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Teachers asked these kids to draw a recent meal. Their illustrations broke my heart.

What sounds like life after a natural disaster is another day in cash-strapped Venezuela.

Teachers asked these kids to draw a recent meal. Their illustrations broke my heart.

Soldiers control the crowd at shops as supermarket shelves sit empty.

Desperate and thirsty, people have been siphoning water from pools and tanker trucks.

Electricity is rationed and people are forced to go without basic medicine or medical supplies.


The national guard controls people as they line up to buy eggs. Photo by Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images.

What sounds like life after a natural disaster is another day in cash-strapped Venezuela.

Vast oil reserves kept Venezuela afloat for decades. The country even budgeted the price of oil at $40 a barrel, creating a huge surplus as prices soared above $100. But a majority of that surplus was spent — or, worse, stolen. And Venezuela can't even make up the difference by boosting production, as public workers are on a two-day workweek to preserve the overtaxed power grid.

Venezuelans stand in line to buy food from a market in Caracas. Photo by Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images.

As riots and demonstrations break out over the lack of food and basic products, kids aren't immune from the stress and strife of a country in turmoil.

Students at Padre Jose Maria Velaz, a Catholic school in western Caracas, were literally fainting from hunger. Teachers asked the children to describe or illustrate their most recent meals and what they expected to have next.

"It's dramatic, what we are going through," school Director Maria Hidalgo told Reuters. "What kind of Venezuela are we going to have in 10 years?"

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

These six drawings are a heartbreaking look at the financial crisis from the perspective of the most vulnerable: children.

1. With little food to go around, meals are small and simple.

This student had cooked plantain for breakfast, soup and a juice for lunch, and a cookie for dinner.

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

2. Some only have one meal a day to look forward to.

"Just spaghetti," wrote this student.

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

3. The repetition is often monotonous, but it's better than nothing.

"For breakfast, lunch, and dinner I had corn cake with cheese," one student wrote.

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

4. Which is, sadly, what most students have.

The student drew a corn cake with an egg, but the teacher wrote a troubling addendum: "No breakfast."

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

5. Because the economic crisis is so widespread, skipping meals is the new norm.

This student remembered each simple meal in great detail.

"I had plantain and egg with butter for breakfast, for lunch I had soup or pasta with butter, for dinner on one day I had bread, on another plantain and meat, and on one day we had nothing."

Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

As sad and worrisome as the economic crisis and its effects are, there are people in place to help.

The Venezuelan government continues to block humanitarian aid from foreign NGOs from entering the country. It's unclear why President Nicolás Maduro has taken these drastic measures, but some suggest it's an attempt to hide his country's dire state of affairs.

However, there are easy ways to assist kids and families in need.

Connect with groups like Humanitarian Aid for Venezuela or The Borgen Project, both of which work to fight extreme poverty. You can volunteer for The Borgen Project right from your couch, as the nonprofit offers multiple telecommute volunteer opportunities.

And get social. Outside pressure and media attention on the government could force chance and help resolve this crisis. Tweet, talk, read, share, and signal-boost local voices.

No matter where we are, we can all do our part to give kids everywhere a fair shot.

Venezuelans cross from San Antonio del Táchira, Venezuela, to Cúcuta, Colombia, to take advantage of the 12-hour border opening to buy food and medicine. Photo by Schneyder Mendoza/AFP/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken, and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-and-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term stupid isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he belives applies to everyone.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."