This 76-year-old Greek baker has a new routine.

Every morning, Dionysis Arvanitakis asks his workers to make an extra 200 pounds of bread and pastries.


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

He then heads down to the port in his home of Kos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea where an estimated 200,000 refugees have landed this year after fleeing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, among other places. He passes out the loaves of bread to hungry migrants — a warm welcome for the often-weary travelers.

This is one of roughly a dozen stories captured by Humans of New York, a photo project that offers a glimpse into a person's life.

The photographer behind the effort, Brandon Stanton, was on the road in Europe, listening to the experiences of refugees and the people who have greeted them.

Here are some of the stories he's heard since launching the 10-day project on Sept. 25:

1. A baker who knows what it's like to be a migrant

So what motivates a person to devote their time, energy, and money to helping newcomers? For Arvanitakis, it's because he knows what it's like to be one.

He moved from Greece to Australia as a teenager and ended up sleeping on the street. His thoughts on the crisis, via Humans of New York:

"My father was a farmer and we had eight siblings. I went to Australia when I was fifteen because my family didn't have enough to eat. I was on a boat for forty days. When I got there, I couldn't find a job, I couldn't speak English, and I had to sleep on the street. I know what it's like. So everyday I drive the van to the port and hand out bread to the refugees. My son is my business partner. He says, 'Baba, please. It's fine to help. But not every day.' But I still go every day because I know what it feels like to have nothing."

2. Feeling grateful for a small gift

This group photographed in Lesbos, another Greek island in the Aegean (also written as Lesvos), appeared to have little to ease their journey to Europe but took comfort in a gift from a priest.

"Everyone here has been very nice to us. When we got to the beach, there were people there who gave us food and a hug. A priest even gave us this carpet to pray on. He told us: 'We have the same God.'"


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

3. A grief-stricken woman who lost her husband

She and her husband boarded a boat jam-packed with people — so overloaded that the luggage had to be thrown overboard. When it began to sink, her husband gave his life jacket to a woman, she said. She was later rescued; he wasn't found.

“My husband and I sold everything we had to afford the journey. We worked 15 hours a day in Turkey until we had enough money to leave. The smuggler put 152 of us on a boat. Once we saw the boat, many of us wanted to go back, but he told us that anyone who turned back would not get a refund. We had no choice. Both the lower compartment and the deck were filled with people. Waves began to come into the boat so the captain told everyone to throw their baggage into the sea. In the ocean we hit a rock, but the captain told us not to worry. Water began to come into the boat, but again he told us not to worry. We were in the lower compartment and it began to fill with water. It was too tight to move. Everyone began to scream. We were the last ones to get out alive. My husband pulled me out of the window. In the ocean, he took off his life jacket and gave it to a woman. We swam for as long as possible. After several hours he told me he that he was too tired to swim and that he was going to float on his back and rest. It was so dark we could not see. The waves were high. I could hear him calling me but he got further and further away. Eventually a boat found me. They never found my husband."


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

4. Families seeking refuge

Before they left home, this mother told her son that nearby explosions were far away. Then tragedy struck.

"They fired rockets from a mountain near our house. They were very loud, and every time he heard them, he'd run into his room and close the door. We'd tell him fake stories. We'd tell him that there was nothing to worry about, and that the rockets were far away and they would never reach us. Then one day after school he was waiting in a line of school buses. And a rocket hit the bus in front of him. Four of his friends were killed."


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

5. A vital effort from volunteers

This family has aided thousands of migrants as they've arrived in Greece, handing out sandwiches, juice, and water. Even their son has noticed how serious the crisis has become.

“In the past four months alone, we've had twelve thousand refugees stop here. We know because we've counted the sandwiches that we've handed out. They show up battered and beaten. We set up this rest area along the road to hand out sandwiches, juice, and water. One night we had one thousand people here. You could see nothing but heads. We're not professionals, just volunteers. The families break our heart the most. They show up with no money, no papers, and no hotels. Sometimes it's raining and they have nothing but cardboard over their heads. They have nothing for their children, and we know how hard it is to raise kids even in standard conditions. Our son hasn't seen very much of us recently. Even when we are together, the phone is always ringing and we are absent in mind. Recently he asked if we could build a big boat and send the refugees somewhere that there is no war."


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

6. A father desperate to provide a better future for his daughter

"She hasn't known many happy moments," he told Stanton. The man recalled a powerful scene as the family boarded a small boat to Greece.

"I wish I could have done more for her. Her life has been nothing but struggle. She hasn't known many happy moments. She never had a chance to taste childhood. When we were getting on the plastic boat, I heard her say something that broke my heart. She saw her mother being crushed by the crowd, and she screamed: 'Please don't kill my mother! Kill me instead!'"


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

7. A traumatized young girl

Stanton approached a young girl and asked to speak to her mother. The request seemed simple enough, but it triggered a look he described as "uncontrollable fear." A life on the run had conditioned her to expect the worst.

"The extent to which refugee children have been conditioned by their environment is heartbreaking. We wanted permission to take this young girl's photograph, so we asked if her mother was nearby. Her eyes filled with the most uncontrollable fear that I've ever seen in a child. 'Why do you want my mother?' she asked. Later, her parents told us how the family had crouched in the woods while soldiers ransacked their house in Syria. More recently they'd been chased through the woods by Turkish police. After we'd spent a few minutes talking with her parents, she returned to being a child and could not stop hugging us, and laughing, and saying 'I love you so much.' But I went to sleep that night remembering the terror on her face when we first asked to speak to her mother."


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

8. A man who wants to see his brother healthy again

After a sniper shot his brother, he thought the injuries would be fatal, the man told Stanton. His brother survived but needs medical attention, something he's hoping to find in Germany.

"A friend called me at work and told me that a sniper had shot my youngest brother. I rushed to the clinic and he was lying there with a bandage on his head. I unwrapped the bandage to help treat the wound with alcohol, and small pieces of brain were stuck to it. The doctor told me: 'Unless you get him to Damascus, he will die.' I panicked. The road to Damascus went straight through Raqqa and was very dangerous. It took ten hours, because we could only take back roads and we had to drive very far out of the way. My brother was in the back seat, and after a very short time he started to vomit bile. Water was pouring from his eyes. I didn't know what to do. I was so scared. I thought for sure he was dying. But somehow I got him to the hospital. He's paralyzed now and his speech is slow. His memory is OK. He can remember old things. He needs an operation in his eye. We used to do everything together, and now he can't do anything. He can only move his hand. I'm trying to get him to Germany because I hear that maybe the doctors there can help him."

Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

9. Finding a friend when you need one most

This young man was taken under the wing of a baker in Austria (these bakers have big hearts!) who helped him settle there. He studied German intensely to help obtain legal immigration status in the country.

"After one month, I arrived in Austria. The first day I was there, I walked into a bakery and met a man named Fritz Hummel. He told me that forty years ago he had visited Syria and he'd been treated well. So he gave me clothes, food, everything. He became like a father to me. He took me to the Rotary Club and introduced me to the entire group. He told them my story and asked: 'How can we help him?' I found a church, and they gave me a place to live. Right away I committed myself to learning the language. I practiced German for 17 hours a day. I read children's stories all day long. I watched television. I tried to meet as many Austrians as possible. After seven months, it was time to meet with a judge to determine my status. I could speak so well at this point, that I asked the judge if we could conduct the interview in German. He couldn't believe it. He was so impressed that I'd already learned German, that he interviewed me for only ten minutes. Then he pointed at my Syrian ID card and said: 'Muhammad, you will never need this again. You are now an Austrian!'"


Photo by Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York, used with permission.

Sometimes the political debate over immigration can muffle the human stories.

The scale of the refugee crisis can seem overwhelming. According to The New York Times, six countries — Germany, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland — expect 1.3 million asylum applications by the end of the year.

But these stories help us remember that behind each of these numbers is a person, someone willing to risk their life for a better future.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

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.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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