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Atallah hadn't been able to talk to his daughter for 2 years. Then NetHope came along.

For Syrian refugees in Greece, the internet isn't a pastime. It's a lifeline.

Atallah hadn't been able to talk to his daughter for 2 years. Then NetHope came along.
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For Atallah Taba, it all happened in an instant. One moment he had a wife and a home in Jobar, Syria. The next, an air strike took both of those away.

Like millions of other Syrians in the war-ravaged country, Atallah fled. He headed north toward Turkey and eventually reached Greece, settling in a refugee camp in Cherso, Thessaloniki. His journey had taken two years. During that time, he told NetHope, he hadn't been able to talk to his six children, all living abroad in Lebanon and Germany.


Atallah Taba in his temporary home at a refugee camp in Cherso, Greece. Image by Madeline Kane, used with permission.

Like 70% of all Syrian refugees, Atallah didn't have a mobile phone or a way to get online.

It's impossible to overstate how important it is for refugees to have safe, reliable ways to access the web. The internet helps them connect with loved ones, get important news updates, and find aid agencies.

For refugees living in Greece, internet access is even more important: The only way they can start the process of applying for asylum is to make an appointment on Skype — and the office is only available to make appointments for brief windows of time on certain days. Without a secure internet connection, refugees can't even begin to plan for a future beyond a refugee camp.

That's where organizations like NetHope come in.

Engineers with NetHope at a refugee camp in Greece. Image by Madeline Kane, used with permission.

NetHope is an organization full of broad thinkers with big hearts, trying to change the world through the power of technology. It works with humanitarian agencies and tech companies to help get people online when they need it most.

NetHope's first big project to bring refugees online was in 2012 at Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp. Together with tech companies and aid agencies, it launched DadaabNet, a large-scale high-speed broadband network connecting the thousands of people living and working in the country's largest refugee camp with the rest of the world.

The tent city of Dadaab, Kenya. Image by Oxfam East Africa, used with permission.

For the past several months, NetHope and its partners have worked at refugee camps across Greece, helping build wireless networks.

The project is far from complete, but it's already helping hundreds of thousands of people in need.

According to Frank Schott, NetHope's Managing Director of Programs, "over 90,000 devices log on to one of the sites. With one device per 3-4 refugees we estimate that the reach is close to 300,000 refugees that have benefitted in Greece."

NetHope workers troubleshoot their network. Image by Madeline Kane, used with permission.

When NetHope set up the connection in his camp, Atallah was the first person to thank them. After two years of silence, he has a phone with internet and can finally call his children and tell them he's safe. Which he does. Every day.

Life in a refugee camp is never meant to be permanent. For Atallah and others in Cherso, stable internet access allows them to feel a little more connected to home while they wait for what happens next.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.