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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.

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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.