+

Albuquerque, New Mexico, might seem like a random place for a refugee family to end up.

But things have gotten so bad in parts of the world — in war-torn Syria, in particular — that thousands of families are entering and spreading across hundreds of different cities in the U.S.

And while New Mexico might not be considered a premiere landing spot (most families end up in New York and California), it's definitely not a bad place to be. Just take a look:


[rebelmouse-image 19529568 dam="1" original_size="735x551" caption="Photo by Christiane Wilden/Good Free Photos." expand=1]Photo by Christiane Wilden/Good Free Photos.

One program in Albuquerque wants to use the area's stunning desert landscape to help refugee kids connect with their new home.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is teaming up with the Catholic Charities Refugee Mentoring Program to take these brand-new New Mexicans out into the wild.

It's a summer camp for kids who are here to find a better life, and it's called the Refugee Wilderness Explorers Program.

All photos by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, used with permission

"This was a way to connect them to experiences they had where they're from, and make them feel more at home," says Danielle Hernandez, the mentoring program coordinator.

She came up with the idea over a cup of coffee with Endion Schichtel, the Alliance's wilderness narrative coordinator, while the two were brainstorming ideas to keep the kids engaged during summer vacation — a time when they're the most disconnected from their peers and, often, feeling isolated in their new home.

Twice a week, Hernandez and Schichtel take groups of kids out into the wilderness to explore.

Many of them are completely new to America, fresh from places in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.

They hike the mountains, explore trails, and stop to identify plants and bugs. The kids are also encouraged to draw or write about the nature they encounter — a good exercise to help them connect with the landscape and practice their English at the same time.

For many of them, this is their first good look at the strange new place they call home.

"One time we were on top of the mountain looking out over the city," Schichtle recalls. "And the kids were [joking], 'I can see the ocean over there! I can see Colorado!' They know they're in America, and they're in New Mexico, but they have no idea where that is. When they first got here, this is not at all what they pictured America looking like. Seeing them have that realization is really special."

But beyond just developing a physical connection to their new home, wilderness camp gives these refugee kids a chance to be just that: kids.

"These kids are often the interpreters for their household; they're often the head of their household," Hernandez says. "They're the only one who knows how to use the bus or make change at the grocery store. They have to interpret medical information for their parents who are often in poor health."

It's a lot for any young person, especially one who's been through what some of these kids have.

So whether you believe in a spiritual connection with nature or not, maybe a chance to play with bugs and goof around with new friends is exactly what these kids need.

"They're just kids," Hernandez says. "And every child needs a childhood."

via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Teen raises $186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.

Keep ReadingShow less

Philadelphia is taking the city back to the past.

Remember when calling your parents, a tow truck or a friend when you were out and about meant digging in your pocket for a quarter to make a pay phone call? Well, a Philadelphia-based collective, PhilTel, is jumping into the past with a modern twist, by installing free-to-use pay phones throughout the city.

Of course, the pay phones that many of us grew up were removed from public places years ago. There no longer seemed to be a need for them when most people had a phone in their pocket or in their hand. But it's easy to forget that not everyone has or wants that luxury. For some people, staying that connected all the time can be too much and for others, it's simply financially impossible to own a cell phone.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 07.22.21


As if a Canada goose named Arnold isn't endearing enough, his partner who came looking for him when he was injured is warming hearts and having us root for this sweet feathered couple.

Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts shared the story on its Facebook page, in what they called "a first" for their animal hospital.


Keep ReadingShow less
popular

Think all cats are the same? These pictures prove they each have their own personality

Photographer Nils Jacobi shows how cats aren't nearly as aloof as one might think.

All images used with Nils Jacobi's permission. @furryfritz/Instagram

Catographer purrfectly captures cats' purrsonalities.

People often mistakingly attribute a singular personality to cats—usually the words "aloof" or "snobby" are used to describe them. At best, they might be given the "evil genius" label. But in actuality, no two cats are alike. Each has their own distinct ways of being, whether that’s silly, sophisticated, affectionate, downright diabolical or somewhere in between.

This photographer has the pictures to prove it.

Nils Jacobi, better known online as furryfritz, the catographer, has photographed literally thousands upon thousands of cats—from Maine coons who look like they should be in a perfume ad to tabbies in full-on derp mode.
Keep ReadingShow less