A girl's love of painting fingernails sparked a global movement against child abuse.

Elliot Costello met Thea in 2013 after she'd been rescued from two years of physical and sexual abuse in a Cambodian orphanage.

Thea ended up there after her father, the family's sole breadwinner, died. Losing her father wasn't just an emotional loss for the family — it was a financial one, too. His death meant that Thea's mother could no longer provide for Thea in the way she deserved.

When Elliot met Thea at Hagar International, a safe space for women and children who've survived abuse and exploitation, the language barrier meant they didn't say much to each other, but her story changed his life no less.


"What really should have been a safe passage was anything but,” Costello said of Thea's experiences in the orphanage. “It struck me."

Elliot Costello, CEO of YGAP. GIF via Polished Man project.

Unable to communicate with each other, the two ended up playing games instead.

At one point, Thea used a marker to color all over Costello's hands and fingernails. The lighthearted fun ended up sparking the idea for a global movement.

That's why actor Chris Hemsworth decided to paint one fingernail on Oct. 9, 2016 — to help give a voice to kids like Thea around the world.

Hemsworth is a proud supporter of the Polished Man project — an initiative launched by Costello, the CEO of YGAP, to end violence against children after the social entrepreneur's eye-opening experience with Thea in Cambodia.

"Being a [Polished Man] isn't just about remembering to buy flowers, how many rounds you shout, or how much you lift," Hemsworth wrote in the caption. "It's about saying no to violence against children."

Hemsworth, the most notable face to champion the cause, has elevated the campaign on a global scale.

The premise of Polished Man is pretty simple.

Guys are encouraged to sign up to get a profile on Polished Man's website, paint a fingernail that acts as a conversation starter, then direct supporters to their page to learn more and donate to the cause.

Funds raised for the campaign go toward programs run by various groups, like World Vision Australia and Hagar International, that help kids with trauma relief and prevent abuse for other young ones living at risk.

The campaign, which runs through October, is resonating with men everywhere: As of Oct. 10, the campaign had raised over $435,000.

According to the World Health Organization, an alarming 25% of all adults report being physically abused as a child. What's more, 1 in 13 men and 1 in 5 women say they were sexually abused as a kid. These are issues that silently affect far too many of us.

The campaign is targeting men because men are overwhelmingly responsible for sexual and physical violence against minors.

As the campaign notes, about 90% of all abusers of children around the world are men. So while women are certainly encouraged to speak up and donate to the Polished Man project, the initiative's pretty clear: Men, it's largely on us to prevent this atrocity from happening.

Hemsworth wants all of us — including some of his fellow A-listers — to step up to the plate for kids at home and around the globe.

In his Instagram post, Hemsworth asks his brother, actor Liam Hemsworth, along with Zac Efron, to join the campaign by also painting their fingernails. (The ball's in your court, guys).

But even if you don't have millions of Instagram followers, remember that your voice can make a difference ... one man-i-cure at a time.

Learn more about becoming a Polished Man and the realities of worldwide child abuse on the project's website.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Canva

Prior to European colonization of North America, millions of bison roamed the Great Plains. By the turn of the 20th century, those numbers had dropped to less than 1,000. The deliberate decimation of buffalo herds was a direct attack on the Native American people, who colonizers saw as an obstacle to their "Manifest Destiny," and who the U.S. government engaged in a systematic attempt to eliminate or force into docile submission.

For thousands of years, bison were a sacred, inseparable part of life for Indigenous tribes of the Great Plains, used for food, shelter, utensils, and clothing, in addition to spiritual and emotional well-being. Wiping out the bison population nearly wiped out the Native tribes they were connected to.

Though bison numbers have increased significantly thanks to conservation efforts, governments are still grappling with the ugly legacy, and some municipalities are taking steps to try to repair some of the damage done. As one example, the city of Denver, Colorado has taken the step of giving some of the city's bison population managed by Denver Parks and Recreation to Native American tribes engaged in bison conservation efforts.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less