Charity

Former refugee boats give cruisers a tour of Amsterdam through the eyes of migrants

Photo Credits: UNHCR

Once upon a time, ‘Meneer Vrijdag’ and ‘Klein Boot’ were boats that were previously used to smuggle asylum seekers across the Mediterranean in search for a better life.

Now, the vessels are traversing much calmer waters: they’ve been taken in by Lampedusa Cruises, a tour company in Amsterdam that invites residents and tourists alike to take in the city’s history, much of which has been shaped by refugees and migrants.

The skippers, from countries including Eritrea, Libya and Syria, all have one thing in common – they themselves were refugees who came to Amsterdam on a boat not unlike the vessel they now sit at the helm of.

“Our guides tell you the hidden history of Amsterdam through the eyes of its immigrants and outsiders, including their personal migration story,” the company’s website reads.

The company takes its name from the island of Lampedusa, which is a symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis due to it being a popular destination for refugees sailing from Africa. What the cruises hope to do is to provide an alternative, less traditional insight into Amsterdam that isn’t necessarily what first comes to mind when one thinks about the city.

“The beauty of this project is that while Amsterdam is so shiny, we dive into some issues that aren’t so clean,” said Sahand, a tour guide. “Most tour companies talk about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and point out the old buildings. We talk about the immigrants who built them.”

Nine-year-old runs library for children in slums of India

Photo Credits:   Pratham Books

Photo Credits: Pratham Books

Muskaan Ahirwar just might be the youngest librarian in the world: this nine-year-old girl, who lives in a slum in Bhopal, runs a library for children just outside her house.

When the state’s education center realized that children lacked interest in and access to books outside of school, they decided to do something to promote reading in the slum area. The education center held a quiz to create interest among the children, and Muskaan’s high score and enthusiasm impressed all the members of the center. They asked her for ideas on how they could educate the children living in the slum, and from then on, Muskaan’s library idea was born.

"I love doing this. Other children in slum area take books and then return other day. Some stay back to read here with me and ask questions where they don't understand," Muskaan told Times of India.

The library now has over 700 books donated from elsewhere in India and overseas, and has become a popular hangout spot for the children.

“Once I started the library, children who used to roam around have found new interest in reading and come regularly,” Muskaan told AJ+.

Children also play trivia games and have discussions about the books they’ve read at the library.

“Whoever has the drive to learn, they should start their own library and start learning, and study like us and get ahead in life,” Muskaan said.

 

Photo Credits: Pratham Books

Cinema for the visually impaired gives moviegoers new sights

Inside a small cinema in Jakarta, Indonesia, muffled back-and-forth conversation can be heard as movie watchers talk quietly amongst each other.

 

No – they aren’t being rude. This is a typical night at Bioskop Bisik, a “whisper cinema” designated to help visually impaired people enjoy a movie with the help of volunteers describing the scene.

 

“I want people to accept that people with disabilities, especially people with visual impairments are part of society,” the mastermind behind the cinema, Cici Suciati, told AJ+.

 

Screenings are held in the second week of every month at an alternative cafe space that deems itself as a “culinary cinema”. Volunteers are recruited through social media, many of whom help out regularly.

 

“This is a new and fun way of volunteering. I can give something to others in a way that’s never been done before and I’m able to see differently from their perspective,” Dina, a volunteer, told The Jakarta Post.

 

While listening to the audio can give visually impaired moviegoers a good idea of what’s going on, it often is not enough to set the provide all the information needed to understand a scene. An out-of-context scream, for example, can be interpreted as one of joy or frustration.

 

“This helps me a lot in terms of widening my horizons as a visually impaired person who likes movies very much,” said Siswanto of the initiative.

 

Photo Credits: The Jakarta Post

NYC restaurant hires grandmothers to recreate taste of home

Hawa Jimiez hails from Liberia. She used to work a cleaning job, but now, she’s a chef at a restaurant in Staten Island, where she cooks up Liberian dishes and shares a taste of her country with the New York City crowd.

 

“I love cooking,” said Hawa Jimiez, a Liberian grandmother.

 

The restaurant she works at is called Enoteca Maria. Originally serving just Italian cuisine, Jody Scaravella, an Italian himself, started the restaurant when his mother and grandmother passed away, and he was left missing the comfort food he had grown up with.

 

Scaravella then put an advertisement out for Italian “nonnas” – or grandmothers – to cook at the restaurant. The response was overwhelming; seeing the concept take off and the joy it brought to diners knowing the food they’re eating is as authentic as they come, Scaravella began hiring “nonnas” from other countries too.

 

The main kitchen is staffed by at least one Italian “nonna”; downstairs, grandmothers from other countries take turns on a rotating basis, cooking up a storm when it’s their evening to shine.

 

On one night, the hearty dishes of Liberia – courtesy of Jimiez – might be on the menu. The next, diners may have their pick among Polish, Syrian or Nigerian specialties.

 

Since 2007, Enoteca Maria has proven itself to be a popular concept for diners longing for a simpler time; it’s also giving grandmothers employment in a skill they’ve honed with experience – dishing up food that’s straight from the heart.

Trees, not fees: School in India encourages parents to plant tree saplings instead of paying tuition

A primary school in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh is making education more inclusive while raising awareness for environmental concern: it’s asking parents not to pay tuition, but to plant trees instead. For more on #TreesNotFees check out our blog, 

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The initiative was set up by local professionals and business owners in response to the rising unaffordability of education. Little of the Indian government’s budget is allocated to education, leaving parents responsible for forking out high fees. As a result, many children cannot afford to go to school, and the consequences are evident: an education report in 2014 found that nearly 20% of children in grade two cannot recognize the numbers between one and nine.

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While not a means to an end, this school’s initiative is opening its classroom doors to children who otherwise would not have access to education, therefore giving them a chance at a brighter future and raising the country’s literacy rate.

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So far, the school has received an overwhelming response, and 700 saplings have been planted across the village over the last year.

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At the same time, parents being encouraged to plant trees is also educating the next generation on the importance of environmental care. This is especially needed in India, where air pollution is becoming a worsening problem.

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It is hoped that this school’s initiative will inspire others to follow suit to promote heightened accessibility of education for all and awareness of the country’s environmental issues.

Back on My Feet helps the homeless move forward, one step at a time

What he likes best about running? Finishing.

“The best part is when we’re all done and you feel that rush. You feel nice and relaxed. It does something to your body when you finish a run like that,” said Maurice. “It’s like medication, my favorite part is when I get my medicine.”

Maurice is a member at the Philadelphia chapter of non-profit organization Back On My Feet (BoMF). Founded in 2007 by Anne Mahlum, who started a running club for men at a shelter near her home, BoMF aims to empower those who are homeless through the power of running.

Across 12 cities in the U.S. including Chicago, New York City and its newest addition, San Francisco, members commit to 5:30 early morning runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Some have families and some are working on their high school equivalent diploma, but they’ve all got one thing in common: the desire to achieve new goals, one step at a time.

BoMF believes that running offers powerful lessons for life, teaching us that we have to run miles one through nine to get to 10. Recognizing that homelessness isolates individuals from the norms of everyday life and leaves them distanced from the people around them, the early morning runs with others affected by homelessness and volunteers who believe in the cause give members support and a sense of community.

 

Running gets members active and more conscious about their health, though the ultimate aim of BoMF is much more than that. Members with 90% attendance in their first month with BoMF, showing commitment to the program, move into its second phase: Next Steps. From then on, members are provided access to educational support, employment opportunities and housing resources, giving them the help they need to restart their lives.

In particular, BoMF’s employment program helps many of its members find work. Gaps in employment and a lack of critical workforce training are just some of the barriers that make it difficult for the homeless to find long-term, sustainable jobs. To make up for this, BoMF partners with companies across the country to provide training in areas including customer service, financial literacy and Microsoft Office. Members can also work to get qualifications such as food handling and forklift operator certifications.

Established organizations including Marriott Hotels, Macy’s department store and CVS pharmacy partner with BoMF, provide employment opportunities to members when qualified. BoMF continually invites business owners seeking hardworking and committed employees to contact them for potential partnership. With a regular job and a stable income, members find independence and new meaning in their lives.

Mark, also a member of the Philadelphia chapter, took part in the programs offered by BoMF, among them a forklift certification, Bank of America financial courses, AT&T technology training and an Accenture workshop in resume building and mock interviewing.

“I took advantage of all the classes because they all benefit me. I wanted everything that I could get out of Back on My Feet, that’s why I apply myself. I’m motivated and I’m trying to achieve my goals and what I want to do in my life right now, so I took advantage of the program and it’s working for me,” Mark explains.

 

BoMF recruits members at homeless and residential facilities around the country. Many of its members are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions, some have spent time in jail, and they are in general at a low point in their lives. The discipline it takes to stick to an early morning regime three times a week encourages members to believe that the goals they set for themselves are within reach. Many find passion in the sport, doing training on their own and signing up for runs in their community.

Thanks to BoMF, Donna managed to kick a 28-year addiction of cocaine. The first time Donna joined a run, she thought she was too sick and old to do it. Members and volunteers recognized her struggle and motivated her to keep going. Her father’s passing turned into a hard battle against turning to drugs again, but she was determined not to let her new friends down. Donna pressed on, showing up at all her runs and doing her best. Her newfound confidence inspired her to set a goal to complete a 13.1-mile run, and she did it.

 

“That was the beginning of my life. I finally found a job working for Kirkbride Rehab Center, where I am very happy. This job keeps me grounded. It reminds me everyday where I came from and helps me not to go back.”

 

“I’m doing everything in life that I always wanted to do,” said Donna. 

Image Credits: Back on My Feet and Back on My Feet Philadelphia's Facebook Page

Second Chances

Janet here owns her own floristry business and sells a beautiful array of flowers. Little would anyone guess that, as a side fact, Janet is an ex-offender.

Janet’s flower shop stemmed from an interest which then later blossomed into a career, mind the puns, with the help of “Startup”. Based in the UK, the charity Startup offers what very few public systems do - a belief that prisoners, too, have great potential and can thrive as entrepreneurs in their own right. The work that Startup had done have significantly reduced recidivism by having ex-offenders turn towards entrepreneurialism as opposed to back towards a criminal system.

In an interview with the BBC, Juliet Hope, the founder of Startup, says “They [the prisoners] have faced that, come out, and want to turn their lives around.”  Juliet believes everyone deserves a second chance - we couldn’t agree more.

This concept isn’t limited to the UK, or Startup’s work. The LEAP (Ladies Empowerment Action Program) (Instagram handle: @leapforladies) in the US also works for a similar cause. Entrepreneurial skills are shared with prisoners, especially women, to encourage them to pursue their dreams - not just with the right tools but the right support.

We should never judge anyone based only on their past or background, as Juliet says, everyone deserves a chance and has potential to achieve. More on their work on their site

Image Credits: BBC

NYC personal trainer empowers the disabled through strength

Tom Clement goes to the gym twice a week for an hour each time. He works primarily on upper body strength, emerging from the gym stronger with every session.

But Clement is not your average gym goer. To begin with, he’s well into his sixties; he’s also been in a wheelchair for most of his life since falling off a roof and severing his spinal cord. For the past 15 years, Clement has been a regular at Ned Norton’s Warriors on Wheels gym, a training facility catered to the most marginalized of communities in the world of fitness: people living with disabilities.

Named one of the CNN Top Heroes in 2014, Norton, 58, has been running non-profit organization Warriors on Wheels for over 20 years. Formerly a competitive power lifter, a three-time finisher of the NYC Marathon and a fitness trainer with 35 years of professional experience, Norton has found passion in bringing what he loves most ­– fitness – to the lives of those who otherwise never get to experience beating a personal best.

“I never worry about what they can’t do,” said Norton. “I worry about what they can do, and make them as independent and capable as possible.”

 

It all started when Norton was managing a gym and training athletes back in 1988. A football player he was training expressed concern for a friend who had been left paraplegic after an accident. He asked Norton if he could train him at the gym and help him recover not just physically, but also psychologically. Tailoring a program for his friend with the help of his doctor, Norton began training him and saw rapid progress in him within six months.

Now, Norton trains more than 120 people every week. His clients are affected by a wide range of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and vision impairment. The gym is located in Albany, New York, on the fourth floor of a public housing project high rise. The Albany Housing Authority donates the space to him so he doesn’t pay rent, and Norton’s side jobs, support from private donors as well as regularly held fundraising events help keep the project going. Some of the money goes towards the state’s transport authority, which provides STAR, or Special Transportation at Request, to arrange buses that bring people with disabilities to and from the Warriors on Wheels gym.

Norton charges a rate of $10 for 10 visits, but many of his clients subsist on welfare and disability payments, making the fee difficult to afford. In fact, just over 30 percent are able to pay. But Norton is happy to waive this fee, believing that everyone should have access to his training regardless of financial ability.

“If they can pay, fine, but I don’t really keep track of those who don’t,” Norton said. “Most of the people I work with are on very limited incomes.”

 

Clients at Warriors on Wheels use adaptive equipment that has been specially designed by Norton and his team to facilitate improvements in strength and conditioning. Traditional machines like the shoulder press and bench press have been modified, and the seats are cut off from multi-stations, which includes a pec deck, lat pull down cable and preacher curl, so that those in wheelchairs can use them too.

Jamal Burgess is autistic and has been coming to the Warriors on Wheels gym for over 15 years.

“The repetitive motion is good for him,” Norton said of his swift punches as his laced up boxing gloves hit the heavy bag.

“I love it here. I like to work out with Ned,” said Burgess.

Working out at Warriors on Wheels have led clients to see more than just an improvement in their physical health. Norton says many have gone on to find employment, drive again and pursue their interests without allowing their disabilities to get in the way.

 

Clement thanks Norton for helping him live a full life and increasing his ability to maintain the stamina of everyday work.

"The physical benefits are obvious. People have an easier time getting in and out of wheelchairs or opening heavy doors,” said Norton. “The psychological benefits are even more significant. There's a feeling of accomplishment, of self-confidence. The program makes people more independent."

Photos: CNN

 

 

Wonder Woman

Cheers to another milestone for gender equality! Congratulations to the launch of Paradigm for Parity - an organization that is committed to make progress on gender equality in the business world by 2030. This organization involves well-known businesses like Bank of America, LinkedIn, The Coca-Cola Company, McKinsey & Company and the Huffington Post!

This is not just an organization that voices support for gender equality, but a 5-Point Action Plan has actually been drafted. This Action Plan consolidates the aim of this organization - for women to be evaluated fairly in a business. To boost more concrete actions, the organization also produced a toolkit for businesses’ reference.

"Inclusion and diversity are essential for success and relevance in today's world, and I am driven by the belief that diversity makes organizations stronger, smarter and more innovative," said Pierre Nanterme, chairman and CEO of Accenture.

These business leaders believe full potential of a corporation can only be enhanced through diversifying their pool of talents. Anyone, regardless of sex, should stand a chance to show their talent. Dream big, girls the world is better off with you.

Inmates find puppy love in women’s prison

Ellen Dennett’s life as an inmate at Fraser Valley Institution for Women at Abbottsford, British Columbia isn’t what you imagine being behind bars to be like: she spends a couple of hours each day taking care of dogs while their owners are away at work.

Dennett is part of the Doghouse program, a collaboration between the prison and Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS). Through Doghouse, inmates who are recognized for their good behavior work together to run a dog daycare. More than 150 women have benefitted from the Doghouse program.

"All day long, from 7 in the morning until 9 at night, these women are feeding, exercising, scooping poop, washing muddy paws. And they work really, really hard," program manager Alicia Santella says.

Through Doghouse the women are able to learn work ethic skills that would be valuable in any job. Many of the women who have left this program look for jobs specifically in this industry, finding that working with dogs gives them solace.

"They don't look at you as an inmate," says Dennett, who was convicted for second-degree murder. "They don't know the horrible crime I did. They love you just the way you are. The good stuff, the bad stuff, they don't care."

A program like Doghouse that entrusts responsibilities to inmates that feel they have been shut off from society. This is important in empowering them, giving hope that everyone has it in them to engage with the communities around them.

For Dennett, working with dogs has put her on a path for a kinder, calmer life after prison.

"I know we're not supposed to have a good time, that we're not supposed to laugh with the dogs, but that's why this is here — to help us cope with what we've done and to get back on track, and to move on with whatever life I have left."

Street Books library offers the homeless a different narrative

 

A bicycle pulls up on the streets of Portland, Oregon, a heavy cargo box in tow. Inside the box is a selection of novels: sci-fi, biographies and everything in between. Patrons walk up to the bike, browsing the titles with curiosity and checking one or two out. There’s no due date, they’re told, and no fines either.

This is the work of Laura Moulton’s project Street Books, a bicycle-powered mobile library for the homeless and those living on the margins. In the summer, Moulton and her team take to the city, making designated stops and bringing literature to a community whose circumstances forbid them from doing so themselves.

Moulton is an artist and a writing professor who firmly believes in the power of reading to help one escape a different reality, a relief that is much needed for those experiencing a difficult time in their lives.

“I think people come to the library for a variety of reasons, and part of it, I think, is being able to lose yourself in a book for the time,” said Moulton.

But without proper identification or a home address to give, the homeless are unable to obtain library cards at public libraries, making borrowing from them not an option. And this is where Street Books steps in.

 


Street Book was originally created as Moulton’s short-term project in the summer of 2011. At the outset, Moulton was skeptical about whether it would be well-received.

“It’s a bit of an audacious proposal to go out and say, yes, I know you’ve been sleeping on a piece of cardboard for three nights, but here’s a paperback book,” Moulton recalled thinking at the time.

But when asked by a patron in the final days of the initiative where Street Books would be next week, Moulton realized she had created something that actually had demand among the homeless community. 

Image:   Street Books

Five years later, Street Books has amassed a loyal group of patrons-turned-regular-readers. Some are former bookworms, excited to rekindle an old love, while some are just realizing a newfound passion.

“The power of a project like Street Books is that when the assumption is that these people outside are not intelligent, not capable of a range of feelings somehow, we show a different narrative,” said Moulton.


A regular patron of Street Book when it began, Ben Hodgson read about three books a week and probably over 50 just that summer.

“You’re sitting around with nothing to do but stare off into space, and it just makes it a lot more livable to have something to do as a leisure-time activity, said Hodgson.

Hodgson was homeless at the time and living on the streets of Portland. After three years outside, he was finally shortlisted for veterans housing. One day, he ran into Moulton, who was delivering books. Remembering his regular patronage and love of literature, Moulton offered him a job sorting through their book collection. Since then, Hodgson has been working as a Street Books’ librarian and inventory specialist. Moulton calls him an “invaluable asset” to the team.

Besides Moulton and Hodgson, Street Books consists a team of other street librarians, all of them avid readers and firm believes that literature should be accessible to all. They don’t just fulfill their librarian duties of handling checkouts and returns, but also encourage patrons to make requests for titles they don’t see. They take the effort to remember the names of their patrons, striking up conversation about thoughts on their most recent read and what books they’ll be digging into next.


“What I realized from Street Books is how similar we all are and how much we connect around reading and ideas,” said Diana Rempe, a Street Books librarian.


The homeless face enough discrimination in society as it is, and while Street Books isn’t offering them an income or a roof over their heads, it hopes its sharing of literature can relieve at least a little bit of that stigma. The project is especially valued in Portland, a city where literary culture runs deep. In fact, Portland’s county library has one of the highest circulation among public libraries in America.

Heather, a patron of Street Books, values books “like gold”.

“Homeless people are smart. We deserve this. We deserve to be able to read,” said Heather.

For more on Street Books and how to support this mobile library, check out their site!

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Image Credits: Street Books

Children affected by autism spectrum disorders find solace at Toys R Us’s “quiet hour”

To kids affected by autism spectrum disorders, bright lights and loud noises can be painfully overwhelming. That’s why multinational chain retailer Toys R Us’s newly introduced “quiet hours” are making a huge difference to these children and their families.

In November, Toys R Us stores across the UK piloted an effort to open one hour earlier as part of a pre-Christmas event. Lights dimmed, music was switched off and announcements were withheld for the event, allowing customers to browse toys in a calm environment.

“Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a ‘quiet’ shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop regardless of their disability,” the chain’s marketing director said.

The one-off initiative was well-received by the community and many are calling for this to be done more regularly.

One mother of an autistic child said on Facebook that the event was “brilliant”, and she “had no idea what a difference low-lighting could make”. Another remarked a “complete change in behavior” of her son and thanked the retailer for their inclusivity.

Toys R Us is not the first to head such an event. UK supermarket giant Asda in Manchester Fort began a “quiet hours” initiative for shoppers affected by autism, and inspired eight other outlets to do the same. Toys R Us stores in America, where the retailer is based, is also looking into this.

Launching a “quiet hours” initiative costs little to shops, but simply lowering noise and turning down the lights can make a world of a difference to shoppers affected by autism. Toys R Us’s efforts are a start, and we hope to see more stores around the world doing the same.

Make-up artist helps cancer patients feel beautiful again

22-year-old makeup artist Norman Freeman knows how hard it is for cancer patients, having lost all their hair to treatment, to feel beautiful – and what he’s doing is making that just a little bit easier.

Calling hospital wards his studio, Freeman visits cancer patients and offers to do their makeup, giving them some much needed confidence at a difficult time in their life that is fraught with low spirits about their appearance.

Freeman himself understands what it’s like for patients to lose all their hair. At age 5, he was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease causing chronic hair loss. Over the years, he lost all of his hair, including his eyebrows and eyelashes.

“I was teased. People didn’t know if I had cancer or what… they thought I had cancer, and they still teased me!” said Freeman of his past.

A passion discoered from watching Youtube tutorials soon turned into a career artist, later prompting him to launch a self-funded project to offer free services to cancer patients.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native focuses his efforts on the East Coast, visiting hospitals in New York and Philadelphia, but hopes to expand his reach using the donations from those who support his work.

“I know how untouchable makeup can make me feel,” said Freeman. “I want people to say, ‘I’m sick, and it’s awful, but I can still feel beautiful.’”

Humans of New York ensure no one dines alone this Christmas

 

For the fourth year in a row, photojournalist project Humans of New York is doing its part to make sure everybody has a good Christmas, even if they may not have friends or family to celebrate with.

“Every holiday season we try to connect people in New York City who would like to share a holiday meal. Why? Because nothing is worse than being alone on Christmas or Hanukkah,” a post on Humans of New York’s Instagram reads.

The tradition, titled HONY for the Holidays, invites anyone with interest to send an email to HONY as a guest or a host; guests might have circumstances that force them to be alone this holiday season, and hosts might have extra room at the dinner table to feed a couple more mouths.

To facilitate good conversation over a hearty meal, HONY asks that guests and hosts share a little bit about themselves so that they can be aptly paired up. Practical concerns such as location and dietary restrictions are also factored in, and everyone is screened before matches are made.

Founder of Humans of New York Brandon Stanton understands the frustration of being on your own when everybody else in the world seems to be reuniting with loved ones. In an Instagram post two years ago when the initiative was being held for the second time, he recounted spending his first Christmas Eve in New York at a 24-hour diner, with no money to fly home.

Between colorful portraits of everyday New Yorkers and articulating their stories to millions of followers, Humans of New York continues to inspire with this wonderful project that seeks to promote solace and the spirit of giving back in a fast-paced city.

Free app ‘Refugeye’ helps refugees break down language barriers and focus on getting the help they need

When refugees arrive in a host country, the language barrier make it difficult for them to articulate their circumstances to NGOs and social service groups. The process of getting the help they need is thus long and hard, coupled with the frustration that they aren’t being understood.

With this in mind, Design & Human created Refugeye, an app to facilitate better communication and understanding between refugees and the people of their host country.

The free app offers over 150 icons, each one unique and simple. General icons include the logo for UNHCR (United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees), a passport and a house. More specific ones, for example a figure holding out his wrists to another indicates arrest and a figure carrying a bindle to represents homelessness, can help refugees get their stories across precisely.

Users can also use the pen tool to draw on the icons themselves, their screen essentially becoming a canvas for them to illustrate what they would otherwise have a hard time trying to get across. Illustrations can be saved as images to be used in future.

Refugeye is indeed a simple and creative solution for refugees; with the app, they can focus on getting the help they need so they can settle down in their host country as quickly as possible instead of worrying about being misunderstood.

Scrooge the Ticket: Residents in Ontario town to donate instead of paying parking fines

Traffic police in the Ontario town of Innisfil are inviting drivers to “scrooge the ticket” this holiday season by donating to a local food bank instead of paying off their parking tickets.

Last year, the first “Scrooge the Ticket” initiative was a huge success, collecting over USD 1,200 worth of toys, food and gift cards. This year, Innisfil is running it again: up till December 9, those who have been slapped with a parking ticket can opt to bring items of an equal or greater value than their fine to the town hall. Donations go to the Innisfil Community Church’s Christmas Outreach Program.

Innisfil isn’t the first to implement such an initiative. In America, cities in Colorado, Virginia and Kentucky have allowed parking violators to pay their fines with a donation to the food pantry.

The inventive idea makes a not-so-fun activity – paying a parking ticket fine – a gentle reminder that we can all do our part to contribute to the lives of those who are less fortunate. Residents who haven’t received a parking ticket are welcome to donate as well.

“No one likes to get a parking ticket, but this is a thoughtful way to have our residents give generously to a great cause leading into the holiday season,” Mayor Gord Wauchope said.

Skateboarding: Learning through Play

“Skateboarding is very special to me. I love it because I feel like flying, like a bird,” says 12-year- old Freshta, who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan. “It gives me the feeling of freedom!”

Skateistan is an NGO that works with low-income youth like Freshta in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa, providing them education and leadership training alongside skateboarding instruction. More than 1,500 youth aged 5-17 benefit from Skateistan’s programs weekly.

Freshta was enrolled in Skateistan’s “skate school” as part of the NGO’s “Back to School” program. The program takes in children who do not have access to school, guides them through an accelerated learning program and then helps them register into the public schooling system.

Skateistan’s unique approach to youth empowerment has seen great success in inspiring children to learn through play. In many developing countries, safe spaces for children are few and far between. Children – especially girls like Freshta – are rarely given the chance to engage in sports, so Skateistan’s work is significant in empowering them and encouraging them to be active.

Now, Freshta is successfully enrolled as a grade seven student at public school and aspires to be a doctor when she grows up. She continues to engage in Skateistan’s other programs, “Skate and Crate”, which combines art lessons with skateboarding sessions, and “Youth Leadership”, where students are taught how to be forward-thinking global citizens.

Penny & Roo: a story of an unlikely friendship between a rescued Chihuahua and Chicken

Who can resist these two cute balls of fur? Meet Penny, the chicken and Roo the Chihuahua  - defying any animal kingdom preconceptions us humans might have.

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Abandoned in a ditch and previously rescued from a testing facility respectively, (flashbacks from Legally Blond 2 anyone?) these two have since become the best of friends. Not only do they enjoy each other’s company but a happy mother and new home.

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This story was first highlighted by @DodoImpact, a place in their words, that exists "For animal people who want to make a difference.” For more incredible content on the beautiful animals we share this world with, check out @DodoImpact. Share their stories, enjoy their videos, and next time you see a dog and a chicken - have a second thought before separating them, they might be friends.

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Any readers out there thinking of getting a pet, maybe consider adopting -you could be rewriting the stories of precious animals like Penny and Roo here. Any adopters out there who have stories to share - we’d love to hear them! Tag @givoglobal, PM us, or contact us at our website www.givo.global and we might just feature you.

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Photo credits to @rooandpennychicken

Video credits to @DodoImpact 

Modest Needs [Charity Shout-out!]

Having to deal with unemployment, pay off medical bills from an injured back and take care of her sick mother all seemed to come at once for Sherry, who was fighting hard to stay on her feet as it was.


 

Little payments here and there only made things worse, but the help she got from Modest Needs, an organization that offers small grants to those who are struggling financially, made a world of difference.

“It took a load off me,” said Sherry.


 

Founded in 2002, organization encourages those who are having trouble with a specific payment – whether it’s this month’s rent or a sudden medical bill – to apply for short-term financial assistance. These individuals live just above the poverty line and are therefore ineligible for conventional social assistance, so launching an application to Modest Needs is one way for them to get the help they need.


 

Modest Needs understands that crises can happen to anyone at anytime. The idea is that this type of financial assistance, though small, can prevent at-risk individuals from falling into poverty. Those who are helped and who are able to financially secure themselves sometime down the road are encouraged to donate, funding a cycle of giving.

More on Sherry's Story here.

Turkeys not Tickets

Officers in Fort Worth, Texas, hand out turkeys instead of tickets in time for the holiday season!

Traffic officers in the town of Fort Worth, Texas, are changing things up a little: they’re handing out turkeys instead of tickets just in time for the holiday season. “Even though we do enforce traffic law and we do have some unpleasant decisions to make, we still are about the people,” said Officer Anthony Colter. Colter made five traffic stops on Wednesday, each time giving the driver a turkey to take home. 

Five teams of officers have been handing out Thanksgiving turkeys across the city to drivers, a welcome surprise for drivers who thought they were going to be pulled over and slapped with a hefty fine. The Thanksgiving turkeys were left over from a community project in which officers were bringing food to local residents.

 The act of kindness is spreading some much needed holiday cheer during the post-election season in America, where tensions are running high and citizens are feeling unheard.

“I’m pleased to see it, because there’s so much hate in this country right now,” one motorist said. “To see brotherly love, it’s very, very inspiring.”

Photo (and turkey) credits to Fort Worth Police Department