5 moments that gave us hope in 2020
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When we look back on the year 2020, most of us will recall a time of devastating loss and uncertainty. But amidst the pain and suffering of a global pandemic, there were still many impactful moments over the past 12 months that brought us joy and gave us hope for the future. Here are five of our favorites.

Real Life Hero

World Vision

Akhi, 17, was working as a child laborer in dangerous conditions in Bangladesh. After being removed from the situation with help from World Vision, she enrolled in one of their training programs that provided her with a sewing machine and taught her sewing skills. Wanting to find a way to give back during the COVID-19 outbreak, Akhi began sewing beautiful, colorful masks and selling them at affordable prices to poorer households in her community. Her work was even recognized by the U.N., who gave her a Real Life Hero award.

The Greatest Gift

World Vision

When the pandemic hit, schools were forced to close and students transitioned into remote learning. But for many without access to the right technology, the closure meant an interruption to their education. This was the case for Simon, a refugee from South Sudan who lives in the BidiBidi Refugee Camp in Uganda. To prevent his son from missing out, Simon's dad used what little money he had to buy a radio so Simon could tune into his lessons which had been transferred to the airwaves. "My Dad is my hero because he bought for me a radio in which I can study," Simon said.

Solidarity

World Vision

COVID-19 led to a desperate need for healthcare workers and medical equipment. In July, the Solidarity, World Vision's floating hospital, set sail for the Amazon. The team of doctors, nurses, and dentists on board were able to provide the remote communities in this region with necessary medical care, food packages, and information to help prevent the spread of the virus.

A Place to Call Home

Peter Mutabazi

Peter Mutabazi, 37, grew up in poverty in a village near the border of Uganda and Rwanda. He eventually migrated to America and got a job at World Vision, but decided he wanted to do more to help those in need, so he signed up to be a foster dad. Over the past three years, he's cared for 12 children, but one child in particular made an impact on his life. Anthony, 13, had been abandoned by his family at the age of two then again by a family who had taken him in. Peter and Anthony really hit it off when the two met and Peter decided to adopt the boy, which finally went through in March after two years. "Anthony is an amazing kid," Peter told Metro News.

Girl Power

World Vision

During lockdown, many people faced unprecedented financial pressure. For some parents, forcing their children into child marriages seemed like the only way to keep them fed and sheltered, according to World Vision India's Sandip Bhowmick.

World Vision's Girl Power groups in India aim to equip girls with necessary life skills, including personal safety, self-defense training, education, and legal awareness to avoid the threat of gender-based violence, trafficking, and child marriage. The girls then use what they learn to raise awareness and equip others with the same crucial knowledge. These skills were especially useful to help end the flux of child marriages happening at the height of the pandemic.

"In just one apartment block, our Girl Power group alerted us to nine imminent child marriages. The youngest case of child marriage was that of a fourteen-year-old girl. However, thanks to Girl Power, we were able to stop these marriages and work with the families to find a better solution to their difficulties," Bhowmick said.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."