands of kids trapped in failing schools in the U.S. alone. There are many millions of starving children around the world. How can a single person who isn’t a billionaire have an impact? Where do you start?

Hilde Back’s story is about how small acts of kindness can have an unimaginably large impact. When she was a schoolteacher in Sweden, Hilde decided to sponsor one child’s education in Kenya. Hilde’s sponsorship of Chris Mburu cost about $15 per month. Most poor children in Kenya cannot afford to pay secondary school tuition. Unfortunately, without an education, an extremely difficult and impoverished life is practically guaranteed. Thanks to Hilde’s generosity, Chris avoided that fate.

Chris wound up graduating high school, going to University of Nairobi and then attending Harvard Law School. He became a U.N. Human Rights Advocate, and he started a charity. He petitioned the Swedish embassy to find the name of his anonymous sponsor. Then he named his nonprofit the Hilde Back Education Fund (HBEF) after the benefactor he never met. HBEF pays tuition for deserving poor students in Kenya. Since the charity’s start, 350 children have been supported. Three hundred and fifty lives have been changed directly . . . so far. That doesn’t even include the impact on their families. And who knows how many of these students will be inspired, as Chris was, to give back?

When talking about his background, Chris said, “I had very humble beginnings, growing up in a village that epitomized poverty, no paved roads, no electricity, no piped water, no medical facilities, and not much hope for a future. The school I went to did not have glass on its windows, none of us wore shoes, most families had to endure hard labor in the coffee plantations to get insignificant sums of money to buy necessities, and many children did not have enough to eat at home.”  And when talking about why he started HBEF to educate poor children, he said, “I think I want to see a world in which children have equal opportunity and are not robbed of their future by poverty, like so many of my friends in the village were.”

It’s interesting that the only reason Hilde Back was even alive to support Chris was because of a stranger’s kindness. Hilde was a Jewish child living in Germany during the Nazis’ reign. Both of her parents were killed in concentration camps, but a stranger helped her escape to Sweden. Hilde said that as a Jew, she wasn’t allowed to go to school in Germany. It seemed natural for her to sponsor schooling for someone who couldn’t otherwise attend.

This is all captured in an excellent documentary, A Small Act. The documentary follows Chris after he founded his charity. As we see in the film, Chris decides that he should meet Hilde and tell her about the nonprofit he named after her. Their meeting is emotional, and it’s very touching when he brings her to Kenya, and she is greeted like royalty and made an honorary tribal elder in his village. Not to mention that on her 85th birthday, Chris gives Hilde a sweatshirt that says “Harvard Mom.” This wonderful documentary is a reminder that we can all make a difference, and you never know how big an impact small acts of kindness can have.

Support the Hilde Back Education Fund.

Other ways to make a difference:

Volunteer Match has volunteer opportunities from over 83,000 nonprofits.

Kiva.org allows you to make microloans that help third world entrepreneurs become self-sufficient. An amazing 98.94% of the loans are repaid. You can lend $25 of a generous donor’s money through Kiva.org as a way to learn about the program.

Donors Choose connects you to classrooms in need, so you can make small donations to help schools with specific needs.

If you’re interested in third party reviews of charities you might support, check out Charity Navigator and GuideStar.

Source: http://www.bradaronson.com (This article was originally published by Brad Aronson on his blog which has inspirational stories for life and work.) 

15-Year-old Wins $10,000 Hero Award for Providing Eyewear to Poor

Most kids with vision problems don’t look past the tip of their own nose when it comes to the issue of prescription eyewear. But not Yash Gupta, a 15-year-old high school junior from Irvine, California. His vision has extended to thousands of people who have benefitted from his nonprofit, Sight Learning, which provides eyewear for students who can’t afford it. The donated eyeglasses are distributed to students in need in the United States, Mexico and Honduras. To date, Sight Learning has collected more than $35,000 in donations and also organizes and runs eye exam clinics.

Gupta has been named one of 15 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes and awarded $10,000 in cash and a $7,500 educational scholarship for his outstanding work. Gupta wears glasses himself and knows firsthand how difficult learning becomes when you do not have the glasses you need. Sight Learning has partnered with other organizations, such as VOSH and New Eyes for the Needy. Gupta’s website (sightlearning.com) launched in January of 2011, and with the help of many Irvine optometrists who have placed collection bins in their offices, has collected over $70,000 worth of eyewear to donate. His goal is to hit the $100k mark by this November.

As Founder and CEO of Sight Learning, Gupta approximates he spends up to 25 hours a week facilitating his collections efforts with optometry offices and organizing eye exam clinics throughout the world. His greatest accomplishment to date has been the international clinics he has hosted, one in Tijuana, Mexico and the other in Copan, Honduras, which combined treated over 5,000 people. “After giving them a pair of glasses – the first they had ever received in their lives – the emotion, joy, and excitement they exhibited made the work Sight Learning has done that much more special,” said Gupta. “To see firsthand that the work you are doing is helping someone is a great feeling, and I’m glad we’ve been able to make an impact.”

Gupta joins 15 other remarkable youth from the United States and Canada who have demonstrated outstanding community leadership and service. Of the honor, Gupta said, “I’m very proud (to have been chosen) … There are so many amazing kids out there doing great things for the community, and I encourage my peers to do the same.” With Gupta’s stellar vision for making an impact on the world at just age 15, there’s no doubt lifelong success is within his sight.

Look at the other amazing Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes!

Allyson A., 16, Santa Rosa, CA

Allyson created Threads for Teens, a clothing boutique that helps girls in need, ages 13-17, build self-esteem and confidence while giving them hope. Girls have the opportunity to visit the store and shop for items they need, all at no cost. So far, Allyson has raised approximately $75,000 for Threads for Teens and has recruited 30 volunteers to help with her shop. She also has helped Girl Scouts receive Bronze Awards by providing opportunities for volunteerism. To date, more than 120 girls have visited her store and she has donated more than 70 backpacks filled with school supplies.

Blakely C., 17, Solvang, CA

Blakely created the nonprofit organization Cupcakes for Cancer to raise funds to support pediatric research, grant wishes, and assist children with cancer. She and her team of volunteers bake cupcakes that are sold after school and at local events. Through Cupcakes for Cancer, Blakely has raised $85,000, granted seven wishes and has been able to provide two $1,000 college scholarships. She has also designed a national outreach campaign, “Frosting HOPE Across America,” to inspire others to bake and donate.  Fifteen states now have Cupcake Angels kids and clubs to further the cause.

Cassandra L., 13, Westerly, RI

After reading an article in the local newspaper, Cassandra discovered that many residents could not afford to heat their homes. Inspired by this need, she formed a team of five seventh graders to create TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel). She works with local biofuel companies to recycle the grease from residents and restaurants, refine it into biodiesel and distribute it to needy families and local charities. TGIF’s efforts have enabled 92 families to keep warm during the cold winters. The organization also drafted and passed a newly enacted law that mandates waste cooking oil recycling in Rhode Island.

Catherine M., 16, Oceanside, CA

Catherine founded Beauty 4 Life, a socially-minded business offering handcrafted Ugandan jewelry to create dignity, work and opportunity for Ugandan women. The goal of Beauty 4 Life is to help the Ugandan women educate their children and provide for their families. She has built women’s centers, schools and childcare centers. She has also provided business, finance, health, and language(English)  lessons to Ugandan women. Catherine has raised more than $100,000 and donated over 5,000 pounds of school supplies and basic items to benefit her cause.

Clara P., 10, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Clara started Keys for Hope to raise money and awareness for Crisis Ministries, her local homeless shelter. Clara, with the help of her friends, decorates recycled keys with buttons and other embellishments. After the keys are decorated, each is attached to a card explaining the cause and sold as a necklace, key chain, zipper pull or ornament. Keys for Hope has sold approximately 2,000 keys and raised $12,000. Clara chose the key because it symbolizes home and the hope for a better future for Charleston’s homeless.

Lulu C., 12, Encino, CA

Lulu created LemonAID Warriors to empower youth in her community to make a difference. Her first event was a boys vs. girls LemonAID war to benefit Haiti. This concept spread across the country and more than 500 kids ordered LemonAID kits to raise funds and the events raised $4,000 in two weeks. She has since organized community events, called “PhilanthroParties,” to inspire her peers to get involved. Lulu has raised more than $12,000 to benefit various causes, collected more than 2,000 cans of food and recruited 600 volunteers to help support her efforts.

Madelyn M., 17, Belleville, IL

Madelyn co-founded NETwork Against Malaria (NAM) to help save Ugandan children’s lives and keep them in school. Due to malaria, the average Ugandan student misses 60 days of schools per year. NAM provides malaria and health education for American and Ugandan students and raises funding for bed net distribution to Ugandan students and pregnant women.  Madelyn has helped raise approximately $75,000 and purchased 5,500 bed nets to protect up to 16,500 children and pregnant women from malaria. Madelyn’s leadership has inspired 30 high school and college NAM chapters in 18 states.

Neha G., 15, Yardley, PA

Neha founded the global nonprofit organization Empower Orphans, which has established five libraries, three computer labs, one sewing school and sponsored the education of 50 children. Neha’s mission is to provide orphaned and disadvantaged children with the skills and environment to enable them to become productive members of society. Empower Orphans also provides food, clothing, footwear, health care, and medical supplies to thousands of children. The organization is active in India and the United States and has raised $375,000, collected 15,500 books and 25 van loads of furnishings.

Nicholas L., 14, Cranston, RI

Nicholas started the Gotta Have Sole Foundation which donates new footwear to children living in homeless shelters across the United States.  Shelter advocates send him footwear orders and Nicholas collects, packages and often hand delivers the shoes. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Nicholas held a special event to collect and send new footwear to more than 90 children of the first responders. To date, Nicolas has raised $49,000 to purchased 3,000 pairs of shoes for homeless children.

Rachel W., 12, Lighthouse Point, FL

Rachel has raised $167,400 to build 27 two-room homes and $132,000 to build a school complete with educational supplies in Leogane, Haiti. She has raised funding for her projects through garage sales, lemonade stands, school bake sales and dances, presentations to Chambers of Commerce  and speaking engagements. She supports the efforts of the nonprofit organization Food for The Poor, and its quest to house the unsheltered in Haiti.

Sarah C., 18, Bettendorf, IA

Sarah founded The Sparkle Effect, an organization that helps students across the country form cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities. Students can visit The Sparkle Effect website to obtain information on forming their own teams. The website offers a step-by-step quick-start kit for creating an inclusive team, fundraising ideas, practice tips, information on grants for uniforms, and free on-site training.  To date, the Sparkle Effect has raised more than $150,000 and generated 55 inclusive squads across the country.

Will L., 9, Fort Worth, TX

Will created FROG, Friends Reaching Our Goals, a service group that creates programs and events to raise awareness and funding for the Tarrant Area Food Bank. As part of FROG, he started the “Hits & Kicks Against Hunger” program, where elementary students fight hunger while playing baseball, softball and soccer. He also started “FROG’s at the Plate,” which brings together business owners and community leaders to raise money for the local food banks. To date, Will and his FROG team have donated approximately 40,000 meals, 6,000 backpacks of food and 3,000 cans of food.

Yoni K., 17, Washington, DC

In an effort to promote recycling, Yoni founded Color My World (CMW) which collects and repurposes crayons discarded by national restaurant chains and distributes them to shelters and underfunded schools. He also created a coloring book that encourages recycling.  Yoni has partnered with 27 restaurants in nine states, encouraging them to recycle crayons in a bin provided by CMW. He then sanitizes the crayons and contacts schools to organize drop-offs. Yoni has raised approximately $10,000 for his cause, collecting nearly 20,000 crayons and recruiting numerous teen volunteers to help manage the project.

Ceilidh M., 18, New Westminster, BC

Ceilidh volunteers over 40 hours a month as a teen reporter, spokesperson and peer advocate for bullying prevention. She shares information about the dangers and consequences of bullying through presentations, television appearances, and articles. Ceilidh’s work has been featured on the National Bullying Prevention Center and Teens Against Bullying websites.

Source: http://www.ocregister.com

Nicholas Winton – How a 29-Year-Old Stockbroker Saved 669 Lives on Nights and Weekends

“I was told that my sister and I were going to be sent to England. I was only 9 and not aware of the situation. A lot of us thought it was an adventure. We didn’t know what was happening.” Here’s what happened. Milena Grenfell-Baines and 668 other mostly Jewish children were transported from Czechoslovakia to England in order to save their lives before the outbreak of WWII.

The man who made this possible was Sir Nicholas Winton. In 1939, Winton and a friend, Martin Blake, were supposed to take a skiing vacation. Instead, Blake, who worked with refugees, told Winton, at the time a 29-year-old stockbroker, that he should visit him in Prague and help with the refugees fleeing Hitler’s advancing armies.

Nicholas Winton did go to Prague, and he was deeply affected by what he saw: thousands of refugees driven out of Sudetenland, a Czechoslovakian area recently under Nazi control (Britain and France agreed to allow Hitler to annex a large part of Czechoslovakia in an attempt to avoid a World War and the Nazis had started to take control of the country.) There was no plan to save the refugees from the looming danger of the Nazis. So Winton decided to act. He told the BBC, “The task was enormous but I had to do something. The so-called Kindertransports—initiatives to bring children west—had been organized elsewhere, but not in Prague.”

“Everybody in Prague said, ‘Look, there is no organization in Prague to deal with refugee children, nobody will let the children go on their own, but if you want to have a go, have a go.’” Winton contacted multiple governments for help, but only England and Sweden agreed. The British government approved his bringing children to the UK if he could find them homes and make a deposit of 50 pounds for each child. From March to August 1939, Winton worked as a stockbroker by day and a rescue worker at night to get the kids to the UK. Winton advertised in British newspapers and in churches and temples to find families. He raised money for transportation and managed logistics—even forging entry permits when the government was moving too slowly.

Winton saved 669 children, working until war broke out and kids could no longer leave Czechoslovakia. Winton stresses that he receives too much attention and that his collaborator in Prague—Trevor Chadwick—and everyone who participated deserves credit. In fact, Winton kept his heroic deeds to himself for almost 50 years. His wife, Grete, didn’t even know about his rescue efforts until 1988, when she found his scrapbook in the attic, with records, photos, names and documents from his efforts. With his wife’s encouragement, Winton shared his story, which led to his appearance on the BBC television program That’s Life. The emotional video clip in this article is from that show—you’ll see the moment when he realizes that the studio audience is composed mostly of people he rescued.

Vera Gissing, one of the rescued children, said, “If he hadn’t gone to Prague on that day [instead of on his skiing vacation], we wouldn’t be alive. There are thousands of us in this world all thanks to him.” When asked by a class doing a history project for advice, Nicholas Winton said “Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong. Be prepared every day to try to do some good.”

Source: www.bradaronson.com (This article was originally published by Brad Aronson on his blog which has inspirational stories for life and work.) 

Women Secretly Deliver Cakes to Poor Families for Over 34 Years

For more than three decades, nine women have been secretly baking and delivering hundreds of pound cakes during the middle of the night to people in West Tennessee who could benefit from knowing that “somebody out there loves them.”

“We check the newspapers for births and deaths. The evening news is also another good source, said Nana Pearl, one of the four sisters who are the core of the group. Eavesdropping in the local shops and beauty salon is one of the preferred methods of picking up the scent of someone in need. “If we hear of someone who could use a little happiness, we do our darnest to track them down.”

The secret baking angels are not so surreptitious anymore. Since their kids are all grown now and most of the husbands are retired, they created a website at Happiness-Happens.com, where they sell their cakes online — about 100 each day — and raise money for charity. Their specialty lemon and curd cakes have been placed in expensive ‘swag bags’ at America’s most prestigious award shows.

In the past, the Memphis women, all between the ages of 54 and 72, who call themselves ‘The 9 Nanas,’ would gather in the predawn darkness to whip up their cakes. Today they’ve moved into the commercial kitchen of a restaurant owned by one of their sons. They carry out their motto, “Give and give,” instead of ‘give and take’ in other ways, too. Benefitting local battered women, Happiness Happens donated lush towels, robes, linens, and spa products to the YWCA. In the last 35 years, The 9 Nanas have contributed nearly $900,000 of happiness to their local community.

The organized do-gooding started over weekly bridge games. After awhile they’d pool together what money they had and buy groceries and pay utility bills for the sick and shut-in and help widows and single moms young children. “At the start of the school year, we’d trek to the stores for new school clothes,” said Nana Pearl. “When we shopped for our children, we shopped for someone else’s.”

Learn about becoming a Happiness-Happens Ambassador in your area on the website, www.happiness-happens.com.

Source: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org

Find Health and Happiness on a Walk in the Woods

Do you want to be happier, healthier, and smarter? Add a daily dose of nature to your routine. Over the past decade, researchers from fields as diverse as biology, psychiatry, engineering, horticulture, neuroscience and medicine have realized what most of us know intuitively: nature is good for our health and well-being. These experts have discovered countless links between time spent outdoors and cognitive, physical, and emotional improvement. Studies show that enjoying a natural setting — like a park, beach, wetland, or forest — can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress levels. Exposure to nature can help you sleep well and increase vigor and liveliness. It can even boost your immune system. (It sounds like a doctor’s prescription with no side effects, and no cost.)

In their new book Your Brain on Nature, naturopath Alan Logan and Harvard physician Eva Selhub cite dozens of studies that demonstrate the health benefits of the natural world. They even refer to outdoor physical activity as “exercise squared” because it can increase energy and fitness levels while reducing fatigue, depression, and obesity.

Melissa Lem, a family doctor and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, says exposure to nature is vitally important for kids. Ailments like myopia, asthma, and depression have also been linked to inadequate nature exposure. While this scientific body of evidence is fascinating and growing quickly, most of us remain unaware of the full range of health benefits that nature provides. With the busy lives that many of us lead, taking time to get outside may seem difficult. But it’s easier than you think. Green space is as close as your local park or backyard garden. Trails, ravines, and community gardens are often a short distance from the daily grind. And birds, bees, and other critters are usually nearby; you just have to take time to slow down, breathe, watch and listen.

For the young at heart, a British organization called the National Trust has put together a list of 50 outdoor adventures all children should have before they are 12. The list, found at the Daily Mail, boasts the joys of rolling down a big hill, eating an apple picked fresh from a tree, and hunting for bugs.

Source: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org