2016 will be remembered by many as the year of Brexit, Trump, and the death of so many celebrities we love.
But it hasn’t been all bad- some good things happened this year too.
Here are the seven most popular stories from the Good News Shared website in 2016- we hope they make you smile and feel a bit more optimistic about the coming year.
1. Ex-Circus Lions Given New African Home
Two ex-circus lions were successfully rescued from Bulgaria and are now thriving in their new South African home. Eight-year-old brothers Jora and Black were rescued by the Born Free Foundation from a beast wagon in Bulgaria. Thanks to generous public support, the charity transported Jora and Black 10,500 miles via the UK to a new life at the award-winning Shamwari Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Click here to watch the video showing how Born Free successfully rescued the lions, and to see the emotional moment the brothers stepped out onto African soil for the first time.
2. Meet the seven-year-old cancer survivor who is helping other young cancer survivors
Seven-year-old Erin Gentry was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (Rb), a rare form of eye cancer which affects babies and young children, when she was two years old. She needed lifesaving surgery to remove her left eye and stop the cancer spreading, followed by chemotherapy.
Now, the north Londoner has been given a prestigious award in recognition of the commitment she has shown in helping other young cancer survivors.
Erin spent over a year struggling to get to grips with wearing an artificial eye but since she mastered it she has dedicated her time to teaching other children at a special group called Eye Club, where some of the children are older than her. Read Erin’s story here.
3. This Barista Learnt Something New to Help Customer Have ‘Same Experience As Everyone Else’
Ibby Piracha, who is deaf, was surprised by the service he was given at his local Starbucks in Leesburg, Virginia one Friday..
As Ibby was about to go about his regular routine of typing his order into his phone, his local barista suddenly used sign language to ask him what he wanted. She then handed him a note that said:
“I’ve been learning American Sign Language just so you can have the same experience as everyone else.”
Ibby had had no idea the Starbucks employee had been learning sign language for weeks, just so he didn’t feel different to the other customers.
“I was like ‘wow!’ It brought a smile to my face. I was really surprised she had started signing. It wasn’t anything I had asked her to do. She had taken her own initiative and she had done it herself.”
4. Charity Week Bringing People Together to Break Down Barriers
Dr Wajid Akhter started Charity Week, an Islamic Relief campaign, more than 13 year ago to get young people to work together and combine their talents and experiences to help people across the world. Listen to our interview with Wajid to hear all about Charity Week, including why he started it, why it got such an incredible response from people and some of the fantastic moments he has experienced in the last 13 + years. .
5. Rice University professor sends peaceful message to Islamic nations
‘A bishop shall not be removed from his bishopric, nor a monk from his monastery, nor a hermit from his tower, nor shall a pilgrim be hindered from his pilgrimage.’
That’s one of Rice University Professor of Sociology Craig Considine’s favourite verses from ‘The Covenant with the Christian Monks of Mount Sinai’. Dr. Considine published a paper featuring four lesser-known covenants from Prophet Muhammad’s time – ‘The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Najran’, ‘The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Persia’, ‘The Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai’, and ‘The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of the World’.
The ancient covenants contain passages that “clearly highlight the Prophet’s plan to establish a community based on religious freedom and liberty,” Dr. Considine wrote. With his latest research, the professor aims to combat Islamophobia and cultivate more peace in the Middle East.
6. Cafe Helps Prepare Young People With Autism For The World of Work
We love cafes that do good and were excited to hear about the opening of InCafe, which opened to the public in early February 2016. The cafe is being run by pupils and staff at Inscape House School in Cheadle. The school, for young people aged 4 to 18 years with autism spectrum conditions, helps students develop skills in catering, customer service and hospitality.
Only 15% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, but research shows that 79% of people with autism on out of work benefits want to work.
Supported by local businesses, the enterprise aims to give first-hand work experience to pupils in a real cafe. Many students have developed the necessary skills to work independently in the cafe, with thirteen pupils having passed the Level 1 Food Hygiene Certificate.
7. Enormous Irish Wolfhound Teaching Children About Dog Safety
School children in the North East of England are being offered the chance to learn about pet care and dog safety, with the help of Bramble, an enormous Irish wolfhound and her owner.
Bramble and her owner, Blue Cross Education Officer Helen Spicer, visit schools and youth groups across the North East of England to help inform young people about responsible pet ownership and how to be stay safe around dogs.
Helen said, “Bramble definitely makes an impression when we go on a school visit – I haven’t seen a bigger wolfhound in Newcastle yet! I call her the ‘Miranda Hart of the dog world’ as she’s so big for a girl and really makes us laugh. She really helps the children to get engaged with the subject.
“With a high incidence of dog-related injuries locally, it’s more important than ever that children learn how to interact with dogs safely and the importance of caring properly for pets and training them well. Our talks will both help to keep people safe and improve animal welfare, as the children we meet are the pet owners of the future.”