In one of the European Union’s poorest countries, Valeriu Nicolae hopes to reform the damage done to the most vulnerable demographic: children. Nicolae’s humanitarian organization, Casa Buna, helps young Romanians receive basic necessities and education. The organization helps 315 children, giving them things like toothbrushes, clothing and school supplies on the condition that they stay in school. Nicolae has long been an advocate to aid poor children in order to prevent them from dropping out of school and turning to substance abuse. His goal is to bring about greater social change.
Nicolae had a similar childhood to the ones he helps. Coming from Romania’s Roma, or Gypsy, background, he faced racism and neglect. Roma minorities remain some of the poorest communities in Romania. Because of this Nicolae also launched an anti-racism campaign to educate children. Despite the challenges he faced with bringing both humanitarian and anti-racism acts to fruition he stays determined. “I was successful in helping many children and adults. I am stubborn and don’t do things just for one day,” he told The Associated Press. “I also failed thousands of times but that has placed me in a position to succeed (the next time). I never failed in the same way twice.”
Despite her fight with cancer and struggles with a rare lung disease, Corinna Dewar is helping others in any way she can. In past years she baked cookies to give to her neighbors, but during the pandemic, Dewar is housebound. During the holiday season instead of her usual baked goods, she decorated cleaning supplies to be Santa themed.
Dewar has lymphangioleiomyomatosis, a condition in which liquid leaks into the lungs. After being diagnosed with the illness for over a decade, she began using an oxygen tank four years ago. Initially, she was on a waiting list to receive a lung transplant. But with the pandemic filling up hospitals and a skin cancer tumor on her foot that had to be removed, Dewar decided to be taken off the list. Despite the discouraging development, she remains hopeful and helpful to those around her. “Finding and sending products to friends and family helped me stay connected to them,” she told The Associated Press. “And it gave me a small way to help out and focus on something other than my health and the pandemic.”
Derek “Tank” Schottle is a seven-sport athlete who’s competed in the Special Olympics for the past 20 years. People describe him as outgoing, positive and a leader, But it hasn’t always been this way. Tank’s classmates regularly bullied him, sometimes physically. Despite Tank’s larger stature than the rest of the kids his age, his intellectual disability prevented him from standing up for himself. But after joining the Special Olympics he became more confident as he felt more accepted.
Now Tank has received multiple awards for his work on anti-bullying and Special Olympics promotion both locally and nationally. Being a leader for the sport, he advocates for funding for the Special Olympics and why it’s important to the athletes. Tank also regularly gives messages of encouragement and love on social media which have been recognized by celebrities such as Mark Hamill, Marlee Matlin, Maureen McCormick, Rachel Maddow, former NBA player Rex Chapman and NFL player J.J. Watt. And though Tank’s popularity rose locally and nationally, his efforts still remain the same. “I love to spread love and hope for our country and our world,” he told The Associated Press. “We should all love one another and bring hope and inspiration to other people.”
There are two major differences at Linda Tutt’s school store. First, instead of offering just a few snacks and school supplies, it stocks an array of fresh produce and home essentials for students and faculty, much like a mini grocery store. Second, it’s all free. The student-led grocery store assigns points to students, faculty and families based on the number of people in need. The points are used in place of money and students can earn extra by performing well academically.
Forty-three percent of students in Sager, Texas are considered economically disadvantaged. The idea for the grocery store was meant to not only provide the town with food and supplies much needed in the community but to also give students work experience and learn the value of giving.
“I’ve really seen the students take pride in working in the store,” principal Anthony Love told The Associated Press. “They’re excited about coming to school. They’re excited about helping in the grocery store and just being a part of it.”