Feel like the evening news is one depressing story after another? It doesn’t have to be! Here are five good news stories that will leave you inspired, happy, grateful, curious and positive about the world we live in.
1.Running to change lives
Imagine this: you’ve just taken the first-ever group of Indigenous runners to the New York Marathon. Then you get a phone call: the officer on the other end tells you the 50 young men at his juvenile detention centre in Western Australia were so inspired by the team, they want their own training program – to run their own marathon!
That’s exactly what happened when Aussie running legend Robert de Castella established the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) and trained four young men who had never run a race in their lives for the world’s biggest marathon. All four made it to New York and finished the race. The following year, the first team of Indigenous women achieved the same dream.
The project is not only about unearthing Indigenous running champions but creating role models who can inspire other young people – which takes us back to those boys in WA.
After just five months of training, those 50 young men lined up inside of the walls of their detention centre on a searing hot day, ready to run the perimeter – a 1.75km running loop. The boys set off and of the 50 who started, 26 managed to complete a half marathon; the remaining 24 made it all the way to the finish line, some 24 laps of the track later! The boy who won was released shortly after and still runs to this day. Another boy who had been struggling with drug addiction had come off all of his medications by the end of the program and the doctors and prison guards were astounded at his change in mentality.
Says the IMP: “By empowering young Indigenous people through the simple act of running, this helps them believe they are capable of so much more than they, or anyone, ever thought possible. After crossing the finish line of the world’s biggest marathon, they know they can achieve anything.”
Learn more about the Indigenous Marathon Project at www.imp.org.au
2. Secret Nanas’ business
They may not have wings or a magic wand but, without a doubt, this remarkable group of grandmothers – known as the 9 Nanas – are real-life fairy godmothers. Their mission? To create happiness by secretly helping people in their local community.
For over 30 years, this amazing group of women got up at 4am every morning, unbeknownst to their husbands and children, and baked up a storm ready to send anonymous care packages to whoever they felt needed a little love – from single mums who couldn’t pay their bills to widows who’d recently lost their husbands. The packages always included a note that simply said “Somebody loves you” and one of their special homemade pound cakes made from their own grandmother’s recipe.
Amazingly, it was only five years ago that their families cottoned on. Since then, the Nanas have enlisted the help of their husbands and grown children, and started selling their cakes online so they could raise money to help even more people.
So how do they decide who deserves a little happiness? “We check the newspapers for births and deaths. The evening news is also another good source,” says Nana Pearl. “For example, if we hear of someone who could use a little happiness, we do our darnest to track them down. We also listen an awful lot. With so many people talking on cell phones, we over-hear a lot of information!”
The 9 Nanas have contributed nearly $900,000 of happiness to the world so far – if things go their way, they’ll reach the million-dollar mark before the end of the year. So what keeps driving them? “It’s like stepping into Santa’s shoes 52 weeks a year,” say the Nanas, “and delivering gifts to people who really want something, but don’t think they’ll ever get or deserve anything.”
Learn more about The 9 Nanas at Happiness-Happens.com.
3. Planting trees for the planet
If there’s one child who has “future world leader” written all over him, it’s 14-year-old Felix Finkbeiner. At the age of nine, Felix stood up in front of his classmates and shared his vision to plant a million trees in his native Germany. Incredibly, he’s already achieved that dream and has now set his sights on a bigger goal: to plant one trillion trees globally in the next 10 years.
Felix’s passion led him to create his own organisation Plant for the Planet, which now has a global network of child activists operating in over 100 countries. He has already made such a mark on the world, the United Nations Environment Programme recently transferred their Billion Tree campaign to Plant for the Planet, saying it was time to hand over the project to the next generation.
With over 12 billion trees planted in 193 countries so far, we can’t help but think Felix will take this to the next level. As he says, the time for talking has passed: “Stop talking, start planting!”
We children are the majority in this world – we can make a difference,” says Felix. “Never forget, one mosquito cannot do anything against a rhino but a thousand mosquitos can make a rhino change its direction.
Learn more at www.plant-for-the-planet.org
4.Finally a cure for AIDS?
In January, the world heard the incredible news that scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have made a breakthrough that could lead to a potential cure for AIDS.
Associate Professor David Harrich says they have discovered how to modify a protein in HIV so that, instead of replicating, it protects against the infection. “I have never seen anything like it,” he says. “The modified protein works every time. If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a many hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”
Having researched the disease since the early 1980s when the first cases of HIV and AIDS emerged, the professor adds: “I’ve come close to giving up in the past. But today I’m so encouraged. I feel very fortunate because not a lot of scientists are able to stay in the same game long enough to see these sorts of developments.”
5.The older we get, the better we feel!
Worried about getting old? Don’t be! A new study out of California has found that people actually feel better as they age – not worse.
In fact, when researchers asked more than 1,000 people aged 50 to 99 to rank how well they were ageing on a scale of 1 to 10, the mean score was 8.2 – and even higher for those in their 90s. “It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their wellbeing had improved with age,” says lead researcher Dr Dilip V. Jeste.
So what’s the secret to a long and happy life? Acceptance is the key, says study participant Gordon Shields. “You can enjoy ageing as long as you accept it,” the 94-year-old insists. “The main thing is to keep involved, not only physically but mentally and socially.” And he would know – Gordon became a world-class cycling champion in his 50s!