Most Shared

What it's like to live in Southern Africa's worst drought in 35 years.

'We cannot risk losing an entire generation of children to the drought.'

True
Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

Rita Mazive had never touched a camera before, but she knew she needed to document the situation she was in.  

“I have never used a camera before, and I have neither seen myself in a photo or in a mirror,” the 43-year-old from Mozambique told the global development organization CARE.

‌‌Rita Mazive. Image via Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE.‌‌


Rita is one of 40 million people in Southern Africa trying to survive the worst drought in 35 years.

Thanks for nothing, El Niño.

El Niño, the climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather patterns, has rocked Southern Africa — specifically Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. The region usually receives rain between October and April, but because of El Niño, the 2015-2016 season rains didn't fall until late-February.

In an area where 70% of the population depends on agriculture, you can imagine the predicament millions of families are facing: severe food shortages.

The realities of drought and food insecurity are hard to grasp when you've never experienced them. So CARE wants to give people around the world a glimpse into the lives of those who have.

El Niño: Through the lens of hunger” is a photo project that shows what life is like in an extreme drought, through the eyes of those living it.

Step 1 for the project's volunteers: learn how to use a camera. Step 2: go about your day.

‌‌Mira and Olga, two young mothers in Mozambique. Image via Joao Lambo/CARE. ‌‌

Each volunteer provides their own unique focus behind the lens. Through photos, they show insights into life in their communities — as they also suffer from food shortages — and their volunteer work with CARE, counseling community members and providing crucial health and hygiene information to them.

In the project, the images show the sacrifices families are forced to make.

‌Many older people are taking care of their grandchildren, because the children's parents have left to find work elsewhere because of the drought. ‌Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Such as how hard it is to put education first.

Many girls get up before dawn to find firewood and sell it, struggling to earn 5-10 cents per day for their families. Some still attend school, but often cannot make it in the lengthy time it takes to collect firewood and get to school. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Especially when it takes two hours to walk to school.

These friends in second grade walk two hours to school and two hours back home every day. The secondary school is even further, which results in many kids dropping out after primary school.

It's not easy to learn on an empty stomach.

Many kids go to school on an empty stomach, making it hard to concentrate.. "We have only enough food for one meal at 5pm, when he returns from his classes," said one mother.

And it's still important for kids to be ... kids.

"It is very important for their development," said volunteer Tereza Titosse. "I have six children myself, and I know how difficult it sometimes is to keep up the energy to engage them. But we cannot risk losing an entire generation of children to the drought.”‌ Image via Hortencia Jacinto/CARE.

The images show the increasing focus on safe water...

CARE volunteers teach families to cover their drinking water and use a trowel to help stop dirt and leaves from falling into it. Unclean water is a major reason kids get sick.  Image via Joao Lambo/CARE.

Even though it can take a daily eight-mile-walk to find it.

18-year-old Erleia walks 14 kilometers to fetch water every day. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Not to mention the 11+ miles to find wild fruits to eat.

‌Laura walks for 18 kilometers to find wild fruits like tindhzulo and wild leaves of cacana.‌ Image via Artur Tafula/CARE.

Traveling long distances can create a dangerous situation for women and girls.

There's an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence as girlsneed to travel ever increasing distances in search of water and food, especially when it gets dark. Image via Paulina Filipe/CARE.

‌‌The images show what people in these communities eat now.

Wild leaves and fruits are a go-to. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

And how they prepare it.

"I dry the tindhzulo fruit for two to four days in the sun. Usually we use peanuts, but that is not available because of the drought. I then crush the dried fruits to prepare and cook them." Image via Artur Tafula/CARE.

But, most importantly, the images show that these communities are doing the best they can with what they have.

Image via Hortencia Jacinto/CARE.

"I know it’s difficult for people in Europe or the U.S. to understand what this drought actually means for us," said CARE volunteer Artur Tafula. "With my photos, I want to show what people eat, how long they have to walk to find food, how they process wild fruits and leaves, and just how much time and effort is required to make it through another day.”

The times are tough, but they can, and will, get better.

Organizations like CARE are working with volunteers and community members to minimize the impact of the drought and to help get people back on their feet. Some of the steps being taken are as simple as focusing on safe water and sanitation and good hygiene practices.

Broken water systems are being repaired and communities are becoming more prepared for reoccurring disasters. Farmersare learning drought-resistant agricultural techniques, and they're being introduced to alternative sources oflivelihood and income too.

Image via Tereza Titosse/CARE.

These are all ways to move forward, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. A better understanding of the situation in Southern Africa is the first place to start. CARE's photo project, letting the stories come from the source, is a genuine  way to help close the awareness gap.

"I hope that many people will stop seeing El Niño and the drought as something abstract, and start seeing the situation through the eyes of the volunteers," wrote CARE representative Adérito Bie.

The next generation is counting on it.

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