Let’s not kid ourselves, 2017 was a rough year in many ways. It’s a new year though, and already 2018 is looking like an improvement from the previous 365 days. If you need proof that the year is off to a great start, look no further than these 10 stories that show January was full of positivity and good news.
1. Denver finds 100 jobs for the city’s homeless.
The city of Denver, Colorado gained national attention when it unveiled a new program that changed the lives of its most vulnerable citizens for the better. Denver Day Works is a program that launched in late 2016 and pays homeless $12.50 per hour for landscaping work, as well as clerical jobs at public buildings, like libraries. Even more impressive than the 10,000 hours of work and $109,000 in wages paid out, was the recent news that 110 participants found long-term work, with 15 being hired by the city. “If you are able and willing to better yourself and get up and do something, rather than just sitting and being stuck, Denver Day Works is there,” said Crystal, a program participant.
2. Belize ends off-shore oil drilling to protect its coral reefs.
Belize has taken steps to protect one of its most valuable natural treasures, the Belize Barrier Reef, with a decision to stop drilling for oil in the reef’s waters. The move is a dramatic win for environmentalists who have campaigned to end the fossil fuel drilling that jeopardizes the delicate ecosystem of the world’s second largest barrier reef. The reef, which is home to 100 different species of coral and 500 species of tropical fish, is not only the country’s largest tourist attraction, but acts as a fishery for 190,000 people.
3. Norway announces a ban on fur farming.
The cruel practice of fur farming is coming to an end in Norway, with the announcement that the country plans to shut down all fox and mink farms by 2025. Currently, there are almost 250 fox and mink farms throughout the country where animals endure a life of harsh captivity before being slaughtered to meet the demand for luxury coats. While the legislative action is a win, Norway still only accounts for four percent of the world’s fur trade that has become dominated by China in recent years. Humane Society International has been at the forefront of the movement to end factory fur farming. “Ultimately, banning the import or sale of fur is the final nail in the coffin for this industry,” said Humane Society International representative Wendy Higgins.
4. Southwest flies homeless pets out of hurricane-ravage Puerto Rico.
When Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in September 2017, thousands of families were forced to flee the island and unfortunately, many of them had to make the difficult decision to leave their pets behind. Without food or shelter, most of these pets faced a dismal end, but Southwest Airlines teamed up with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue to fly 62 cats and dogs to the U.S. to find a new home. Volunteers with Southwest and the animal rescue group headed to Puerto Rico to fill a 737 jet with the four-legged passengers, and around 14,000 pounds of supplies for the journey. Upon arriving stateside, the animal refugees were taken to a Maryland PetSmart to meet their new adoptive families.
5. A Silicon Valley company is working to use drones to deliver medical supplies in Rwanda.
Over the past year, more than 5,500 units of blood have been delivered by drones to remote areas of Rwanda. Known as Uber for Blood, the project has been incredibly impactful and cut down the delivery time of the life-saving blood from four hours to an average of just half an hour. The drone-delivery project is part of a partnership between Rwanda’s health ministry and a Silicon Valley company called Zipline. The drones deliver the blood to 12 hospitals in the country, with each hospital serving around half a million people. “The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones and help save lives,” said Zipline’s co-founder, Keller Rinaudo. The project has been credited with helping to reduce the country’s maternal deaths – which are often the result of blood loss during childbirth.
6. An Iowa community raises $20k for beekeepers who had their hives destroyed by vandals.
It’s a rough time for honeybees with what many environmentalists are calling a honey bee crisis and reports of bee colonies dying out. The current situation made the early morning discovery that much more painful for Iowa beekeepers Tori and Justin Engelhardt, when they discovered their bee colony had been destroyed by vandals, resulting in the deaths of 500,000 bees. The couple’s business, Wild Hill Honey, would have been done for if it weren’t for the efforts of the local community. Through a GoFundMe page, the community raised $20,000 dollars to help the beekeepers rebuild the colony and get the honey-making insects back to doing what they do best.
7. China finally makes moves to ban the import and sale of ivory.
Elephant populations have declined significantly in the last 20 years because of poaching to meet Chinese demand for ivory. After mounting pressure from numerous countries and environmentalists groups though, China announced a ban on the sale of ivory. The country is the largest importer of elephant tusks, but because of numerous public awareness campaigns, the market has slowly begun to decline. “It is the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching,” said Peter Knights, chief executive of the group WildAid. So far, the ban on ivory sales has already lead to an 80 percent decline in the number of illegal seizures of ivory in China. The new legislation and subsequent closure of China’s 172 ivory-carving factories marks a monumental step towards saving the elephant from extinction.
8. A Trader Joes donated 35,000 pounds of food after a homeless shelter’s power went down.
When the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission lost power to their refrigeration system, the local Michigan Trader Joes swooped into action and donated 35,000 pounds of food. The donation was the largest the shelter had ever received and will provide a big boost to the number of people the mission is able to serve. Trader Joes verified that all the food donated is safe for consumption and a local rep said the store was happy to help out. Greg Weaver, Director of Food Service at the mission, said they serve around 600 meals a day and added that the grocery store “exemplified a culture of generosity.”
9. A gay Indian prince opened up his palace to vulnerable LGBT people.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil lives on 15-acre royal palace located in western India. He also happens to be gay. After being ostracized by his family after coming out in 2006, he started a community to support gay men and educate people about the prevention of HIV/Aids. Part of that community meant welcoming those who had been disowned by their families and had nowhere else to go into his palace. Homosexuality remains a taboo in Indian society, and many young people are financially dependent on their parents. The prince said he sees himself in a position of power to help change that. “I want to give people social and financial empowerment, so eventually people who want to come out won’t be affected.”
10. Researchers develop blood tests that can detect eight forms of cancer.
A team of researchers at John Hopkins University has developed a blood test that can detect up to eight different types of cancer. Known as the CancerSEEK test, the test searches for “mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.” A trial was completed with 1,005 patients who had cancer in either the stomach, liver, breast, colon, lungs, pancreas, or esophagus and had not yet spread to other tissues. The test was able to detect 70 percent of the cancers and in some cases, also provided information about the cancer tissue-of-origin.