5 “Helpers” Who Remind Me that People Are Awesome

The positive things that I am hearing about the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You be my Neighbour? have me thinking about Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood and the message of kindness that it spread. I have always loved a quote from Fred Rogers that explains how his mother encouraged him during times of tragedy to look for people who are helping. The words “look for the helpers” always come to mind when I see some horrible news story and want my faith in humanity restored. In my eyes, “helpers” are those who make it a priority to serve others, who represent the wonderful potential of people. Here are a few individuals with stories that interest and inspire me, who are helping to make the world a bit better:

Boyan Slat and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:  While being interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Boyan told the story of a trip to Greece that he took as a young man; while scuba diving there, he noticed that the number of plastic bags floating in the ocean outnumbered the amount of fish he saw. His desire to find a solution to this problem led him to create The Ocean Cleanup project, which aims to develop and utilize technology to remove some of the 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently affecting our oceans. Check out this Ted Talk that Boyan gave at just 18 years old:

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Justin Wren’s Fight for the Forgotten: A mixed martial artist who uses time between fights to build wells for Pigmy communities in Congo, Justin not only created the charity, Fight for the Forgotten, but has earned the nickname Big Pigmy as a result of the personal connections he has made with those he helps. Justin spends substantial periods of time in Africa; he has contracted malaria 3 times during his efforts to ease suffering in areas that lack clean drinking water. Justin has written a book (Fight for the Forgotten by Justin Wren) and has made a documentary in an effort to raise awareness and find a solution for the water crisis. Watch his Tedx Talk here:

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Malala Yousef: Though she she may be the best known of the helpers on this list, some quick research taught me a few things that I didn’t realize about this courageous woman. While living in Pakistan as a teenager, Malala was infamously attacked by the Taliban. Members of the terror group climbed aboard her school bus and shot her multiple times. While I remember hearing the horrific story when it happened in 2012, I didn’t realize that she had been targeted for speaking out about life under Taliban rule, in a blog she wrote for the BBC. Exploring her website reminded me of the bravery it took for her to return to school after being attacked, speak out against atrocities suffered by girls around the world, and dedicate herself to the Malala Fund to spread her message of equality and education for all. See the speech she gave as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize here:

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Akon Lighting Africa: This is a cool story that made me smile when I came across it. Not only is Akon a talented musician, he has spent the last 4 years helping run a charity that provides solar power to communities in Africa that do not have electricity. His work has taken him to Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Congo, just to name a few countries that have been impacted by his generosity. Akon and his team are working to sustainably help over 600 million Africans who are living without power. Please visit the Akon Lighting Africa site here:

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All the first responders: My husband is s a medical first responder, who volunteers with St. John Ambulance. He and his fellow volunteers provide safety in our community, giving up their free hours to do everything from hand out bandages and water to treat significant injuries. Watching him and his peers gives me a great appreciation for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and others who are able to stay calm in stressful emergency situations everyday. This topic brings to mind a humble Canadian hero, Officer Ken Lam, who brought the Toronto van attacker to his knees earlier this year, without ever firing a shot.  If you haven’t yet seen this example of first responder bravery, watch the incredible footage here

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