Monday Meeting — College Kindness

A college professor offered to watch his student’s children while she was taking her finals after her babysitter cancelled at the last minute, and the photo of the babysitting professor is going viral.


Daniel Krebs, a professor at the University of Louisville, was photographed playing computer games in the hallway outside of his classroom with Monica Willard’s 4-year-old son, Marcus, and 5-year-old daughter, Mikayla.

Willard told ABC News she tried to get her kids to sit quietly on the couch before Dr. Krebs intervened.

“The class didn’t know they were there until Marcus came banging on the door,” Willard said. “Dr. Krebs said, ‘Don’t worry. Go take your test. I’ve got them.'”

“The little boy knew the names of the [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] and he’s yelling out these Italian names,” Krebs said. “I didn’t know who he was talking about. And the girl climbed on my shoulders and pulled my hair. But, apparently, I was so distracted that I didn’t know people were taking photos of me.”

After Willard stepped out of the classroom to check on her kids, she asked her friend and fellow exam-taker Victoria Henry to snap the shot since her kids commandeered her phone.

Henry told ABC News she couldn’t resist posting the “kind act” online.

Willard said her kids are now big fans of Dr. Krebs.

“They didn’t want to leave. They really just had a lot of fun. They want to come back to class with me.”

ABC News

Monday Meeting — Firefighters Pay It Forward

A waitress picked up the check for two New Jersey firefighters who had been working all night. It was a kind act, but what Tim Young and Paul Hullings did to return the favor was even more remarkable.

When Liz Woodward, 24, approached their table at 130 Diner in Delran, New Jersey, Thursday morning around 5:30 am, Hullings asked her to bring him the biggest cup of coffee they had and mentioned he had been up all night putting out a warehouse fire.

“I had been following the New Brunswick fire on the news,” Woodward told “This was their first meal in over 24 hours; the least I could do was buy it for them for all they do every day.”

So she picked up their bill and on the back she wrote:

“Your breakfast is on me today — Thank you for all that you do; for serving others & for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong… Thank you for being bold and badass everyday! Fueled by fire and driven by courage — what an example you are. Get some rest.”


The firefighters teared up and thanked her before leaving the restaurant. And Woodward figured she’d never see them again.

When he returned home, Young posted a Facebook status urging his friends to go eat at the diner.

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He didn’t stop there. After he and Hullings found out that Woodward was trying to raise money for her quadriplegic father to get a wheelchair-accessible fan, they decided to help.

“Turns out, the young lady who gave us a free meal is really the one that could use the help…” Young wrote in another post, highlighting the GoFundMe campaign she had started back in December. Since then, over 1,000 people helped raise $67,000, surpassing the goal of $17,000.

Woodward has kept in touch with Hullings and Young, and even introduced them to her father. They’ve been sharing in the excitement of not just how much money they raised, but an inspiring message.

“People from all over the world have heard our story, and from it, they’re recognizing opportunities to do something little or big for someone else,” Woodward said.

Woodward has worked at 130 Diner since opening day seven years ago and now thinks of it as a second home. She credits the restaurant for jump-starting a lot of great things in her life.

“This is just one example of how so many people in this world have incredible hearts and they pay it forward so the circle keeps on moving,” she said.

TODAY News – Alexandra Zaslow

Monday Meeting — Frozen Kitten Lives

Kittens: They’re tiny, they’re adorable, and they account for 99% of Snapchats sent by their obsessed owners.

Most importantly, they are universally loved. I mean, even the most stubborn dog-lover among us would have to be a serial killer to not enjoy this scene.

Basically, kittens are the source of all the good in the world and deserve our constant friendship and adoration. But, like people, they also make mistakes (and I’m not just talking about getting stuck in a tree).

This family learned the hard way that kittens sometimes need a helping hand from their upright-walking mammal friends.

Branden Bingham and his family were playing in the snow outside their cabin in Bear Lake, Utah, on Thanksgiving morning when they stumbled upon a distressing sight: a tiny, helpless kitten that was practically frozen. They knew they couldn’t simply chalk it up to “the will of nature” and go about their day.

In fact, they did the exact opposite, springing into action and rushing the nearly lifeless cat — who had apparently been caught out in the previous night’s blizzard — into their house.

The kitten wasn’t moving and didn’t even appear to be breathing, but Branden’s brother was still convinced that he could save him and immediately began performing CPR with the hopes of kickstarting the little guy’s heart.

“I truly believed that there was no chance,” recalled Branden. “Everyone in the room was just telling him to give up. He’d given it his all, but it was time to stop.”

With all due respect, Branden, that wasn’t the best advice. What if Michael Phelps had just “given up,” after his fifth Olympic medal, Branden? What if George Washington “gave up” while crossing the Delaware, Branden?! WHAT IF ROCKY HAD “GIVEN UP” AFTER MICKEY DIED, BRANDEN?! ANSWER ME THAT!

Luckily, Brendan’s brother had no such quit in him and continued to stick by the kitten’s side, doing whatever he could think of to bring him back to life, until…

Yep, thanks to a can-do attitude and a little quick thinking, the Binghams were able to do the near-impossible, nursing the kitten back from the brink of a chilly demise.

The kitten’s new family eventually got around to naming him “Lazarus,” but personally, I’d have gone with something more wintry, like “Snowball.” Or maybe “Blizzard.” Or maybe “He Who Conquered Winter’s Icy Grasp with The Fire of A Thousand Suns.”

Or maybe just “Mittens.”

This magical button delivers Upworthy stories to you on Facebook:

The entire event was captured on Branden’s GoPro and has since been made an official selection of the GoPro awards. As for the kitten, well, he was given to Branden’s cousin (despite Branden’s son’s protests) and now lives a happy, fulfilled life — the majority of which is apparently spent chasing his big brother’s tail.

Upworthy by Jared Jones

Monday Meeting — Holy Pizza Delivery


The life of a pizza delivery driver is not a glorious one.

The long hours, the wear and tear on your vehicle, the 20 or so pounds you inevitably gain from eating nothing but mozzarella and pepperoni all day … and don’t even get me started on those giant mutant turtles stealing from you every time your back is turned.

But the worst part about the job? Getting stiffed. It happens — A LOT — and the only thing more frustrating than seeing a big ol’ goose egg in the “tip” section of a receipt is knowing that, come this time next week, you’ll probably have to deliver to the same ungrateful jerk again.

Of course, there are also those customers who make the job (almost) worth it.

I’m talking about the big tippers.

If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you know how the smallest of gestures can make a huge difference. Something as simple as a few extra bucks and a smile can turn a bad day into a good one, especially if you’re dealing with personal issues that extend beyond your job.

Case in point: Jeff Louis, a 22-year-old delivery driver for Gionino’s Pizzeria in Mentor, Ohio, who recently received the tip of a lifetime.

Late last month, Jeff was called to work ahead of his regularly scheduled shift to deliver “seven or eight” pizzas to the Life Point Church, a nondenominational Christian community.

He loaded the stack of pies into his car and trudged across town. Upon arriving at the church, Jeff received an unusual request: Before he could leave, he would have to bring one of the pies up to the congregation’s pastor, Ken Wright, who was on stage giving a sermon.

Jeff was understandably confused.

The plan, according to Wright, was to tip Jeff $100 because hey, ‘tis the season for giving and all that. But by the time Wright passed around the collection plate…

Jeff was shocked and clearly moved. He immediately posted a heartfelt, teary-eyed account of the story on YouTube.

The twist? Jeff is a former addict in the early stages of recovery.

“I’m just trying to get my life back, and it just really truly amazes me that people who don’t even know me just wanted to help me out that much,” he said, choking on the words.

While no one at the church was aware of Jeff’s personal struggles with addiction prior to his delivery, I imagine that Pastor Wright would credit their impromptu meeting to the man upstairs.

“We can change the world one life at a time,” Wright said in an interview with local news affiliate WKYC afterward. It looks like Life Point Church is living up to that motto.

The incredible gesture (and Jeff’s video) have since gone viral, with even Manny Pacquiao sharing the story on his Facebook page. In the meantime, people have been flooding Jeff’s Facebook page with congratulations and thanks, calling him an inspiration. But to Jeff, his turn of fortune is a little simpler to explain than that.

The lesson here is a simple one: Always be kind to strangers, but be especially kind to the strangers who happen to be bringing you God’s (or Italy’s) greatest gift to mankind.


Upworthy by Jared Jones

Monday Meeting – Caught in a Traffic Jam

There are few experiences on this planet more mind-numbingly frustrating, more head-poundingly excruciating than being stuck in traffic.

It’s also a situation that hundreds of drivers on England’s M5 — a 162-mile motorway in the southwest part of the country — were forced to deal with on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, when a vehicle carrying a half-dozen horses broke down just outside of the small town of Taunton. In the melee, one of the vehicle’s equine occupants even managed to escape, leading to a complete standstill on one of the country’s biggest highways.

Fortunately for a few dozen weary travelers, one of the cars stuck beside them just so happened to be carrying a professionally trained string quartet.

The quartet members, on their way back from a wedding and with little else to do besides twiddle their fingers, decided to liven up the tedious affair by playing a classic tune from their repertoire: Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon and Gigue for three violins and basso continuo” (or Pachelbel’s “Canon” for short).

The motorists nearby surrounded the quartet, whipping out their phones to record the impromptu performance as their anger gave way to euphoria. Helen Delingpole, a motorist from Wales, managed to capture the entire thing on her camera, which she later posted to Facebook.

“This is the best part of the holiday!” cheered one excited spectator.

When the quartet finished, they were met with a raucous applause that had violinist Lu Jeffery at a loss for words. “We have played some of the most incredible concert venues globally, and then one afternoon you play the M5, it all goes crazy,” he said in a follow-up interview with The Telegraph.

Here’s the video:

It just goes to show the profound, mood-altering power that music can have in even the most turbulent of times, especially when combined with a random act of kindness.

Monday Meeting — Courthouse Dogs

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In 2014, three young children were removed from their Ohio home after suffering unspeakable acts of abuse.

The kids were so traumatized, it took them months to even begin to open up to investigators about what had happened to them. When it came time to go to court, two of them had to testify from a separate room because facing their attackers was just too traumatic.

Sadly, this is all too common.

Research focusing on sexual abuse shows that testifying in court can actually amplify trauma for young victims, yet so many are forced to take the stand regardless.

This is a huge problem. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives defendants the right to confront their accusers in court. And it’s a really, really tough thing to reconcile. In America, you’re innocent until proven guilty, and you deserve a fair shake in court.

But at what cost? How can we make sure our trials are fair and justice is served without putting victims through such an awful emotional ordeal?

Ellen O’Neill Stephens and Celeste Walsen think they have the answer: dogs in the courtroom to comfort witnesses.

Ellen, a retired prosecutor, and Celeste, a veterinary doctor, run Courthouse Dogs, an organization that advocates for more dogs in the criminal justice process. And not just in the courtroom, either, but also in child advocacy centers and during prosecutor interviews as well.

If you ask me, more dogs is always a good thing — no matter the situation.

But Ellen and Celeste actually have some excellent evidence behind why we need them in court.

Ellen told Upworthy, “When a person is reliving a traumatic event, they experience physiological reactions similar to what they had when the event was taking place.”

“This adversarial system [of testifying in front of your attacker] is brutal,” she added. “A lot of people come out damaged by it.”

The dogs provide a calming presence, whether they’re curled up on the couch with a child as he or she gets interviewed by a prosecutor or sleeping peacefully at the feet of a witness in the witness box.

Celeste says that because of the longstanding relationship between humans and dogs, “we count on dogs to tell us when there’s a bad guy around.” So when we’re in the presence of a relaxed dog, it makes us feel that we’re in a safe place, which can lower our blood pressure and reduce anxiety.

These are no ordinary dogs. They undergo years of training, and only the best of the best ever make it to the big show.

Unlike therapy dogs, who are regular dogs who have completed some basic coursework, courtroom facility dogs are raised for this kind of work from the get-go. Trainers start by introducing teeny, tiny bits of stress to the young dogs — like putting them on a cold metal surface — and then picking them up and soothing them with cuddles.

By the time they’re grown, the dogs are practically immune to chaos and high-stress situations.

It takes about two years of this kind of training before the dogs are deployed to a prosecutor’s office or other justice outfit, where they then work full-time defusing tense environments and putting witnesses at ease.

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Right now, according to Ellen and Celeste, there are about 87 dogs working in some capacity in 28 states, mostly Labradors or golden retrievers, since they look so dang friendly and have calm temperaments. But the program is starting to gain worldwide traction, with dogs now in places like Chile and Canada.

Courtroom dogs can make victims feel safe, but the real purpose of the program is to help us get to the truth.

Ellen and Celeste told us their vision is to one day see these dogs available to anyone who’s been traumatized by crime, old or young, male or female, innocent … or even guilty.

“I used to think, when I went into the courtroom, I was supposed to make the witnesses squirm, uncomfortable, so they’d somehow blurt out the truth,” Ellen said. “But now I’m telling judges, that technique doesn’t work.”

They told me that young victims will often shut down during interviews, especially because their parents often can’t be there. Bring in a dog, though, and they’ll start to pet it and often slowly start to relax and start talking.

Courthouse Dogs wants to have canines in interview rooms and courthouses all over the world so people, even defendants, feel comfortable enough to tell their version of the story.

“I think it’s revolutionizing this process,” Ellen said. “I’m fairly confident this practice is here to stay and it will only grow.”


by Evan Porter at

Monday Meeting — Fight Song

If you want to talk about the fight of one’s life, it doesn’t get any more real than childhood cancer.

Jeremiah is 7 and being treated at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for an aggressive cancer of the brain and spinal cord. Ever since he was diagnosed in May, he’s leaned on “Fight Song” by pop newcomer Rachel Platten to get him through the tough days. With hope in their hearts, Jeremiah’s parents started a #RachelMeetJeremiah campaign on Instagram. And as luck would have it, their messages got to her.

Rachel wrote the song when she was going through a particularly difficult time in her life. Sweetyhigh interviewed her in March, and she shared this:

“I wrote ‘Fight Song’ when I was at a crossroad in my life: on the outside there was a lot of hard stuff going on and a lot of reasons to give up on myself … but through writing the song, I made the decision to not listen to that small mean voice that was telling me I wasn’t good enough. I decided to keep believing in myself no matter what.”

So when she heard what it meant to a young boy braving the biggest fight of his life, she trekked over to Children’s Hospital and did a duet with the tenacious Jeremiah. Grab a Kleenex — this is a sweet moment.

And we’ve provided lyrics below, in case you’d like to sing along while you watch.

“Fight Song”

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years
I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me


Video from Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and YouTube.
Lyrics to “Fight Song” property of Rachel Platten/Columbia Records.

Monday Meeting — Homeless Man Surprises Police

A homeless man in Langford, B.C., who turned in $2,400 he found on the street has also rejected thousands more that were raised for him after his story drew media attention, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

The owner of the lost $2,400 was later found. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The homeless man’s honesty led others to start up a fundraising campaign on his behalf.

“After hearing this story and seeing how this case touched so many people, I took a personal interest in finding this man, looking for him everywhere while on and off shift,” Constable Alex Bérubé of the West Shore RCMP said, according to a RCMP news release.

“It’s not easy tracking down a person of no fixed address and no phone, but I kept trying because I needed to tell him about how the community had rallied together to help him,” Bérubé said. “I finally caught up to him on Monday and told him about the fundraising organized by Mike Kelly of Victoria Buzz, and that he had thousands of dollars waiting for him.

“His response surprised me yet again, when instead of asking how to collect it, he asked me how to donate it to Our Place and other food service providers for people in need.”

Investigators asked the man, who said he was in his 60s, to think about the more than $5,000 in funds overnight and return the next day. The man returned the next day, police said, and insisted that the money be given to others and that what he really wanted is a job.

“Mike Kelly has been advised of the man’s decision, which he provided in writing to officers,” the news release said. “Mike will continue to manage the raised funds and see that the right groups receive them. As for the man’s request for help finding a job, Mike is spearheading that effort as well.”

The homeless man did not want to be identified, police said.


Monday Meeting — Boy Donates Hair

He endured being called a girl, playing sports with waist-length hair and attracting disapproving looks from adults — all for a child in need he’s never met.

Eight-year-old Christian McPhilamy grew out his blond hair for more than two years so he could donate it to kids who have lost their locks. The mission ended with success last week after an epic haircut.


His mom Deeanna Thomas is still awed by his determination.

“Christian has such a huge heart,” Thomas, who lives in Melbourne, Florida, told TODAY Parents. “I don’t even know if there are words to describe how proud I am of him.”

“It’s definitely inspiring to see kids starting so young with wanting to help and do good deeds,” said Christine Wong, COO of Children With Hair Loss, the charity that received Christian’s hair. Wong estimated only 1 in 50 donations to the organization come from boys.

It all started during Christmas of 2012 when Christian saw a commercial for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. The TV spot featured young cancer patients without hair, which piqued his curiosity.

 Christian and his mom have a nightly ritual where they take an iPad and search for whatever fascinates him on Google. He’s usually interested in animals but that night, Christian looked up St. Jude’s. When an ad for a hair donation charity popped up, he asked Thomas what it meant. She explained to him people can donate their locks to cancer patients who have lost theirs due to chemotherapy.

“And he said, ‘I want to do that,'” Thomas, 28, recalled. “I was blown away… usually when Christian sets his mind to something, he pretty much goes with it. He doesn’t let anything falter his goals. I was pretty confident that he was actually going to follow through with it.”

At the time he had a short spiky do, but with his mom’s OK, Christian began growing out his blond hair.

 The taunts and comments started when it got below his chin.

“Sometimes they would call me a girl,” Christian told TODAY Parents.

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“Even out and about or at a park, he would be playing with a bunch of boys and they’d be like, ‘You look like a girl.’ And he would just explain to them. He held his head high and he never once said that he wanted to cut it off ever,” Christian’s mom added.

One man bluntly told Christian his hair was getting too long and he needed to do something about it, but once he found out about the boy’s mission, he offered a heartfelt apology, Thomas said.

 Thomas also got used to hearing “Your daughters are so pretty” when she was out with Christian and his younger sister. At a doctor’s appointment, a physician once greeted Christian with a cheery, “Oh, hey beautiful girl,” to which Christian calmly replied, ‘I’m a boy.”

Even though he seemed unfazed by the comments, Thomas still always tried to reassure him.

“I just told him, buddy, if you’ve got goals and you want to reach them, you have to follow them. You can’t let what anybody says to you bring you down, and he never did,” she said.

Christian’s hair grew well down his back, but he would only wear it down despite heavy encouragement from Thomas to put it up.

The big haircut day finally came last Wednesday, as the family gathered in Christian’s room and his mom took scissors into her hands.

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With his thick hair partitioned into pony tails, the two-and-a-half-year-mission produced four 10-inch long sections that the family sent to Children With Hair Loss. The charity provides free wigs to kids who have lost their locks for any reason, including cancer, alopecia and burns.

“My hands were shaking. My heart felt like it was going to explode,” Thomas said about the haircut. “It was just incredible.”

As for Christian, he said it feels good to have short hair again. Somewhere, another child will be feeling good, too, because of Christian.

TODAY – A. Pawlowski

Monday Meeting — 5 Boys Befriend the Bullied

At the end of this year, Mankato Area Public Schools honored five fifth-grade boys from Franklin Elementary in Mankato, Minnesota with its Spirit of Youth Award.

Their teacher, Mallory Howk, had nominated them after witnessing their interactions with James Willmert, a boy at the school with a learning disability who’d been adopted from an orphanage in Colombia, and whose new father had been killed in a bicycle accident.

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But the kids didn’t have an award in mind when they decided to pay some attention to James. As Jake Burgess, one of the boys, told NBC affiliate KARE, “He’s an awesome kid to hang out with.”

Jake had first witnessed James getting bullied one day at recess. He and his four friends — Jack Pemble, Gus Gartzke, Tyler Jones, and Landon Kopischke — explained that what they saw wasn’t explicitly violent or physical. But it still upset them.

“They were, like, using him and taking advantage of him,” Jake explained to KARE.

“He’s easier to pick on and it’s just not right,” Jack added.

The five of them knew that they couldn’t stand for something like that to happen to James again. And they realized that the best way to protect him and stand up to the bullies was quite easy: They would be his friend.

Easy, maybe, but certainly not the normal course of action for a group of socially-conscious fifth graders.

They began inviting James to eat at their table during lunch, which he now does regularly. Often, he’ll need assistance opening bags of chips or small boxes of raisins. He simply holds up the package, and, without so much as pausing their conversation, his new friends patiently break the seal for him. And whenever he needs someone to tie his shoes, another frequent occurrence, one of the friends will quickly bend down to do it for him.

“It really kind of makes you proud to be their teacher,” said Howk, who believes that the school’s anti-bullying programs have had some effect on the kids, but that their kindness must also come from sheer instinct.

 James and his family have also been moved by the boys’ kindness. His mother has been particularly grateful.

“He used to not want to go out for recess or anything, it would be like a struggle. And now he can barely eat his lunch to get outside to play with those guys,” said Margi Willmert.

That’s probably because when everyone gathers outside to play touch football at recess, Gus, Tyler, Landon, Jake and Jack always make sure that James gets to make a touchdown — sometimes, more than one.

But this isn’t just about being kind for the sake of being kind. The five friends have learned that there’s a lot to love about James. And while the whole thing’s mostly been a lesson in empathy, it’s also led to the development of a genuine friendship.


“He has a notebook with over 600 teams of college,” Tyler told KARE when asked about his new friend.

“That’s how much he likes sports,” interrupted Jack, equally impressed.

Even outside of school, the kindheartedness continued. James took the time to explain. “We’re like, ‘Do you have any sports games?’ And he was like, ‘No, I don’t have any video game systems.’ So that’s when I came up with the idea.”

The boys pooled together their own money and a collective donation from their parents and recently delivered video games and a PlayStation to James’ house. Video games alone are pretty exciting. But the occasion also marked the first time anyone from school had come over to play.

“I’ll never forget it. Never,” Margi said.

TODAY – Rebekah Lowin

Monday Meeting — Blind Man & Double Amputee Survive Together



Sometimes a story comes along that cannot help but tug at the heartstrings. Any example of great achievement in the face of adversity deserves to be recognized – and that is exactly what we have here.

Jia Haixa and Jia Wenqi are environmentalist of a very unique sort. The former is blind, while the latter is a double-amputee. Together over the last decade, they have managed to use their symbiotic relationship to plant over 10,000 trees.

Unable to find jobs due to their impairments, and aware of environmental issues close to where they live, Haixa and Wenqi decided to do something quite extraordinary.

Working as one, they have become each other’s eyes and hands in the task of transforming a three-hectare stretch of riverbank in Yeli village, in north China’s Hebei Province. Planting the trees not only provides an income to feed their families, but it also helps prevent the flooding of nearby villages by strengthening the flood plains.

“I am his hands,” said Haixia in a recent interview with People’s Daily Online. “He is my eyes. We are good partners.”

The 53-year-old was born with congenital cataracts that blinded his left eye. His situation worsened in 2000 when he lost site in his right eye after a work-related accident.

Wenqi has lived with his impairment since he was 3, after losing both arms in an accident.

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The two met in 2001. Both were unable to secure work yet desperately needed a way to earn a living.

Haixia speaks of how he wanted to provide for his family: “My son came home one day and said, ‘Dad, I smelled an orange when another kid was peeling it and it was like I could taste it’. I felt sorry for my son, that he couldn’t even eat his own orange.”

The words of his son stirred him on to succeed. “I had to live for him to have more.” Haixia said, “I had to work hard and focus on making money.”

So together, Haixia and Wenqi came up with a plan to combine their skills in whatever way they could.

This led them to the idea that they could plant trees; a move that would earn them the extra money they so badly needed.

They approached the local government to lease a large stretch of the riverbank near Yeli. In view of their poor living conditions the authorities decided to exempt them from paying rent.

And now ten years on, the two have planted nearly 10,000 trees.

Each day, they leave their home at 7am armed with a hammer and iron rod. Wenqi carries his blind companion across the fast-moving river to reach their portion of the bank.

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Since they do not have enough money to purchase saplings, they have to manually collect cuttings, which isn’t easy considering their impairments.

Haixia, guided by his armless companion, slowly scales the trees to collect cuttings. He then returns to solid ground where he digs a hole and plants the new shoot.

Wenqi then takes care of watering the saplings.

It is a very slow process, however the two of them keep on going. “Though we did not accomplish much in dozens of years, we recognize the effort,” Haixia said.

Ultimately, they are independent. Haixia has been able to provide for his family against all odds, and together they are rightly proud of what they have achieved.

“We stand on our own feet,” Wenqi added. “The fruits of our labor taste sweeter. Even though we are gnawing on steam buns, we find peace in our hearts.”