News We Can Still Be Encouraged By / No. 4

happy news

Glances at our phones, scrolls through news websites and Facebook, and open ears in any public venue are threatening to steal our hope these days. It seems that bitter and divisive language are being spewed anyplace in which two or more people gather — whether virtually or physically.

We are often feeling as though hate’s influence is becoming more prolific than that of compassion. Our tick mark on the timeline of greater human history does not currently appear to proclaim a prominent message of love; however, significant acts of empathy and grace are occurring today. So, this month, we are here to share endeavors and instances of human solidarity.

People are, in fact, gathering, collaborating and making moves to bridge gaps and reach the underrepresented. Let’s look on these people with softer hearts, ready to gain some hope in the potential of humanity, so that we, too, might join them in leaving a legacy of compassion. As we do, let us also keep the stern, simple words of Mother Teresa on our minds: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

1. The Power of Song

Ricardo B. Salinas Pliego created the social program Esperanza Azteca Youth Symphony network for underprivileged boys and girls. The program’s goal is to use music to help 5-to-17-year-old youth throughout Mexico develop values, such as discipline and teamwork. Ultimately, the vision is to strengthen the social fabric in underprivileged communities. About 16,000 students and 1,300 teachers participate. Fatefully, the boys and girls who attend are seen greatly developing their self-esteem.

This fall, the program’s Los Angeles orchestra offered a tribute to maestro Plácido Domingo, the best tenor in the world. Reflecting on the event, Pliego commented, “To achieve the transformation of our society, not only in Mexico but throughout the world, we need to unite and work together and that’s what these boys and girls do when playing music with such precision. They do not think about their differences; they focus on how to work in harmony, because they know the result will be exceptional.”

For more on this story, read here.

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2. easyJet Founder Focuses on the Ground Level

Within the brief span of 20 years, Greek Stelios Haji-Ioannou transformed an out-of-date airline industry into an affordable, contemporary travel option for the entirety of his continent. He clearly bears a quick and daring mind, so it’s no surprise that he brings it to his philanthropic undertakings, too.

In 2013 in Cyprus, Haji-Ioannou initiated the “Food from the Heart” program to aid those affected by the country’s economic crisis. A year later, the program opened its first distribution point in Athens, Greece. Today, they are handing out more than 20,000 snacks each day from 21 distribution points. The founder shared, “I think people who are lucky to have inherited some money, and/or perhaps made some money through a successful business, have a duty to give back to society. I am just trying to repay my debt to society.”

For more on this story, read here.

3. STEM Brings Light to Kenyan Schools

Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to modern electricity. We Share Solar fights this issue by providing clean, sustainable solar light and power for schools and community venues in Sub-Saharan Africa. This program is the educational offshoot of the non-profit organization, We Care Solar.

The learning program affords American young people the opportunity to help build We Share Solar “Suitcases,” solar electric systems assembled as part of a project-based STEM curriculum. These are then donated to other young people in energy-deficient regions of the world where they are installed in schools and community centers. Program Manager Wendy Cross and We Care Solar Co-Founder and Executive Director Dr. Laura Stachel stated, “Students are exposed to engineering with a purpose and develop a sense of themselves as global citizens. We work with passionate partners who identify sites for our life-changing technology.”

For more on this story, read here.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

4. Michigan Students Form a Circle of Protection Around Muslim Peers

Last week, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan was reported having been threatened for her faith. In response, hundreds of students and faculty resolved to stand guard around classmates who had gathered in a main square to perform an Islamic daily prayer.

The university’s Muslim Student Association planned to host nighttime prayer, or Ishaa, publicly in order to demonstrate their pride in being Muslim. They asked for support, and they received far more than they had expected. Farhan Ali, the club’s president, wrote, “Hundreds and hundreds of people came out for both prayer and showing their support…The amount of support was overwhelming and absolutely wonderful, and it brought some ease to the Muslim students [and] showed that we have other individuals who are willing to stand with us.”

Mohammed Ishtiaq, the university’s Muslim chaplain, told The Huffington Post that both the Jewish and Christian communities on campus came out to show their support. He said some members of the crowd held signs that read, “You Belong Here.” He said, “Events of solidarity like this give us hope.”

For more on this story, read here.

boy of steel

Image via Nessim Stevenson

5. Photographer Captures “The Boy of Steel” in a Greek Refugee Camp

Photographer Nessim Stevenson met Mussa, a Kurdish-Syrian boy in an unofficial camp at the Greek port of Piraeus. The boy had been living there for months when Stevenson encountered him. Stevenson shared that he exuded a “strong, stubborn and cunning” disposition at five years old. He could be seen poking fun at the volunteers and tip-toeing into storage for snacks and juice.

Just days before Stevenson captured his photo, Mussa led his friends to a nearby beach, only to return with the dark of night approaching. Stevenson said, “His expression here represents the pride and resilience of his people despite the desperate living conditions in the camp and the uncertain future they face.”

For more on this story, read here.

What have you been encouraged by lately? Share something good with us in the comments below!

Images via Mary Grace Baker

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A student of English and psychology at the University of San Diego, Lauren is constantly learning about the human heart’s journey through life in story and study. Her personal goal is to grow to be a wise child, set free and emboldened with courage; and her friends and family, the joy of words, the unifying ability of a meal, laughter over everything, and the wild nature of the outdoors and the unknown consistently push her in that good direction.

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