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Lipton

What if, just by drinking a nice, hot cup of tea, you could be showing your support for the education and financial independence of the women who harvested the leaves to make it?

When you’re drinking specially marked boxes of Lipton® tea, that’s exactly what’s happening.

The leaves that go into your tea bags are harvested by thousands of women tea farmers in Kenya. They spend a large part of their day in the arid climate that is perfect for growing tea, combing through miles of verdant bushes on the tea farms, many of which are right by their houses.


Tea farmers in Kenya. All photos via Upworthy.

When it rains — almost every late afternoon to early evening — the area is steeped in rich smells of the tea leaves as well as jasmine and eucalyptus. It may sound like a refreshingly simple life, but many of the women are looking for just a little bit more.

The women take pride in their work and are interested in how they can use and grow their earnings to support their children, the next generation. Thankfully, almost 20 years ago, WE Charity — a nonprofit that partners with underserved communities to provide the financial literacy tools they need to create change — started to work with people in the Maasai Mara region and is expanding in order to partner with tea farmers and Lipton® to give them just that.

Maasai Mara, also known as simply “The Mara” to locals, is in Narok County, Kenya. It connects to the Serengeti National Park in the Mara Region of Tanzania, and is home to a wide spectrum of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, spotted hyenas, and over 500 species of birds.

The people in Maasai Mara depend on its fecund environment as much as the animals living there, but, thanks to groups like WE, they’ve got more than that to sustain them.

WE focuses on reinvigorating the five pillars a community needs to thrive — education, water, food, health, and opportunity.

They built schools for local children to attend. They established a nearby hospital. They created community farms and provided workshops to help train farmers in new planting techniques that would improve their yields. And they built water kiosks so women didn’t have to spend hours of their day walking back and forth from a well.

However, potentially the greatest impact WE has delivered to communities is through the opportunity pillar.

“We believe that by empowering women, you empower the community,” says Zeddy Kosgei, a spokeswoman for WE.

That’s why when WE partnered with Lipton®, whose Unilever farms span across Kenya, bolstering these women became one of their main goals.

The first step on the road to empowerment for these women is more financial education, which means learning how to leverage their profits in more lucrative ways. While that may sound complicated, It’s really as simple as learning to prioritize what to save, and where to spend; and learning how to gain access to start-ups funds so that they can invest in things that have a more lasting return — like livestock.

While some already have chickens and goats, getting to a point where they can purchase a cow, or more than one cow if they already had one,  can give these families enough financial leverage to send their kids to higher education institutions in Kenya.

And this sort of financial prowess isn’t a far-off goal — many Kenyan women from WE partner communities are a testament to that, as they’ve broken new ground to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

But these women aren’t just moving the needle forward in their own communities. They’re helping encourage the other 80,000 tea farmers in Kenya to follow suit.

Here’s a look at just a few of them.

Mama Jane

Mama Jane (left) talking to Mama Nancy (right).

Known as the CEO of the Maasai Mara, Mama Jane was one of the first women to dive into the WE opportunity program and, as such, is now a mentor to many others. 10 years ago, she was living in a tiny house with her husband and six children, and they had no money to send the children to school. So, she decided to stop taking sugar in her tea so she could save 50 shillings a week.

Initially a maize farmer, and with a Grade 3 education, that was the beginning of her taking control of her financial future. With WE’s help, she formed a savings and loan group with other women in the Maasai Mara region. Over time, they began pooling their funds and buying livestock to help supplement their income from tea farming. Eventually, these investments allowed Mama Jane to put her kids through school, and one daughter is currently in college. She was even able to build a bigger house for her family.

“I wanted to show women that the small savings we were putting aside could do big things,” says Mama Jane. “We can do big things just like anyone else.”

Currently, WE has helped women cultivate over 70 savings and loan groups in the Maasai Mara region, and, Mama Jane is acting ambassador to show what is possible.

Helen Maritim

Helen has been selling tea since 1995, when she married her husband. They have eight children, all of whom are now in school. She founded a savings and loan group (which the women call a merry-go-round) because she wanted to be less reliant on her crops, which can sometimes be unpredictable in their yield due to changing weather.

“I will use the training to improve myself and my family and I will also use it to teach other women,” Helen says.

Helen hopes the training her community receives will help their merry-go-round grow so they can eventually buy a cow and a bigger home, and perhaps one day, she can even start her own shoe business.

Caroline Ngetich

Caroline always dreamed of being a doctor, but her parents, who were both tea farmers, couldn’t afford to send her to school. She started farming back in 1999 and now has four children, two in high school and two in primary school. Caroline is part of a merry-go-round in her community, but she’s never received formal financial training before.

She says she’d love to understand money and business better so she can start a business selling fruit and vegetables from her garden as well as give back to those in need in her community.

Gladys Ngetich

Gladys was actually a maize farmer until 2004, when she switched to tea because it was more profitable. A strong believer in the power of a good education, she pushes her kids to excel in school. Case in point, her daughter, who just graduated high school, is studying to become an engineer.

“The greatest thing I have been able to achieve as a tea farmer is the education of my children,” Gladys says.

After recent talks with WE and their ambassadors, like Mama Jane, Gladys is eager to learn how to better manage her money so she can one day start a clothing business. However for her, it all comes back to how far her children have come thanks to her efforts.

“I think having success in life is looking at where you’ve come from and seeing where your children are,” she says.

These women are proof that no matter where you live or what you do, you can change the status quo with a little help from your friends.

Just ask Mama Jane, who recognizes she could never have achieved all she has without a supportive group of women standing behind her.

“We achieve great things when women stand together,” Mama Jane says.

And now, everyone who buys their tea can have a hand in that. So the next time you look down at your cup of Lipton®, know that you too could be  a part of some pretty amazing accomplishments.

To learn more about the tea farms and these incredible women, check out this video:

To see how your purchase supports women in tea farming communities, look for specially marked boxes of Lipton® Tea and enter the code on we.org/Lipton.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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