Heroes

How a year of storms and drought has changed one child's education.

Many kids in Pacific countries lack access to one of our most basic necessities: clean water.

How a year of storms and drought has changed one child's education.
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Gates Foundation

When I think of the third grade, I think of a classroom. Chairs, desks ... a blackboard, of course. A backpack, pencils, paper.

John's in the third grade too, and he's got all that — plus a bunch of classmates, what seems to be a pretty nice teacher, and access to his natural world.



All GIFs from UNICEF/YouTube.


But there's one school supply that's missing: water.

"We can't get enough water at school," John says in a new video from UNICEF. "I feel like I have more energy when there is water."

Why does John lack access to the most basic of human needs?

His country, Vanuatu, is facing a bad water shortage. Vanuatu normally gets plenty of water from rainfall, but this year a big El Niño — warm ocean waters than can affect global weather — meant that July, August, and September were much drier than usual.

That big spike of warm water off South America means less rain for Vanuatu. Image from Maulucioni/Wikimedia Commons.

The island depends on that rain to recharge its water supply. Now there isn't enough drinking water to go around.

This has caused a lot of kids to become malnourished or sick. Many can't go to school. There have even been cases of children fainting during lessons.

But it's a hard problem to fix when you're still rebuilding after a cyclone.

In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, killing about a dozen people and devastating local infrastructure. Two-thirds of the country's rainwater harvesters were destroyed.

The aftermath of Cyclone Pam. Image from Julie Lyn/Flickr.

"Many community members are now being forced to walk long distances to reach dwindling alternative water supplies," said Sune Gudnitz, who coordinates humanitarian affairs for the UN in the Pacific.

Children like John are the ones who suffer most during crises.

"I am very afraid," he says, "that food and water will not be enough for me and my family." John has to use a cup whenever he wants a drink — he can't afford to spill any.

Malnutrition hits kids especially hard, compared to adults. Disease and overheating too. They need food and clean drinking water in order to stay healthy and grow.

Kids across the Pacific are in similar situations.

Many other island nations, such as Kiribati, are also facing water crises. Climate change is predicted to increase sea levels and cause more severe storms, which can damage fragile infrastructure and pollute limited freshwater supplies.

Though the link is still being studied, there is evidence that climate change can also cause more intense episodes of El Niño, which could starve more Pacific nations like Vanuatu of rainfall.

This all spells danger for kids in the future.

"We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world's children are threatened and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised ... despite being the least responsible for the causes," said David Bull, UNICEF's U.K. executive director. "We need to listen to them."

We get to decide the future for John and kids like him.

How will the kids living there now see the world that we're leaving them? John's picture of the future is a lot different than mine was at his age.


"When I grow up, I want to be rich," John says. "I want to be rich so that I can buy food and I will still have some money left."

We can still help. Disaster aid and planning can help head off the worst of climate change's effects, and we can reduce climate change itself through smarter, dedicated action.

Watch John's full video from UNICEF below.

If you want to help change the future but aren't sure how to start, you can help spread the word about health and poverty issues affecting children worldwide by checking out UNICEF's #FightUnfair campaign.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

There's a weird thing that happens when we talk about people dying, no matter what the cause. The 2,977 souls who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack felt overwhelming. The dozens of children who are killed in school shootings are mourned across the country each time one happens. The four Americans who perished in Benghazi prompted months of investigations and emotional video montages at national political conventions.

But as the numbers of deaths we talk about get bigger, our sensitivity to them grows smaller. A singular story of loss often evokes more emotion than hearing that 10,000 or 100,000 people have died. Hearing a story of one individual feels personal and intimate, but if you try to listen to a thousand stories at once, it all blends together into white noise. It's just how our minds work. We simply can't hold that many individual stories—and the emotion that goes along with them—all at once.

But there are some ways we can help our brains out. An anonymous visual effects artist has created a visualization that can better help us see the massive number of Americans who have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic. The number alone is staggering, and seeing all of the individual lives at once is overwhelming.

In this video, each marble represents one American who has died of COVID-19, and each second represents six days. At the top, you can see the calendar fill in as time goes by. Unlike just seeing a grid of dots representing the visual, there's something about the movement and accumulation of the marbles that makes it easier to see the scope of the lives impacted.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

"We couldn't decide on who would be the biological father," Simon told The Daily Mail. "Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did."

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Usually when we share a story of a couple having been married for nearly five decades, it's a sweet story of lasting love. Usually when we share a story of a long-time married couple dying within minutes of each other, it's a touching story of not wanting to part from one another at the end of their lives.

The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

Patricia, who was 78 at her passing, had made her career as a nurse. LD, who would have turned 76 next month, had been a truck driver. Patricia was "no nonsense" while LD was "fun-loving," and the couple did almost everything together, according to their joint obituary.

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