Young Refugees Find Hope in Sports Practice


Petar Ristic loves basketball. He used to be a member of the junior national basketball team of the former Yugoslavia. Now at age 40 he is a coach sharing his love of the game with kids. Last year he went on a trip to Southeast Bangladesh with his partner who is working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.) What he found in the two camps he visited near the border with Myanmar took him aback.

In the Rohingya refugees camps of Nayapara and Kutupalong, despite the genuine efforts of the UNHCR team members, he was met with despair and boredom, especially coming from the children who make up half of the 28,000 Muslim refugees. Most of them were born in the camps. The lack of education and other opportunities gave them a lot of frustration.

Petar, known as Pero in the camps, knew he could help them because in his home country after the war, the children needed special attention. Through sports, he was able to teach them vital skills they needed to succeed in life. “Why not here?” he thought. He started a basketball program with 25 kids but couldn’t imagine the snowball effect he was about to create.

Fast forward one year later. Petar is now teaching table tennis, volleyball, basketball and football to 700 girls and boys of all ages, including disabled children. He has been hired by a NGO from which he gets sports equipments. Even the police of the camp can be found kicking the ball with the kids. By practicing organized sports, the children learn important life skills like working together and respecting each other. The sports field also provides a safe place for them to talk about their problems. Now they have hope and dreams. Via

Next week is World Refugee Week. You can donate to help the UNHCR provide better living conditions for refugees before they can find a new place to live. Petar Ristic is doing his part in Bangladesh. What can you do from your computer?

Mama Lucy Is Helping Tanzania Fight Poverty


The Girl Effect is happening everywhere and especially in developing countries. Everyday I find new stories about women stepping up to the plate with courage and persistence to offer a better future to the next generation.

In Arusha, Tanzania, Lucy Kamptoni, aka Mama Lucy, was selling chickens, her main income. Knowing that the key to eradicate poverty in her country was education, in 2003 she took her savings and started a primary school, Sheperds Junior Academy. She rented land next to her home and with iron determination, grew the classes from 6 children to include by 2007 more than 300 students at 8 grade levels.

But in July 2007, a hotel developer bought the land Mama Lucy was renting, planning to start construction in 2008. That meant the school would have to be shut down. Luckily for the students, around the same time, two Americans, Stacey Monk and Sanjay Patel in the midst of a trip, were volunteering at the school. When they learned about the situation, they were moved to help. They knew that their background in project management and corporate consulting could benefit the children.

Back in the US, they founded Epic Change (facebook page), a non-profit that loans money to organizations seeking to improve their communities. After raising tenth of thousands of dollars, they loaned the money to Mama Lucy and Sheperds Junior Academy was able to buy land and build new classrooms.

The added benefit of this loan is empowerment. Lead by Mama Lucy, the parents and the children are working hard to reimbourse the loan, giving them a sense of pride and ownership. Through the sales of gifts like postcards drawn by the students, everyday Shepherds is becoming more and more independent. Their motivation is backed by their academic scores. In November, the school participated in national exams for the first time.  Shepherds ranked #1 out of 117 participating schools in the Arusha district. Yeah! :)

A Noble Hiker Inspired by a Hero


Some people go half a world away to fill their desire to help. Rory Fanning from Chicago, stayed in his home country and just walked from the east to the west coast. It took him 8 months and 2,700 miles to reach his goal.

The aim was noble. While training for the Army in Fort Lewis, he befriended Pat Tillman, the famous Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals football star who was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. The news of Tillman’s death deeply affected Rory. After he left the Army, working as a banker, he found our society greedy and selfish. Disillusioned, remembering his conversations with Tillman, he took action and decided to raise money for the foundation created by Tillman’s family after his death.

Rory Fanning decided to walk rather than run or use a bicycle. His philosophy? “The slower you go the more you take in.” This allowed him to meet many more people whom he high-fived, chatted with and sometimes moved, sprinkling Tillman’s “leadership through action” spirit along the road. Additionally, he raised $35,000 in his friend’s name.

Now Rory has new goals, new roads to travel. His next step? Ireland where he will walk and talk to more teens, more colleges students, more families, more detainees with whom he will share his experience.

To learn more:

Rory Fanning’ s facebook page and website where he chronicles his journey. A great read!

The Pat Tillman Foundation

Picture by AdventureRequired

Knowing Exactly What You Want


These days, football players seem to be doing more than football.

22-year old Myron Rolle, born in Houston, TX, is an oustanding athlete who was ranked number one high school prospect. He then helped Florida State University win many victories. Having just graduated he seems promised to a brilliant NFL carreer. Yes?

No, because the safety of FSU has other ambitions. He wants to become a neurosurgeon. Many would just be happy with a career as a football player or a doctor in their lifetime. Not Myron who has very specific goals far in the future. He has earned his bachelor degree in 2.5 years and will be heading soon to Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, to earn a M.A. in medical anthropology.

What about his potential NFL carrer? Recruiters will have to wait as Myron put the emphasis on studies. Also, having just created a foundation bearing his name to support global health and education, he has already planned after retiring from the NFL to go back to the Bahamas, where his parents and three of his four brothers were born. There, he will open a free health services clinic on Exuma island.

His parents played an important role in creating an atmosphere of respect and drive. At home, the brothers learned to address everyone with “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” If a question was asked, no one would answer “what?” While driving, Myron’s father made sure to ask questions, so there was no idle time for their minds. Because his parents believed that an idle mind lead to trouble. Obviously they were right, as besides Myron, his brothers include a lawyer, a banker and a nursing student.

Myron Rolle’s website

How Passionate Are You?


Passion doesn’t always mean ambitious projects to save the world. 

Last year, Dorothy Aho retired from Hidden Oaks Middle School in Prior Lake, MN. During her 35-year career she was recognized as great teacher who inspired students. She loved children and was always looking for ways to lift them up.

Just before her retirement, five years ago, she wanted to change the after school activity and decided to create a charity-based program. Teens in Community Service, or TICS, was born. Combining her desire to help others and her experience in making blankets, Dorothy felt she could teach some valuable lessons. Kids joining the program learned to cut and sew small blankets which were then donated to children who needed them.

This act of helping, of giving selflessly is a skill that must be learned at a very young age, insists Dorothy, because it will become natural throughout your life. With the TICS program students feel they are making a real difference in the world. Kids in need receive warm and beautiful blankets. But Dorothy says she herself benefits from the project because she can meet and interact with children and give back to her community.

Ready to save the world one blanket at a time? Through a simple project you can also help your community. What skill do you have you could share for a few hours a week? Even though you feel like you have more important things to do, the simple fact of helping selflessly will come back to you in amazing ways! Try and let me know. ;)

By the way, you would think that Dorothy is now enjoying her retirement. You would be wrong. She couldn’t quit teaching ‘cold turkey’. She is now a substitute teacher. Via (Picture: Josh Chase)

An Unstoppable College Student


Kristin Eliott is a 19-year old college student from Houston, TX. Since an early age her parents taught her the value of giving and helping. They took the family several times on trips to help the less fortunate in Mexico.

When she was 16, Kristin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her thigh. It was advanced enough for doctors not to be very optimistic. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy but the treatment was not successful. The last possibility was for Kristin to have an 8-hour surgery on her thigh. This was followed by radiations treatment which badly burned her skin. Doctors did not expect her to have much function of her leg afterward.

Amazingly, she recovered and was quickly back in her volleyball team. The family took another humanitarian trip, this time to Zambia where Kristin was touched by the needs of the children. She decided that she wanted to do something for them, especially the orphans who had no place to stay. Returning to the US, she was handed another news: the cancer had spread to her lungs and she needed one more surgery to remove the tumors.

Around that time the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted her. They usually grant wishes of children and teens with life-threatening illness. At that moment, Kristin saw an opportunity, not for her, but for all the kids she had met in Zambia. She asked the non-profit to help fund her idea to build an orphanage there. She needed to raise $60,000 and through numerous donations, sparked by her resilience, ended up with $300,000. Next month, she will travel to Zambia again and will officially open the orphanage. The extra money raised will go to build an AIDS clinic in the same area.

This is a pretty amazing story for a 19-year old college student who credits her Christian faith with helping her to cope with cancer. You might think that your own actions are small in comparison to Kristin’s achievements. You couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that every single action counts to make our world a better place. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to do good. I am sure Kristin would agree with me. Wherever you are and whatever is your situation, you can do something. And you don’t need anyone to tell you what to do. Intuitively you will know. Agreed?  :)

Kristin’s website: Kristin’s Heart

A Mother Who Would Not Give Up on Kids


Let us say it again: education is everything.

Doris Mashego was born in Uta, South Africa, about 400 km east of Johannesburg. Thanks to her parents, she could receive a basic education. Growing up, she understood the value of this gift and having a big heart she decided to help the children of her community.

Fifteen years ago, on her own, she started a makeshift nursery school and, as a volunteer, relentlessly helped the children of her village to study. A local NGO later stepped in and built for her a structure to teach in. Even tough there was no government funding she found ways to keep going. Now, the nursery school is one of the most successful in the region, teaching kids the alphabet, counting, basic English and Xitsonga, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The best proof that can be given on the importance of education is to look at Doris own children. One of the rare single mothers of her community, she found the time to raise three kids. She made education a priority along with strict rules. Because she was educated, Doris could help them with their homework. The three siblings got grades high enough to qualify for scholarships and attended university. They are now working professionals holding steady jobs. This is a rare achievement in Uta where unemployment is estimated at 70% and where literacy rates fall far below national standards.  Doris Mashego was right and because of her selflessness, a lot of children in Uta get a chance to have a better life. Via smrc

Using a Toolbox to Save a Life


Doctors are sometimes faced with situations where they need to improvise in order to save a life.

Nicholas Rossi, a 12-year old boy from Maryborough in Australia was riding his bicycle with no helmet when he fell and was knocked unconscious. He seemed to quickly recover and went back home. There he started complaining about headaches to his mother, a trained nurse. She took him to the local hospital where Dr. Rob Carson was on duty. He kept Nicholas for observation and the boy soon began to drift in and out of consciousness. Dr Carson felt that the situation was serious and upon closer examination diagnosed internal bleeding in the skull, the same condition that claimed the life of actress Natasha Richardson after a skiing accident in March 2009.

The doctor knew that time was running out and he had one shot at saving Nicholas’ life. He called a leading neurosurgeon in Melbourne for advice. The latter confirmed his fears. He advised drilling a hole in the skull with a neurological drill to relieve pressure from internal bleeding that was putting a huge pressure on Nicholas’ brain, inexorably killing him. The problem was that the countryside hospital didn’t have any such drill and Dr Carson had never performed such an operation.

They was no time left to think it over so the doctor rushed to the maintenance room to grab a household drill. With the Melbourne surgeon on the phone to guide him through the procedure, Carson drilled a hole in the boy’s skull just below the bruise mark and soon enough a clot of blood emerged. He then inserted a drainage tube. That was enough to stabilize the boy’s condition who was soon airlifted to a Melbourne Hospital.

Nicholas is now doing well and has promised to always wear a helmet. Modest, Dr Carson insists he just did his job and praised the team who assisted him. Via sky news

Born to Be a Firefighter


A wrong turn can save lives.

Back in January, fire was spreading fast inside a three-story brick home in the city of Newport, OH. Trapped inside were an 82-year old mother and her two adult children. One of them, her 58-year old son, has cerebral palsy and cannot be moved easily in his wheelchair. But herself  and her daughter could have escaped the fire easily. Instead they all huddled together, shouting for help and hoping for a miracle.

Nearby, Mexican native Adolfo Valle was driving his aunt to the grocery store. Not familiar with the neighborhood he took a wrong turn and ended up in front of the house on fire. Hearing the screams, he  rushed inside and got out carrying the son in his arms. He went back to help the mother walk through the smoke, her daughter following them. And them he just disappeared.

Actually, his job done, he drove away with his aunt to find this ‘damn’ grocery store. It took the city of Newport several days to find the savior who appeared at the right time. Finally Adolfo Valle, who immigrated legally last year was reunited with the family he saved and was honored by the city. Icing on the cake, the firefighters made him a honorary firefighter. That happens to be exactly what he had always dreamed of becoming.

Now Adolfo is being helped towards his citizenship so he can train to be a firefighter.

Remember: give and you shall receive.  ;)


A Teen With a Big Heart


Where do kids find the impulse to start and achieve things that adults think impossible or are afraid to tackle?

Take Carly Zalenski from Canton, OH. At age 12 she decided she wanted to build a school in Vietnam. Nothing less. She put together a powerpoint presentation and started to pitch her vision at Rotary meetings around Canton. Her idea was not welcomed. Can you imagine? Building a school in Vietnam, the former communist country where so many Americans died? And pitched by a 12-year-old.

As unbelievable as it might seems, despite a lot of frustrations, Carly managed to raise half of the money for that school in 18 months, the other half being matched by the Vietnam Children’s Fund. She didn’t stop there and raised additional funds to buy and donate 500 backpacks full of school supplies.

Think about that school again. Whatever is your age and situation right now, would you take up the challenge? How come Carly could start such a thrilling (and scary)  project and not you? No excuses please. There are none. Plenty others could do it.

You may say, “oh, I am not into schools.” Nobody cares. It’s just about you. Research, pick a place and start, that’s all it takes. Along the way people will give a hand, like they did for  Carly. But it all starts from you. If you are sincere, people will join and help your cause, even if it is not for a school. ;)


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