Good News Thursday: Sidewalk school aids Indian children, Nun raises money for Chicago charities


Sidewalk school helps Indian children stay educated amidst school closures

A student reaches for a pencil. This sidewalk school is helping Indian kids educated while schools are shut down. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

As India’s COVID lockdown continues, students unable to attend school are finding a new place to learn: a sidewalk in New Delhi. Former diplomat Virendra Gupta and his wife, singer Veena Gupta have begun tutoring students ages four to 14 after learning from their maid that kids dependent on government schooling are unable to attend due to lack of electronic access. In response, Veena bought school supplies for the students and for volunteer teachers and set up her class. 

The Guptas and their driver Heera teach three groups thrice a week, morning and evening. Veena even provides homemade lemonade and cookies. They hope the students will use the group as a way to maintain their education and stay out of trouble. “It is not about the money that people can contribute and give, it is about their time. They should take out little bit of their time, an hour or so, if not every day, every alternate day, and come and help these children,” Veena said.

Grocery store hires woman who used to sleep in their parking lot

LaShenda Williams aids a customer at self checkout. Last year Williams would sleep in the Kroger’s parking lot, this year she is working full time there and has bought an apartment. (Larry McCromack the Tennessean)

When LaShenda Williams saw a flyer for a job fair at her local Kroger’s supermarket, she took it as a sign. She went inside, interviewed with Kroger hiring manager Jackie Vandal and was hired on the spot. For Williams, this was a complete blessing and a shock; the past year she was homeless and jobless, living in her car and sleeping parked in the Kroger’s parking lot.

As someone recovering from addiction and suffering from a learning disability, receiving a job had been difficult for Williams. Since being hired and working full time helping customers at the self-checkout aisle, she has been able to save enough money to buy a small apartment. Her coworkers and customers pitched in to help her buy furniture and appliances; they have become like family in the past eight months she has worked at the grocery store. “Now, all my babies here love on me. No one abuses me, and no one calls me dumb and stupid. For the first time in my life, I finally got peace,” Williams said.

Nun on the run raises money for charity

Sister Stephanie Baliga runs a marathon in her covent’s basement. After the Chicago marathon was cancelled, she decided to run the event and livestream it to raise money for local charities. (PJ Weiland via AP)

The Chicago marathon may have been cancelled, but that didn’t stop Sister Stephanie Baliga. Instead she laced up her shoes, turned the treadmill on, and got to running. On a livestream that is now posted to Youtube, Sister Baliga ran the full 26.6 miles in three hours and 33 minutes, all to raise money for Mission of Our Lady of the Angels food pantry in Chicago.

As she ran she got support from friends, family and fellow runners, including Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and childhood hero of Sister Baliga. The fundraiser was able to raise over $130,000 for her mission’s local outreach. “It’s so important, especially right now, when a lot of people feel isolated and far away, that people continue to sacrifice for each other and to be kind,” she said.

Cyclist becomes the first Native American to compete in the Tour de France

Neilson Powless competes in the Tour de France. Powless is the first Native American to compete in the famed cycling race. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Neilson Powless became the first Native American to compete in the Tour de France. He hopes that being able to represent his tribe will inspire Native American kids pursue their own passions despite having “a lot going against them.”

The tribal chairman Tehassi Hill is proud of Powless’ example. “Whenever one of our own, from the Oneida community, are in the spotlight, it definitely does not go unnoticed. Neilson’s journey and accomplishments I’m sure are spoken of at many gatherings here in Oneida,” said Hill.

Told days before the event that he was on the team, Powless was unable to visually represent the Oneida Tribe, but nonetheless represented well as a young and promising new cyclist. The rookie mainly rode in support of the lead cyclist, veteran Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran, but also exhibited his skills on strenuous slopes, placing fourth on stage six, climbing Mont Aigoual, and fifth on stage eight, climbing in the Pyrenees.

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