On Oct. 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti's southern peninsula.

Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

And as you may or may not have seen in the news, it was pretty bad.


The death toll has risen to over 800 people and might grow as officials continue to reach the worst affected areas, according to The Weather Channel. Tens of thousands of houses have been damaged, and the Haitian president has called the situation "catastrophic."

Halfway down that peninsula is St. Boniface Hospital, which provides affordable medical care to local Haitians.

St. Boniface is a pretty important part of the local Haitian community, and it paints an important picture of what happens to poorer countries when large weather patterns hit.

St. Boniface, before the storm. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

St. Boniface Hospital is located in the community of Fond-des-Blancs, and it has been a local fixture since 1983. It's where people can go if they need surgery or are having a baby. Fond-des-Blancs is pretty small, with a population of about 500 people, mostly farmers, so St. Boniface is often the only place to get medical care.

Fortunately, the eye of Hurricane Matthew missed Fond-des-Blancs and the hospital itself.

According to Liz Schwartz, the media and communications manager for the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, which runs the hospital, the eye of the storm crossed further west instead, out to the very tip of the peninsula.

That direct area suffered severe storm damage, and people are still having trouble getting there to find out what's going on and provide aid. Many parts of the west are currently only accessible by helicopter.

Sous Roche, one of the areas further west that got hit by the hurricane. Photo by Nicolas Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

But while Fond-des-Blancs was spared the most severe damage, it doesn't mean the people there emerged unscathed.

The community was still hit with severe rain and wind and there's been a lot of local damage to houses, roads, and bridges. The hospital itself is still up and running though, thanks to electrical generators.

The wind blew the roof off this school. Part of a church collapsed nearby and a lot of houses have been damaged too. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

St. Boniface normally sees about 300-500 patients a day, says Schwartz, and they have seen some injuries, such as cuts, though there haven't actually been that many patients coming in.

While that might sound like great news, it actually illustrates one of the hospital's biggest worries.

The storm's left a lot of people pretty much stranded.

The rain and wind were so intense that Schwartz said staff saw floodwaters reach a 20-foot-tall bridge. Further away, the La Digue Bridge was overtaken, and it actually collapsed, cutting off the peninsula's only major thoroughfare to the mainland.

People at the site of La Digue. Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

The road conditions aren't much better than the bridges. Most of the local roads aren't paved; they're dirt or gravel. The rain's washed a lot of them out or littered them with debris.

"Pretty much what they're seeing is that they can't get anywhere," said Schwartz.

Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

When people are cut off, they can't get the medical attention they might need.

"There are communities that are completely cut off," said Schwartz. "We can't even get to them to see what condition they're in."

Both locals and hospital workers have been working to restore drivability, and they're expecting to see a lot more people once travel is restored. In the meantime, people have been sent out into the communities to learn more and provide help.

Workers repairing a washed-out road. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

They're also trying to get in contact with their partner clinics in the severely-damaged west end of the peninsula.

Beyond the storm's immediate effect, storms can cause bigger problems in poor countries, like hunger and disease.

Most of the surrounding areas are pretty poor. "The majority of people live on less than $2 a day," said Schwartz.

And because many people in Fond-des-Blancs are subsistence farmers, they may have trouble getting food if their crops were damaged or washed away by the storm.

Hunger could turn into a major humanitarian crisis too, according to Schwartz. Diseases like cholera can also erupt after a natural disaster when people struggle to get access to clean water.

Getting an ambulance unstuck. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

And with the peninsula cut off from the mainland, it's going to be really hard to get supplies in. That bridge — the La Digue — was really important. Trucks can't go over the washed-out dirt roads.

Extreme weather patterns can have a lasting impact on poor countries — and we might start seeing more of them.

While this specific incident is a new story, it's also one we might be hearing more and more in the future. But without adequate infrastructure, it's going to take Haiti a while to recover. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick. Everyone in Haiti, and around the world, will need to help.

There are lots of ways to help from America too. Primarily, you can help fund local, well-established charities and institutions like St. Boniface. Material donations are going to run into the same shipping problem as everything else, but funds can help local relief efforts buy food and supplies.

The United States has also deployed an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. George Washington, as well as an amphibious transport dock, a hospital ship, and nine helicopters to Haiti to help.

When a natural disaster hits, it's often hard for communities to get back on their feet.

But if we could be more aware of how natural disasters affect developing nations — if we can help stories like about this local hospital get attention — we can actually save lives and help a country recover.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

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.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

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.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

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.

Family

2 photos of a woman's bedroom reveal just how powerful depression can be.

"We need to be able to talk to each other about our feelings, even the bad ones."

This article originally appeared on September 7, 2016

Jonna Roslund is a 26-year-old from Sweden who lives with depression.

Photo via Jonna Roslund, used with permission.

Living with a mental illness affects many areas of a person's life, including one annoyance most of us can relate to: the dread of household chores.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on November 6, 2015

Every single day, babies across the world are born prematurely, which means that they're born before 37 weeks of gestation.

In Canada, about 29,000 infants are born prematurely each year, roughly 1 in every 13. But in the United States, around 400,000 to 500,000 are born early. That's about 1 in every 8 to 10 babies born in the U.S.!

Red Méthot, a Canadian photographer and student, decided to capture the resilience of many of these kids for a school photography project.

He's the father of two prematurely born kids himself, so the topic is important to him.

"My son was born at 29 weeks and my daughter at 33 weeks," he told me in a phone interview. "These are the kind of pictures I would like to have seen when my first child was born — they've been through that, and they are great now."

Méthot said he knows not all preemie stories have a happy ending — one of his photos features a child whose twin passed away after they were born prematurely — but for so many kids who come early, they go on to experience a great life.

Meet several of the beautiful kids he photographed!

Keep Reading Show less