A man served time in prison for growing weed. But what he learned there helped to make history.
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Juan Vaz and his wife were watching a movie with their kids one evening when an eight-man SWAT team kicked in their door and raided their home.

Uruguayan authorities found out Vaz was growing cannabis in his home. According to Vaz, the judge hearing his case said he was "worse than a drug dealer" and sentenced him to two years and four months in prison.


Juan Vaz stands before the prison near Montevideo where he spent the first six months of his prison term.

Vaz was only growing cannabis for personal use, but it was still against the law, so he had no choice but to do the time.

In prison, he had time to reflect on what was important to him and what he would do when he was released. Giving up was not an option.

"I'm 40 years old and can deal with this. But if I were 20 years old, what would have happened to me? The next convicted grower could be in his twenties, and his life will get shattered. I believe that's what motivated me to get out of jail with strength, eager to make things better." — Juan Vaz

While he was in prison, Vaz began his plot to change the rule that landed him there.

He studied a combination of botany and law so he could "unravel all that legal slang" that kept a lot of people from grasping what was at stake.

And when he was released, IT WAS TOTALLY ON.

According to Time magazine's Uki Goni, "Vaz emerged determined to see the law changed in Uruguay, and went from being a computer programmer to a near full-time marijuana activist."

The problem with the law, said Vaz, isn't just that it didn't make sense — it's that it made their country even more dangerous:

"In Uruguay, smoking and having a small amount of weed was allowed, but there was no legal way to purchase that amount. Even if buying from a drug dealer wasn't punished, self-growing it had taken me to jail. This was illogical. Because with the amount you were allowed to carry with you, the law itself forced you to buy it from a drug dealer. Then, the law seemed to support drug trafficking."

Vaz and his allies pounded the pavement until change was in sight.

After years of organizing, marching, and educating, they found support in the supreme court, and the legislature finally decided to reconsider the law.

In 2013, the Uruguayan senate met cheers as it passed a bill to legalize and regulate the production, sale, and use of cannabis.

And since then, guess who built the largest cannabis production business in Uruguay — none other than Juan Vaz!

But the story's conclusion doesn't have quite the finality Vaz was expecting from the outset.

"When we started working on legalization, it was like a mountain that we had to climb. And when we finally got to the top, we would hug each other. We would plant the flag and smoke a joint. ...

When we finally got to the top of the mountain with our idea on our backs, we looked down and saw a valley and another mountain, another valley and another mountain, and another valley with another mountain.

And we realized that we need to keep going." — Juan Vaz



The war on drugs has been a violent failure. Maybe it's time we chalk it up to a bad idea and take a step into the future with Uruguay?

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.

Woman screams at a TikTokker she accused of stealing a car.

Guilherme Peruca turned on his camera's phone and started recording after an elderly woman began screaming at him through his passenger side window in a Lowe's parking lot. The woman was accusing him of stealing her friend's car, but she was mistaken.

"I need help!" the woman yells outside of his passenger side window. "Someone's trying to steal my best friend's car."

When Peruca told the woman the car was his she yelled back, "Get outta here" as she tried to pry open the door.

"He's stealing this car, it's not his!" the woman continued. "I don't care what he says!"

Eventually, a Lowe's employee intervened to sort out the situation. Peruca showed her his driver's license and car registration to prove the vehicle was his and then the employee calmly guided the woman away.

Peruca didn't need to show her his paperwork but he did so anyway just to deescalate the situation.

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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."