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.
Inhumane conditions in prisons and jails across the country are being driven by overcrowded facilities, failing infrastructure, and inadequate staffing. To help ameliorate the sometimes harsh and inhumane conditions in the country's more than 5,000 prisons and jails, the Justice Department is awarding $10 million for projects that aim to transform prison cultures, climates, and spaces; research and evaluate correctional culture and climate; and research and evaluate jails. Another $8 million will support a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to invest in research that will inform how federal prisons can better reduce the use of restrictive housing. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, an arm of the DOJ that provides grant funding and guidance to support state, local, and tribal justice strategies, and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) also launched a Jails and Justice Support Center in November, which assists jails in creating safe, humane, and effective environments for incarcerated individuals, staff, and visitors. These multiple funding streams are significant and unprecedented. While the DOJ has sought to drive change behind bars ... none of its past efforts have taken a root and branch approach to transforming the culture of correctional practice nationwide and at the local, state, and federal levels. The DOJ's actions coincide with a broader trend of rethinking the U.S. approach to incarceration.
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A legacy of poverty, genocide and dictatorship left Zimbabwe struggling with an epidemic of depression, colloquially known as kufungisisa, or â€thinking too much'. Known as â€gogos' (elder women) or â€ambuya utano' (community grannies), these Zimbabwean community health workers (CHWs) have a record in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression that beats many traditional talking therapies and pharmacological interventions. Meet the Friendship Bench grandmothers of Zimbabwe. Founded in 2007, the Friendship Bench project has treated 280,000 people in its 16 years of existence, in 70 communities across Zimbabwe and at spin-off projects in Malawi, Kenya and most recently Zanzibar and Vietnam. In 2024 it will arrive in London, with a series of Friendship Benches set to be installed in the city's most marginalised communities. "Whether it's London, New York or Zimbabwe, everywhere the issues are similar," Friendship Bench founder, Harare-based psychiatrist Dr Dixon Chibanda tells Positive News. "There are issues related to loneliness, access to care, and to just being able to know that what you're experiencing – whether you call it stress or depression or anxiety – is treatable." Most of the therapists are older women, who are traditionally turned to for counsel in Zimbabwean culture. The women are trained in the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] and allocated a park bench in their communities.
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Britni Ricard is the CEO of her own cosmetics company, COTA Skin Care, which she started in 2019. Last year, she also became a landlord when she bought her first investment property. The apartment building in New Orleans has 10 units and, according to Ricard, many of the tenants are single women with children. That made her think of her own childhood growing up in public housing, and how difficult Christmastime could be for her mom. "It was tough," Ricard told CBS News. "My mom was a single woman raising three children alone, and watching her continuously struggle as a child and wanting to figure out, 'How can I help?'" In November, Ricard gathered her tenants for a pre-holiday meeting and, while decked out in a chartreuse suit, she delivered a gift to her tenants that would make Santa Claus green with envy: one month of free rent. A video of her surprise announcement went viral on TikTok. In the video, Ricard also offered to organize a seminar to help her tenants become homeowners. Kedesha Dunn lives in one of the building's units with her two boys. The single mom said Ricard's gift would allow her family to celebrate more and worry less. "Now I, you know, I don't have to go try to take a loan out or something like ask my family for money," Dunn said. "Like, I can do it now. Like, I can do it." "I'm an emotional person," Dunn added. "I start to cry. 'Cause I'm just like, that is so sweet. She's uh, better than Santa Claus at this point. ... Like a guardian angel."
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There's a quiet alley in Japan's capital where passersby often do a double-take. Sharing space with chic cafes and world-class bars, the tiny fruit and vegetable stand seems to have been teleported from a country road far away. Weather-beaten wood tables groan under stacks of carrots, potatoes, mandarin oranges and other fresh farm produce. But what makes the stall even more remarkable in the heart of Tokyo is that payment is on the honor system – customers just toss coins into an old mailbox – and most of the items on offer are priced at 100 yen, or about 70 cents, in a neighborhood where fresh food usually goes for much, much more. A handwritten mission statement on the stall is addressed: "Dear young people." "I came here from Hiroshima with nothing. Lived on watermelon for a month, but couldn't ask mom for help. Thirty years on, I grow plenty of vegetables," the note continues. "Tomo-chan is on your side, so don't worry about the future." Opened five years ago, the produce stand has struck a chord with some of the city's hard-pressed younger residents, revealing a well of hidden despair beneath the glitter and gloss of a world-famous metropolis. The greengrocer with a heart of gold is rarely glimpsed by her grateful customers. "I want young people to feel that they're not forgotten, that they are treasured," she said. "That not everyone is out for himself. I can make money anytime. Right now, I want to give young people a helping hand."
The story of two enemies cuts through the darkness. It begins on a battlefield in the Iran-Iraq war, and ends 20 years later in a waiting room in Vancouver. The Iran-Iraq war began in 1980, and ended eight years later. It was the longest conventional war of the 20th century, claiming at least a million casualties. Najah Aboud was nearly one of them. Najah was severely wounded. He crawled off to a bunker, where he saw corpses from both sides and prepared himself to die. Zahed Haftlang ... was assigned as a medic. After the Iranians recaptured Khorramshahr in May 1982, Zahed was ordered to go into the bunkers and treat wounded countrymen. It was then that he ... spotted Najah near the back. Both men were suspicious of each other. Zahed thought Najah's body might be booby-trapped. Najah thought Zahed might kill him. Then Zahed reached into Najah's breast pocket and pulled out a photograph. It showed Najah, with a beautiful woman, and infant son. It was at that very moment that Zahed decided to save Najah's life, even though it meant risking his own. Najah was taken to a prisoner of war camp, where he'd remain in unspeakable conditions for the next 17 years. While reading magazines in [a Vancouver] waiting room, Zahed noticed the door open as another man entered the room. The two men erupted into shouts, hugs, kisses and tears. Their spectacular reunion happened two decades years after the battle of Khorramshahr and on the other side of the world. "Najah is like my family â€¦ he really is my angel, because he gave me life. After he got a new chance at life, he gave me a new chance at life. He is the dearest and most precious thing in the entire world to me."
Note: Don't miss the powerful 16-min documentary about Zahed and Najah. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.
By the time the sun casts its first beams on war-ravaged Yemen, hundreds of men will have taken their positions across the park, and the workout begins. Enthusiastic chants of "Ahsan Fareek", or "Best Team", boom across the park as members of this daily, free, open-to-all sports club begin a set of 33 exercises designed to work the whole body. For the next hour, they temporarily put aside the stressors they've accumulated from the devastating eight-year civil war that has claimed 377,000 lives, touching their toes, standing on one leg and reaching for the sky. By 6.30am the crowd disperses, and everyone goes about their day, rejuvenated and energized, ready to meet again the following morning. "It is a sports club for everyone, but it's particularly vital for the elderly, who suffer from illnesses and anxiety and for whom treatment is unaffordable," says Najy Abu Hatem, co-founder of the initiative. "Being part of Best Team lifts their morale and gives them free exercise classes in a healthy and social setting." In a country of 33 million people, there are only 59 psychiatrists – one psychiatrist per 500,000 people – and the total number of mental health workers is just 304. Although Best Team can hardly tackle this huge, ongoing mental health crisis, the twin benefits it provides of camaraderie and physical exercise – under the guise of a more socially acceptable men's sports club – is nonetheless quietly improving people's mental wellbeing across the capital and beyond.
It all started in 2019, when Bjartmar LeĂłsson started to see a rise in bike theft in ReykjavĂk. The bus driver and self-confessed "bike nerd" decided to start tracking them down and returning them to their rightful owners. Four years and, he estimates, hundreds of salvaged bikes later, the 44-year-old has developed a reputation in the Icelandic capital among cyclists and potential bike thieves. Known as the ReykjavĂk "bike whisperer", people across his home city turn to him for help to find their missing bicycles, tools and even cars. Often, he says, bike thieves hand over bikes without being asked and some former bike thieves have started to help him. Now when somebody loses their bike it can take as little as 48 hours to track it down on his Facebook page, HjĂłladĂłt ofl. tapaĂ° fundiĂ° eĂ°a stoliĂ° (Bicycle stuff etc lost, found or stolen), updated every few hours with missing and found items and which has more than 14,500 members. "It's not only me," he says. "Many times someone sees a bike hidden in a bush, takes a picture and then someone else comments â€hey that's my bike'. So everyone's looking out." Now when people's bikes get stolen, he says, the police direct them to his Facebook page. When there is a finder's fee he gives it to people living in [a homeless] shelter. He he says he now sees the bike theft problem is often driven by addiction, aided by long rehab waiting lists and closures during the summer.
The power's out. But on a street in India, there's a cash machine still happily dispensing banknotes. Thanks, in part, to burnt cotton. For this cash machine has a backup battery inside it – a battery that contains carbon from carefully combusted cotton. "The exact process is secret," says Inketsu Okina, chief intelligence officer at PJP Eye, the Japanese firm that made the battery. "The temperature is secret and atmosphere is secret. Pressure is secret," he continues. Okina does say that a high temperature is required, above 3,000C (5,432F). And that 1kg (2.2lbs) of cotton yields 200g (7oz) of carbon – with just 2g (0.07oz) needed for each battery cell. PJP Eye also touts the possibility of improving battery performance as well as making batteries greener. "Our carbon has a bigger surface area than graphite," says Okina, describing how the chemistry of the anode in their Cambrian single carbon battery allows for a battery that charges very quickly, up to 10 times faster than existing lithium ion batteries, he claims. The battery's cathode is made from a "base metal" oxide. Although Okina won't disclose exactly which one, these metals include copper, lead, nickel and zinc. The company claims to be working on a dual carbon electrode battery, where both electrodes are made from plant-based carbon. Other researchers are looking at using materials as diverse as corn waste and melon seed shells to generate new types of electrodes for use in batteries.
Popcorn could soon be used to create sustainable insulation for buildings, replacing the current non-biodegradable materials. Scientists have invented a method to create sustainable building insulation boards using "granulated" popcorn with "excellent" thermal insulation properties and good protection against fire. The plant-based, environmentally friendly material is a sustainable alternative to current building insulation products that are derived from petroleum, said scientists from the University of GĂ¶ttingen in Germany. About 90 per cent of the materials currently used to make insulation for buildings are made of plastics or mineral fibre, which are non-biodegradable, according to the scientists. These materials generate carbon dioxide during their manufacturing stages and are also rarely recycled when a building is torn down, contributing to pollution and making them unsustainable. Conventional insulating materials made of polystyrene also tend to damage the environment, the scientists pointed out. On the contrary, the researchers said, granulated popcorn is similar to polystyrene and just as lightweight, without having the synthetic material's downsides. "This new process, based on that of the plastics industry, enables the cost-effective production of insulation boards at an industrial scale," Alireza Kharazipour, head of the research group from the University of GĂ¶ttingen, said in a statement.
A Paraguayan father of two with no arms or legs found the strength and determination to raise both his girls, despite his limitations, when their mother abandoned them. Pablo AcuĂ±a was born with a limb deformity, causing his arms and legs to not grow properly. Yet he's a happy, grateful man who lives in the city of Son Pedro del Parana, Paraguay. At 63 years old, he's a proud father of two daughters in their twenties, whom he has raised since they were babies with the help of his mother, Ignacia del Valle. Although Pablo has suffered from his condition since his birth, he said it has never affected him. Apart from not being able to attend high school and having his parents take care of him, he had a pretty normal childhood. His youngest daughter, Elida, 26, sings his praises for providing a "very nice" childhood despite him not having arms and legs. "I was raised by my dad and grandmother," Elida said. "My dad is incredible. He is a very wonderful person, he is always seen with a smile; never have I seen him depressed." Since Pablo cannot walk, he has used a wooden wheelbarrow as a sitting and sleeping platform for decades. He is known locally as "El Hombre Carretilla," or "The Wheelbarrow Man." According to Elida, Pablo's greatest wish is to own his home. Elida [said] that her family, who "lives for rent," is desperately saving to this end. Since her grandmother turned 93, Elida has returned to the family home ... to help take care of her father.
Since 2017 the U.S.-based charity GiveDirectly has been providing thousands of villagers in Kenya what's called a "universal basic income" – a cash grant of about $50, delivered every month, with the commitment to keep the payments coming for 12 years. This week a team of independent researchers who have been studying the impact released their first results. Their findings ... compare the outcomes for about 5,000 people who got the monthly payments to nearly 12,000 others in a control group who got no money. The researchers also compared the recipients to people in two other categories: nearly 9,000 who received the monthly income for just two years; and another roughly 9,000 people who got that same two years' worth of income but in a lump-sum payment. When it came to measures of well-being such as consumption of protein or spending money on schooling, all of the groups who were given cash were better off than people in the control group that got no money. Those who got the money in a lump sum vastly outperformed people who were promised the same amount for just two years but received it in monthly installments. Lump-sum recipients had 19% more enterprises – businesses such as small shops in local markets, motorbike taxis and small-scale construction concerns. And the lump sum recipients' net revenues from their businesses were a whopping 80% higher. The grants did not seem to fuel inflation.
On the snowy shore of the northern Swedish city of LuleĂĄ, bathers are lowering themselves into a rectangular hole in the frozen seawater. "It's like a happiness rush afterwards," says Katariina Yliperttula, 44, who is taking a dip before work. While many have their own hobbies that keep them going through the cold dark winter months here – ice swimming, cross-country skiing, walking on the "ice road" out into the archipelago – one thing remains a problem: loneliness. In an attempt to counter that, authorities in LuleĂĄ have launched a campaign to ease that social isolation, ever so slightly, by encouraging people to say hello to one another. The SĂ¤g hej! (say hello!) campaign says it aims to create a friendlier city by nudging people towards small but significant social interactions. Adverts are running on buses, and workshops are being held in schools. Recent research found that among 16- to 29-year-olds, 45% of people in LuleĂĄ were experiencing problems as a result of loneliness. Ă…sa Koski, who works for LuleĂĄ municipality, came up with the idea for the campaign. She wants the city, which is undergoing a period of rapid growth as it tries to attract tens of thousands of new people to work in "green" industry ... to not grow more atomised as a result. "We don't just want that LuleĂĄ is going to grow as a city; we want LuleĂĄ to be a pleasant and safe and friendly city," says Koski. Being greeted by strangers makes people feel "more seen and a bit more like you belong", she adds.
When [city councillor] Alexandre Garcin dreamed up Zero-Waste Roubaix, it wasn't sustainability he wanted to tackle, but the litter problem that plagued his city. Garcin sent out leaflets looking for 100 volunteers to participate in a free, year-long pilot programme that would teach them how to live waste-free. These familles zĂ©ro dĂ©chet, or zero-waste families, would receive training and attend workshops on topics such as making your own yoghurt and cleaning with homemade products, with the goal of halving their waste by the year's end. Volunteers weren't offered any direct financial incentives to participate – only the promise of helping solve the litter problem and protecting the environment. The project focused on creating an identity around zero-waste and assigning families quantitative waste-reduction targets – strategies that are proven to be effective in other contexts, and everyone got pretty straightforward guidelines – for example, "don't buy more food than you can eat". According to Garcin, it's actually "not that difficult" to halve a household's waste production. Composting gets you most of the way there, since organic waste makes up about a third of the average French family's municipal waste by weight. Another third is glass and metal, a significant chunk of which can probably be kept out of the landfill through recycling, and 10% is plastic, much of which can be avoided by finding reusable alternatives to plastic grocery bags, cutlery, packaging and other single-use items.
Northwestern University's Prison Education Program welcomed its inaugural graduating class of incarcerated students on Wednesday, marking the first time a top-ranked U.S. university has awarded degrees to students in prison. Evanston, Illinois-based Northwestern ... runs the program in partnership with Oakton College and the Illinois Department of Corrections. It was a moving commencement ceremony for the 16 graduating men and their loved ones at the Stateville correctional facility in Crest Hill. "I have no words for this, (it's) otherworldly. Coming from where I came from, the things that I've been through and to be here is indescribable," said graduate Michael Broadway after the ceremony. Broadway attained his degree despite several setbacks, including battling stage 4 prostate cancer. "I'm just so proud of him," said his mother Elizabeth. "I really am. He looks so good in that gown." Due to ill health, she had not seen Broadway since ... 2005. Professor Jennifer Lackey is the program's founding director. "Twenty years ago, some of these guys were in rival gangs, and here they are swapping poetry with each other and giving critical engagements on sociology assignments," said Lackey. "The love and growth that we see in the community is really unlike anything I've experienced at the on-campus commencements." Around 100 students are enrolled in the Northwestern program across Stateville and the Logan Correctional Center, a women's prison.
Brandon, Jackie and Julie meet for dinner every Thursday, sitting at their regular table. As they leave, there's no check to pay for this generous meal. The pop-up cafe at a church hall in Chelmsford, England is one of 80 held across the country throughout the week. They're an initiative of FoodCycle, the UK's largest community dining organization, which turns produce that supermarkets would otherwise throw out into a free meal for anyone who wants to attend. In 2022, FoodCycle's pop-up cafes served nearly 500,000 meals to 62 communities across the UK, saving 209 tonnes of food from going to waste. Forty-three percent of people who attend FoodCycle meals, like Jackie and Julie, live on their own, with 68 percent of them feeling lonely, according to a survey of 910 FoodCycle guests in 2022. Loneliness is considered to be a significant mental and public health issue in the country, affecting over half the population, with the Mental Health Foundation linking it to depression and declining physical health. Sixty-eight percent of FoodCycle guests worry about affording food, and 92 percent are concerned about the increasing price of food, to the extent that 75 percent regularly skip meals. "These issues are intertwined and interlinked. We know there's a correlation between people who are facing food poverty, and feeling isolated and disconnected from their communities," says Sophie Tebbetts, FoodCycle's head of programs and incoming CEO.
For now, it's only a gaping hole in the ground. But when construction is complete next April, the Lower Sioux–also known as part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota–will have a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer a green experiment, the first of its kind in the United States. They will have an integrated vertical operation to grow hemp, process it into insulation called hempcrete, and then build healthy homes with it. Right now, no one in the US does all three. Once the tribe makes this low-carbon material, they can begin to address a severe shortage of housing and jobs. Recapturing a slice of sovereignty would be a win for the Lower Sioux. They lost most of their lands in the 19th century, and the territory finally allotted to them two hours south of Minneapolis consists of just 1,743 acres of poor soil. That stands in contrast to the fertile black earth of the surrounding white-owned farmlands. Nearly half of the 1,124 enrolled members of the tribe need homes. "The idea of making homes that would last and be healthy was a no-brainer," said Robert "Deuce" Larsen, the tribal council president. Leading the national charge on an integrated hempcrete operation is no mean feat, seeing that virtually no one in the community had experience with either farming or construction before the five-person team was assembled. Hemp can grow in a variety of climates. What's more, hemp regenerates soil, sequesters carbon, and doesn't require fertilizers.
The free, moneyless economy is flourishing in America. Roughly 250 million people were still visiting Craigslist worldwide each month in 2022, 27 years after the site was launched in 1995–and many of those Craigslist users are posting and sharing goods under the site's popular "free stuff" section. About eight years after Craigslist was launched, Freecycle Network came online in 2003. More than 9 million Americans were still using Freecycle as of 2020, which I detailed in an article that year. And then there's the relatively young Buy Nothing Project, which turned 10 years old in July of 2023. In addition to providing a digital space where people can request things they need, post things they're giving away, and share gratitude, one of the B corp's social benefit model goals is to encourage people to organize community and local events around buying nothing. Over the years, Buy Nothing has been gaining popularity–not through any marketing on the part of the organization but through word-of-mouth and organic growth. The Buy Nothing app, which has only been around for about two years, is ... zeroing in on 1 million users. Buy Nothing's model varies from that of Craigslist's "free stuff" and Freecycle in that it is focused on community groups, gatherings, and events organized by and for local communities. The idea is that a global reuse economy will emerge community by community. Buy Nothing exists ... "to build resilient communities where our true wealth is the connections forged between neighbors."
In most of Europe, fitting a heat pump is one of the most powerful actions a person can take to reduce their carbon footprint. But in Norway, where clean-yet-inefficient electrical resistance heaters have long been common, upgrading to a heat pump is often a purely financial decision. Two-thirds of households in this Nordic country of 5 million people have a heat pump, more than anywhere else in the world. For many years, Norwegians and their neighbours heated their homes with fossil fuels. But during the 1973 oil crisis, when prices shot up, the country's political leaders made a conscious choice to promote alternatives. "Norway ensured early on that fossil-fuel heating was the most expensive option, making heat pumps cost competitive," said Dr Jan Rosenow from the Regulatory Assistance Project, a thinktank that works to decarbonise buildings. "They did this by taxing carbon emissions from fossil heating fuels. That's been the key to incentivise heat pump adoption." Norway also trained up a workforce to install them. Heat pumps' efficiency has been increased over decades, partly because of the early adopters in Nordic countries who tinkered away to the point where a modern version can deliver three to five units of heat for every unit of electricity used to power it. An efficient gas boiler, on the other hand, can only produce as much heat as the energy contained in the fuel being burned. A heat pump will have a smaller carbon footprint than a gas boiler even when plugged into an electricity grid.
Dutch sewage waste is being seen as a reliable heat source for millions of homes that the government wants to be unhooked from the country's gas system by 2050. Lieven de Key, a housing corporation in Amsterdam, is planning what is believed to be the first sewer warmth project that will tap into a main district sewage pipe to warm 1,600 existing social and student homes. "We have a photo of the street covered with snow, and the manhole covers all without snow," says Jeroen Rademaker, the project leader. "Even when there's snow in the winter, the sewer is warm. Warm sewage water flows 24 hours a day and we should capture it. This can happen wherever there is a big sewage pipe." "The warmth comes from showers, the toilet, wastewater from washing, from the dishwasher, from the washing machine," says Postuma. "Together it all gives, throughout the year, a temperature between 15 and 18 degrees. And we are going to make a bypass around the main sewer, put a heat exchanger around it and bring it to the houses in insulated pipes. We place it in an electric heat pump, and the water is heated up to 60 or 70C – medium temperature." The heat exchanger transfers that source heat from the drain to a working fluid that can be transported to the buildings without needing to circulate the actual sewage waste. Then the blocks' heat pumps, fired by solar energy, can amplify that heat in the opposite way to the workings of a refrigerator.
For millennia, humans have used dried natural sponges to clean up, to paint and as vessels to consume fluids like water or honey. Whether synthetic or natural, sponges are great at ensnaring tiny particles in their many pores. And, as scientists around the world are beginning to show, sponges' cavity-filled forms mean they could provide a solution to one of our era's biggest scourges: microplastic pollution. In August, researchers in China published a study describing their development of a synthetic sponge that makes short work of microscopic plastic debris. In tests, the researchers show that when a specially prepared plastic-filled solution is pushed through one of their sponges, the sponge can remove both microplastics and even smaller nanoplastics from the liquid. Optimal conditions allowed the researchers to remove as much as 90 percent of the microplastics. The plastic-gobbling sponges are made mostly from starch and gelatin. Looking a bit like large white marshmallows, the biodegradable sponges are so light that balancing one atop a flower leaves the plant's petals upright and unyielding, which the researchers suggest ought to make them cheap and easy to transport. The sponges, if ever produced at an industrial scale ... could be used in wastewater treatment plants to filter microplastics out of the water or in food production facilities to decontaminate water. It would also be possible to use microplastic-trapping sponges like this in washing machines.