+
This family is the face of Venezuela's historic humanitarian crisis.
Luis and Jude Vivas, with their son, Luis Jr.

Editor's note: If you want to help the Vivas family, you can contribute directly to their GoFundMe campaign here. The campaign has been verified by the GoFundMe team, with 100% of the proceeds going toward immediate food, medical and housing needs for the family.

When I connect with Jude and Luis Vivas, the couple is resting inside a tiny motel room in  Cúcuta, Colombia. The width of the room barely holds a small, twin sized bed that is covered in the six backpacks they carried across the Venezuelan border with their young son, Luis Jr.

“We are very tired,” Jude says, translating the words of her husband into English. “Tired of not knowing what is going to happen.”


The Vivas family are part of the estimated four million refugees who have left Venezuela since 1999. A recent poll found 57 percent of citizens say they want to leave but can’t.

Getting across the border was a perilous journey. Jude and Luis faced obstacles every step of the way, including corrupt government officials who demanded thousands in U.S. dollars to process their passports. They couldn’t even carry proper suitcases across the border, which would make them targets for assassination from supporters of Nicolás Maduro’s administration.

While they are some of the “lucky” ones who have made it out of Venezuela safely, their situation is far from resolved as the largest refugee crisis in the Americas continues to unfold under the political unrest first started during the Bolivian Revolution by Hugo Chávez and continuing under Maduro.

“We had held onto a lot of hope for the country,” Jude says. “But nothing happened. Everything became worse and worse. When I became pregnant, everything changed completely.”

For those stuck in Venezuela, there is little that outsiders can do to help. But a retired American military veteran came up with a generous and compassionate plan to help the Vivas family.

Venezuelan migrants wait in line to receive food outside La Divina Pastora shelter in Villa del Rosario, Colombia, in the border with Venezuela, on February 13, 2019. (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images).

Dan Hall was recently diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic and progressive lung disease. The military veteran was told by his doctor to find new hobbies like chess that would help focus his mind.

Hall decided to start taking Spanish language lessons. He became part of a larger group of around 730 people that was being tutored by Jude and other instructors. As the crisis in Venezuela continued to impact Jude and her family, Dan realized that even the income she received from him and other students was largely going nowhere.

“She was working eight hours a day and making around the equivalent of $25 a month,” Hall said. “Forget paying rent and buying groceries. It was barely enough to afford diapers.”

The problem is the Venezuelan government seizes all funds coming into the country, with an especially critical eye to any funds coming in from America. Jude’s already modest income became virtually non-existent when subjected to massive government taxes and being converted into the Venezuelan bolívar, which has been decimated through inflation.

And if she worked with private citizens to convert her PayPal funds into physical money, they often charged upwards of 60 percent to facilitate the transaction.

That’s when Hall decided to take action. He launched a GoFundMe to help raise funds for the Vivas family to help cover some of their relocation costs, including government fees, transportation, food supplies and temporary housing.

Jude’s language tutoring allows her to work from virtually anywhere she can get an Internet connection and her husband Luis is a trained chef. Their hope is that once they settle into a safe and normal situation in Colombia they will both quickly be able to return to making a living to help provide for their family.

Hall has worked directly with GoFundMe to ensure that all of the funds raised go directly to the Vivas family and are not impacted by the current political crisis in Venezuela. Despite his own health challenges, Hall is also using his own money to fly directly to Bogota in early March to deliver the funds directly to Jude and Luis.

“They are very tight-fisted,” Hall says. “They’ve only asked for $250 to buy a Luis a coat in Bogota, for bus tickets and some food.”

One bright spot in the crisis has been the leading role Colombia has taken to help refugees.

In our conversations, Hall and the Vivas family were quick to express gratitude to the government and people of Colombia. Even though their escape from Venezuela has been treacherous, they say it never could have happened without knowing they would find safe harbor once they crossed the border.

“If there’s a gold medal to a country in 2019 it’s got to go to Colombia,” Hall said.

And in an age when so many countries are ignoring their humanitarian obligations to refugees, Colombia has stood out as a beacon for hope and a shining example of how to do things right in a crisis.

A woman and a baby wait in Cucuta, Colombia, after crossing the Simon Bolivar International bridge from San Antonio de Tachira, in Venezuela, on February 20, 2019. - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido forged ahead Wednesday with plans to bring US medical and food aid into the country in defiance of the military-backed government, raising fears of possible weekend confrontations. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/Getty Images).

There’s no end in sight to the turmoil in Venezuela but helping one family can shine a spotlight on the corruption and historic humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. There is a way to help.

Speaking to the Vivas family, it’s clear they wish they were not in the position of asking for outside help from strangers. But Jude and Luis are trained professionals, proud of the work they do and eager to get back to work.

But they’re also incredibly grateful for the people who have donated already and hope that their story will end up helping others, along with educating people who don’t really understand why what’s happening in Venezuela is so important.

When I ask Jude how many of their friends and family have been affected by the crisis, she and Luis both laugh before stating flatly that every single one of their friends has been forced to flee the country.

“In three years, literally all of our friends have had to leave the country,” Jude says. “We try to make little jokes with each other about how we showed up all of their ‘goodbye parties’ but there wasn’t anyone left to attend ours.”

Jude says that when she and Luis crossed a bridge into Colombia they were surrounded by entire families seeking refuge.

“Our families are sad but they know this is the best for us,” she said.

When I asked Jude and Luis if they are hopeful that they’ll be able to return to Venezuela sometime soon, they sound doubtful.

“It’s not that we’ve lost our faith in Venezuela, it’s a beautiful place and anyone who has been forced to leave their country knows the feeling of wanting to return and be buried in the place where they were born,” she says. “But they have changed the culture. We don’t want that lifestyle for our son.”

Luis adds that he thinks it will take at least 10 years to put an end to the systemic government corruption that has transformed Venezuela from a country with a soaring economy and culture to one on the brink of collapse. “We need to educate the children and make the laws work,” he says.

Hall says that his primary mission is to help the Vivas family make it out of Venezuela safely and start their new lives in Colombia. He also jokes that he’d like to get his Spanish language group back on schedule. But he says that helping organize this fundraiser, the first time he’s ever done something like this, has changed his views on refugee crises around the world.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how difficult it is to help a refugee. It’s very easy to help an organization but it’s nearly impossible to help an individual refugee or family,” he said. “We can’t help millions but we can help these three.”

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

via GIPHY

A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

via GIPHY

It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

via GIPHY

Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

via GIPHY

Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

via GIPHY

Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

via GIPHY

Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

via GIPHY

It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

via GIPHY

I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

via GIPHY

Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

via GIPHY


No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

via GIPHY

The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

via GIPHY

Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

Giphy

Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

Keep ReadingShow less