Massive fish are making a comeback in the Amazon River

The second longest river in the world, the Amazon River, is known for a lot of things – specifically its biodiversity with animals like the giant otter, river dolphin, caimans, and piranhas.

But some of the most interesting are the massive river monsters of the Amazon River: fish that can be as tall as basketball hoops and as heavy as a large ape. These massive creatures, like the pirarucu, were facing external pressure feeling the effects of environmental degradation. 

But the massive fish throughout the Amazon are making a comeback. 

What’s the good news?

Well, speaking of the pirarucu, they were particularly vulnerable to poachers. The massive fish, like the saltwater tarpon, is an air-breathing fish meaning that they have to surface regularly to breathe. As a result, they were easy to spot and hunt by poachers meaning that they all but disappeared in parts of the Amazon River.

Thankfully, concerted efforts including sustainable fishing programs and much stricter quotas have seen the pirarucu return to areas it was missing. 

There isn’t strict observance all over the river though, so in areas outside of nature reserves where there isn’t nearly as much law enforcement local villagers have taken it into their own hands to discourage poachers and people fishing illegally.

Many of the larger fish are tagged so the people buying them can know if the fish was caught legally or not as well.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life Below Water.


A unique homelessness approach built for women

The US is in a housing crisis, and with a potential recession looming and the cost of living continuing to climb, it’s becoming harder by the day to make ends meet.

People are ending up on the street, and as winter months loom that can be deadly in colder states.

To combat this, a New York City non-profit is taking a ‘housing first’ approach, especially for women in crisis.

What is HousingPlus?

HousingPlus has been around for about two decades. Its founder, Rita Zimmer, noticed that most homeless shelters were made with men in mind and saw a need for shelters focused on giving women a place to go and by extension their children.

 “When they’re homeless, the children are homeless,” Zimmer said. 

HousingPlus works a little differently than normal shelters. They offer everything from studios to 3-bedroom apartments at drastically reduced prices, being capped at 30% of an individual’s annual income. They currently have leased out 150 such properties sprinkled throughout Brooklyn with another 100 under construction. 

Tenants pay their share to the organization which then pays the rest to the landlords of the locations. 

The goal is to provide stable housing so these women can seek help for other problems plaguing them like drug dependency or mental health conditions.

“Our first tenants were formerly incarcerated women who had completed their sentences but could not find supportive housing that would accept them,” they say.

“Ever since, HousingPlus has helped women navigate the structural barriers encountered when re-entering the community following imprisonment—public benefit/entitlement services, the foster care system, and seeking living-wage employment.”

Rita’s work earned her the AARP Purpose Prize in 2022.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.


UK’s most generous city has been revealed

Manchester has been named the UK’s most generous city two years on the trot.

Amazing! What makes Manchester so generous?

The rating comes from GoFundMe, a platform where people can raise money for various causes. Data collected over the last year shows that, across the UK, the people of Manchester donated the most to causes on the website.

What sort of things did they raise money for?

The war in Ukraine was the main focus of GoFundMe in 2022, with the top three campaigns focusing on supporting those who have been displaced by the war. The UK’s largest appeal was the Association of Ukrainians, to which Brits donated more than £2.8m.

In fact, the UK was the third most generous country overall, with Ireland being the first and the US the second.

“The UK going up in the ranks for most generous countries was in part due to the huge response on our platform to the crisis in Ukraine, which was led by generous British donors,” said John Coventry from GoFundMe.

“What we’ve seen in 2022 is that, at times of crisis, kind-hearted people always want to help each other.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Equality Wellbeing

The Ruth Ellis Center gives a home to LGBTQ+ people in need

Safe spaces, where you can go and be yourself without fear of rejection, are incredibly important for the LGBTQ+ youth community, who are at a disproportionate risk of being bullied because of their identities. 

Sometimes the lives that LGBTQ+ people are coming from are purely unsustainable and they need support or new housing, and that’s what a place like the Ruth Ellis Clairmont Center is for.

The Ruth Ellis Center began a foster program about a decade ago to little fanfare, not wanting to draw attention to themselves due to the overall acceptance or lack thereof of the LGBTQ+ community. In contrast, they recently held a ribbon cutting unveiling their new permanent supportive housing and services facility for LGBTQ+ young people. Hundreds of visitors and community members were joined by a parade of local and national politicians.

“Nationwide, up to 40% of all youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, to combat this disparity Ruth Ellis Center has developed Clairmount Center,” the organization tells Smiley News. “This 43 – unit permanent supportive housing program for young people experiencing chronic homelessness and living with a disability opened in September 2022. This facility offers integrated health services, career readiness and skill building programs, community spaces, and a youth advisory art therapy studio. Ruth Ellis Center considered all social determinants of health and wellbeing when deciding the location and design of the building.”

The home is named for Ruth Ellis, a Black lesbian born in 1899 who always kept her doors open for queer people in need. 

The building offers not just affordable housing but also health services and even built-in, but well-hidden safety features to keep the residents safe in what is becoming an incredibly polarizing climate for the community. 

“Many of our LGBTQ community are at a higher rate of homelessness, exposing them to violence,” says Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, who secured $1 million in federal funding for the Clairmount Center and was on hand for its opening. “[If] you live [at the Clairmount Center], you get the services you need, and the love that you need, and the public health access that you need.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


The skincare company that will save the world

It’s that time of the week when we feature businesses that are giving back – whether that’s to the planet or their community, we’re excited to share it all!


UpCircle Beauty is a company that takes by-products from other industries and turns them into skincare products! They are based on the idea of the circular economy and have worked hard to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly range of care products that uses up what would otherwise be wasted.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly gift for the skincare enthusiast in your life, or just looking to add step 11 to your Korean skincare routine, this is the brand for you!


The Maidstone Distillery is not only known for its gin, but its huge efforts to be sustainable. From running on 100% green energy and responsibly foraging ingredients to their plastic-free packaging and bottle refill service, you can certainly drink this gin guilt-free.

Not only that, but 2.5% from the sales of Ranscombe Wild Small Batch Gin are donated to Plantlife, a UK-based conservation charity. We love to see it!


If you thought tea was good enough on its own, think again. Numi Tea is the beautiful brainchild of a brother and sister team who are fighting climate change, poverty and inequality through the power of organic teas.

From providing education and clean drinking water to those in need, to fair trade and their five-step climate action plan, Numi doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk – and what’s more delicious than that?


From rescue dog to service dog

Six clever pups have graduated from rescue pooch to lifesaving assistance dog!

So cute!! Tell me more!

The six good boys and girls were rescued by Dogs Trust UK, who have developed a partnership with Service Dogs UK. After living at Dogs Trust centres in Salisbury and Newbury, the six super-pups then lived temporarily with experienced foster fur-parents, before going into training.

So what exactly does a service dog do?

These service pups have gone through a whole year of training with Service Dogs UK. They trained with their soon-to-be owners, to help create a bond between them, and teach them all they need to know.

These six service pooches were all matched with veterans suffering from PTSD, so they can assist them in daily life. From fetching medication, helping with nightmares and panic attacks, and providing a lifeline in stressful situations, these dogs will change the lives of their owners for the better.

That’s amazing!

And the quotes from their new owners are really something beautiful. You keep reading, and we’ll provide the tissues!

Speaking about Barkley, his Labrador cross, Lee said: “He’s changed my life because I don’t feel I can die now, I’ve got to be here to look after him.  The work of Service Dogs UK is incredible, without the charity I don’t know where I would be.  They have given me my life back.” 

Speaking about Rio, Lee said: “I’m much more confident going out and about now like going to the shops or a cafe with less panic attacks.  Rio and I are a team, neither of us is going to give up on the other.  He’s got my back, I’ve got his, and Service Dogs UK are there for both of us.”  

Martin, from Sussex, is an Army Veteran who served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment. He has been partnered with cocker spaniel Ollie who was handed into the care of Dogs Trust Salisbury by a member of the public.  Martin said: “My assistance dog Ollie has helped transform my life, no doubt about it.” 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities, Good Health and Wellbeing.


‘Conversations can change people’s lives’

We all have mental health, and – according to OurWorldinData – just over 10 percent of all people, or 792 million people deal with a mental health disorder.

While many places around the word have access to support – such as education, therapy, or even medications – not everywhere has that luxury. This is something that Vedica Podar, the founder of Kangaroo Minds, took to heart. 

Vedica has previously worked in schools in India. “One thing I noticed was the lack of awareness around mental health,” she tells Smiley News. “The stigma might be different between living in urban settings versus in rural settings but both have a lack in understanding.” 

This is where Kangaroo Minds comes in.

The name was inspired by kangaroos in the wild, jumping from one spot to another, much like the mind jumps from idea to idea, and also how they leap forward, hopefully to brighter pastures. Vedica founded it to offer people mental health support in the form of education. To do this they developed a technique called the A.S.K. model.

The A.S.K. model is broken up into three parts: Awareness, Support, and Knowledge. The first centers on spreading awareness of mental health disorders, helping people understand that anyone around them might be going through something. The second focuses on offering a helping hand when and where people need it. The third is about helping people learn how to help themselves and those around them. 

“I used to get from the students I spoke to,” Vedica says. “‘This is the first time I’ve felt seen and heard,’ or ‘this is the first time someone has had this conversation with me,’ and that is something that’s gonna stay with me that, you know, I actually feel more of a person.’”

To meet their ends, Kangaroo Minds employs just about every means of communication on the internet: educational videos, conversations with experts, social media campaigns, a collection of mental health hotlines for countries all over the world, and much more. 

They serve all over the world but with a particular focus on South Asian countries. While they started with small meet and greets early on, they moved to a primarily online model after the pandemic threw everyone online.

“I really believe in the power of conversation,” Vedica says. “Conversations can change people’s lives, and sometimes you just need to reach out and check in on someone.”

“There are gonna be people along the way who are still struggling, so just holding that kind of space, I think makes a huge difference.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


Introducing ‘Solar Punk’ activism

Two artists are unveiling an ingenious way to save on energy costs in London.

Tell me more!

Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, artists known for their impactful art installations, have come up with a brilliant way to help families in London with energy costs; by creating a power station out of an ordinary street in East London.

But aren’t power stations bad?

Traditional ones certainly aren’t good for the environment – but this is not a fossil fuel-based station. Dan and Hillary are creating a solar power station out of a row of terraced houses by installing rooftop solar panels on dozens of homes in Walthamstow, London.

According to their research, installing solar panels on every house in the UK would provide 60.52% of our total domestic electricity consumption. 

The duo are calling this project a blueprint for ‘solar punk’ activism, hoping that others will take a leaf out of their book!

So where is the money coming from?

Dan and Hillary have launched a crowdfunder, which they publicised by sleeping on the roof of their own home, which will be involved in the power station. This means that many of the 30 residents whose homes are involved in the power station will be able to get their upgrade to solar for free at a time when everyone is needing to pinch pennies.

That’s what we like to see! 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Affordable and Clean Energy.


Meet ‘Plastic Man’: an environmental activist from Senegal

One man is raising awareness about just how badly plastic is affecting our world – in quite a unique way.

Go on then, what’s he doing?

Meet Modou Fall, also known as the ‘Plastic Man’, an environmental activist from Senegal. As for what he’s doing, well, they do say a picture speaks a thousand words…

An image of Modou Fall aka the ‘Plastic Man’ in his outfit made from plastic waste.

He makes outfits made from plastic waste and, well, shows it off.

Wow, now that’s commitment!

It sure is! Modou, a 49-year-old former soldier and father of three took on his alter-ego Plastic Man on World Environment Day in 2011 and has been travelling around cities in Senegal ever since. 

Amazing – what else?

He has also set up an environmental association named Clean Senegal that raises awareness of waste pollution through education and encourages reuse and recycling.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


5 Earthshot winners who scooped £1m

The winners of the second ever Earthshot prize have been announced.

Great! But … what’s the Earthshot prize?

The Earthshot Prize is part of a global challenge to encourage innovative ideas to help repair, restore and protect our environment.

Five winners are selected, one for each category; Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix our Climate.

All receive £1m each in funding.

Sounds great! So who are the winners?

Mukuru Clean Stoves in Kenya has won the Clean our Air prize for designing and selling a type of stove that produces 90% less pollution than traditional ones.

Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef have won the Revive our Oceans prize for their work training the next generation of indigenous women as rangers to protect the ocean and the life within it.

44.01 has won the Fix our Climate prize. They have discovered a way to safely, quickly and cheaply remove carbon from the atmosphere forever by mineralising CO2 in peridotite. This is a permanent removal, rather than temporarily storing carbon in nature as trees and soil do.

Kheyti, based in India, has won the Protect and Restore Nature prize by creating a ‘Greenhouse-in-a-Box’ to help small-hold farmers to protect their crops and turn unpredictable farming into dependable income. The greenhouses grow 7 times more food with 90% less water, making it a more sustainable option.

London-based start-up Notpla have been awarded the Build a Waste-Free World award for creating a plastic alternative from seaweed. While it is grown for harvesting, the seaweed farms trap carbon, and create a healthy environment for under-water wildlife to thrive in.

Amazing! What do they get?

The Earthshot prize will be ongoing for a decade, meaning there will never be more than 50 winners. Each year for the next decade, five solutions will be awarded £1million to help support their quest to save our planet.

As of Monday December 5 2022 applications for the Earthshot prize 2023 are open.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.