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The Brazilian Couple Who Brought a Dead Subtropical Rainforest Back to Life

Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado is a world renowned social documentary photographer and photojournalist from Brazil, but few people know that he is also the mastermind behind one of the most amazing environment restoration projects in history. Together with his wife, Salgado has nearly completed the recovery of a single uninterrupted section of the Atlantic Forest, planting millions of saplings over the last two decades.

The story of Instituto Terra, the non-profit organization founded by Sebastião Salgado and his wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, began in 1998. The celebrated photographer had recently returned from Rwanda, where he had documented the tragedies of war. The horrors he witnessed during those troubled wars haunted him long after he left Africa, and at one point he completely lost both his faith in humanity and the desire to shoot photos. It was around this time that Sebastião’s parents offered him and Lélia the old farm he had grown up in, and he took the opportunity to return home thinking that the idyllic paradise he remembered would help him heal. However, he found that his home was nothing like he remembered it.

Salgado grew up on a 1,750-acre farm in the state of Minas Gerais 70 miles inland from Brazil’s Atlantic coast. He recalls that, when he was only a boy, the Atlantic Forest covered half his family’s farm and half the Rio Doce Valley, and that the fauna that called it home created a cacophony of sounds every day. But that wasn’t the sight he came home to in the mid 90’s.

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Teenage Girls Pretend to Be Boys for 4 Years to Keep Father’s Barbershop Afloat

Two teenage sisters in India were recently honored for their grit and determination after it was discovered that they disguised themselves as boys for four years in order to keep their father’s barbershop open after he became ill.

Jyoti Kumari, 18, and her 16-year-old sister, Neha, from Banwari Tola, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, took over their father’s barbershop in 2014 after he suffered a severe paralytic attack that left him bedridden. The girls were only 13 and 11-years-old at the time, but the barbershop was the family’s only source of income, so they had to do something to put food on the table. At first, the barbershop was closed, but as the family savings evaporated, Jyoti and Neha reopened it and started running it themselves. But things didn’t go well at first, as some men were skeptical about having girls shave their beards and trim their mustaches, while others treated them badly. So they started disguising themselves as men.

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Chinese Millionaire Spends His Free Time Picking Up Trash From the Streets of His City

Zhong Congrong, a successful businessman from Chongqing, China, has become known as the “the millionaire trash collector,” for his longtime habit of scouring the streets of his city armed with a trash-picking claw and picking up any garbage he finds.

The 52-year-old entrepreneur began cleaning up the streets of Chingqing three years ago, after a family trip to southern China’s Hainan province, for the Chinese New Year. There, he met a retired university professor who had reportedly been picking up trash from one of the local beaches every day, for the last four years. He was so impressed with the woman’s dedication and commitment to trash collecting that he decided to replicate her daily habit in his home city, as soon as he got back from his vacation.

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Meet Derek Rabelo, the World’s Only Blind Professional Surfer

Derek Rabelo is not the only surfer to conquer Hawaii’s famous Pipeline big wave break, but whereas others use their sight to do it, this young professional surfer must rely only on his other senses. That’s because he is completely blind.

When Derek was born, over 24 years ago, his father Ernesto had already decided to name him after Derek Ho, the first Hawaiian surfing world champion. A surfing enthusiast himself, Ernesto dreamed that his son would go on to honour his namesake and inherit the talent of his uncle, a professional surfer. Unfortunately, Derek was born completely blind from congenital glaucoma, but this didn’t stop his family from believing that he could do anything he wanted, even if that meant becoming a surfer.

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Disabled Man Spends Three Years Single-Handedly Carving a Road Through a Hill

In a story of unbelievable grit and determination, a semi-paralyzed man in Kerala, India, spent three years digging a road straight through a small hill in front of his home, using only rudimentary tools.

63-year-old Melethuveettil Sasi has never even heard the story of Dashrath Manjhi, the famous Mountain Man of Bihar, who spent two decades carving a road through a mountain with just chisels and hammers, but he managed a very similar feat. Sasi, who can barely walk and move his right hand, spent three years of his life digging a 200-meter dirt road through a hill in front of his house, so he could finally support his family again.

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Man with Cerebral Palsy Spends Five Years Typing Book with Only One Toe

38-year-old Wesley Wee, from Singapore, was born with cerebral palsy, and has never had any control over most of the muscles in his body. He is stuck in a wheelchair, and is unable to dress or feed himself, so writing a book seems out of the realm of possibility. However, his physical disabilities didn’t stop this ambitious man from spending five years typing every letter in his inspiring book, “Finding Happiness Against the Odds”, with just the big toe on his right foot.

Growing up, Wesley had to deal no only with the challenges of his crippling condition, but also the abuse of his parents who were unable to deal with the hardships of raising a disabled child, and often took their frustration out on him. His mother would hit him and say things like  “You good for nothing, si geena (dead child in Hokkien), it is better you die,” to him, and his father pushed him to do difficult exercises every night, in an attempt to make him walk normally.

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Brazilian “Traffic Waiter” Is Probably the World’s Most Elegant Street Vendor

Aílton Manuel da Silva is not your usual waiter. He dresses as one, carries himself as one and even sports a tray full of cold drinks and snacks, but instead of a restaurant or a cafe, he works in the streets, braving the hot sun and incoming traffic to provide for his family. He is the “traffic waiter” of Recife, and probably the world’s most elegant street vendor.

Every morning at 5 a.m., 43-year-old Aílton Manuel da Silva wakes up, puts on his creased pants, white shirt, bow tie and lacquered shoes and leaves for work. He arrives at the busy intersection of Avenida Almirante Dias Fernandes and Rua Emiliano Ribeiro at around 5:30 and gets ready for a long day of waiting through traffic. He prepares his bottles of cold water, cans of soda and snacks like popcorn and chips, sets them neatly on his metal tray, and at 7 in the morning he steps into traffic to offer motorists his assortment of refreshments.

 

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“China’s Hottest Grandpa” Is Not Your Average 81-Year-Old

Retirement usually involves slowing down, taking it easy for a change, but not for 81-year-old Wang Deshun. For him, it’s all about commercial photo shoots, parading bare-chested on fashion runways and brushing shoulders with Chinese superstars. He is “China’s hottest grandpa” and the man praised for changing the country’s traditional view of old age.

Wang Deshun’s life changed one march evening, two years ago, when he got the chance to walk on the runway at the China Fashion Week in Beijing. With his chiseled physique, hipster beard, long silver hair and youthful attitude, the 79-year-old made quite an impression, and things just kept getting better for him after that. But how he ended up on the stage of an international fashion festival is quite a story in itself.

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7-Year-Old Boy Suffering from Rare Condition Runs Triathlons to Stay Alive

Jake Vella suffers from a rare hormonal condition that causes him to rapidly gain weight despite eating healthy and doing regular exercise. There is nothing anyone can do to stop the weight gain, but in order to stop the process and stay alive, the 7-year-old boy competes in triathlons.

Jake’s parents first noticed there was something wrong with him three years ago, when he gained about 20 pounds in just six months. He kept putting on weight despite eating only salad. In 2015, Jake was diagnosed with ROHHAD (Rapid-onset Obesity with Hypothalamic dysfunction, Hypoventilation and Autonomic Dysregulation), a rare condition that affects the nervous system and causes rapid weight gain, as well as an inability to regulate body temperature and maintain normal water levels. It can cause tumors to develop, and Jake already has one on his back. Unfortunately, the condition is currently incurable and the life expectancy of sufferers ranges between 5 and 9 years.

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Woman with Vitiligo Uses Her Body as a Canvas for Amazing Artworks

Ash Soto was only 12 years old when she was diagnosed with vitiligo, a rare skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose pigmentation. Dealing with the changes to her appearance and the social stigma associated with vitiligo was tough for a teenage girl, but she ultimately managed to accept her condition and make the best of it. Today, Ash even incorporates the unique patterns on her skin to create beautiful body art that inspire and empower people to embrace that we are all different and that’s what makes us special.

It all started with a small spot Ash saw on her neck one day. It looked like a sun spot, so she didn’t pay much attention to it, until another one appeared a few months later. She went to see a doctor about it with her mother, and was diagnosed with vitiligo, a rare and incurable skin condition. Soto was just 12 at the time, and couldn’t yet understand how much this diagnosis would affect her life.

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Meet the Kindhearted Businessman Who Throws Grand Weddings for Fatherless Indian Brides

In India, it is expected that the bride’s family organize and especially pay for the wedding, so when a young woman’s father (the main bread earner) dies, she can almost certainly forget about having a wedding, especially if she comes from a poor family. Most often than not, widowed mothers simply don’t have the means to marry their daughters. That’s where Indian real-estate tycoon Mahesh Savani comes in.

Ever since 2008, Mr. Savani has organized weddings for over 700 fatherless brides, not only paying for the event itself, but also giving each one of his new “daughters” a substantial dowry  (gold, jewelry, furniture, home appliances, etc.) worth around 400,000 rupees ($5,900). At each wedding, the successful businessman also steps up to play the role of their father and perform their ‘kanyadaan’ – the traditional ritual of giving away the bride. From that moment on, the girls become his daughters.

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The Angel of Nanjing – Man Dedicates His Life to Preventing Suicides

The Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China, is one of the most popular suicide spots in the world, and also the place where one man has spent all his weekends and holidays over the last 13 years trying to convince people out of ending their lives. He has so far been able to save over 300 people.

Chen Si claims that he can approach and talk people out of jumping off the bridge, because he knows how they feel. Many of those who attempt to commit suicide on the Yangtze River Bridge are not actually from Nanjing, but migrant workers living far away from home. Mr. Chen was like them once, a migrant disappointed with his life, living far away from his family. But then he met an old man who offered him optimistic advice and helped him look at life in a positive way. Unfortunately, not longer after they met, the old man’s sons started arguing about their inheritance, and he got so upset that he stopped eating and eventually died. It was this tragic event that inspired Chen to help troubled souls overcome their difficulties and persuade them that life is worth living. He always believed that if he had visited the old man sooner, as he had planned to do, he might have convinced him of that as well. “What could be more important than life itself?” he asks.

So every weekend since 2003, Chen Si has been traveling 25 kilometers from his home to the Yangtze Bridge and patrolling it for hours, either on foot or on his scooter, looking for people who look like they might be thinking of jumping into the river. He pays particularly close attentions to loners staring into the muddy waters below. Chen says he has become an expert at spotting people contemplating suicide. “It is very easy to recognize,” he says. “A person walks without a soul.”

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12-year-Old Boy Learns to Sew So He Can Make Stuffed Toys for Sick Children

Fueled by a desire to bring joy to others, Campbell Remess taught himself how to sew when he was only 9 years old, and for the past three years he has created over 800 stuffed toys for sick children in hospitals.

It all started three years ago, when Campbell asked his parents if they could buy Christmas presents for kids in hospital. They were touched by his kindness, but told him that buying so many toys would be too costly. He is one of nine siblings, and buying presents presents for all of them was already a pretty expensive affair for the parents. Only Campbell didn’t let a simple “no” discourage him out of bringing a bit of joy to kids going through tough times, so he just decided to make the presents himself.

Campbell’s mother, Sonya Whittaker, thought it was a great idea, assuming he was going to make  a bunch of paintings or drawings. But then he approached her with a pattern for a stuffed animal he found online, asking if she could make any sense of it. The woman struggled with it, but eventually Campbell himself figured it out. He asked if he could use his mother’s sewing machine to make the toy, and she agreed, as long as he was careful not to sew his fingers by mistake. It took the 9-year-old boy five hours to create his first stuffed animal, but after three years of practice, he is now able to put one together in just an hour.

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Kindhearted Man Has Been Living on the Street for 10 Years in Order to Take Care of Stray Dogs

A dog lover from the Pudong district of Shanghai, recently melted millions of hearts after it was revealed that he has been living on the streets of the Chinese metropolis for a decade, so he could take care of stray canines.

58-year-old Cui Hengyi started caring for injured and abandoned dogs in his city 28 years ago. He wasn’t homeless at the time, so he started bringing them into his home, and claims that at one point, in 2006, he had a whopping pooches living with him. The constant noise and the fear of disease didn’t sit too well with his neighbors, who soon started filing complaints against him. Pressured by the authorities to get rid of the animals or risk getting evicted, Cui decided that having a home wasn’t worth giving up on his furry friends, so he decided to leave his house and family behind and live in the streets to take care of stray dogs.

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86-Year-Old “Iron Nun” Is Living Proof That Age Is Just a Number

There’s a good reason people call Sister Madonna Buder the “Iron Nun”. She competed in her first triathlon at age 52 and went on to complete over 340 of them since then, including 46 Ironman triathlons. At age 86, she is still participating in the grueling endurance events and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Born in July 1930, in St. Louis, Missouri, Marie Dorthy Buder was never really into running as a child. She was an active girl and even recalls winning a national championship in equestrian events as a 16-year-old, but sport was always just a hobby. At 14, Buder had already decided to become a nun, under the influence of the Visitation Sisters at the all-girls Visitation Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, that her parents put her in after sixth grade. At 23-years-old, Marie Dorothy fulfilled her calling in life and became Sister Madonna. In 1970, she left her congregation to join 38 other nuns from different backgrounds to found new and non-traditional community of Religious Sisters, independent from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This move gave her the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle and would later lead her to discover her second calling – running.

Sister Madonna Buder only started running for fun at age 48, at the suggestion of a priest, who told her it was good for her body and mind. Before running her first official race, she consulted with Father John about whether it was a good idea, since people weren’t used to seeing a nun competing in running events. She told him she wanted to run for a good cause – Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – but wasn’t sure how the world would react to a nun running a race. The priest told her “Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you’re doing,” and gave her his blessing.

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