Inspiring News Stories
Excerpts of Highly Inspiring News Stories in Major Media
Below are one-paragraph excerpts of highly inspiring news stories from the major media. Links are provided to the original stories on their media websites. If any link fails to function, click here. The inspiring news story summaries most recently posted here are listed first. You can explore the same list with the most inspiring stories listed first. See also a concise list providing headlines and links to a number of highly inspiring stories. May these articles inspire us to find ever more ways to love and support each other and all around us to be the very best we can be.
How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
September 10, 2019, PBS
From Angola to the former Yugoslavia, land mines are a lethal legacy of wars over long ago. Cambodia is among the most affected countries, with millions of buried explosives that kill and maim people each year. Now, an organization is deploying an unexpected ally to find mines: the giant pouch rat, whose sharp sense of smell can detect explosives. Mark Shukuru is head rat trainer in Cambodia for the Belgian non-profit APOPO. He is from Tanzania, where this species is also native, and he learned early that they have some of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom. Each comes out of a rigorous program in Tanzania that trains them to distinguish explosives from other scents. Each time they sniff out TNT buried in this test field, a trainer uses a clicker to make a distinct sound, and they get a treat. Since 2016, APOPO's hero rats have found roughly 500 anti-personnel mines and more than 350 unexploded bombs in Cambodia. They're the second animal to be deployed in mine clearance. Dogs were first. Animals can work much faster than humans, although, when the land is densely mined, metal detectors are considered more efficient. APOPO plans to bring in some 40 more rats to expand the force and replace retirees. Each animal works about eight years, and then lives out the rest of its days alongside fellow heroes, all working toward the day when they can broadcast to the world that Cambodia has destroyed the last unexploded bomb.
Note: Don't miss the cute video of these hero rats at work, available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The odds are against former prisoners in the U.S. when it comes to staying out of incarceration. About eight in 10 who were released from prison in 2005 were arrested again at least once by 2014, according to the most recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice. And the risk of former prisoners recidivism is highest the first year after release – about 44 percent of state prisoners were arrested again within a year of release. Formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times as likely to be homeless as the average American. Weld Seattle, a nonprofit based in Washington state, aims to reduce homelessness by using vacant buildings as temporary housing until development officially begins. In total, Weld Seattle has housed 125 people and has seen 43 residents move on to independent permanent housing. In 2018, formerly incarcerated people faced an unemployment rate of 27 percent. That's higher than the unemployment rate was for all Americans during the peak of the Great Depression. Having proper business attire may not solve the unemployment problem, but it can help former inmates get a foot in the door with potential employers. The New York nonprofit 100 Suits for 100 Men is committed to giving recently released men, women and gender non-conforming people a "boutique experience." Founded by Kevin Livingston, the organization has given out more than 13,200 suits since 2011, and more than 800 since the start of this year.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Ants can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food, according to new research. They are better at killing pests, reducing plant damage and increasing crop yields, according to the first systematic review of ants' contributions to crop production. Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found. The analysis looked at 17 crops, including citrus, mango, apple and soya bean in countries including the US, Australia, the UK and Brazil. "In general, with proper management, ants can be useful pest controls and increase crop yield over time. Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs," researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B. There are more ants than any other insect, making up half of the planet's insect biomass. There are at least 14,000 known species of ant, with many more likely to remain unknown. Citrus growers in China have used ants in farming for centuries, and the insects have also been used to help control forest pests in Canada, cocoa pests in Ghana and crop pests in Nigeria. Dr Patrick Milligan, from the University of Nevada Pringle Lab ... said the findings were "both heartening and not at all surprising". He added: "They offer a neat and tidy description of ant-derived benefits that are ubiquitous across ecological and agricultural systems.
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Schools and nonprofits are trying to address what they see as a growing problem, as more children need eyeglasses but can't afford them. "Kids are getting nearsighted from close work and machines, electronic devices," [Dr. Robert Abel] said. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates half of the world's population will be nearsighted, or myopic, by 2049, with children being the most at risk. In Maryland's Kent County Public Schools, a mobile vision clinic has helped to ensure more children have access to free eye exams, glasses. The national organization works with local funding partners, states and ophthalmologists to offer free eye care to school children in need. Last November, the nonprofit Vision to Learn made a stop at Galena Elementary. One by one, students boarded a converted 151-square-foot Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, where an optometrist and optician conducted eye exams inside. Children who needed glasses then selected from a choice of 30 frames. A few weeks later, the Vision to Learn van returned to hand out the glasses at a school assembly. The glasses were given out like awards. That way, educators and health providers hoped to combat any stigma of wearing glasses. Vision to Learn has expanded to 14 states, each with their own corresponding mobile clinic van. Other organizations, like OnSight's "Vision Van" in New York and VSP Global's "Eyes of Hope" mobile clinic, headquartered in California, have taken up the same cause in an effort to improve student outcomes.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
As a teenager, Phil Miller dreamt of becoming a CIA field officer. But incarceration derailed that dream. Miller became a jailhouse lawyer – an incarcerated person who informally helps others challenge their convictions while in prison. This year, he's finishing his first year of law school at the City University of New York. But, he says, he wouldn't be where he is without support: at CUNY Law that came from the Formerly Incarcerated Law Students Advocacy Association (FILSAA). FILSAA is part of a growing movement of organizations working to change the overwhelming scrutiny that discourages – and often disqualifies – people with records from pursuing a law degree. The National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction catalogues around 40,000 official restrictions limiting or excluding people with convictions from accessing employment, education and more in the United States. While other organizations work to tackle the barriers to the Bar on a political level, FILSAA works on a deceptively simple level, offering free LSAT training, mentorship and a needed supportive space at school for people with records. FILSAA's impact has been small in numbers but deep in value. Thanks to what Williams calls "mythbusting" YouTube videos, they've heard this year from 12 currently or formerly incarcerated people expressing interest. "Hope is a necessity. It's like food and air," [Miller] says. "Finding out there's something that other people value you for, that can help you take yourself seriously."
Just as we don't pay much attention to the critical infrastructure that powers our digital world and exists just out of sight – from the Automated Clearing House (ACH), which undergirds our financial system, to the undersea cables that enable the Internet to be globally useful, blockchain is likely to change our lives in ways that will eventually be invisible. In the sharing economy, we have traditionally just used existing infrastructure and built platforms and services on top of it. Considering that those undersea cables are owned by private companies with their own motives and that the locations of ACH data centers are heavily classified, there is a lot to be desired in terms of transparency, resilience, and independence from self-interested third parties. That's where open-source, decentralized infrastructure of the blockchain for the sharing economy offers much promise and potential. Origin ... is working to reduce the cost, difficulty, and barriers to entry for building marketplaces, enabling people to build truly peer-to-peer marketplaces on the blockchain. In creating this kind of decentralized underpinning, blockchains offer communities alternatives to one-size-fits all solutions and economies of scale. Another crucial part of the sharing economy infrastructure is financial infrastructure. Consider the two billion unbanked and underbanked adults around the world. Can blockchain benefit them as well? WeTrust is one of the blockchain startups working to do this, and has already put out a lending circle product.
The food served at the suburban San Francisco school system, Mount Diablo Unified, reflects a trend away from mass-produced, reheated meals. Its lunch menus are filled with California-grown fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and recipes that defy the stereotype of inedible school food. Among American schoolchildren, these students are in the lucky minority. Making fresh meals requires significant investment and, in many areas, an overhaul of how school kitchens have operated for decades. What's more, federal money to boost lunch budgets has declined. The government last year ended a pandemic-era program offering free school meals to everyone. A few states, such as California, have been paying to keep meals free for all students, but most states went back to charging all but the neediest kids for meals. Increases in money from California's state government have made it possible for Mount Diablo to buy fresher local ingredients and hire the chef, Josh Gjersand, a veteran of Michelin-starred restaurants. Local farms, bakers, creameries and fishermen now supply most ingredients to the district, which serves 30,000 students from wealthy and low-income communities east of San Francisco. Making food from scratch isn't just healthier, it's cheaper, many school nutrition directors say. In 2021, California committed to spending $650 million annually to supplement federal meal reimbursements – money for food, staff, new equipment and other upgrades.
Jacque Fresco is an inspiration to many, with his innovative ideas and blue prints for a sustainable society and planet that reject the current models of mass consumerism and self-destruction. His latest venture, called The Venus Project, advocates what Fresco has coined as a "resource-based economy", a society which runs on socio-cooperation and which utilizes the methodology of science and the advancements in technology in one of the cleanest and most energy efficient systems ever conceptualized. Located in Venus, Florida, The Venus Project is a research center which develops innovations in the fields of freelance inventing, industrial engineering, and conventional architectural modeling. The Venus Project aims to answer the question, how can we utilize technology wisely so that there is more than enough for everyone on our planet? To make this happen, Fresco proposes that a planning process must first occur, where the entire infrastructure of the planet is re-worked. This means the planet working together as one, eliminating the false borders that separate continents and countries and looking at our planet as an open trading highway system. The Venus Project works to showcase the amazing and inspiring potential of computers and technology, and to help people understand that it is not technology that is responsible for the deterioration of the planet and society, but rather it is the abuse and misuse of machines and automated technology for selfish benefits that we should be weary of.
Fifty years ago, Congress voted to override President Richard Nixon's veto of the Clean Water Act. It has proved to be one of the most transformative environmental laws ever enacted. At the time of the law's passage, hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage was dumped by New York City into the Hudson River every day. This filth was compounded by industrial contaminants emptied into the river along much of its length. The catch basin for all of this was New York Harbor, which resembled an open sewer. At its worst, 10 feet of raw human waste blanketed portions of the harbor bottom. Health advisories against eating fish from the Hudson remain, but its ecology has largely recovered, thanks to the law, which imposed strict regulations on what could be discharged into the water by sewage treatment plants, factories and other sources of pollution. Today people swim in organized events in New York Harbor, which would have been unthinkable in 1972 when the law was passed. Across the country, billions of dollars were also spent to construct and improve sewage treatment plants, leading to recoveries of other urban waterways. Cleaner water has made the harbor far more hospitable, and other steps have helped to rebuild life there, like fishing restrictions and the removal of some dams on tributaries in the Hudson River watershed. The bald eagle has made a strong comeback, taking advantage of the harbor's resurgent fish life. In December 2020 a humpback whale was seen in the Hudson just one mile from Times Square.
Luc, along with just about every able-bodied Rwandan aged 18 to 65, participates in the monthly activity known as "Umuganda," a Kinyarwanda word that means "coming together in common purpose." On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 a.m., Rwandans across the country gather together to partake in community improvement projects. In Luc's neighborhood, this has meant trimming back bushes that attract malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and making sure roads are clear. According to Luc, these monthly gatherings have helped his community recover from a long, devastating period of genocide, making it clean, innovative, loving and self-reliant. Across the country ... the tradition of Umuganda has unfolded in similar fashion, helping Rwanda to piece itself back together and recover from ruin. Though Umuganda is a national phenomenon, the mobilization of it takes place at the community level – specifically, in "cells" of at least 50 households called Umudugudu. Spearheaded by a community leader, members of a cell often use the mobile messaging service WhatsApp to work out the logistics. This small-scale organizational structure is key to making Umuganda work. Luc thinks Umuganda has value beyond the projects themselves, promoting self-reliance among Rwandans. "When you see something wrong within your surroundings, you do not wait for someone else to come and do it for you, you just go for it and do it," he says. "Do Umuganda. Solve the problem yourselves."
Here in the Kibera slum, life sometimes seems a free-for-all. Yet this is an uplifting slum. Kennedy [Odede] taught himself to read ... then formed a Kibera self-help association called Shining Hope for Communities, better known as SHOFCO. Let's just acknowledge that development is hard, particularly in urban slums that are growing fast around the world. Billions of dollars are poured into the poorest countries, and in Haiti and South Sudan one sees fleets of expensive white S.U.V.s driven by aid organizations; what's missing is long-term economic development. International aid keeps children alive, which is no small feat. But it has had less success in transforming troubled places. That's where SHOFCO is intriguing as an alternative model. "Development has been part of imperialism – you know better than anybody else because you're from America or Europe," Kennedy [said]. He thinks international aid sometimes is ineffective partly because it feels imposed by the outside. SHOFCO has spread through low-income communities across Kenya and now boasts 2.4 million members, making it one of the largest grass-roots organizations in Africa. It provides clean water, fights sexual assault, runs a credit union, coaches people on starting small businesses, runs libraries and internet hot spots, mobilizes voters to press politicians to bring services to slums, runs public health campaigns and does 1,000 other things. It exemplifies a partnership: local leadership paired with a reliance on the best international practices.
Zach Skow [is] a man on a mission to bring dogs into every US prison. Skow is the founder of Pawsitive Change, a rehabilitation programme that pairs rescue dogs with inmates. He began a pilot programme at California City Correctional Facility in January 2016, teaching inmates to become dog trainers, and it's now been rolled out to four more California state prisons and one female juvenile correction centre. To date more than 300 men have graduated from the programme and roughly 200 dogs from "high-kill" shelters have been rescued and adopted as a result of the inmates' work with them (the shelters accept any animal [and] euthanise a certain percentage if they can't rehome them). Seventeen of the programme's human graduates have been paroled and so far none has returned to prison (at a time when the US recidivism rate stands at 43%). Working with the dogs and seeing what the animals are going through prompts the men to speak of their own experiences. When one student relates how his dog didn't want to come out of the kennel in the first few days, another shares how he too didn't want to leave his cell when he first came to prison. Many of these men have been told repeatedly from a young age that they're not to be trusted, that they make a mess of things, that they're not fit to take charge of anything. This message is then reinforced ... through the penal system. This programme challenges the "branding" these men have had imposed on them from an early age. It allows them to create new narratives.
Note: Watch a beautiful 4-minute video of an inmate and his beloved pup. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Music, it turns out, is medicine for the mind. [A 2021 study] set out to see what happens in the brain when a person with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's disease listens to their favorite playlist for an hour every day. The 14 participants had brain scans and took neuropsychological tests that involved memory exercises. At the end of the trial the participants showed a small but statistically significant improvement in memory – something that is extremely unusual. New connections had formed between different regions of the brain ... that actually changed brain plasticity and also improved function in relaying information. Thaut says the research shows that while music is in no way a cure for Alzheimers, it can provide a "cognitive boost." That's why a person with memory impairment may not recall their daughter's name but may remember all the lyrics to her favorite lullaby. "It's pulling from emotions, it's pulling from feelings, it's pulling from interpersonal associations, it's pulling from a date or time or period of one's life – historical things," [Concetta] Tomaino says. Music serves as a clue, coaxing the brain to fill in the blanks. "It is painful to watch your beloved slip away inch by inch," [Carol Rosenstein] says. "And if it weren't for the music, I wouldn't be sitting here today. As a caregiver and first responder, I can tell you, I would have never survived the journey."
On Dutch â€care farms,' aging folks tend to livestock, harvest vegetables and make their own decisions. Boerderij Op Aarde is one of hundreds of Dutch "care farms" operated by people facing an array of illnesses or challenges, either physical or mental. Today, there are roughly 1,350 care farms in the Netherlands. They provide meaningful work in agricultural settings with a simple philosophy: rather than design care around what people are no longer able to do, design it to leverage and emphasize what they can accomplish. Studies in Norway and the Netherlands found that people with dementia at care farms tended to move more and participate in higher-intensity activities than those in traditional care, which can help with mobility in daily life and have a positive impact on cognition. Dementia is often linked to social isolation, and care farms were found to boost social involvement. In traditional dementia care settings ... the focus tends to be on preventing risk. There's often a fixed schedule of simple activities, like games or movies, and the only choice attendees are given is whether to participate or not. In the course of his research, [Jan] Hassink has spoken to countless people with dementia. Common to many of them is a desire to not only participate in society, but contribute to it. "We don't focus on what's missing, but what is still left," says Arjan Monteny, cofounder of Boerderij Op Aarde, "what is still possible to develop in everybody."
For most New Mexico residents, college will now be officially tuition-free. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed on Friday Senate Bill 140, otherwise known as the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act. First introduced in 2019, the plan will waive tuition for any students attending any in-state public school or tribal college, including community colleges. "For over a quarter of a century, New Mexico has been a national leader in providing free college to its residents. A fully funded Opportunity Scholarship opens the door for every New Mexican to reach higher, strengthening our economy, our families and our communities," Lujan Grisham said. "Signing this legislation sends a clear message to New Mexicans that we believe in them and the contributions they will make for their families and the future of our great state." Eligible students must enroll in a minimum of six credit hours and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5 during their time in college. The scholarship has already been awarded to more than 10,000 students over the last two years, but now $75 million has been allocated to the fund. That could support up to 35,000 students this fall alone ... and allows part-time students and adult learners to take advantage, as well. Across the country, many states have moved to provide some sort of tuition-free college education, typically at the community college level. In 2019, California waived tuition for first-time, full-time students attending two years of community college.
In the next few weeks, tens of thousands of people in Cook County, Ill., will open their mailboxes to find a letter from the county government explaining that their medical debt has been paid off. Officials in New Orleans and Toledo, Ohio, are finalizing contracts so that tens of thousands of residents can receive a similar letter. In Pittsburgh on Dec. 19, the City Council approved a budget that would include $1 million for medical debt relief. More local governments are likely to follow as county executives and city councils embrace a new strategy to address the high cost of health care. They are partnering with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that aims to abolish medical debt by buying it from hospitals, health systems and collections agencies at a steep discount. About 18 percent of Americans have medical debt that has been turned over to a third party for collection. Cook County plans to spend $12 million on medical debt relief and expects to erase debt for the first batch of beneficiaries by early January. In Lucas County, Ohio, and its largest city, Toledo, up to $240 million in medical debt could be paid off at a cost of $1.6 million. New Orleans is looking to spend $1.3 million to clear $130 million in medical debt. The $1 million in Pittsburgh's budget could wipe out $115 million in debt, officials said. These initiatives are all being funded by President Biden's trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan, which infused local governments with cash to spend on infrastructure, public services and economic relief programs.
Near the southern border of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a curved translucent roof peeks out a few feet above the dusty plains. Below ground, at the bottom of a short flight of stairs, the inside of this 80ft-long sleek structure is bursting with life – pallets of vivid microgreens, potato plants growing from hay bales and planters full of thick heads of Swiss chard and pak choi. This is an underground greenhouse, or walipini, and the harvesters are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It is one of at least eight underground greenhouses that, over the past decade, have been built or are being constructed on the reservation – which has one of the highest poverty rates in the US. Some hope they can help solve the interconnected problems of the lack of affordable, nutritious food and the difficulties of farming in the climate crisis. Today, more than half of the residents of Oglala Lakota county, one of three counties within the boundaries of the reservation, live below the poverty line. Food access is a huge problem. The 2.1m-acre reservation is classified as a "food desert" with only a handful of grocery stores. And health outcomes, including diet related diseases, are poor – about 50% of adults over 40 have diabetes. Neil Mattson, professor and greenhouse extension specialist at Cornell University's School of Integrative Plant Science, says underground greenhouses could help to usher in more year-round food production across the northern US but they are still fairly new in the country.
Beginning in the late 1990s, as landfills in the crowded capital area approached their limits, South Korea implemented a slate of policies to ease what was becoming seen as a trash crisis. The government banned burying organic waste in landfills in 2005, followed by another ban against dumping leachate – the putrid liquid squeezed from solid food waste – into the ocean in 2013. Universal curbside composting was implemented that same year, requiring everyone to separate their food from general waste. In 1996, South Korea recycled just 2.6% of its food waste. Today, South Korea recycles close to 100% annually. Ease-of-use and accessibility have been crucial to the success of the South Korean model. "South Korea's waste system, especially in terms of frequency of collection, is incredibly convenient compared to other countries," says Hong Su-yeol, a waste expert and director of Resource Recycling Consulting. "Some of my peers working at non-profits overseas say that disposal should be a little bit inconvenient if you want to discourage waste but I disagree: I think that it should be made as easy as possible as long as it goes hand-in-hand with other policies that attack the problem of reducing waste itself." National and municipal governments in South Korea have been actively investing in urban farming programs, which include composting courses. These sort of community-based efforts might be where the US can shine, increasing initial access to composting options in cities that presently have few other options.
Loretta J. Ross [identifies] the characteristics, and limits, of call-out culture: the act of publicly shaming another person for behavior deemed unacceptable. Civil conversation between parties who disagree has also been part of activism, including her own, for quite some time. "I am challenging the call-out culture," Ross said. "I think you can understand how calling out is toxic. It really does alienate people, and makes them fearful of speaking up." The antidote to that ... Professor Ross believes, is "calling in." Calling in is like calling out, but done privately and with respect. "It's a call out done with love," she said. That may mean simply sending someone a private message, or even ringing them on the telephone to discuss the matter, or simply taking a breath before commenting, screen-shotting or demanding one "do better" without explaining how. Calling out assumes the worst. Calling in involves conversation, compassion and context. "I think we overuse that word â€trigger' when really we mean discomfort," she said. "And we should be able to have uncomfortable conversations." Ross told the students ... "I think we actually sabotage our own happiness with this unrestrained anger. And I have to honestly ask: Why are you making choices to make the world crueler than it needs to be and calling that being woke?" She thought of what her organization's founder, the Rev. C.T. Vivian ... told her: "When you ask people to give up hate, you have to be there for them when they do."
Note: Watch Ross's powerful Ted Talk on simple, yet deeply inspiring tools for calling people in instead of calling people out.
In the year since Donna Bruce started working at the Baltimore public library's Penn North branch, she has connected more than 400 visitors to housing programs, food assistance and substance abuse recovery options – and saved a man from dying of a drug overdose by administering the emergency treatment Narcan. Poverty is pervasive in the neighborhoods around the Penn North library, and many people come in simply looking for heat or shelter. Bruce is leading a team of "peer navigators" in the library system trained to provide trauma-informed engagement and support to the public. All navigators have personal experience with mental health challenges or substance abuse disorders and act as role models in the community. Peer Navigators is the first city agency program that owes part of its origin story to Baltimore's 2020 Elijah Cummings Healing City Act. The goal of the groundbreaking legislation is to help departments reckon with and change policies that have caused – and continue to cause – trauma, while charting a new path rooted in healing. The act mandates that city employees receive training, to gain awareness and learn how to help those who have been harmed. At the same time, agency leaders must evaluate their practices and procedures to determine if they are causing trauma and how to change those that are to better serve Baltimore's communities. Evidence shows the approach can improve social environments, decrease violence, and reduce other negative encounters.