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10 Remarkable Efforts of Ordinary People to Make the World Better

Efforts of ordinary people

We live in a strange world where negative and depressing stories quite often make it to the front page, yet the ones that show examples of generosity and good character are hard to find. Time and again we come across headlines and articles which leave us in disbelief and despair. Even though it is important to report on some dreadful events, it is equally essential to highlight stories that show courage, passion, and a will to make a change. In this article, we have put together a list of 10 remarkable efforts of ordinary people to make the world better.

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1. A science teacher from rural Kenya donates most of his salary to help poor students. His efforts to make their lives better have been awarded The World’s Best Teacher Award for 2019.

Peter Tabichi
Image credits: The Varkey Foundation/Globalteacherprize

Peter Tabichi is a 36-year-old math and physics teacher at Keriko Secondary School in Pwani Village of rural Kenya. In a recent award ceremony held in Dubai, he was awarded $1 million along with the Varkey Foundations Global Teacher award for 2019, beating around 10,000 nominations from 179 different countries.

Tabichi has been actively involved in the academic and social development of his students and school. His students mostly come from really poor backgrounds with almost a third of those being orphans or raised by single parents. The territorial conditions in some areas can be so adverse that some students have to walk about seven kilometers to school. With such circumstances, the occurrences of drug abuse, child marriages, and school dropouts are fairly common.

Despite all this, Tabichi has been motivated to make changes in the lives of his students and has been successful in doing so. Initiatives like “talent nurturing club” and the expansion of the school’s science clubs have helped students in shaping their interests. These efforts have also shown a rise in student enrollment of about 400 new students over a span of three years. (source)

2. Dr. Donald Hopkins helped eradicate smallpox completely and is now on the verge of eliminating another disease. He has successfully been able to take down the instances of Guinea worm disease from around 3.5 million cases a year to just 28.

Donald Hopkins
Image credits: Center for Neighborhood Technology/Flickr

Dr. Donald Hopkins was born in a Bahamian household in Miami. He attended segregated schools, and in 10th grade was awarded a three-quarter scholarship to Morehouse College. He saw this as a great opportunity towards a career that had he always wanted and also something that would end his financial woes. His interest in tropical diseases peaked during his undergraduate studies, and as soon as he finished his medical school at the University of Chicago, he applied to the U.S. Public Health Services and asked to work in Africa.

In 1967, he was given the opportunity to lead the smallpox effort in Sierra Leone. Smallpox was a contagious disease that could be fatal and had the world’s highest case rate. There were about 300 million smallpox cases in the 20th century alone. Dr. Hopkins tried a new strategy wherein the teams focused on the source of new outbreaks rather than vaccinating already-affected regions. The strategy worked brilliantly, and Sierra Leone was free of smallpox in less than two years while it took a decade to eradicate it globally.

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After successfully eliminating smallpox, he went after the Guinea worm disease. Dr. Hopkins suggested that simple water filtering techniques and basic precautions could help in the eradication of this parasite.  Eventually, he was able to reduce the cases from 3.5 million a year to only 28 cases last year.

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3. A married couple decided to rebuild their desertified piece of land of 1,754 acres in Aimorés, Brazil. They planted more than 2 million tree saplings during a span of 18 years restoring the land to its former glory.

Couple created new rain forest
Image credits: Instituto Terra/Metro

When photojournalist Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado returned to his home town after documenting the genocide in Rwanda, he was devastated to see the condition of the land. What once used to be a tropical rainforest was now just a massive piece of barren land. Heartbroken, Salgado and his wife decided to replant the region.

In 1998, he set up the Instituto Terra which was aimed at the sustainable development of the Valley of River Doce. Since then, they have planted about 2 million tree saplings. The land is now home to more than 290 species of plants, 172 bird species, 33 varieties of mammals, and 15 different kinds of reptiles and amphibians. (source)

4. Zeal Akiraiwai is a Nigerian man who pays medical bills for fellow Nigerians that cannot afford to do it. He does that every week and has saved countless lives so far.

Zeal Akaraiwai
Image credits: BBC

Zeal Akiraiwai is like an angel to some. Every week he is seen coordinating with the social workers and the hospital authorities so he can pay the bills for those who aren’t able to afford the medical treatments. With a poor economy and lack of proper government health plans, Nigeria struggles to provide good medical care to all its citizens. Only around 5% of the population is covered by health insurance.

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Looking at such conditions, Zeal Akiraiwai began The Angel Project which is funded by himself and his family and friends. He has been able to save countless lives and continues to do so. When asked how he felt about this, he replied, “Be the angel you hope to meet.” (source)

5. A 96-year-old self-taught conservationist from southeast Idaho has helped to save the declining population of the North American Bluebird.

Alfred Larson
Image credits: Matthew Podolsky, Neil Paprocki via Audubon

After retiring from his job at a sawmill plant in Boise, Idaho in 1978, Alfred Larson was looking for a hobby to keep him busy. Being an avid birder and a member of Idaho’s Golden Eagle Audubon society, Larson noticed the decline in the population of bluebirds. He then started learning how to build nest boxes out of pine scraps and board ends and installed a few around his property to attract these feathered creatures. Shortly after, with the help of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society, he planted more in various habitats around Idaho.

The main cause of the decline had been the loss of their habitats and the nesting competition they faced from the European starlings and house sparrows. Forty years of continuous efforts have paid off well, and up to now, he has banded over 30,000 bluebirds and is currently monitoring 350 bird boxes all over Idaho.(source)

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