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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Pakistan Visitor Shown Love From Birmingham Invites City to His Wedding

Pakistan Visitor Shown Love From Birmingham Invites City to His Wedding

Shahzeb Anwer left his home in Pakistan for surgery in the U.S. and says he found more than medical help in Birmingham, Alabama. The 31-year-old found his ‘home away from home’ in the southern city, and now considers it—and all its 211,000 residents—part of his family. He was so enamored by how welcoming people were he invited the entire city to his wedding.

Anwer, who suffered from kidney stones every year or two, needed a surgery that he found could be done effectively and affordable at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. He decided to do his homework on the city he had never heard of before. He posted on a small Reddit group for the Magic City asking things like what to wear and the best way to get around. He was taken back by the southern hospitality he received.

He said “People responded in a way that I wouldn’t even expect from my own people in Pakistan, it was very unexpected.” People in the group made recommendations, helped to facilitate his trip/stay by making sure he had rides to places and were cheering him on. One Birminghamer, Andrew Harris would drive him around, take him out to dinner, and ensure he got to try as many foods from other countries as possible.

He said Anwer always tried to pay him, but that he never accepted because it was like he was making a great friend out of the South Asian visitor. After the surgery was a complete success, Anwer was set to return to Pakistan. After returning to Pakistan, Anwer felt that since Harris and the rest of Birmingham had become such a positive part of his life, he wanted to invite them to his upcoming wedding.

He posted in the same Reddit group that all the members to the thread were invited, and they could bring anyone from the city. Days after his wedding he posted an update- “Hello home city and its people. I hope you’re all fine. Just a glimpse of one of my days though marriage is a multi day celebration here.” Once again he saw the southern hospitality as the group rained well-wishes on him and his fiancee.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on British Woman Opens Hotel to Ukraine Refugees

British Woman Opens Hotel to Ukraine Refugees

Nitsa Michael, owner of the Seaward Hotel in Weston-super-Mare, England has stopped taking guests at the the height of their busy season. Instead, she has taken in 22 Ukrainians seeking refuge from the war. Her family fled from Cyprus to Britain following a Turkish invasion in 1974, and she wanted to do something to help people in the same ‘horror situation’, fleeing from Russian aggression in Ukraine this year.

The 84 year old widow and great-grandmother of five said she felt for them and wanted to help in a big way. At her mother’s request, her daughter Michelle Michael, who is in charge of running the hotel, registered their family’s hotel on the Homes For Ukraine webpage. Before they knew it, they were welcoming their first refugee.

The hotel has room for 70 refugees and their door is still open. Michelle said “The 22 arrivals share meals and time together, and basically they heal together. Mum always has and still does listen to the news every day and it was really bothering her. She was feeling quite sad about it all, and that’s when she came up with the idea of opening the hotel to refugees. Seeing all the people staying here and how happy they are now, it’s all due to her.”

Decades earlier, Nitsa worked as a seamstress in London and her husband Axentis was a chef before they eventually moved to the South West where they took over the Seaward Hotel. They made it their family home where they raised their four children. Nitsa said seeing the refugees fleeing reminded her of the anxiety back in ‘74 when Turkey invaded. “We had no way of knowing if my father’s family were dead or alive because there was no connectivity. Everyone fled their homes with nothing to their names.”

Michelle said Nitsa visits the hotel once a week and makes sure to meet every guest and listen to their stories. She loves to see the children around in the hotel as it reminds her of raising her own four children there. She said it really has brought the hotel back to life.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Facebook Post Leads to Helping Ukrainians Flee to France

Facebook Post Leads to Helping Ukrainians Flee to France

Macha Levitin, a Moscow native living in a small medieval village in France’s Burgundy region saw a photo of a man trying to board a train with his dog while fleeing the war in Ukraine. The picture was posted on an Irish setter lovers of the world Facebook group. Levitin was amazed that it seemed out of the question for these people to leave their pets behind while fleeing the war torn areas that were once their home.

She didn’t think she could help the man in the picture, but she wanted to help someone get themselves and their beloved pets out. And so began her mission. Levitin has managed to help several people and dogs from Ukraine find safety in France. Levitin combed the thousands of members of the Irish setter Facebook group, looking for Russian and Ukrainian names.

“I saw Yuri Mazarenko, so for me it was evident he was a Russian-speaking or Ukrainian-speaking person, so I just wrote to him. I said, ‘Hi, my name is Macha. I’m writing to you from France. If you need any help, tell me how I can help you” she said. Mazurenko and his wife, Tanya Grigorieva, were sheltering beside a load-bearing wall in their home in the northern Ukrainian town of Chernihiv when he received the message. His wife had recently suffered a stroke, which made it difficult for her to get down to the bomb shelter.

The couple eventually made it out of Chernihiv, which was surrounded by Russian troops. Grivorieva arrived in France first, in mid-April, and Mazurenko made it over on May 1. Today the couple and their Irish setter Rolly and cat Jan are living with Levitin in this French village. He calls her their guardian angel. Mazurenko is an artist so Levitin helped him set up an exhibit of his paintings in the village’s tourism office. He says his life has taken such an unexpected turn.

Soon Levitin and Mazurenko are joined by Vlada, and her big red setter Iris. She also made it to Semur-en-Auxois by way of Levitin and the Irish setter connection. Vlada said “I’m amazed at everything Macha organized for us. The trip by bus from Warsaw to Paris, then picking us up when we arrived. I came with a suitcase, a dog and a cat. I could never have done this on my own.”

Vlada, who arrived in March, has a new job at a local leather goods manufacturer making high-end handbags. She says that is also thanks to Levitin and her “network.” The irony of being rescued by a Russian is not lost on Vlada or Mazarenko. The animal connection helped them to trust. Both are thankful for Levitin and their dogs bring them calm but what is going on with the war is always just below the surface for them.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Washington School District Rethinking Their Approach to Teaching

Washington School District Rethinking Their Approach to Teaching

Wenatchee school district in Washington has adopted a new teaching method to tackle high levels of below-average literacy in children. ‘Structured literacy’ is based on brain-science and is a more intuitive way to learn English than traditional methods. The district had to rethink how they teach reading in part because of a new state law that mandates all children in grades K-2 be screened for dyslexia.


Districts are required to help students flagged by the screening by teaching them the main components of structured literacy. The four main components: phonological awareness, the ability to notice and distinguish different sounds in a word; phonics, the ability to match sounds to letters; orthography, the ability to write sounds down and spell words; and morphology, the knowledge of word roots, prefixes and suffixes.


There are signs that it could pay off. Since the district adopted structured literacy, some students’ scores on district reading assessments, given three times a year, are rising more quickly. Between fall and winter this year, the share of kindergartners meeting grade level standards grew from 20% in the fall to 55%. Progress has not been across the board though. Overall reading scores haven’t improved year over year at the district since the model rolled out. In some cases they’ve dropped, which leaders attribute to the pandemic. Just 23% of students started this year at grade level in reading, up to 41% this winter.


Reading is a fundamental basic for success in other subjects yet according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million of American adults are illiterate. Of those people, 21 percent read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. That means they can’t read well enough to manage daily living and perform tasks required.


It may seem impossible that so many could graduate high school at a fifth grade reading level but sadly it is happening. Literacy goes far beyond the ability to read a book or write a letter. Illiteracy can cause immeasurable damage to an individual’s emotional and intellectual development, and often limits a person’s ability to achieve a fulfilling and successful adult life. Improving literacy in America requires not simply having an education system but one open to rethinking the teaching in place to ensure student success and Wenatchee School District is doing just that.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Las Vegas Women Find Out They’re Sisters After 48 Years Apart

Las Vegas Women Find Out They’re Sisters After 48 Years Apart

Real estate sisters Michele Dugan and Trish Morgan of ‘Sisters Selling Vegas’ for the Realty ONE Group have an amazing story to tell. They have the same father but each sister was unaware of the other’s existence, having been born to different mothers and separated through unfortunate circumstances 51 years ago.

Michele Dugan had gone to foster care and was later adopted, while her sister, Trish Morgan, remained with their father and Trish’s birth mother. Three years ago Michele decided it was time she found out where she came from and signed up for Ancestry.com. To her surprise, an Ancestry DNA match connected her to a half brother in New Jersey. “He goes, you’re in Vegas? There’s three more of us out there and I’m like what?,” Dugan said. Dugan found Tricia’s Facebook page and messaged her. She learned their father passed away in 2004 and in total, there are seven half siblings that live throughout the states.

The two women met for coffee and instantly bonded, discovering they are both the same age and have lived in the same city for over 30 years. Their kids graduated on the same day from the identical high school in Las Vegas, with each sister attending the graduation and shooting videos of the ceremony from different angles. They spent hours during the first meeting chatting about their lives, trying to catch up for lost decades. The two have an uncanny resemblance and DNA testing confirmed what they already felt.

Both agree it’s absolutely spooky how much they have in common. They were amazed not only by the fact that their sons were the same age and walking the same school hallways, but that they both had a background in real estate. Trish had enrolled in real estate school but had not yet received her certification. Michelle was something of a Las Vegas real estate legend, having worked in the industry for nearly 25 years. This shared career passion made teaming up an obvious next step.

Michele encouraged Trish to get her certification and together they soon launched ‘Sisters Selling Vegas’ for the Realty ONE Group. Michele, who was at somewhat of a low point in her life when they reunited says she believes “it was the universe talking that they met when they did. Michele said “I was so busy. I remember saying to someone, ‘I need another me. I need someone who really likes to work and cater to clients and is not just in it for the paycheck, but in it for all the right reasons.’ And there she is! We just came into each other’s life at the absolute perfect time.” Sisters Selling Vegas reportedly closed 44 transactions with $12 million in gross sales last year.

Each one of their families embraced the others with open arms, creating a larger family than any of them realized. Both women grew up with brothers which makes their new relationship that much more special because they always wondered what it was like to have a sister. “Our motto is we missed the first 48 years so we’re going to make the best of whatever we have left,” Dugan said.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Snapchat Co-Founder Pays College Debt for 2022 Graduates at Otis College of Art and Design

Snapchat Co-Founder Pays College Debt for 2022 Graduates at Otis College of Art and Design

The Otis College of Art and Design graduates received the good news during their graduation ceremony. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife Miranda Kerr will pay off the college debt for all 2022 graduates. The announcement drew both gasps and cheers from the audience as all 285 graduates heard the life-changing news. The donation is the largest single gift in the history of Otis College in Los Angeles.

Spiegel took summer classes at Otis College before entering Stanford. His creation of the popular instant messaging app with two former Stanford University classmates later made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015 at the age of 25. Spiegel told the graduating class
“It changed my life and made me feel at home. I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”

Spiegel and Kerr are founders of the Spiegel Family Fund. They said in a statement that the college is “an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers. It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”

Otis president Charles Hirschhorn did not disclose the size of the Spiegel family gift but said it surpassed the college’s previous largest gift of $10 million. Spiegel and Kerr offered their historic donation after Hirschhorn told them the college wanted to award the couple honorary degrees and invited them as commencement speakers this year.

The average cost of tuition is $46,500 for off campus students and $69,532 for on campus students. Rising college costs and less public funding to cover them have caused student loan debt to soar over the last few decades. More than 43 million Americans owe the federal government $1.6 trillion — an average $37,000 per person — making up the biggest share of consumer debt in the U.S. after mortgages.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

A Chicago neighborhood has created a microgrid to become energy efficient. The Bronzeville Community Microgrid combines rooftop solar, natural gas-fired generators and batteries to produce and store energy at a local level. Once fully operational, it will render the entire neighborhood “energy independent,” giving it the ability to disconnect from and reconnect to Chicago’s citywide grid at will.

The microgrid is part of a $25 million initiative, including $5 million in Department of Energy grants and is the first neighborhood microgrid in the US. ComEd plans to have the system up and running by early 2023, not just for emergencies but also to balance and optimize the interplay of distributed energy resources with the larger grid.

The microgrid also has become a blueprint for reducing communities’ contribution to climate change. This is due to the fact that the system gives its operators the ability, at scale, to introduce more renewables into its energy mix while reducing “line loss,” the electricity lost as it travels across power lines.

Along with the microgrid, ComEd has sponsored community-related activities, off-grid and solar-powered streetlights and free Wi-Fi throughout the service area. The community will also have freestanding digital kiosks providing community-related news and energy-related information.

The neighborhood also has an advisory council, The Bronzeville Community of the Future, which is composed of approximately two dozen individuals and organization leaders from a broad range of organizations. They have formal sessions quarterly and frequent informal meetings to keep stakeholders and residents informed about the initiative. The initiative has been years in the making and ComEd also hosted an Ideathon in 2018, 2019 and a virtual format in 2020 for Bronzeville-area high school students to design smart city and smart grid projects using STEM skills.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Makes $122 Million Donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Makes $122 Million Donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has made the biggest donation in the 118-year history of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization announced that the billionaire philanthropist has donated $122.6 million. The massive donation will be divided among 38 agencies, which is what the organization calls its local chapters.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has been fostering one-on-one relationships between kids and their adult mentors across the country for more than a century. The goal is to help children achieve their potential through long-lasting, positive relationships. The organization has mentoring programs that are community-based, school-based, for children of military families and children with incarcerated parents.

With the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, they make meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. Artis Stevens, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America said “We are incredibly grateful and humbled by MacKenzie’s generosity and acknowledgement of the incredible work of our passionate professionals and volunteers who are unwavering in their commitment to create meaningful outcomes for young people today and for generations to come,”

Scott’s donation is the latest in her extensive philanthropic work. Since pledging to give away most of her fortune, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has given more than $12 billion to more than 1,200 organizations over the past three years. In March, Scott revealed she donated $3.9 billion to various organizations including Planned Parenthood and Habitat for Humanity.

Last year, Scott announced giving away $2.7 billion to 286 organizations including the Children’s Defense Fund and National Equity Project. In 2020, Scott made two big donations of $1.7 billion to diverse organizations including historically Black colleges and universities, and another $4.2 billion to groups providing services including food banks and debt relief.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Good Samaritans Recognized for Saving Florida Woman Having Medical Emergency In Her Car

Good Samaritans Recognized for Saving Florida Woman Having Medical Emergency In Her Car

A video of Good Samaritans in Florida rushing to help a driver experiencing a medical emergency in her car went viral. The rescue happened on May 5th and the video shows several people springing into action after witnessing a gray car slowly roll into an intersection with its driver, Laurie Rabyor, unconscious at the steering wheel.

A press conference was held where Florida’s Boynton Beach Police Department recognized Jannette Rivera, Juan Chavez Jr., Michael Edelstein, David Formica, DaVida Peele, Marko Bartolone, Muriel Vaughns and Robin Fox for their quick thinking and courage. The press conference was the culmination of tracking down those who had helped. Each person was awarded a Royal Caribbean cruise and a $2,000 gift card, plus flowers.

Jannette Rivera, a co-worker of Rabyor’s had seen Rabyor slumped over her steering wheel, jumped into the street and began waving her arms to attract the attention of other motorists.
Several individuals, including Edelstein, leaped into action to find a way to stop the car, put it into park and then push it into a nearby 7-Eleven parking lot. A nurse there helped Rabyor until the fire department arrived.

Marko Bartolone said “I saw a lady chasing a car through an intersection in South Florida … and I thought, ‘Wow, she’s really mad at that other lady!. I figured out what was happening and thought, ‘I really can’t stop a car.’ But then I see Chavez … and I thought, well, with a couple of people, we could probably stop the car. I feel like I just did what anyone would do.” Michael Edelstein said “I’m stunned to be standing here. I was in the right place at the right time. … I was the fool that jumped in front of the car and then tried to punch the window out.”

Rabynor says she doesn’t remember any of it. “They all just came together to help a little old lady and I appreciate it so, so much. … It is so wonderful to see something nice today instead of all this crap that’s going on in the world and even in our community. … It’s so nice to see something nice” she said.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Planned Bronx Housing Complex Will Have Biodigester Turning Food Waste Into Fertilizer

Planned Bronx Housing Complex Will Have Biodigester Turning Food Waste Into Fertilizer

A new community housing development in the Bronx will feature an on-site biodigester that can turn 1,100 pounds of food scraps into 220 pounds of high-quality fertilizer every single day. A biodigester is basically a big stomach filled with bacteria that breaks down food scraps and wasted food into their component parts. Producing fertilizer right there in the city reduces the need for it to be trucked in from afar.

The Peninsula, organized by Gilbane Development Company, was selected to transform the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx’s Hunts Point community into a 5-acre campus featuring 100% affordable housing, good jobs, and recreational space. The complex
will feature 740 units of affordable housing, 50,000 square-foot light industrial space and equal sized green space, and 15,000 feet of commercial space, all of which will send their food scraps into the digester.

Built by Harp Renewables, the biodigester will be the first ever in a New York residential building. Each year, nearly 4 million tons of New York’s organic waste end up in landfills. Digesters have the potential to turn one of building owners’ biggest problems into a payday and have the potential to become a standard part of all apartment units as the amount of food waste in America reaches 30% of the total mass of all trash collection.

Another problem these aerobic or bio-digesters could potentially help is pollution and greenhouse gas emissions since fertilizer is a big emitter of all three of the most-targeted GHGs. Food scraps emit more greenhouse gasses in the U.S. than airplanes but biodigesters are clean eaters. They don’t emit carbon dioxide or methane, and their output replaces synthetic fertilizers. Bio-digesters by design keep the CO2 and methane in the fertilizer produced, rather than it entering the atmosphere.

Fertilizer, like quarry dust and ammonia is often imported from countries who specialize in its production, such as Norway, but also Russia and Ukraine, whose conflict has recently highlighted the fragility of the supply chain with sharp price increases. This importation means thousands of tons of CO2 gets emitted during transportation.

The U.S. has over 2,200 biodigesters in all 50 states; 250 digesters on farms, 1,269 water resource recovery facilities are using biodigesters and 66 stand-alone systems. More than half of those used on farms and in industrial facilities are an energy resource for producing electricity or usable heat for operations at the facility. Biodigesters are slowly making their way into residential and industrial spaces around the country because they combat several issues. Digesters can last for decades if used correctly, paying off their initial investment and generating long-lasting returns.

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