Parker James Hooker brought students’ vision to life

Parker James Hooker, local artist, musician, renaissance man and Kindness Ambassador for Celebrating York’s Unity Through 10,000 Acts of Kindness, recently received his Kindness Coin after constructing a beautifully unique kindness sculpture.

Last October, Parker had been at i-ron-ic coffee shop. He wandered over to a table where York Area student kindness poster contest entries were being sorted for judging by Ten Thousand Acts of Kindness Team members. Scanning the numerous colorful and meaningful posters he said, “Something should be made out of that!” He was asked if he could make that happen.

Parker has a difficult time saying no, so he pursued his vision, which led to an amazing finished project. The poster winners’ artwork can be found in a mural/collage construction on a mini model of the York History center. Parker knew he wanted to use a local building, and the History Center fit his vision. The student’s art has been masterfully blended together and the sculpture is an amazing visual act of kindness.

Parker Hooker is creative and he shares that creativity freely wherever and whenever he can. He is a retired construction designer that sees art everywhere! His specialty is corrugated art. A self- taught musician, his instrument of choice is the harmonica. Parker shares his talent, playing in a band and volunteering to teach art and music to children and youth at the Championship Community Center.

The twinkle in his eye as he talks about the kids he meets at the center says it all. He cares about each one and is so proud of them. Parker is sensitive to children who have a hard time adjusting to new people and situations. He can relate as he spent most of his childhood traveling, attending nine schools in 12 years. He faced hardship but learned to overcome it with faith, a sense of humor and, of course, his art and music.

Today, as his daughter (one of his eight children) struggles with a brain tumor, Parker is met with the “tsunami of emotions” it brings. Still he uses his craft to reach out to others. With an easy shrug and a smile, he says, “Everyone goes through something. I find a way to relate.”

The Kindness Center of York Sculpture will be traveling around the county making stops at kindness poster winners’ schools. It will rest at each school for a week and will spend some time at the History Center of York. It will also be on display at Creative York as part of its February First Friday event, which will enable people of all ages to make Valentines and earn Kindness Coins. We recognize and thank Parker James for his creativity and kindnesses.

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About the project

A unity dinner is planned for June 30 in York’s Penn Park. Organizers hope the event will attract 10,000 people, breaking a Guinness world record for longest table. To earn a seat at the table, a person must perform a recognized act of kindness. Those who are recognized will receive a special coin. To learn more about the event or to nominate someone for a kindness coin, visit


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Thousands of children asked to perform an act of kindness

Big-hearted Alison Bunce is dedicated to making her community more compassionate – one act of kindness at a time.

She has been inspired by an international movement to spread kindness and her new focus is teaching children to be kind.

Alison founded Compassionate Inverclyde in Scotland last year and recently launched a new programme called ‘High 5’ working with 30 local schools and thousands of primary age children to demonstrate the simple act of kindness.

She developed lesson plans for the schools to implement that is now seeing them create things like ‘kindness quilts’ and handmade friendship bands.

“Children are like sponges – if you show them the way they will quickly follow,” said Alison.

“One school – St Michael’s Primary in Port Glasgow – are doing some beautiful kindness quilts that are being given out to the local community. They also present a balloon to a child in assembly who has been particularly kind.

“Other children can nominate a child to be awarded. We as an ordinary community have the responsibility to give back. It is up to us to foster and empower young people to show kindness.”

Compassionate Inverclyde has been chosen as a TSB Local Charity Partner for the bank’s Greenock, Port Glasgow and Rothesay branches.

Alison, who is trained as a palliative nurse, first set up the social movement to help people at the end of their lives. The ‘No One Dies Alone’ campaign frees up clinical resources in hospital wards and works with a hospice and in care homes and was inspired by the concept of Compassionate Cities developed by Professor Allan Kellehear, an Australian public health academic.

Alison is now working with teenagers in the local area including 13-year-olds at Notre Dame High School in Greenock. “I have about 20 girls who have nicknamed themselves ‘The Kindness Girls’.

They work with people in care homes, the homeless and with premature babies. At this moment in time they are fundraising to put together ‘starter packs’ for parents. Things like baby-grows and wipes.

“I am also working with some 16-year-olds at St Columba’s High School, Gourock, who we are teaching to implement the High 5 programme and lesson plans to younger pupils. Some of them want to be teachers and this gives them confidence and an idea of planning and communication skills. It also connect them with younger pupils. I want to to raise awareness and promote resilience.”

Local children are also involved in a project called ‘Back Home Boxes’, where anyone who lives alone and is being discharged from Inverclyde Royal Hospital is gifted a pack of household essentials, with every item donated by the public as well as children and their parents. The box even includes a homemade blanket and card made by the children.

More than 1,400 boxes have been distributed since the scheme started last year, with 41 helpers packing and delivering them to patients in Inverclyde Hospital twice a day.

One recipient wrote to volunteers and said: “In all of my 92 years I have never experienced such kindness. This box has touched my heart so deeply.”

Alison said: “The difference it has made is amazing. These are people who are going home and there is not even a pint of milk in their fridge. It’s all about kindness. The generosity of the children – and wider community – is overwhelming and of course I could not do it without my team of volunteers. They keep everything running.”


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Klimkin and delegation of Ukrainian children present ‘Book of Kindness’ in Lithuania

In Trakai, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and a delegation of Ukrainian children who presented the “Book of Kindness” project.

“Pleasure to receive young guests from Ukraine, led by my friend Pavlo Klimkin and learn about the ‘Book of Kindness’ – project which promotes peace and tolerance. Lithuania wishes peace to brotherly Ukraine and continues stand by its people in the face of ongoing Russia’s aggression,” Linkevičius wrote on Twitter.

On January 10-11, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin pays a working visit to the Republic of Lithuania. The purpose of the visit is to participate in the annual discussion club Snow Meeting that is a platform to discuss topical issues related to current challenges to the European and world security.


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5 acts of kindness that shaped history

A letter saves the life of Jane Austen, 1783

In 1783, seven-year-old Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra were sent to Oxford to stay with one of their cousins, Jane Cooper. The girls were to be tutored by a Mrs Ann Cawley, who later moved to Southampton, taking the young girls with her. While in Southampton, Cassandra and Jane became very ill with what was then known as “putrid sore throat” – suggested to have been diphtheria [a potentially fatal contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat], or typhoid.

Jane was so ill that she nearly died, but Mrs Cawley, for some inexplicable reason, made no attempt to alert her parents. Author Helen Amy explains how Jane Cooper took it upon herself to write and inform her aunt that Jane’s life was in danger, after which Austen’s mother and Mrs Cooper set off for Southampton to rescue the girls, bringing a herbal remedy that would supposedly cure the infection.

The Austen sisters recovered under their mother’s care at home and the three girls never returned to Mrs Cawley.

“Without her cousin’s timely intervention,” explains Amy, “Jane Austen would almost certainly have died and the world would have been deprived of her outstanding talent.”


Miep Gies and associates hide Anne Frank’s family from Nazi persecution, 1942–44

Following the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in 1933, the Jewish Frank family decided to escape to the Netherlands to flee the rapidly escalating anti-Semitism in Germany. Otto and Edith Frank, along with their daughters Margot and Anne, went into hiding in an annex above Otto’s offices in Amsterdam on 6 July 1942. They were soon joined by four other Jews.

The family was helped into hiding by a number of people who had worked for Otto Frank, including Miep Gies, who had started work as an office assistant for Frank in 1933. During the two years and 35 days the Frank family lived in the secret annex, Gies (along with other helpers) visited frequently with food and other supplies, and shared news from the outside. Above all, the friendship and kindness shown by Gies proved a lifeline for Anne, who kept a diary about her experiences and thoughts while in hiding.

On 4 August 1944, everyone in the annex was arrested. Somebody had called the German Security Police to notify them that Jews were in hiding at Prinsengracht 263. The identity of the caller has never been established. Everyone in the annex was deported first to the Westerbork transit camp, and then on to Auschwitz. In the autumn of 1944, Anne and her sister Margot were transported to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany where almost 4,000 Jews, primarily Dutch, were imprisoned. There, facing unsanitary conditions and having no food, the girls contracted typhus. They both died in March 1945, just a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

After the family’s arrest, Gies discovered Anne’s diary and kept it, unread, hoping she could one day return it to Anne. Sadly this never happened and she instead gave it to Otto, the only member of the family to survive the war, in July 1945. Otto later recalled: “I began to read slowly, only a few pages each day, more would have been impossible, as I was overwhelmed by painful memories. For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Anne Frank’s diary was published in the Netherlands on 25 June 1947 and remains one of the most famous – and bestselling – books of all time.


Elizabeth Fry visits Newgate Gaol, 1813

Until May 2017, British social reformer Elizabeth Fry was commemorated on the UK’s £5 note (she was later replaced by Winston Churchill) for her most famous philanthropic project: reform of the female side of Newgate Gaol.

Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) was born into a wealthy Quaker family and later married London merchant Joseph Fry, with whom she had 11 children. By the early 19th century, Fry had already turned her attention to the plight of the poor, distributing aid and establishing a successful Sunday school for children. When the family moved to East Ham in 1809, Fry co-founded a school for poor girls and organised a smallpox vaccination programme for the children in the surrounding villages

Yet Fry’s notable prison reform wasn’t sparked until 1813, when she visited Newgate Gaol to distribute clothing to the female prisoners, after a Quaker missionary named Stephen Grellet had alerted her to their plight. Fry was appalled at the conditions, and was most affected by the sight of two women taking the clothes from a dead baby to dress a living one.


When Fry returned in 1816, explains historian Rosalind Crone, little had changed. The women, she wrote, were “wild beasts”, often drunk, disorderly and even violent.

“Elizabeth now launched into action,” says Crone. “She organised a school for the children and appointed a matron to watch over the prisoners. She also found useful work – sewing and knitting – for the women, and formed the Ladies’ Newgate Association, the members of which would visit the prison daily to superintend the matron, give religious instruction and mentor the prisoners. New rules were laid down, forbidding ‘begging, swearing, gaming, card-playing, quarrelling, immoral conversation [and] improper books’. The prisoners voluntarily submitted, and Elizabeth won the support of the gaol and city authorities.”

Fry’s prison work later won public recognition through the foundation of the Elizabeth Fry Refuge for released female prisoners in 1849, and she is also remembered as a social activist, Quaker minister, author and mother.


Harriet Tubman rescues at least 300 people from slavery, c1850–61

Born Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross in Maryland, USA, in c1822, the woman now known as Harriet Tubman was born into an enslaved family who were all ‘owned’ by the Brodess family. At this time in certain American states, enslaved people were considered ‘property’ with no rights of their own, and their well-being was usually only considered important in terms of productivity. From the age of five, Minty was put to work. She was often loaned away from home to neighbouring families who mistreated her and by the age of 12 she had graduated to backbreaking work in the fields. In 1849, in her late 20s, Minty fled alone to Pennsylvania, the neighbouring free state.

“No one knows her exact route,” explains Sophie Beal, writing for History Extra, “but during her escape, Minty likely used part of the ‘underground railroad’ – a secret network of slaves and abolitionist sympathisers – for the first time.”

On the ‘railroad’, so-called ‘conductors’ guided fugitive slaves between hiding places or ‘stations’ towards freedom in the north. It was around this time that Minty changed her name to Harriet, likely to cover her escape.

When she arrived in Philadelphia, Tubman soon found domestic work and made abolitionist friends. However, she was not completely safe. Slave catchers operated in the area, and just a year after she arrived, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 obliged local commissioners to return runaways to their owners. There were now harsh penalties for those who aided escapees.

Yet over the next 11 years, Tubman made as many as 19 trips to rescue approximately 70 slaves, including almost all her remaining family, from Maryland’s eastern shore. She also delivered to many others detailed instructions on how to escape. She is often estimated to have helped to rescue at least 300 people from slavery.

Beal explains more about Tubman’s bravery: “Having raised enough money earlier in the year, Harriet would usually travel to Maryland in autumn or winter, when the longer nights kept most people inside. She would then infiltrate a plantation to find slaves ready to escape. As Sunday was their day off, she would lead them away on a Saturday night, so their owners usually wouldn’t notice them missing until Monday. This not only gave them a head start, but delayed the publication of runaway notices in the newspaper.”

Harriet Tubman’s bravery was not limited to helping enslaved people escape to northern states; she later became the first woman to lead an armed raid in the American Civil War. Tubman has become a celebrated icon of the fight to abolish slavery and it was announced in April 2016 that Tubman will be commemorated on US currency.


Luz Long advises Jesse Owens on his run-up, 1936

It is often claimed that Jesse Owens, American four-time gold medallist at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was deliberately snubbed by Adolf Hitler, who refused to shake his hand. Though Albert Speer, Germany’s war armaments minister, recalled that Hitler was “highly annoyed” by Owens’s series of victories, in fact Hitler had chosen to shake hands only with German competitors and only on the first day of the Olympics – and had not deliberately refused Owens’s hand.

However, Owens perhaps would never even have won one of his gold medals if it wasn’t for an act of kindness from a fellow athlete, German long-jumper Carl Ludwig ‘Luz’ Long.

On 4 August 1936, in a qualifying round of the long jump, the world record holder Owens had already foot-faulted twice in his bid to compete in the event’s final. Long, the European record holder, offered Owens advice on how to adjust his run-up to make the qualifying distance. Long suggested that, as the qualifying distance was only 7.15m and that Owens could jump more than 8m, Owens should shift his mark back to ensure that he took off well short of the board and remained clear of another foul.

Owens’s next jump was a success and he went on to win the gold medal with a jump of 8.06m, with Long earning silver.

Owens later wrote of the 1936 Olympics: “What I remember most was the friendship I struck up with Luz Long. He was my strongest rival, yet it was he who advised me to adjust my run-up in the qualifying round and thereby helped me to win.”

Owens’s long jump world record stood for 25 years and his performance during the games is widely regarded as a blow to Adolf Hitler’s intention to use the Olympics to demonstrate Aryan superiority.


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Rabbi brings the art of kindness to Joburg

Be Kind, they say. They’re the first in what David Masinter hopes will ultimately be a series of 18 art installations around Johannesburg.

It’s a project to break the spiral of negativity – particularly in the City of Gold.

“I’m tired of people saying this is a crime city, that there’s nothing worth celebrating. I want to motivate them to think differently, but most of all just to be kind.”

The artwork follows a poster board campaign that ran for three months last year, being suspended over December and January, and which will restart in February.

The campaign, stark in its simplicity, merely injunctions to drivers and passers-by: “Tell someone They Look Great” read one; “Just Be Kind” instructed another; “Complain Less , Smile More”, “Make Someone A Coffee” and even, “Call Your Mom”.

“We are just trying to bring the art of kindness to Johannesburg,” says the Chabad House Rabbi who was the architect of Acts of Random Kindness, the little yellow plastic arks that have been distributed to Johannesburgers for the last five years for them to fill up with unwanted change and given randomly to those in need.

Masinter is a firm believer in the overwhelming humanity and compassion of people – especially South Africans.

“There’s a teaching,” he says, “that if someone does bad, speaks it or even thinks it, a negative energy is created. On the other hand, if one does good, speaks good, a positive energy is created.”

So far, 700 000 arks have been distributed since 2014, with Masinter’s goal being a million.

Added to that, 140 000 underprivileged children have benefited from the parallel Chabad House literacy programme that establishes township libraries and trains teachers. The art project and the billboard campaign hope to build on this.

“We’re not selling anything. We’re only advertising kindness,” he says.

“All we are hoping to accomplish is to foster an increase in acts of goodness and kindness in our city and beyond – and, by doing that, change the world for good.”

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7-Year-Old Spreads Kindness At School With “Rocks Of Encouragement”

7-year-old Stephany Martinez is the reason why. “I put some rocks around the school,” Martinez said.

To be clear, they were not just “some rocks.” They were the result of a collaboration between Martinez and her mother, Rosy Mendez.

Mendez, at home, had been stressing the importance of kindness to her daughter.

“Kindness is contagious,” Mendez said. “If you are nice to someone, this person is going to be nice to you.”

So, the two came up with the idea of painting rocks with bright colors, then writing inspirational messages on them with the hope of scattering them around the school. That is if Principal Milly Estrada agreed to it.

“Immediately, I said, ‘Of course,'” Estrada said. “In all my years in education, I had never had a someone come to me with such an initiative.”

Now, dozens of “Rocks of Encouragement” adorn the school.

The hope, Martinez says, is that the messages will provide a boost to any of her classmates who are feeling down or, as Martinez puts it, having a “blue” day.

“When someone has a blue day they could pass by and see the rock and it’s kind of a message to them and probably they could have a happy day again,” Martinez said.

Martinez says her classmates have told her they love the rock and their positive messages.

Adults around her hope it inspires other kids to do something similar and, perhaps, turn a single rock of encouragement into an avalanche of kindness.

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New flushing toilets and taps for pupils after Zondo repays act of kindness

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo visited Ixopo in southern KwaZulu-Natal this week and changed the plight of pupils at his former school, Emazabekweni Primary.

From now on pupils at the school will no longer have to use pit toilets after flushing toilets and taps were installed.

This was the judge’s initiative to pay back an act of kindness to those less fortunate after he was a recipient of goodwill when he was a law student many years ago.

During an interview with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Justice Zondo recounted how businessman Solly Bux – then based in Ixopo – made a deal with him to provide groceries for his family so he would have an opportunity to further his education and study law.

But when he returned to settle his debt after graduating from university, Bux refused to take the money and instead asked him to repay the kindness with good deeds.

In 2017, Justice Zondo, Bux and their families met and the Zondo and Bux Educational Trust was established to assist historically disadvantaged pupils. On Thursday, the judge, his wife Sithembile and trustees visited two schools in the area.

“I came back to take further the message that Mr Bux gave me; namely, do for others what I have done for you and I am very grateful that Mr Bux continues to do his philanthropist work,” said Justice Zondo.

“The school principal told me his school was very much down the line in terms of priorities, the issue of toilets can’t wait, it’s very urgent. After I had spoken with the provincial government and they seemed not to be able to assist, I then spoke with Mr Shabir Chohan who is helping in the trust and he contacted people who could help with funding,” he said.

The trust received a donation of R1million from the South African Muslim Charitable Trust which was used to build a borehole and to replace pit toilets.

The trust also completed the construction of a hall at the neighbouring Amazabeko High School which had been left incomplete since 2016.

The judge received a warm welcome from residents, childhood friends and even people who had attended school with him.

He said although his family had relocated to Durban when their house was torched during political violence, the walls of the building remained and would always serve as a reminder of his childhood.

“This is the community that made me what I am. It’s wonderful to come back home when you have good news to share with people.

I was happy to see a lot of people that I have not seen in a long time. Around 1992, during political violence, my home was attacked and burnt. What remains are just walls. Those walls remind me of where I am coming from,” he said.

During his speech, he encouraged pupils to study further and not to be discouraged by circumstances.

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Feilding fundraiser remembered for dedication and kindness

Daphne Sowerby was the type of humble, kind and dedicated person who holds a community together.

She worked hard to make life better for her family and everyone around her and devoted the last 26 years of her life to raising more than $100,000 for Palmerston North’s Arohanui Hospice.

Daphne worked almost fulltime creating knitwear, craft work, jams and baking to sell at an annual fundraising stall at her home and “Daphne’s Stall” became legendary in Feilding.

She died peacefully at the Nelson Residential Care Centre in Feilding on December 22, aged 88, after a long and fulfilling life, surrounded by family.

Daughter Aileen Rutherford said it was touching to see how many people from the community and the hospice joined the family at her mother’s memorial service.

Daphne would have enjoyed the gathering, she said.

“She made so many friendships through [her community work]… and she always loved having people around.”

Murray Sowerby said his mother, and his father Albert, both grew up on rural properties near Waituna West – and both shared a sense of humility and hospitality.

“Mum and Dad were never high-rollers. They worked hard to make a happy and comfortable life, and that’s all they ever wanted for themselves.”

They never really travelled, instead concentrating on making their little patch of the world better, he said.

In the early years of their marriage, before the family moved south to Feilding, Daphne was heavily involved with Waituna West School and the local Women’s Institute branch.

The couple were also foster parents, helping look after children in state care and raising them alongside their own children.

When Albert died of cancer in 1991, Daphne took comfort in her crafts and kept herself busier with them than ever before to deal with the grief.

Daphne Sowerby, with some of the hundreds of items she knitted for her annual fundraising stall.

Rutherford said the Arohanui Hospice was so kind and supportive in her father’s final days that her mum decided to sell her handiwork and donate the proceeds to help continue its work.

In 1992, Daphne held her first craft day at her home, offering a free afternoon tea to attract patrons and raising her first $200 for hospice.

Rutherford said her mother’s children’s books, with hand-stitched pictures in them and an original story by Daphne, were her favourites.

“She made hundreds of them, which people sent all over the world … She loved that. She always wanted to write children’s books growing up.”

Towards the end of her life, Daphne set out to make a unique picture book for each of her great-grandchildren.

“She wanted them all to have something to remember her by. But she didn’t manage to finish them all, due to her health.”

She is survived by her three children, 11 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

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Principal cooks for pupils at a rural Chinese school, repaying his childhood teachers for their kindness

When he was a lonely, fatherless third-grader, Zhang Zhanliang’s teachers were a source of comfort.

They took him into their homes for meals and stitched up his ragged clothes.

Today, Zhang, 45, is the principal of a remote Chinese village school in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

Inspired by the kindness of the teachers of his youth, he cooks for pupils whose parents work away from the community, offering a source of much-needed comfort.

“The children don’t lack money – they lack the company of their parents,” The Beijing News quoted Zhang as saying.

In September, Zhang set up an oven made from an old barrel on the playground and made his first meal for the children.

Four months later, his hot after-school meals have not only become a reliable source of nutritious food and a fun event for the children, they have made him a Chinese internet star.

Videos documenting the meals posted on a video-sharing website by a student teacher at the school have won more than 180,000 followers.

Each video under the “Happy Little School” subject heading has got hundreds of thousands of views.

Thousands of viewers have “liked” the videos and hundreds more have left supportive messages.

Left-behind children a poignant reminder of the cost of China’s development

A teacher since 1993, Zhang first taught at a private school in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province in eastern China.

But he quit because he felt he would be more use working in a rural community where children were often being raised by their grandparents while their parents worked in cities.

Working with some of China’s 7 million “left-behind” children at the Huangni Primary School in the Yujiang district of Yingtan, also allowed Zhang to repay the teachers of his youth for the love and care they showed him.

Zhang told The Beijing News that he frequently missed classes after his father died, but rather than punish him, his teachers took care of him.

When Zhang came to the rural primary school, its enrolment was down to 25 students. It had been emptied as migrant workers took their children with them.

It was the smallest school in which Zhang had ever worked.

Picture of the hardships of a young ‘left-behind’ child in China goes viral on the internet

Moreover, his rural pupils were less confident and had weaker learning skills than the private schoolchildren he had taught in the city, according to the report.

Zhang said cooking for the children allowed him to spend more time with them and give them the attention they were missing.

What is clear is that mealtime with Zhang became a happy group event.

“Every day they came to me and asked what we would have today,” Zhang was quoted as saying. “They always hugged me or huddled me.

They were very happy and I am very happy that they trusted me.

The principal and the pupils bonded over the joint effort it took to prepare the meals.

“More importantly it made up for the love missing when their parents were away,” Zhang said.

‘Hong Kong has too much city’: villagers protest with rural murals

Zhang buys his ingredients every morning and starts preparing the meal at about 2pm so it will be ready when school is over, around 4pm.

The principal, whose salary is 4,500 yuan (US$655) a month, pays for the food from his own pocket, about 80 yuan a day.

Viewers of the videos and others inspired by Zhang’s effort tried to donate money to the cause but Zhang turned them down, saying donations would make things complicated and might make the children feel uncomfortable.

“I have enough money and I don’t smoke or drink,” Zhang said. “My wife supports me very much.”

The videos show children helping Zhang prepare the meals.

In one, the children walk to a field to dig up sweet potatoes and later gather around Zhang as he places the cut vegetables in the steamer. When he finally lifts the lid, they applaud with excitement.

Beijing’s cruel eviction of migrant workers is no satire

More than 90 videos have been uploaded, many of them showing the children pouring seasonings or ingredients into the pot or playing in the playground while Zhang cooks.

The climax comes when they queue up for food and enjoy it outdoors.

Among the typical meals are steamed pork ribs with sticky rice, noodles with beef and mushrooms, seaweed soup with steamed buns and noodles with pork and liver.

He produced the meals in modest conditions, washing the potatoes in a river and cooking with water pumped from underground.

Starting the fire always captures the children’s interest and they run to collect dried leaves or branches.

Those who behave well were rewarded by being allowed to help Zhang start the fire by blowing on it.

“It’s very pleasant to be with lovely children and also to be contributing to society by teaching them to be a better person,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

“Rural children are raised by their grandparents and they need guidance.

“I hope I can [fill] them with knowledge so they can leave school with confidence and receive higher education in the big cities.”

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Kindness of strangers helps brave Six-year-old to step out at last

Six-year-old Ellice Barr had been unable to walk due to cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage sustained at her birth.

She needed an operation to help her walk that was not available on the NHS.

So kindhearted strangers stepped in and raised the money needed. It was the best present that little Ellice could have asked for this Christmas.

Mother Amy, 32, who lives with husband Joe, 38, an assistant store manager, in Deal, Kent, with their son Jay, eight, and Joe’s daughters Chelsea, 18, and Cayse-Jo, 16, said: “We have just been overwhelmed with people’s kindness in helping to raise the money to help Ellice walk.

“To see her standing on her own two feet without any help is just the most amazing sight in the world. It is the best Christmas present for her we could ever have wished for.”

Ellice was diagnosed with Diplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy when she was just 22 months old.

She had been born seven weeks early, weighing a tiny 3lb 9oz, and while her brother had been standing up at six months, Ellice was late even crawling.

Mr Barr said: “Ellice could only stand on her tiptoes and she couldn’t walk.

“She saw a paediatrician and then was diagnosed.

“It was a massive shock – we had never imagined it would be anything like that.” Cerebral palsy occurs when a child sustains a brain injury before or at birth, most commonly when premature.

Parts of the brain that control leg movement and coordination are particularly vulnerable. The difficulties it causes change continuously in the growing child.

Ellice spent the first years of her life using a walking frame and a wheelchair.

Then the couple heard about the selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery which can help children with cerebral palsy to walk.

The six-hour operation involves cutting the nerves in the lower spine responsible for making the muscles become rigid.

Over the following months movement and walking improve. But it isn’t available on the NHS.

Mr Barr said: “We set up a fundraising page for Ellice in November last year and donations started to come in.

All these people were willing to help her achieve her dream.” Backers included Millwall star Jed Wallace, who carried Ellice on to the pitch as team mascot in April.

In May they hit their target of £65,000 to pay for the operation and months of physiotherapy afterwards.

Ellice had surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in July.

Mr Barr said: “It was difficult at first because she is having to use muscles to walk that she has never used before. But she is doing fantastically well. For the first four months she started to walk using sticks to help with balance but a few weeks ago she started to walk without them. To be able to see her walk like this is a dream come true – we never thought that we would see it happen.

“Her brother Jay is fantastic with her and he has helped her recovery enormously. He wants her to play tag and chase with him too, which has helped her improve a lot quicker.”

Ellice is due to have an operation to lengthen her calf muscles next year, which surgeons have said will help her recovery even more.

Mr Barr added: ‘We are so proud of what she has achieved, and to see her walk now is the best present any of us could have asked for. We are going to have a lovely Christmas this year.”

Read the full story here

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