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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

We live in a world where more and more women are being encouraged to embrace their strengths every day — but it's an uphill battle.

While the upcoming generation is already being touted as the generation that will "save the world," the young women in that group are still fighting to have their voices heard.

That said, all this social activism is empowering women in new and exciting ways. By standing on platforms for change that inspire them, whatever that may be, women's voices are being raised to new heights, and, as a result, they're reaching many more girls and women eager to pick up the torch.


L’Oréal Paris is amplifying these inspiring voices through their Women of Worth program.

Since 2005, L'Oreal Paris has been honoring women making a significant impact in their communities through their passion for volunteerism and giving back to others.

[rebelmouse-image 19346731 dam="1" original_size="700x447" caption="Shandra Woworuntu. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth." expand=1]Shandra Woworuntu. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth.

Each year, L’Oréal Paris selects 10 Women of Worth Honorees to receive a $10,000 grant in support of their charitable cause. Following a nationwide vote, Honoree Shandra Woworuntu was chosen as the 2017 National Honoree, and received an additional $25,000 grant in support of her organization, Mentari. A survivor of human trafficking and domestic violence, Shandra founded Mentari, which is a nonprofit organization that assists victims of human trafficking free of charge. Even though she's just one woman, her efforts are making a monumental difference.

Here's a look at three other women whose strengths made a huge impact in their own communities.

The 2017 Women of Worth. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

1. 19-year-old Cassandra Lin started Project Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), which strives to get leftover grease converted into fuel for underserved families to heat their homes.

Growing up in Westerly, Rhode Island, during the 2008 recession, Cassandra learned many families couldn't afford to heat their homes in the winter.

"I think the fact that some people have to make the decision of whether to put food on the table, or to heat their homes, is a really difficult decision that no family should really have to make," says Cassandra.

Cassandra at 10. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

At just 10 years old, she was determined to come up with a solution.

While visiting a green energy expo at the University of Long Island, Cassandra learned that you could turn used cooking oil into Biodiesel fuel. So she started going around her neighborhood to local restaurants to see if they'd be willing to donate theirs.

Several got on board, and soon enough, TGIF was helping local families and shelters stay warm in the winter.

A restauranteur donating cooking oil to TGIF. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

And it's not just about philanthropy — using biodiesel fuel is also much better for the environment. In fact, to date, TGIF's efforts have offset almost 3 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

2. Meanwhile Valerie Weisler is giving strength and confidence back to teens all over the world who've been bullied.

When Valerie was 14, her parents told her they were getting a divorce, and just like that, she shut down. Suddenly she became this person who didn't talk or make eye contact, which unfortunately made her a target for bullies.

Kids started leaving cruel notes attacking her behavior in her locker. It didn't take long for those words to sink in.

"I just branded myself with all those words and told myself that they were right," says Valerie.

Then, one day she saw another kid getting bullied by his locker, and her perspective changed. She told him he wasn't alone in what he was going through — he told her that validation meant more to him than she could possibly know.

That night, she went home and started her nonprofit — The Validation Project.

[rebelmouse-image 19346737 dam="1" original_size="700x356" caption="Photo via The Validation Project." expand=1]Photo via The Validation Project.

The organization not only provides support for teens who feel like outsiders, it connects them with a project they're passionate about that also happens to generate social good. It's all about reminding them they're capable of anything.

"Sometimes you just really need somebody else to tell you that you have that worth inside of you and show you how you can use it," says Valerie.

Today, the Project works with approximately 6,000 teens in 105 countries around the world.

3. And Deborah Jiang-Stein helps incarcerated women move on with their lives, and not be defined by their past.

Deborah was actually born and spent the first year of her life in prison because her mother was incarcerated. She then spent the majority of her childhood in foster homes, and almost wound up back in prison on a number of occasions.

Eventually, however, she was able to pull herself off her destructive path, and founded UnPrison Project — a nonprofit dedicated to helping incarcerated women lead a successful life after their release.

"The theory is that if there're self-development programs, self-esteem education, literacy improvement inside, that they'll have the skills on the outside to do something differently and be a resource," says Deborah.

[rebelmouse-image 19346738 dam="1" original_size="700x448" caption="Deborah Jiang-Stein. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth." expand=1]Deborah Jiang-Stein. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth.

But it's not just about developing life skills. A large part of Deborah's job is sharing her own story with incarcerated women so they can see that it's possible to take a different path after prison.

Deborah says it's about taking away the label of "prisoner," and showing these women who they truly are.

"When I'm at a prison, what I see before me isn't prisoners," says Deborah. "I see people's mothers, and aunts, and grandmothers, and daughters, and sisters, and we relate to each other like that."

Thanks to bold activists like this, more and more women will know they can do anything through both strength and conviction.

"We see them all as agents of change and we want them to be able to identify problems in their own communities, and eventually be able to rally people around that issue to create systems change," says Rana.

Inspiring agency within others is what every Woman of Worth Honoree strives to achieve. And, thankfully, the next generation seems more than ready to be that change, and take on whatever challenges come their way.

For more on the Women of Worth campaign, check out the video below:

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Family

2 photos of a woman's bedroom reveal just how powerful depression can be.

"We need to be able to talk to each other about our feelings, even the bad ones."

This article originally appeared on September 7, 2016

Jonna Roslund is a 26-year-old from Sweden who lives with depression.

Photo via Jonna Roslund, used with permission.

Living with a mental illness affects many areas of a person's life, including one annoyance most of us can relate to: the dread of household chores.

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Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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