So it turns out going out for a walk in the wind and rain might actually be good for your health.
Yep. Walking around in the bad weather has a whole host of benefits that we’re only just beginning to find out about. The first is that dirt and germs (like Covid) are instantly blown away, making them far harder to catch, which is especially great for those living in cities – that’s what a 2021 study found.
Even better! Walking around in the dark helps the production of melanin, our sleep hormone. Add to that the fact that walking around helps your digestive system to get its groove on, and a post-dinner walk this winter might not be the worst thing in the world.
Drones over Snowdonia could soon be saving lives in remote areas, by providing mobile signal.
Mobile signal? Really?
It sounds simple, but it’s true – in remote areas, such as on the peaks of Snowdonia, the terrain means that getting signal is a real shot in the dark. Not being attached to your phone isn’t always a bad thing (#disconnect ), but if you’re climbing a mountain, being able to call for help is hugely important.
Wow, so it’s a big deal.
Yep – this is about more than just FaceTiming your grandma from the top of a mountain. This is about people who may be injured or lost being able to reliably contact rescue services so they can get the help they need.
Right, so, how’s it going to work?
Well the first thing you need to know is that the drones are called ‘Dragon’ drones. These ‘Dragon’ drones can ‘loiter’ above the mountain peaks for four to five hours at a time – though the minds behind the project are hoping to extend this to twelve hours.
The drones will provide mobile coverage to those on the mountain so they can make contact in an emergency.
Mountain rescues in Wales can have hundreds of calls each year for people who are lost, injured or otherwise in need of assistance.
It’s hoped that, by making help more easily accessible, mountain climbers will be safer as they enjoy the nature our beautiful little island has to offer.
Four days, a little over £5k in donations, and a team hard at work – that’s exactly how these toilets and taps were transformed for kids in Nepal.
Let’s be honest, we don’t often see the direct impact our charity donations have had, but for the supporters of Child Rescue Nepal, it became super clear how needed the funds were.
The charity has worked in Nepal since 1999, Joanna Bega, the CEO in the UK tells me. All the staff are Nepalian, bar her and an assistant she has to help with the fundraising.
So what do they actually do?
Well, their aim is quite simple – and very powerful. “We rescue children who have been trafficked in Nepal,” says Joanna. “ We have a good track record of reuniting them with families and getting them back to school.”
A big part of their work is prevention, working in a Nepalian district prone to trafficking and sending staff on the ground into schools to do teacher training, renew school equipment, and give education boundaries.
“Every now and then, they’ll come back from a visit and say they’ve seen something quite shocking,” says Joanna.
This is exactly what happened with the pictures above.
“They said the toilets were horrific, sent me a video, and it was just super grim – it was horrible,” says Jo.
Clean and viable toilets and taps are hugely important for children’s education. The charity’s wider work has shown having decent toilets with running water is a big factor in children attending school – and if they attend school, they’re less likely to be trafficked. “Some statistics we’ve had show running water at a school can increase attendance by 30%,” says Joanna.
In hot countries like Nepal, schools without water suffer. Teachers spend half their time fetching water, and therefore not teaching. Water really can become a huge hindrance, as well as help, in terms of education. This is especially true for girls – if they don’t have decent toilets, they won’t come to school on their period, which is five days lost every single month. “Girls having an education is really important in Nepal in terms of their future employability,” adds Joanna.
On 4 February, Child Rescue Nepal put out an appeal to raise £5,667 for the new toilet block and taps at this school. Children had been going to the toilets in bushes, not washing their hands, and getting sick as a result. By 8 February, their target had been reached.
The team shared videos with their donors along the way of the progress – and the money was hugely well spent. “Donations we receive really go on things that make a difference,” says Joanna.
Their most recent appeal was for two new classrooms to be built – a project they’re underway with.
If you want to do one small thing to help? Sign up to their newsletter, says Joanna, and be the first to hear about their appeals for support to truly make a difference.
Out of all the letters in LGBTQIA+, the ‘A’ is one of the ones which often gets forgotten. Still a novel concept to many outside the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘asexuality’ – a lack of sexual attraction to others – is perhaps dismissed the most in a world that revolves around sexual attraction.
Yasmin Benoit, 26, activist, heavy metal fan, lingerie model and cake hater, feels very differently. From a young age, she knew she didn’t feel romantic or sexual attraction in the same way her peers did – but it took until her mid-teen years to discover the term ‘asexual’ on the internet… and even longer to decide if it applied to her.
Now? She’s partnered with one of the largest LGBT rights charities in the UK and is working tirelessly to make a difference.
Combatting stereotypes from a young age
“I was largely unsuccessful in coming out until I was about 22,” explains Yasmin, who had tried to come out as asexual to family and friends before. “And the only reason people believed me that time was because it was printed in a two-page spread in the Metro newspaper.”
Since coming out, Yasmin has worked tirelessly to not only raise awareness of asexuality in mainstream media but also to fight the stereotypes that come along with it.
As a black lingerie model, she already doesn’t fit the stereotype of an asexual or aromantic person – something she’s acutely aware of.
“The people who are most likely to identify as being asexual in particular … tend to be Gen Z. They tend to be in the UK or the US. They tend to be white,” explains Yasmin.
Even within the LGBTQIA+ community, there are stereotypes about asexual people, though some are a little more lighthearted. “In the ACE community, there’s a whole thing about how if you’re asexual you must like cake,” laughs Yasmin. “Honestly, the food I like the least is cake. I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t like cake.”
Ultimately, her decision to come out as AroAce and become an activist had nothing to do with wanting to air her private life on the internet, and all to do with her desire to make a difference in the world.
Becoming an activist to make a change
“It felt hypocritical of me, as someone who had a platform, to complain I wasn’t seeing any kind of representation out there that I could relate to,” explains Yasmin, of why she became an activist. “My initial motivation was just to kind of throw a spanner in the works and see what I could contribute. I didn’t expect it to become anything bigger than that.”
Once she saw people were interested, she understood why they were interested: because they felt like they needed more voices and they felt like there needed to be more awareness. “That kept motivating me to do it and made me understand just how impactful it can be,” she says.
Charity partnerships for a better future
Since coming out as asexual and beginning her activist career, Yasmin has helped to launch the world’s first official International Asexuality Day, which took place on April 6, 2021. In June 2021, Yasmin won the Attitude Pride Award for her activism, making her the first openly asexual-aromantic person to win an LGBTQIA+ award.
Since then, Yasmin has partnered with Stonewall to launch the UK’s first-ever asexual rights initiative. The Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project works to research the problem of ACE discrimination in the UK, in the hopes of making this a better, and more accepting world.
Research conducted as part of this initiative will build a picture of ACE communities’ experiences, needs, and priorities for change, with a focus on employment, healthcare, and education. “Our findings will be launched in a report which will provide a clear set of actions for policymakers, companies, and charities to better support ace people,” says Stonewall. Find out more about the partnership.
At Smiley Movement, we share good news every day – from the people going above and beyond to support their communities, to the positive conservation efforts or policy changes happening around the world.
And we also, of course, highlight the work of charities, as these organisations work tirelessly, day in, day out, to make our world a happier and healthier place to live.
Each week, we round of some of the best stories of the week. Here’s your dose of positivity to lead you into the weekend.
1. A guy in Florida has cleaned up millions of pieces of trash
Caulin Donaldson scours the beach every single morning to pick up trash he finds on the sand and near the water. He’s done it for so long – while filming himself – that he’s now racked up more than 1.6 million followers on TikTok.
How does he do it, why does he do it, and what impact has he made so far. Find out more.
2. A floating city will be built, hoping to combat climate change
From January 2023, work will start on building a floating city in the Maldives. The idea is to combat rising sea levels and combat climate change.
There will be 5,000 housing units, tethered to a 500-acre lagoon and the city will also have hotels, shops, and restaurants – but there won’t be any cars. Only bikes or noise-free scooters. Read more.
3. A club night lets you in if you donate to a food bank
In a bid to support local food banks – during a time where the need is higher than ever – one club night in Manchester is doing its bit.
Rich Reason launched ‘Food for Thought’, a club night where you donate in tinned food and toiletries to be able to get in. Food bank volunteers are on hand collecting it all on the door, too! Read the full story.
4. Bike libraries are now a thing
To give people access to greener (and cheaper) modes of transport, many states in the US are now adopting a “bike library” model. In the same way you’d borrow a book, and take it back, you can actually borrow a bike and use it for a set amount of time before returning it.
It’s especially benefitting low income households. Find out more.
5. Universities make pledge in favour of the planet
100 UK-based universities have pledged to move away from fossil fuels. This means that about 65% of the UK’s higher education sector will no longer be making financial investments in fossil fuel companies. And that means fossil fuel companies will be missing out on an estimated £17.6bn going forward. Read more.
In great news for students studying – and, of course, our planet – 100 UK-based universities have pledged to move away from fossil fuels.
Wow! Tell me more.
This means that about 65% of the UK’s higher education sector will no longer be making financial investments in fossil fuel companies. And that means fossil fuel companies will be missing out on an estimated £17.6bn going forward.
That’s great – but what does it really mean for the universities?
These universities, including the University of Edinburgh and Coventry University, are in the process of, at least partially, divesting from fossil fuel companies.
Hang on, divesting?
Ah – yes. Divesting is, as you might have guessed, the opposite of investing. In essence, any investments that these universities have will be sold off, so that they are no longer putting money into these companies, or profiting from them.
Right, okay – I think I get it. So, what does it mean?
It means that, previously to this, universities were one of many businesses helping to fund fossil fuels through their investment. Thanks to students and charities campaigning for change, the conversation around fossil fuels has changed, and universities are changing their ethical framework to reflect sustainability.
Amazing! But what about universities that aren’t divesting?
No word yet, but the hope is that the remaining 53 universities will begin to feel the heat (pun totally intended) and make the same change. We’re already 65% of the way there, and that’s a huge win in itself!
Bike libraries across the US are now popping up – and they’re giving more access to bikes (and greener modes of transport!) for all.
Great, where are they?
Places like schools and libraries are starting to make bikes more available, adding them to inventory. This means that you could rent a bike from a library, like a book or a movie.
This might mean the world to someone who needs better transportation than walking.
So, what’s the big deal?
When people are struggling to make ends meet, something as simple as a bike can make the difference between being able to make it to and from a job and not. It also provides more free access to bikes for kids whose families may not be able to afford them.
Bike riding is largely stigmatized, often being associated with white men, but that can be attributed to a lack of access, as many decent road bikes starting at a few hundred dollars.
How do I sign up?
A reporter named Grecia White has made a list of 35 programs, often tied to libraries, that offer free bikes from as far east as Massachusetts to as far west as California. More programs are popping up but it’s a process.
One place, in particular, the Madison Public Library Foundation in Wisconsin, has partnered with Madison BCycle an e-bike sharing company in the city whose parent company is Trek, a bike company based in nearby Waterloo, Wisconsin. As part of the partnership, anyone with a library card can check out a fob to access the bike-sharing spots in the city.
“We have nearly two million visits a year in our nine libraries in Madison, so it’s a place where a lot of people are coming and going every day,” explains Tana Elias, Madison Public Library’s digital services and marketing manager.
“It’s an opportunity to choose to be a little healthier in your day-to-day activity. But also, if you haven’t ridden a bike recently, it’s a good opportunity to get out there and try it without making a huge commitment.”
The Bank of Ireland is now offering their employees paid menopause leave – in a big win for women’s health.
Wow, that’s amazing!
Isn’t it? Employees experiencing menopause will now be able to take 10 days off a year if they are experiencing physical or psychological symptoms of menopause.
Tell me more.
The announcement was made during Ireland’s first-ever Menopause Day on 18 October, centred around World Menopause Week. As well as the paid leave, The Bank of Ireland will also be training managers on how best to support their colleagues who are experiencing symptoms of menopause.
That’s great! But, why now?
Well, a lot of research has been done recently into the effect that menopause has on women in the workplace.
According to a study by the Fawcett Society, a women’s rights charity, one in 10 employed women experiencing menopause quit their jobs because of their symptoms. Meanwhile, the Standard Charter Bank and Britain’s Financial Services Skills Commission found that a quarter of women are more likely to retire early due to menopause.
So it’s definitely needed, then?
Indeed. So it’s more important than ever for workplaces to start stepping up to support women that are experiencing menopause, just like The Bank of Ireland is doing now.
There has been an unprecedented decline in child poverty in the US, which is news to celebrate.
Wow, just like that?
The cost of living is a struggle for many at the moment, but it’s worth noting that child poverty has been consistently declining for over 25 years.
Today, roughly 1 in 10 children live in families whose economic resources are considered below the poverty line, a 59% drop over the last 26 years.
What’s causing the shift?
In some ways, lower unemployment and fewer stay-at-home parents have contributed, as well as fewer teenage pregnancies, smaller family sizes, and increases in the rates of children living in two-parent households.
But those factors aren’t the primary reason for the decline.
A report showed all the contributing factors and the biggest ones that stuck out were social safety nets, specifically two social safety net programs, the Earned-Income Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The report shows that between 1993 to 2019, poverty rates declined at similar rates for nearly every subgroup of children examined.
Picture this: thousands of people queueing up for a club night in Manchester, but instead of having cash in their wallets, they’re carrying bags with tinned food and essential toiletries.
To get inside, you give a minimum donation of five items. Food bank volunteers are on the door collecting everything before people head in for an evening of bass music.
It’s called ‘Food for Thought’ – the night-turned-festival that aims to raise hundreds of kgs in food donations to local food banks, plus send any profits to local charities.
Rich Reason, 40, who has been a promoter in the north of England for 20 years, is the brainchild behind it. His events, HIT & RUN, have gathered steam as one of the most respected bass music promoters in Manchester. But in 2015, Rich wanted to do more.
“Helping others, it’s how my parents raised me,” he says. “A lot of my early memories are doing fundraisers with my mum for the local hospital – I admired my parents, they’ve done a lot for others, and I just knew the need was there.”
Mixing music with purpose started long before Food for Thought for Rich. In 2001, he ran a club night at university, which raised money for African schools. “I’ve always done these nights in the past, but what was obvious to me was that this was needed closer to home,” he says.
“Manchester has been a good home to me – I think it’s a chance to give back and bring together talented musicians who want to be generous to their city.”
May 2022 was the most recent Food for Thought event, having run it annually for the past seven years. They donated 700kg worth of food and toiletries, £440 in cash, and raised another £4,344 for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
“It’s just got bigger every year,” Rich tells Smiley News. Originally starting as a club night, the last four incarnations of Food for Thought have been day festivals.
“The great thing about Manchester all the artists are very community-minded,” says Rich, “and we have people willing to play for free.
“People connect with the idea that they can queue up with pasta, beans and pot noodles,” continues Rich, “there’s a funny image of people in the queue with bags and shopping – a lot of people buy tickets and still bring food.”
An unexpected benefit of running the nights is getting to know the people who work at the food banks, says Rich, as well as getting an insight into their work, their situation, and why these banks are so needed. “Because the demand for them is only getting worse,” he adds.
“There are more food banks in this country than McDonald’s, which is a frightening statistic,” explains Rich. “In 2010, 10,000 people needed food banks. In 2022, that figure is closer to three million. Everyone is feeling the pinch so much – and these food banks keep running out of food.”
Over the years, donations have gone to local food banks including Salford, Manchester Central, as well as some additional fundraising for the Trussell Trust.
Will Food for Thought continue? “I’ll certainly keep on doing this every year,” says Rich. Some people are more cynical about where their charity money goes now, he adds, “but there’s no way anyone thinks I’m sat at home on a mountain of baked beans!”