True
Verizon

Marcellus watches people walk right by him every day.

He has been homeless, living on the streets of Philadelphia, for about four-five years.

Screenshot via Verizon.


"Being homeless is not easy," he says. "It’s, like, waking up hungry. Going to sleep hungry." And people are often hesitant to give money or to help.

Like many of us, Andrew Siegel walks past homeless individuals like Marcellus every day. When people would ask Seigel for money, he admits he felt uncomfortable. He wanted to help but felt apprehensive about just handing over cash, which didn’t feel like it was enough to really bring about any lasting change. But when he didn’t give anything, that decision bothered him. A lot.

So, he starting thinking of how else to help — and came up with StreetChange.

StreetChange is an app that allows people to make targeted donations to homeless individuals — whether it be food, clothing, toothbrushes, or even haircut vouchers.

A view of the StreetChange app. Screenshot via Verizon.

Siegel partnered with Dan Treglia, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, and Michael Brody, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP) to make it happen.

MHASP outreach teams signed up homeless individuals who wanted to take part and gathered a list of 10-15 items they needed. Each homeless participant was then given a key fob that emits a signal when they are within a 150-foot radius of someone with the app. When StreetChange users are within that range, they receive a notification and can see what items the homeless person has requested. Then they can donate any amount of money (even just $1) toward their wish list.  

Food, clothing and a place to shower. This app helps get those who are homeless the basics they lack and the support they need to get off the streets.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, February 20, 2017

Besides supplying necessities, StreetChange empowers people who are homeless because it lets them drive the conversation about what they need and their future.

"Being brought into the community makes a big difference," says Jason Moriber, reputation and influence design chief at Verizon — which has done a lot of work around a number of social issues, including education equality, but is not directly involved with StreetChange. "If some small technology gives someone access to a world that they didn’t have access to before … immediately they are empowered."

Targeted donations made via StreetChange go toward buying items such as food, clothing, or haircut vouchers. Screenshot via Verizon.

When someone feels empowered, it can bring about real change.

In the United Kingdom, a charity called Broadway did a small-scale pilot program where they reached out to homeless people and asked them what they needed to change their lives. Their answers ranged from sneakers to cash for paying off a loan to a camper van. Then, the charity simply gave them the money to buy these things — under the condition that they worked with a personal "broker" to help them come up with a working budget.

13 homeless people agreed to the deal, and by the end, 11 had gotten off the streets, suggesting that a combination of money and direction can help homeless individuals get back on their feet.

Programs such as StreetChange offer the first step toward change by not only addressing immediate needs, but also by giving access to support and services.  

Marcellus meets with a MHASP caseworker. He has been meeting with them since May 2016, when he first connected with StreetChange. Screenshot via Verizon.

StreetChange starts a conversation. "The goal is to have this individual not only pick up their socks today, but to also come back tomorrow. And maybe when they come back tomorrow, maybe we can develop a recovery goal plan with this individual," said Evan Figueroa-Vargas, another MHASP employee.

This builds confidence because a lot of homeless individuals don’t always trust the organizations created to help them, Brody told NewsWorks.

"Sometimes by entering the system, they’ve been forced to do things against their will that they didn’t want to do," he continued. "This is another way to build a relationship with them, to bridge a reason to be talking with each other and spending some time with each other."

Technology, like apps, can be a very powerful vehicle for good.

Moriber says that he thinks many of the technologies needed to give back already exist. For example, he says, if more companies, such as food subscription services or ride-share apps, used their business models and technologies for good, there would be lots of ways to give back and address problems such as food deserts, child hunger, or homelessness.

Screenshot via Verizon.

"Technology has the scale — [or it] enables the scale — to solve many problems if we are willing to implement it that way," says Moriber. "If all these technologies could do just a little bit of that, I think we could make a major change in the world. It would enrich everyone's lives."

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.

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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.

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.

Bassist Charles Berthoud will blow your mind.

Get ready to feast your ears on the baddest version of a bubble gum pop classic.

It’s always fun to hear gifted musicians completely reimagine familiar tunes, and bassist Charles Berthoud is no exception to that.

Berthoud delivers his masterful videos to more than 900,000 subscribers every week, with not only flawless precision, but wit and charm to boot. From playing the Seinfeld theme to turning Beethoven metal, seemingly no request is beyond his skill level.

Take a listen to his cover of “Barbie Girl,” by Aqua. With nine, count 'em, different variations—9.5 if you watch all the way through—and each one more intricate and complicated than the last.

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015


Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

GIF from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

And continues through adolescence, still through entertainment.

"I'd rather die than stay away from you."

GIF from "Twilight."

And then guess what happens? We're peddled some more of what we're supposedly meant to be aiming for when we're adults.

"I was the one girl he chose from 20 other girls to be with. Now I know I'm special!" — me, mocking probably very sweet people.

GIF from "The Bachelor."

There are so many examples of this, it's difficult to narrow them down. Not to mention all the social cues coming in all stealth-bomber-like to beat one's psyche into submission. Like when single people go to weddings, their family members casually ask them, "When will YOU settle down?" And when a friend goes through a breakup, it's almost instinctive to reassure them that there's someone out there for them.

But what if not everyone is supposed to pair off? What if some people are — wait for it — happier when they're single?

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