Seven reasons to smile: good news stories from around the world

Joana Luis, 65, photographed with her family's pile of supplies received at a distribution in Ndeja, Mozambique. Photo: Tommy Trenchard
Joana Luis, 65, photographed with her family's pile of supplies received at a distribution in Ndeja, Mozambique. Photo: Tommy Trenchard

You might read the headline and think this isn’t possible – especially as we have just entered a new lockdown. But amongst the gloom of 2020 there have been some glimmers of hope, some reasons to be cheerful and some smiles to be had – you just had to look a bit harder to find them. I wanted to share with you some of the stories I have found and I hope you enjoy them too.

Africa was declared free from wild polio

Polio is a virus which spreads from person to person and can lead to paralysis as it attacks the nervous system.

Two out of three strains of wild poliovirus have been eradicated worldwide. In August, Africa was declared free of the last remaining strain of wild poliovirus. As we are also focused on coronavirus it is great to see a success story in the fight against another devastating illness.

Marcus Rashford united thousands in the fight against child food poverty

Marcus Rashford spearheaded a movement to make sure underprivileged schoolchildren are able to have access to free food over the holidays. Photo: AP
Marcus Rashford spearheaded a movement to make sure underprivileged schoolchildren are able to have access to free food over the holidays. Photo: AP

The fact that children across the UK are going hungry is devastating but the way a young footballer has rallied people to highlight this scandal is impressive. When a motion to extend free school meals over school holidays until Easter 2021 was voted down by MPs Marcus continued his fight as he flooded his Twitter timeline with retweets of charities, schools and companies who stepped up to provide free meals to struggling families. This community spirit is amazing to behold and hopefully we will see this awareness extend to action on global food poverty.

Soap, soap and more soap

Sterline Dieu pictured as she holds up salts while they are making liquid and solid soap in Cite Soleil slum, Haiti. Photo: Dieu Nalio Chery
Sterline Dieu pictured as she holds up salts while they are making liquid and solid soap in Cite Soleil slum, Haiti. Photo: Dieu Nalio Chery

Handwashing has been a hot topic this year. So I was very impressed when I found out that our teams have been busy working to supply almost one million people with soap and hand sanitiser to help the fight against coronavirus. And we didn’t stop there. In Haiti we provided money and training so that people who are unemployed could make their own soap to use and sell, which has been running successfully in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s largest slum.

Captain Tom and an army of local heroes

When Captain Tom started his momentous fundraising effort back in April it felt like a moment of hope amidst all the lockdown gloom. But alongside Captain Tom there were hundreds of charity challenges taking place. At Concern we had people climbing the equivalent of Ben Nevis just by walking up their stairs, people running marathons in their garden and some children who jumped 1000 times a day, for seven days, on their trampoline. These individual acts of kindness are a reminder of how much compassion there is in the world.

A city that gave hummingbirds and other creatures citizenship

Hummingbird in Costa Rica. Photo: Deborah Underdown
Hummingbird in Costa Rica. Photo: Deborah Underdown

Curridabat in Costa Rica granted pollinators—including bees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies— along with native plants and trees citizenship. To be honest this is all I need to know to like this story but that is simply because I’m picturing bees with their own identity cards.  On a more serious note this story is all about urban planning and a project to enrich the biodiversity of the Costa Rican town. Residents are benefitting from improved air quality and integration with nature – sounds like a great place to live!

Ethiopia trees

I’m sure like me many of you have been appreciating nature a bit more this year. I have enjoyed seeing the trees in my local park evolve through the seasons so this story from our team in Ethiopia struck a chord.

1,549,819 trees – an average of more than 2,100 a day – were planted over the last two years in areas of the country devastated by droughts, floods and other severe weather events. The project is helping to improve soil quality, and provide food and jobs, as well as reversing the effects of climate change.

Olive, Mabel and me (and Andrew Cotter)

You might have noticed that my other examples relate to my role working at Concern – a charity focused on ending extreme poverty. But 2020 has been a year like no other so I think it is okay for me to throw in a wild card and write about something non-work related.

If you haven’t already watched (to be honest I don’t know how you would have missed it) sports commentator Andrew Cotter chronicling the lives of his two Labradors, Olive and Mabel you are in for a treat. There have been dark days over the last few months and every time one of these videos is published my mood is lightened. Here is a link to my favourite one.

Thanks for reading and I would love to know what good news stories you have come across over the year.

Share your concern