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.


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

A Wider Circle: JDSA-ing Their Way To End Poverty

While searching for folks who Just DO Something to make a difference, we came across A Wider Circle.  Its founder, Mark Bergel, was just named a 2014 CNN Hero.  Mark and his team are on a mission to end poverty…and just how, exactly, they’re doing that will astound you!  We’ll let them tell you who they are, what they do, and how they’re JDSA-ing their way to make a difference!  

Hundreds of thousands of mothers watching their children go to sleep each night in beds rather than on the floor. Children picking out their school clothes each morning from dressers rather than plastic garbage bags. Low-income, pregnant adolescents receiving the care-taking skills needed to raise healthy babies. Recently-homeless parents learning – and putting into practice – the basic life skills needed to obtain and maintain employment. Children and adults having the dignity and opportunity that everyone deserves.

This is why we are here, to create what is possible. The mission of A Wider Circle™ is to end poverty. We work in partnership with those we serve and with other agents of change to ensure that every child and adult has the opportunity to realize their potential and the support they need to rise out of poverty. A Wider Circle’s holistic approach focuses on the following three areas: 1. The provision of basic need items; 2. Comprehensive education and job preparedness support; and 3. Creating connections for long-term support. These three components work in concert to create lasting change in the lives of those we serve.
Who We Are
A Wider Circle says no to nobody! Anyone in need of help can find it here. In addition to all of the individuals and families that call us, more than 300 social service agencies regularly contact us for help in serving their clients.

In 2013 alone, A Wider Circle furnished the homes of more than 17,000 children and adults and delivered more than 400 educational programs. We also recycled more than 3,000,000 pounds of furniture and home goods – collecting these items from those who had more than they needed and distributing them free of charge to those who had nothing. More than 10,000 volunteers came to serve at A Wider Circle in 2013.

A Wider Circle has twice been named “one of the best” charities by the Catalogue for Philanthropy. The organization has also received the Washington Area Women’s Foundation Leadership Award. Its founder, Dr. Mark Bergel, has received the Dr. Augustus White III Award for Civic Engagement and Service, the Greater DC CaresEssence of Leadership Award, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s Linowes Leadership Award, and the Andrea Jolly President’s Award from the Montgomery County Corporate Volunteer Council. In 2010, Dr. Bergel was also chosen as one of People Magazine and Major League Baseball’s “All Stars Among Us.”

A Wider Circle has also been honored to have the Examiner describe the organization as “an all-inclusive reservoir of support for those in need… an example of the grassroots movement at its best.

Happiest 5k On The Planet

by Katie Poggio / JDSA Intern


Everyone knows what a 5k is, but have you heard about the “Happiest 5k on the Planet?”  That would be The Color Run!  A unique 5k that’s all about promoting health, happiness, and individuality – and having fun while doing it!


Runners leave the starting gate clean in white.  Only to cross the finish line with splattered rainbows. The Color Run left a colorful mark in the hearts of nearly 8,000 Orlando locals this past weekend, as well as in the streets…especially with JDSA throwing paint from the sidelines!Image

As my volunteer shift began, I could feel positivity in the air radiating from the arriving runners and other volunteers.  The last bit of morning darkness faded over Central Florida, as people of all ages assembled together on a nearby soccer field to stretch, warm up, and wake up with the earth. The sun was rising, and so were the spirits of everyone around.

The Color Runners warmed up and readied themselves to get colorful! Proceeding towards the starting line…everyone eager to start the most colorful 5k they have ever experienced.


Being part of the run allowed me to see, first-hand, health, happiness, individuality, and lots of messiness!  I’ve never seen more people covered in paint with such big, bright smiles on their faces.  Several runners were completing their first 5k ever! And afterwards, were inspired to reach more health improvement goals – parents teaching their children that living fit and healthy lifestyles can be fun and rewarding.

Happiness was everywhere…especially after the race.  As soon as the runners crossed the finish line they were greeted by friends, family, and fellow color runners to enjoy the best part of this extraordinary 5k: The Finish Festival.  Color Bombs exploded in the air, with individuality being expressed through everyone’s unique attire; Tutu’s, colorful high socks, balloons, wigs, handmade hats and masks.  You name it…a color runner had it on!

ImageRunning a 5K to raise money for local charities definitely calls for a celebration!  But it didn’t stop there. The Color Run and their partner, Global Citizen, not only brings positive impact to the communities they visit, they’re on a mission to end poverty.  This year, The Color Run’s trip to Orlando helped raised donations for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. A private, nonprofit that distributes donated food to over 500 nonprofit partner agencies in 6 Central Florida counties.

The Color Run was an incomparable experience that left me in high spirits. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience such an uplifting event. Think a Color Run might be for you?  Visit their website and nominate your town for a Color Run visit!

Oh, and make sure you wear clothes that, well…you don’t mind getting just a little bit messy.


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