Inspiring Stories To Give You Hope After A Less Than Inspiring Year

 

We thought sharing NPR‘s favorite, most inspiring stories of 2016, would be a nice Christmas present.  Inspiring you to remain hopeful after the (insert catastrophic phrase of your own here) year we just shared together.  These stories certainly helped shape our New Year’s Resolution.  Not gym membership, seeing the doctor more often, or adding more travel commitments (although, we’ll do those things).  But also our determination to raise our voices a little louder…get involved just a little bit more.

So let’s all have ourselves a wonderful holiday season…and get some rest!  We’ve got work to do in 2017.

Merry Christmas and a Happy (Happier) New Year to all of those committed to Just DO Something…Anything! to make a difference.

Sincerely,
JDSA

Clockwise from upper left: Dr. Forster Amponsah; a Malick Sidbe photo taken in Mali; a global garden of radio; Chewa the TB-sniffing rat; another Sidbe photo; Olympic medalist Fu Yuanhui of China; the New Mexico cave where a superhero bacterium lived; poverty fighter Sir Fazle Hasan Abed; calligrapher Sughra Hussainy; activist Loyce Maturu.

Jason Beaubien/NPR, Courtesy of Malick Sidibe and Jack Shainman Gallery, Katherine Streeter for NPR, Maarten Boersema/APOPO, Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images, Courtesy of Max Wisshak, Courtesy of BRAC, Ben de la Cruz and Toya Sarno Jordan/NPR 

There was no shortage of sad news in 2016.

And because we’re a blog that covers global health and development, we covered a lot of those sobering stories: the toll of diseases like Zika, the bombing of hospitals in conflict zones, the suffering caused by poverty and by discrimination against women.

But we published a lot of hopeful stories as well. We asked our team at Goats and Soda to pick some of the stories from this year that inspired them the most. We hope you’re inspired too.

Of Periods And Bugs

My favorite inspiring story from this year was about the Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui who made headlines for telling the world she was on her period. I love that woman — breaking boundaries and taboos effortlessly.

My favorite story that I wrote was the hero bug story. We forget that to fight antibiotic resistance we need the help of the bacteria. —Michaeleen Doucleff

A Rat With A Nose For TB

My favorite piece on Goats and Soda in 2016 was “Chewa The Lab Rat Has A Great Job, Good Retirement Benefits.” African giant-pouched rats like Chewa are trained to detect TB — and they’re faster and cheaper than lab machines. You can tell from the photos that the lab technicians really love their helper rats. —Malaka Gharib

Unstoppable Women

I love watching the video of Sughra Hussainy creating calligraphy. When she was a kid in Afghanistan, girls couldn’t go to school. That didn’t stand in her way. Today she’s a gifted artist with big dreams: “I just want to work hard at this. And of course, become world famous.”

A favorite story I wrote was an interview with Loyce Maturu, a 24-year-old from Zimbabwe who was an orphan, HIV positive and abused by a relative. And she had TB. And tried to kill herself at a low point. As the headline says, “She almost gave up — but didn’t.” —Marc Silver

Dazzling Doctor

Dr. Forster Amponsah has star power. You can see it as he walks the halls of the Koforidua Regional Hospital in Ghana. Interns’ and patients’ eyes track his movement. Amponsah through sheer force of will and against incredible challenges has built up a surgical department in his public hospital. The surgeries he’s performing would be considered routine in a U.S. hospital but some days in Ghana they appear as small miracles. —Jason Beaubien

Irresistible Radio

Our story about Radio Garden, a website that lets you listen to stations around the world, was my favorite story. Just point your cursor at one of the thousands of green dots on a map of the globe. Listen to talk radio in Uganda, jazz in Morocco and punk rock in Hawaii. It’s a fun way to feel a connection to distant cultures. —Ben de la Cruz

A Photographer And A Poverty Fighter

This one is poignant given the extremism and political violence plaguing Mali, but I felt so uplifted reading Ofeibea Quist-Arcton’s tribute to the late Malian portrait photographer Malick Sidibe. His black and white images from the 1960s and ’70s captured dancing couples, pensive matriarchs and youngsters showing off their grooviest outfits — a reminder of a hopeful time when Mali was newly independent and, as Quist-Arcton put it, “relishing its freedom and having fun.”

One of my favorite interviews was with “the most influential poverty fighter you’ve never heard of” — Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of BRAC, the anti-poverty group. BRAC helped pioneer a program that gives extremely poor families an asset like a cow or a goat. It’s an approach that has likely improved the lives of millions. —Nurith Aizenman

3 years – $1 million – & 110 Countries Later

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Three years ago this month Just DO Something…Anything! was created.  At the time JDSA was just a few letters … and Social Discussion was just a blog with a catchy phrase: We have the right to remain silent.  We just choose not to …”

For two months our computer screen sat blank … a blinking black cursor in the middle of an empty white page.  The first piece we posted was an Op/Ed political story I wrote after covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa for NBC News. We thought we were starting a revolution.  But really, we were just beginning an evolution.

We weren’t political writers.  We were social storytellers.  And that’s what we set out to do – tell stories through producing video content: writing commercials and shooting PSAs, developing creative strategies and concept planning for social organizations around the world.

But with nearly 12 million nonprofits, it seemed a daunting – if not impossible task.  So we decided to connect – both ourselves and others – to some of the more unique social organizations in existence.  Everyone knows about The Gates Foundation and Amnesty International.  But how many know about Rebecca Pontius and http://dogoodbus.com? A school bus she “decked out” so as to offer once-a-month community rides to volunteers to and from great causes in her Los Angeles community.

Or Shawn Seipler’s nonprofit, https://cleantheworld.org, who, while on a business trip had an idea for soap recycling after learning the barely used bars of hotel soap he left behind ended up in a landfill.  Today, Clean the World has more than 50 full-time employees in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong.  And they’ve distributed more than 25 million bars of soap to over 99 countries.

And we met Shannon O’Donnell, who created http://grassrootsvolunteering.org and built a dual database of organizations all over the world … helping empower travelers to connect to the causes and communities in the places they travel.

JDSA’s evolution is ongoing.  Today, we’re a 501C3 nonprofit who’s helped raise over $1 million for several unique and innovative nonprofits.  And we couldn’t have done it without you – the 30,000+ followers in over 110 countries. Thank you for turning JDSA into a verb – for JDSA’ing in the social causes you’re passionate about, and for telling us about the one’s that are making a difference in your life.

Please keep us posted on those unique organizations you come across!  In the meantime, check out a few we’ve found – from a variety of social causes.

The Pollination Project – https://thepollinationproject.org

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A Gift For Teaching – http://agiftforteaching.org

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Curbside Chronicle – http://thecurbsidechronicle.org/about-us/

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Zebra Coalition – http://zebrayouth.org

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The Prospector Theatre – http://www.prospectortheater.org

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Soaring Paws – http://www.soaringpaws.com

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Wildlife SOS / India – http://wildlifesos.org

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To learn more about those organizations, and some of the others we’ve come across, check out our “Your Connections” tab on our web site: http://www.jdsanything.org/#!your-connections/czy8

One Organization’s Seed Money Is Helping Grow Many Non-Profits

 

Two years ago, as JDSA was just getting started, we stumbled upon an organization called, Pollination Project.

Their mission: Make seed grants possible for individuals looking to make social change.

They do this, not only by making a thousand-dollar donation for those seeking to spread compassion and change throughout their communities and the world…they do it everyday.

$1,000 a day…every day.

That’s 365 grants a year – all over the world.

“One of the challenges with the way philanthropy is currently being done is there’s such a disconnect between the givers and those who are benefiting from the work.” says Ari Nessel, Pollination’s founder.

The $1,000 impact grant jumpstarted our organization, inspired us, and changed our lives.  And we’re not alone.  Hundreds of others like Raghu Makwan, of India.  Who, despite being paralyzed by polio, used his $1,000 to find ways to deliver meals to people needier than him.  Kazu Haga started a movement to train prisoners and at-risk students to embrace nonviolence.  In California, 88-year-old Celia Zaentz used her $1,000 to support community agriculture, and is now teaching kids how to grow vegetables and fruits.  And thirteen-year-old Harley Helman (shown in the CBS story above) spent years collecting blankets, food and toys to donate to animal shelters around Cleveland, then used her impact grant to turn her charity, Blankets Fur Beasties into a tax-exempt non-profit.

For many nonprofits – us included – Pollination Project was the difference between moving ahead and not moving at all.

To learn more about Pollination Project click the links below:

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