He had been living in the U.S. for 9 years. Then he started thinking: Why not move back home?

Uvaldo Ramirez had been living in New Jersey for nine years when he started to think about it: Why not move back to Guatemala?

All photos by Anna-Cat Brigida.


He crossed the border into the United States at age 13, moving in with relatives and taking a job as a dishwasher in New Jersey to earn money for his family back home.

But life in the States wasn't easy. Not only did he have to learn English, he also had to learn Spanish. He grew up in Cajolá, an indigenous community in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where residents speak Mam, a Mayan language.

Communication was only one obstacle. The bigger issue was that he never had legal immigration status, which meant he could be deported if anyone ever found out. Eventually, life in the U.S. just seemed too hard.

“I got tired of it and I felt lonely, so I returned to Guatemala," he said.

The return home wasn't without its challenges, though. He needed a job.

Luckily, he got a call from Willy Barreno, a friend and fellow Guatemalan who had been living in New York until 2007 but had also returned home. Willy offered him a position at Cafe RED, a cute little restaurant that was also an offshoot of his nonprofit organization, Sustainable Development for Guatemala (DesGua in Spanish). The cafe was in Quetzaltenango, the country's second-largest city and not far from Uvaldo's hometown.

A relaxed vibe on a Friday afternoon.

The position was on a volunteer basis, but it came with other benefits. Uvaldo could get business and management experience, a support system of other returning migrants, and a smooth reintegration into Guatemalan society. His wife's salary as a teacher was able to support them both for the time being, which made the arrangement possible.

Now working at the cafe, Uvaldo extols what he calls “the Guatemalan dream."

What is the Guatemalan dream? According to Uvaldo, it's the right to find a decent job and live a quality life without migrating to the U.S.

In the 2015 fiscal year, more than 13,500 Guatemalan minors — like Uvaldo was when he came to the U.S. — were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol while trying to cross the border. Another 15,000 were caught coming from El Salvador and Honduras. Many of those people are looking for jobs, hoping to escape violence, or trying to reconnect with relatives.

A person's new life in America can be rewarding — a chance to earn more, live in a safe place, or be with family — but it also means sacrifices.

Uvaldo at Cafe RED, also called La Red KAT (Cafe, Academics, and Store Network).

Cafe RED aims to help more Guatemalans succeed without having to start their life over somewhere else.

Willy Barreno had lived in the U.S. working at restaurants for 14 years, but he always felt his roots were in Guatemala.

Barreno on the job.

He decided to return in 2007 and use his knowledge of migration and restaurant work to launch Cafe RED. The mission: provide job opportunities and training to returning and potential migrants so they have the chance to stay in Guatemala.

In Spanish, “red" means network — and the name doesn't just signify that the place has Wi-Fi (although they have that, too). The cafe is a support system, a network of returning migrants and youth considering the journey north.

For six years, Uvaldo has been an administrator at the nonprofit, which really means he does a little bit of everything.

Since returning home, Uvaldo has not considered migrating again.

Hands-on experience.

He is closer to his family and culture, and he believes his work has a positive impact in Guatemala.

Willy has big hopes for Cafe RED. He started one cafe, but why can't it become a movement?

He has limited funding to open more cafes, but he hopes other Guatemalan business owners will follow his example and provide jobs to youth — giving them the option to stay.

So much of the immigration debate focuses on the impact of newcomers in the U.S.

But if we can understand what drives people to leave their home countries — and what they might need in order to stay — we might come up with ways to offer people more choices.

Some people, according to Barreno, would definitely prefer that. In his words:

“When we know our roots, we can be happy with ourselves."

A message in the cafe reads, "More love, please." Let's add jobs to that, too.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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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.