Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
It takes discipline in the current media environment to find good news. But in the midst of government shutdowns, injustice at the border, and continuing climate chaos, quite a few victories for goodness and progress occurred. 1. The hole in the ozone layer could be fully closed over the Arctic by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2060. 2. Niger reported that, in the last three decades, it has seen the growth of 200 million trees, setting the record for the largest positive impact on the environment in African history. 3. Canada signed a treaty with the Tall Cree First Nation to create the largest protected coniferous forest in the world. 4. China, likely the world’s largest ivory consumer, banned ivory trade in 2017. 5. New York and Virginia became the first two U.S. states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. 6. South Africa, the country with the world’s largest population of people living with AIDS, announced a 44 percent decline in new HIV infections since 2012. 7. Paraguay has eliminated malaria, becoming the first country in the Americas to do so since Cuba in 1973. 8. Morocco passed landmark legislation criminalizing violence against women. 9. Tunisia passed a bill to give men and women equal inheritance rights. It’s the first Arab nation to take such a step. 10. The majority of humanity is no longer poor or vulnerable to poverty. September marked a tipping point, where half the world can be classified as middle class.
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Global poverty is in decline. Jim Pethokoukis writes, “Over the past 30 years, the share of our fellow humans living in extreme poverty has decreased to 21% from 52%. That’s a billion fewer people in extreme poverty. An extraordinary achievement.” People are living longer. The World Health Organization reports, “Global average life expectancy increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s. The 2000-2015 increase was greatest in the WHO African Region, where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years.” Americans are extraordinarily charitable. The National Center for Charitable Statistics found, “Giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations. Individual giving amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent in current dollars from 2013. This accounts for 72 percent of all contributions received in 2014.” We are becoming less violent. You’d never know it from listening to politicians or the media, but it is provably true. Psychologist Steven Pinker, author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” in an interview this year explained: “I looked at homicide, looked at war, looked at genocide, looked at terrorism. And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs ... is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in United States has fallen by more than half in just a decade. The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.”
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[Guest Host Jeff Probst]: Was a World War II fighter pilot reincarnated in a little boy's body? Bruce [and Andrea] Leininger say yes. They are authors of Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. Their book describes how their son James had memories of a WWII pilot who was killed in battle more than 60 years ago. James is now 11 years old. Andrea, when did you first realize that ... James was having ideas or stories that he wanted to share about this? Andrea Leininger: [It] started about two weeks after James' second birthday. He had a -- a night terror, which he had never had before. And this first nightmare began a series of nightmares that started occurring every other night, every night. And after several months of this, he was having a nightmare and ... I was able to finally determine what he was saying. And he was saying, "airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out." Probst: Bruce, even at three, he was -- James was drawing pictures of an airplane crashing. Bruce Leininger: By the time he started drawing those pictures, he'd been talking about this ... for several months. And he essentially gave us three items of information over about a three month period. One, he gave us the name of the ship, which I verified through research on the Internet. "Natoma Bay." He gave us a name Natoma. About a month later, he gave us [the] name of a guy he said he flew with. When we asked him if there was anyone else in his ... dream that he could remember. Jack -- Jack Larson.
Note: Jack Larson was confirmed to be a member of the crew of the Natoma Bay, who when contacted, remembered the incident of the crash described by this boy. Watch an excellent, intriguing four-minute Fox News clip on this fascinating case.
Hidden away in a country renowned for its architectural beauty lies a massive hand-built place of worship many tourists never see. An entrance that looks like a mineshaft opens up to a maze carved inside the mountain holding the Damanhur Temples of Humankind in the Valchiusella Valley, about 30 miles north of Turin, [Italy]. Damanhur narrates the history of human potential through art. With at least nine rooms — some with 25-foot high ceilings — it looks as if the secret doors and passageways were built centuries ago. In truth, the unlikely temple is no ancient wonder and was built piecemeal by 150 people over a 15-year period beginning in 1978. The work was so secret, the Italian government never knew it was going on and never gave permission for it. The handcrafted structure is full of dramatic beauty, and each apparent dead end really leads into another mysterious hall. "You have to think that we did that without any engineer or architect," Ananas said. "Everything has been excavated by hand." At least as mysterious as the temple itself is the utopian society to which it belongs, The Federation of Damanhur. Damanhur, which means city of light, comprises 800 people who live in communal homes. Founded in 1975, the Federation of Damanhur thinks of itself as the builders of a new civilization that stands for peace and human potential. It prides itself on being an eco-society based on ethical and spiritual values. Falco, as the group's founder is known, said that he always dreamed of the elaborate temples. The group wanted the temple to be "a gift to humanity" once it was completed. Visitors to the halls of the temple have expressed awe, delight and intrigue.
Note: Learn the intriguing story and see breathtaking photos of the stunning beauty of these temples. Damanhur's visionary Falco died of cancer on June 23, 2013. Explore more on this great visionary. Watch an awesome video tour of Damanhur and the Temples of Humankind. And don't miss an intriguing 15-minute video of experiments done at Damanhur attaching plants to synthesizers to make angelic music.
Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations - including Spain and Japan - are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born. The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman gives birth to - is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. "That's a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline," researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC. "I think it's incredibly hard to think this through and recognise how big a thing this is; it's extraordinary, we'll have to reorganise societies." It is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children. In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story.
It’s being called the next big move by a New Zealand government seen by progressives around the world as a beacon in increasingly populist times: a national budget whose spending is dictated by what best encourages the “well-being” of citizens. That means that as the center-left government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sets its priorities in the budget that will be unveiled on May 30, it is moving away from more traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth and instead focusing on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations. “This budget is a game-changing event,” said Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics. As a major example of what that new framework will produce, Ms. Ardern unveiled on Sunday the biggest spending proposal to date in her coming budget: more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is “the biggest single investment ever” by a New Zealand government on the issue, Ms. Ardern said at an event showcasing the initiative, and will tackle one of the nation’s “most disturbing, most shameful” problems. Under New Zealand’s revised policy, all new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.
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On a summer morning in 2013, Octavian Mihai entered a softly lit room. He swallowed a capsule of psilocybin, an ingredient found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. Then he put on an eye mask and headphones and lay down on a couch. Mr. Mihai, who had just finished treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was participating in a study looking at whether the drug can reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Throughout that eight-hour session, a psychiatrist and a social worker ... stayed by his side. The results from that study, and a similar small, controlled trial, were striking. About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose. Side effects were minimal. In both trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased. Although cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add vigor to applications to expand research in a multicenter trial with hundreds of participants. Psilocybin trials are underway in the United States and Europe for alcoholism, tobacco addiction and treatment-resistant depression. Other hallucinogens are also being studied for clinical application. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a large-scale trial investigating MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy, for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Note: See another article in the UK's Independent showing remarkable results from these studies. Learn more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs now being explored by the scientific community.
An inspiring discussion about racism between a white woman and black man ... has captured the attention of [millions]. Caroline Brock and Ernest Skelton share a special relationship. It all started with Skelton coming over to fix one of her appliances. “People judge me before I even come in the door, so that’s the reason why I ask, ‘Is it OK for me to come in?’” said Skelton. The question caught Brock completely off guard. Over the weekend, Skelton went back over to Brock’s home for second appliance repair appointment. That’s when Brock asked him a question that was a little more personal. “How are you doing right now given the current climate?” Brock wanted to know what the day-to-day life of a black man is like. Skelton opened up and told her some stories about how racism has affected him. He gets pulled over in his work vehicle at least half a dozen times a year. “I don’t even remember the last time I was pulled over,” Brock said. “Sometimes I have customers that need me after 5 o’clock and I have to reschedule for another day. I’m afraid that I’ll wind up getting pulled over, and this time, I won’t make it home," Skelton said. Brock asked Ernest if she could post their interaction on Facebook. He thought it would be a great idea. A few days later, they had more than 100,000 shares. “In the comments ... a lot of white people say, ‘I’d love to have these conversations, but I’m scared ... I’m going to offend someone,’" Brock explained. But Skelton said he wasn’t offended. “If we want to change the world and make our country stronger, we have to be willing to step into the uncomfortableness," Brock said. The two hope that their interaction can inspire others to open up the conversation.
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The ozone layer is continuing to heal and has the potential to fully recover, according to a new study. A scientific paper, published in Nature, heralds a rare success in the reversal of environmental damage and shows that orchestrated global action can make a difference. The ozone layer is a protective shield in the Earth’s stratosphere which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching us from the sun. Antara Banerjee ... is lead author of the study. She told The Independent: “We found signs of climate changes in the southern hemisphere, specifically in the air circulation patterns. The challenge was showing that these changing air circulation patterns were due to the shrinking ozone hole following the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The jet stream in the southern hemisphere was gradually shifting towards the south pole in the last decades of the 20th century due to ozone depletion. Our study found that movement has stopped since 2000 and might even be reversing. The pause in movement began around the same time that the ozone hole started to recover. The emissions of ozone-depleting substances that were responsible for the ozone hole - the CFCs from spray cans and refrigerants – started to decline around 2000, thanks to the Montreal Protocol.” Overall, it is good news for the fight against climate change. She added: “It shows that this international treaty has worked and we can reverse the damage that we’ve already done to our planet. That’s a lesson to us all.”
While it is easy to be aware of all the bad things happening in the world, it’s harder to know about the good things. The silent miracle of human progress is too slow and too fragmented to ever qualify as news. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost halved. But in online polls, in most countries, fewer than 10% of people knew this. Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is related to three things: the misremembering of the past; selective reporting by journalists and activists; and the feeling that as long as things are bad, it’s heartless to say they are getting better. Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite. How can we help our brains to realise that things are getting better? Think of the world as a very sick premature baby in an incubator. After a week, she is improving, but ... her health is still critical. Does it make sense to say that the infant’s situation is improving? Yes. Does it make sense to say it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all not worry? Not at all: it’s both bad and better. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.
When Salman Khan began posting videos on YouTube more than a decade ago, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur had no idea of the celebrity he would gain, nor the impact he would have. His online tutorials in math ... were made for friends and family struggling in school. But his audience quickly grew. Before long, Khan had quit his day job in finance to carry out a goal of delivering free Internet instruction to the world. His educational website was called Khan Academy. On Tuesday night, Khan ... was presented the fourth annual Visionary of the Year Award, an honor announced by The San Francisco Chronicle. Khan Academy today has more than 62 million registered users in nearly 200 countries. His voice, which still narrates many of the tutorials, is widely recognized, and students and parents often stop him on the street to thank him for providing an assist at school or work. Since its launch in 2008, Khan Academy has broadened its online course load to include nearly every school subject from science to art and from the kindergarten to college levels. Khan’s Mountain View nonprofit has grown from just him to more than 150 employees. Perhaps most impressive is that the schooling has remained entirely free. With the admirable mission of providing a “world-class” education to anyone anywhere, Khan has attracted financial support from well-heeled donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and Bank of America.
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A few days after registration opened at Yale for Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life, roughly 300 people had signed up. Within [six] more days, about 1,200 students, or nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates, were enrolled. The course, taught by Laurie Santos ... tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures. “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said in an interview. “If we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there. “A lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” said Alannah Maynez, 19, a freshman taking the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions - both positive and negative - so they can focus on their work.” Psychology and the Good Life ... stands as the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history. Dr. Santos has encouraged all students to enroll in the course on a pass-fail basis, tying into her argument that the things Yale undergraduates often connect with life satisfaction - a high grade, a prestigious internship, a good-paying job - do not increase happiness at all.
Note: Harvard, Stanford and other colleges are getting in on the action, too, as reported in this article.
Icelandic teenagers are saying no to drugs by getting high on life. For the last 20 years, the island country has seen a dramatic decrease in adolescent drug and alcohol abuse after the federal government made a concerted effort to offer teens a more natural high. The multifaceted approach includes state-sponsored recreational activities and after-school programs meant to enhance family ties and community bonds. [Dr. Harvey Milkman, the psychologist behind Iceland's strategy], says the results have been exceptional. Since 1998, for example, the number of 15- to 16-year-olds that self-reported to have been drunk within the last 30 days dropped from 43 to 5 per cent. In 1992, Milkman and his team opened up their laboratory, Project Self-Discovery, in Denver. The program used art, music, dance, poetry, and nature activities to reduce stress in lieu of drugs and alcohol. Once teens embraced these natural highs, their risk of drug use decreased dramatically. At the same time, rates of teenage substance use were exceptionally high in Iceland. Following Milkman's success in Denver, the Icelandic government reached out to him to put his research into practice on a national scale. Over the last 20 years, Milkman's research has helped inform what's now known as the Iceland approach. "The whole country of Iceland kind of bought into that idea of creating opportunities for the kids to feel good without taking drugs," [said Milkman].
"Who’s this black guy trying to make friends with the Ku Klux Klan?” A raised eyebrow, a shake of the head. Such were the sentiments of Scott Shepherd, a former Klan grand dragon, when he first saw Daryl Davis, a piano-playing bluesman who travels the nation attempting to dispel racism from those who hate him most. It doesn’t often work, but over the decades Davis, like a man on a quixotic pilgrimage, has collected more than two dozen Klan robes from those who have disavowed white supremacy. His unlikely story unfolds in “Accidental Courtesy,” a documentary by Matt Ornstein that follows Davis on an odd and lively quest to Confederate monuments, Klansmen houses, boogie joints, churches and a hot dog stand. “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” Davis asks in the film, which opens in Los Angeles on Friday. “Throughout my life I have been looking for an answer to that.” The son of a foreign service officer, Davis spent part of his childhood overseas, far from the racism many African Americans learn early. His first encounter with bigotry came when he was a 10-year-old Cub Scout. Bottles and rocks were thrown at him as he marched in a parade. The bewildering incident was the seed of a mission that years later found him ... starting a conversation with Klan Imperial Wizard Roger Kelly. The two became close. When Kelly quit the Klan, he gave Davis his robe. Talking to Klansmen “has worked for me,” said Davis. “I don’t seek to convert them but if they spend time with me, they can’t hate me.”
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Life's been full of uncertainties for Reuben Nsemoh lately. Ever since he suffered a concussion in a soccer game, the suburban Atlanta teen's worried about why it's so hard for him to concentrate. He's fretted over whether he'll ever get to play his favorite sport. But the biggest stumper of all: how is it that he's suddenly speaking fluent Spanish? Nsemoh, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, ended up in [a] coma last month after another player kicked him in the head during a game. When he woke up, he did something he'd never done before: speak Spanish like a native. His parents said he could already speak some Spanish, but he was never fluent in it until his concussion. Slowly, his English is coming back, and he's starting to lose his Spanish fluency. Foreign accent syndrome is an extremely rare condition in which brain injuries change a person's speech patterns, giving them a different accent. The first known case was reported in 1941. Since then there have been a few dozen reported cases. Three years ago, police found a Navy vet unconscious in a Southern California motel. When he woke up, he had no memory of his previous life, and spoke only Swedish. In Australia, a former bus driver got in a serious car crash that left her with a broken back and jaw. When she woke up, she was left with something completely unexpected: a French accent. And earlier this year, a Texas woman who had surgery on her jaw, has sported a British accent ever since.
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices". Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak. Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Ukraine, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. Each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying. Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: "Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. "Each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language. "The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own. "This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language. This indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins. Their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language."
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Republican Mayor Richard Berry was driving around Albuquerque last year when he saw a man on a street corner holding a sign that read: “Want a Job. Anything Helps.” Throughout his administration, as part of a push to connect the homeless population to services, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents told him they didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go. Seeing that sign gave Berry an idea. The city could bring the work to them. Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed. In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment. Berry’s effort is a shift from the movement across the country to criminalize panhandling. A recent National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty report found a noticeable increase, with 24 percent of cities banning it altogether and 76 percent banning it in particular areas. When panhandlers have been approached in Albuquerque with the offer of work, most have been eager for the opportunity to earn money, Berry said. They just needed a lift.
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Every school teaches math and reading, but what about mindfulness and kindness? Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness. The initial results of our research ... suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills. Having classrooms full of mindful, kind kids completely changes the school environment. Imagine entire schools - entire districts - where kindness is emphasized. That would be truly powerful. Teaching kindness is a way to bubble up widespread transformation that doesn’t require big policy changes or extensive administrative involvement. If you had visited one of our classrooms during the 12-week program, you might have seen a poster on the wall called “Kindness Garden.” When kids performed an act of kindness or benefitted from one, they added a sticker to the poster. The idea is that friendship is like a seed - it needs to be nurtured and taken care of in order to grow. Through that exercise, we got students talking about ... how we might grow more friendship in the classroom. Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset, according to teachers’ ratings. They earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development), and they showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life.
A nine-year old girl from Bremerton, Wash. is making a difference in her local community. In a report with KING 5 News, Hailey Ford is shown using a power tool to drive nails into the roof what looks like a miniature house. The structure is the first of 11 planned shelters she [is] building for the homeless in her area. She tells the reporter that her friend Edward is homeless and needs a dry place to sleep at night. When she realized that she could do something about it, she began piecing together a plan to build "mobile sleeping" shelters, as she calls them. The shelters come complete with insulation, tar paper, and windows, barriers that will keep out the elements and lock in the warmth. Hailey isn't the only kid acting with compassion. Five-year old Josiah Duncan had a similar reaction when he saw a hungry-looking homeless man outside of a Waffle House in Prattville, Ala., last month. The little boy began asking his mother about the man's appearance, clearly troubled. She explained that the man was homeless and Josiah requested that they buy him a meal. His mother obliged. Before the man could eat, Josiah insisted on saying a blessing. "The man cried. I cried. Everybody cried," his mother told WFSA. Other children have taken Hailey and Josiah's kindness a few steps further. Hannah Taylor, a Canadian from Winnipeg, Manitoba, founded the Ladybug Foundation when she was only eight years old. In her mission statement Hannah says, "I believe that if people know about homelessness – that there are people living without a home – they will want to help.”
Last August, a group of six young Indians took to the streets of Delhi with one simple aim: to feed the homeless. Overnight, they drove to restaurants, collected unsold food, re-packaged it and gave it to around 100 people sleeping rough in the capital. Friends, colleagues and strangers soon joined them on drives and their numbers began to swell. In less than a few months, a nationwide volunteer movement known as the Robin Hood Army (RHA) had emerged, on a mission to curb food waste and stamp out hunger. Founders Ghose and Anand Sinha, also 27, were inspired by Refood International, an organisation based in Portugal. “Using a hyperlocal model, they collect excess food and give it to those who need it. But every community has their own Refood chapter,” explains Ghose. “I realised it was something that can be very easily done in India, where the need would be much more.” The movement gained huge momentum after the launch of its social media campaign, and now boasts a 500-strong volunteer base spread out across 13 cities. In April, the group also began operations in neighbouring Pakistan. The Robin Hood Army’s ideology revolves around decentralisation. Small teams, mostly young professionals, become responsible for specific areas; they scout for local restaurants, convince them to donate surplus food, identify clusters of people in need - such as the homeless and orphanages - and carry out weekly distributions.
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