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

A Cultural Addiction To All Things Technology

by Dan Beckmann

The first time I traveled to Italy all my expenses were paid for: the hotel, the meals, and the wine. I took video of it all. Shooting a documentary on life in Rome I saw the Pantheon, the Forum, and the Roman Colosseum. Traipsing my way through the Vatican, shooting everything that moved with my big, bulky video camera, it dawned on me (years later, unfortunately) that I hadn’t seen anything. Not really. I was just capturing moments instead of realizing them.

Fast forward ten-plus years.

Ok, yea…so I sneaked a pic. Big deal.

The overpriced camera I once used has been replaced with an affordable smartphone. It’s much easier now to clandestinely smuggle a pocket-sized device into the Sistine Chapel, and snap an image without drawing much attention. Just remember to take off that “camera click” noise in the Settings menu. In my day, it was impossible for me to sneak past the Swiss Guard carrying a shoulder-mounted camera with a light on top.

Charlene deGuzman, who wrote and stars in this short film, speaks to how our use of technology has come at the expense of forging real, human connections.  NPR ran Charlene’s short (which has now been viewed over 22 million times) saying, “The cultural shift is complete. We’re all just alone with our smartphones, even when we’re surrounded by other humans.

Today, Apple’s iOS7 will be available for download, and the release of their new iPhone line is on deck. It all promises to be cool, fun and extremely time consuming to figure out. But Charlene’s video serves as a reminder that there’s a whole world out there to experience. And it was never meant to be seen through a viewfinder or a 4 inch piece of smartphone glass.

I’ll still use the camera on my iPhone. But now I’ll try doing so with the proper balance. A balance in the belief that it is possible to Just DO Something…Anything! with my phone in the “off” position.

Dan is the Co-Founder and President of Just DO Something…Anything! He spent nearly 15 years with NBC News as a cameraman, writer, editor and producer. His travels have taken him throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Dan loves wine (he thanks Italy for that) and plays the piano badly (he blames Italy’s wine for that).  http://DanBeckmann.com

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