More

She saw the dad who abandoned her living on the street. Then she fought to save his life.

The stunning before-and-afters of the homeless dad whose story went viral.

In April 2013, Diana Kim spotted her father for the first time in decades.

He was living on the street, disheveled and unkempt, and didn't have a clue who she was.


A photograph taken by Kim of her father while he was living on the streets. Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

As you can imagine, Kim — now 30 years old — didn't quite know what to think or how to feel. Her father had abandoned her when she was about 5, and she had no relationship with the seemingly homeless man before her.

"He hadn't been part of my life, he wasn't there," Kim explained. It was an emotional experience, "having to deal with my own personal feelings of being abandoned, and then at the same time recognizing that he's a person, just like [every other homeless person] I have reached out to."

"He wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't acknowledge me," she told Upworthy of that initial attempt to interact with him. "Then it started to really become clear to me that something is wrong with him mentally. He's mentally ill."

It was a unique situation for Kim, in particular, to find herself in.

Homelessness hit close to home for Kim long before she discovered her own father roaming the streets. She'd been an advocate for the homeless for years, and now her own father was among those she was fighting for.

Kim as a child, photographed with her father. Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

Kim grew up in Hawaii, which is trying to curb unrelenting increases in homelessness — including a 24% increase in chronic homelessness just last year. Kim's turbulent family life left her battling what she considers "transitional homelessness" as a teen. Kim, who chose not to talk about her relationship with her mother, had slept in parks, lived out of a car, and relied on the kindness of friends to put a roof over her head some nights.

In large part because of her personal experiences, Kim began using photography to bring more visibility to homelessness back in 2003. "When you grow up at an early age and you experience struggle, that shapes the way you see the world."

Little had she known how much her advocacy would come full circle.

Homelessness has become a dire issue in the Aloha State, where chronic homelessness increased by 24% last year.

Kim was an ally to those living on the streets but could also remember the pain left behind by an absent father. It was only because her grandma had called, distraught and asking for help, that Kim agreed to find her father in the first place.

"He hadn't been part of my life, he wasn't there," she explained. It was an emotional experience "having to deal with my own personal feelings of being abandoned, and then at the same time recognizing that he's a person, just like [every other homeless person] I have reached out to."

As Kim later learned, her father was schizophrenic, and he'd stopped taking his medication.

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

Kim decided to fight for the dad who wouldn't even make eye contact with her — the dad she didn't know.

When she initially spotted him on the street, Kim's father did have a studio apartment he could go home to. But he lost it shortly thereafter — he'd been "scaring" his neighbors and wasn't able to take care of his personal hygiene.

"No one could get through to him," Kim explained. "He was evicted, and he had no place to go."

For the next several months, Kim routinely visited him on the street, trying to reconnect and persuade him to seek help. It was exhausting, and she didn't know if he'd survive.

But she did everything she could to help.

"At some point, you have to face your own fears and your own insecurities and your own pain," she told Upworthy. "And [for me] it was looking at my father and saying, 'That's my dad, and I'm going to help him, and I don't know what I have to do — I don't know what I'm supposed to do — to get through to him. But I'm going to stay with him and figure it out."

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

Years ago, Kim started a photo blog, " The Homeless Paradise," that documents her interactions with Hawaiians living without stable shelter. After discovering her father, she began telling his story through the blog as well. Its pages are filled with tragedy, hope, and Kim's determination to help the world see Hawaii's homeless as people, not problems.

"I can't even count the number of times I have tried to get [my father] to accept clothing, and consider going to a shelter," she wrote in August 2014 about a particularly trying day with her dad. "Sometimes I walk away with a sense of defeat, other times I find myself feeling completely disconnected, and in this most recent encounter, I walked away feeling a mix of both."

In late summer 2014, Kim's father's health took a turn for the worse.

Someone called the police after finding him face-down on the sidewalk. Her father had suffered a heart attack. And because he had no ID or medical records, it took weeks for word to make it to Kim.

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

Although her immediate reaction was overwhelming uncertainty — "I wasn't sure if he was going to make it" — medical attention ended up being the best thing for him.

In a way, his hospitalization was a blessing in disguise.

Her father's time in the hospital helped give him a new starting point.

Since his hospitalization about a year ago, Kim's dad has taken substantial steps forward in bettering his life. Now he's living in an assisted living residence and taking his medication, and Kim's relationship with him has evolved "day by day."

Upon his return to a healthier state, Kim learned that he'd battled serious mental health issues since 1990, which had affected his ability to nurture a relationship with her all those years.

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

"To see my dad go from a place where he was really just a shell, and now to be filled again — with love, with hope, with dreams, and desire — it's an amazing experience," she said, noting he's even been able to get his driver's license again. "And I think that everyone who's out there is capable of it."

Kim's blossoming relationship with her dad further inspired her to build a career focused on helping those who need it.

With just one year left at the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law, Kim plans to use her degree to help people who've been in her father's shoes.

She volunteers at a nonprofit that provides legal services to veterans and homeless individuals and, of course, is still using her camera and blog to tell the stories of Hawaii's homeless.

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

"The camera itself has always been a catalyst for change in my eyes," she said. "But it's now bridging it with the world of law and policy, and being able to help shape the outcomes in our community that makes it really fulfilling and meaningful."

And perhaps the best part?

"He's really proud of me," she says.

Kim has also launched a Kickstarter to supply the homeless with a vital tool in keeping them safe: a bracelet.

"I realized shortly [after my father was hospitalized] how important it is to have IDs and other important documentation to reintegrate into society," she wrote on her Kickstarter page. "Many homeless individuals face the threat of losing their documents, having them stolen, or thrown away by city and county sweeps."

Kim's father looks at family photos. Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

That's why Kim partnered with CARE Medical History Bracelets in digitizing forms of ID and crucial medical documents for any homeless person who wants to participate. She aims to provide them with a bracelet so their personal information and health status can be more accessible to health professionals than her father's was.

The fundraiser is now closed, but it also helped Kim raise funds to produce photo books of "The Homeless Paradise." And Kim has told Upworthy that people can continue to support her work by donating or ordering prints of her photos on The Homeless Paradise blog. She says the proceeds will go for the ongoing efforts of the Kickstarter.

The past couple of years have been an emotional yet fulfilling roller coaster for Kim.

But one lesson she's learned is that love will always find its way into your heart if you let it.

"In the journey of emotionally and physically caring for my father, I learned that nothing can be truer than love," she wrote on her blog. "I love him. It doesn't matter what he did, or what he didn't do. The pain and suffering that he experienced, and caused me over all those years, didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was that he had the opportunity to live again, to function again, to have a second chance. And now he has it."

Photo courtesy of Diana Kim, "The Homeless Paradise."

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.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

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.

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.

Keep Reading Show less
More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less