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Good News This Week: December 2, 2023 - Helmets, Hairdressers, & Veggies

A photo collage of Judge John Phillips, a woman wearing a Surf Skull helmet, a screenshot from Foster Power's platform, a close-up of two black women, and a flatlay image of the Goodnewspaper

Every day the Good Good Good team collects the best good news in the world and shares it with our community. Here are the highlights for this week!

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The Best Positive News We’re Celebrating This Week —

A judge created an effective alternative to sending kids to prison for life

Judge John Phillips, motivated by the realization that he was sending young people to prison for life, founded Rancho Cielo in Salinas, California, to provide an alternative path for at-risk youth.

The program, launched in 2003, aims to help students overcome challenges related to poverty, dysfunction, trauma, and pain by offering a supportive, therapeutic environment. Rancho Cielo provides vocational programs in construction, auto and diesel repair, welding, culinary arts, and agricultural technology, along with academic and career pathways. The success of the program is evident: 84.8% of its graduates do not re-offend, compared to 40% of youth in the county's juvenile justice system who have another encounter with the law.

The Rancho Cielo campus looks like a high-end private school, with colorful and well-equipped buildings, providing a positive and enriching atmosphere for students. The program goes beyond traditional education by offering comprehensive support, including clothing, transportation, and assistance with various subjects.

The school's unique funding model, combining public and private partnerships, allows for additional resources and training opportunities not typically available in public schools. The success of vocational programs, such as the automotive and diesel mechanic program, has led to innovative expansions like focusing on vintage auto repair to meet local needs.

Why is this good news? Rancho Cielo's impact extends beyond providing education; it transforms students' lives by offering practical skills, emotional support, and opportunities for personal growth. The school's commitment to "at-promise" students, reaching them before they become entangled in the legal system, demonstrates a proactive approach to addressing socio-economic challenges. Rancho Cielo's success in reducing recidivism, providing vocational training, and preparing students for college or well-paying jobs makes it a model that could be replicated in other communities, addressing the broader issue of education and support for at-risk youth across the nation.

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An innovative, TikTok-viral helmet aims to reduce concussions in surfers

After a personal surfing injury made him realize the lack of effective head protection for casual surfers, Davon Larson was inspired to create an innovative helmet designed to reduce concussions.

He found existing helmets on the market to be bulky and unattractive, more suited for professional surfers. The Surf Skull aims to provide a low-profile, stylish, and affordable option for leisure surfers, starting at just $58.

Surfers are increasingly at risk of concussions due to the growing popularity of the sport and crowded line-ups. Thankfully, the Surf Skull, designed to resemble a bucket hat, features a bump-cap insert for protection. And it's also available in a baseball cap style!

Larson’s TikTok video about the helmet gained viral attention, with over 920,000 views in a week. Supportive comments showed interest not only from surfers but also from individuals engaged in other activities like rollerblading, biking, climbing, skateboarding, water skiing, and more.

Why is this good news? The Surf Skull represents an innovative solution to address the safety concerns of surfers. By providing a low-profile, stylish alternative to traditional helmets, Surf Skull aims to encourage more surfers to prioritize head protection. And by raising awareness about the risks of concussions and offering an affordable option for surfers, it ultimately contributes to a safer and more protected outdoor experience for enthusiasts.

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First-of-its-kind app revolutionizes access to information for Florida foster youth

Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm in Tampa Bay, Florida, has introduced FosterPower, a groundbreaking website and mobile app aimed at providing essential and accessible information for foster youth in the state.

Developed by attorney Taylor Sartor, the app addresses the critical need for improved information exchange among foster youth, particularly regarding life skills, independent living, mental health care, education, and legal protections.

Launched in May 2023, FosterPower specifically targets the foster youth population in Florida, which has garnered national attention due to concerns about an overburdened child welfare system. As of 2022, there were more than 24,000 youth under the age of 18 in Florida's foster care system, with many lacking awareness of their benefits, protections, and legal rights, according to Taylor Sartor, who has dedicated over six years of service to foster youth at Bay Area Legal Services.

The app's primary goal is to simplify complicated legal information, making it easily understandable for youth in foster care. FosterPower covers a range of common topics, including independent living benefits, medical information, education, the court process, placement, protections for LGBTQ+ youth, monetary allowance, and more. Since its launch in May 2023, the app has garnered over 3,400 downloads, and the website has been used by 8,200 users.

Why is this good news? The app's impact is particularly significant as it provides foster youth with accessible information on devices they often retain even during transitions between homes. The combination of digestible content and reliable information on smartphones can be transformative for young individuals navigating the complexities of the child welfare system. Sartor envisions using Florida as a blueprint and collaborating with other states to duplicate the information, ensuring that foster youth nationwide have access to information about their benefits, protections, and legal rights. With nearly 400,000 foster children in the United States, FosterPower stands as a pioneering initiative with the potential to positively impact the lives of foster youth across the country.

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Child mortality rates have declined substantially over the course of history

Child mortality rates have significantly decreased in recent history, marking a notable achievement. About two centuries ago, approximately 50% of children did not survive until puberty. However, by 2020, the global average had dropped to 4.3%, with improvements attributed to factors such as enhanced nutrition, access to clean water, sanitation, neonatal healthcare, vaccinations, medications, and reductions in poverty, conflicts, and famine. Some affluent countries, including Iceland, Japan, and Norway, have achieved child mortality rates as low as 0.4%, indicating substantial progress and emphasizing the potential for further advancements.

What’s the nuance? Child mortality rates vary widely across the globe. Declines in mortality rates have not been uniform globally, with certain areas, particularly in Southern Africa, experiencing increases in child mortality during the 1990s and 2000s, largely attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Child mortality remains a significant global challenge, with approximately 5 million children under the age of five dying each year — around 14,000 deaths daily, or ten deaths every minute. Most of these deaths are from preventable causes.

Although there has been a decline in child deaths over time, especially considering the rising global population, the scale of this loss continues to be a tragic reality impacting not only the children but also their families, friends, and communities. There is an ongoing need for further progress in reducing child mortality rates through preventive measures such as vaccination, basic medication, rehydration treatment, nutrition supplementation, neonatal healthcare, and more.

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Hairdressers are being trained as mental health ambassadors for women in West Africa

The Bluemind Foundation has launched an innovative initiative to address the severe lack of accessible mental health care in West and Central Africa by training hairdressers as mental health ambassadors.

In countries where mental health therapy is scarce and awareness is limited, the program has empowered hairdressers to provide much-needed support. This initiative is particularly significant in the World Health Organization's Africa region, which has the highest suicide rate globally and some of the lowest public expenditures on mental health.

Marie-Alix de Putter, the founder of the Bluemind Foundation, designed the program in 2018 based on the observation that African women spend a significant amount of time in hair salons. By training hairdressers, the initiative reaches women in spaces where they are comfortable. And the informal and affordable setting of the salon provides a safe space for clients to share their struggles, allowing stylists to offer gentle guidance and support during the hairstyling process.

Hairdressers undergo three days of training, learning how to ask open-ended questions, spot nonverbal signs of distress, and avoid gossip or detrimental advice. These "mental health ambassadors" play a crucial role as they often become confidantes for clients who share their financial struggles, emotional pain, or experiences of domestic violence during salon visits. Recognizing the impact of their role, hairdressers refer clients to professional therapists when necessary.

The Bluemind Foundation has trained approximately 150 women in mental health counseling across West and Central African cities, recognizing the critical need for mental health care in one of the world's poorest regions.

Why is this good news? In many African countries, the shortage of mental health workers is alarming, with an average of only 1.6 mental health workers per 100,000 people, compared to the global median of 13, according to the World Health Organization. The Bluemind Foundation's program not only addresses the mental health gap by training hairdressers — it also seeks to destigmatize mental health issues in communities where such topics remain foreign concepts, and its unique approach represents a step toward addressing the mental health crisis in West and Central Africa, recognizing the importance of community engagement and culturally sensitive interventions.

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Innovative VR experiences offer an escape from painful medical procedures

New virtual reality (VR) devices, such as Smileyscope, have emerged as innovative tools to alleviate pain during medical procedures, particularly benefiting children undergoing blood draws or IV insertions. Recently FDA-cleared, Smileyscope provides an immersive underwater adventure, significantly reducing self-reported pain levels (up to 60%) and anxiety levels (up to 40%) in clinical trials with over 200 children aged 4 to 11.

Smileyscope's efficacy transcends mere distraction; it leverages VR to engage the brain with diverse stimuli, effectively closing the "gates" through which pain signals travel. Going beyond conventional approaches, Smileyscope offers immersive encounters directly linked to medical procedures, offering a positive reframing of the stimuli.

In the realm of chronic pain management, pioneering efforts like RelieVRx, FDA-authorized in 2021, introduce VR therapies to address the intricate challenges of persistent pain. RelieVRx is designed to teach chronic pain sufferers various strategies, including mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation.

Going beyond distraction, the device focuses on imparting skills that address both the physiological and psychological aspects of chronic pain. With a home-use design, RelieVRx enhances accessibility by enabling patients to access behavioral pain treatment without scheduled therapist appointments.

Why is this good news? By providing an immersive and positive environment, these technologies alleviate anxiety and reduce self-reported pain levels, making medical interventions less distressing and influencing their future interactions with the health care system. This is particularly crucial in childhood, as negative experiences can lead to avoidance behaviors that may impact seeking health care in the future. By providing an engaging escape during medical procedures, VR interventions like Smileyscope and RelieVRx offer new possibilities for improving pain management and patient outcomes.

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A teen in Iowa grew 7,000 pounds of veggies and gave them all away

Lauren Schroeder, a 17-year-old from Iowa, embarked on a mission to address the lack of fresh produce in donations at a community food nonprofit when she was 14. With the support of her family, Lauren utilized half an acre of their farm to grow 15 varieties of vegetables.

Securing a grant from the National FFA Organization — a youth agricultural education group — she planted her first batch in the spring of 2022.

Despite the challenges of Iowa's hot and dry summers, Lauren diligently watered her crops daily, investing hours before and after softball practice. She learned the intricacies of vegetable farming through online research, emphasizing a commitment to sustainability and nutrition.

Over two years, Lauren expanded her garden to a full acre, incorporating 10 additional plant varieties, including herbs, pumpkins, cauliflower, and jalapeños. In this time, she donated over 7,000 pounds of produce to various local groups, such as food banks, soup kitchens, nursing homes, and social service nonprofits.

Lauren plans to continue her project, aiming to grow another 13,000 pounds of produce to reach a total of 20,000 pounds by 2025, the year she intends to attend college for diagnostic medical sonography. Lauren remains motivated, expressing a desire to expand her garden to two acres and provide even more fresh produce to those in need.

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More good news of the week —

A Uganda-based company is repurposing discarded banana leaves and stems to create high-quality, biodegradable textiles. The company has been successful in making versatile and strong fabric, leading to the creation of various everyday goods, including rugs, clocks, eyeglass cases, lampshades, and clothing.

Under a new deal, some of Toyota's future hybrid and electric cars will likely be powered by U.S.-built batteries made from recycled minerals stripped from old Priuses. This move signals the beginning of a potential circular battery supply chain in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a floating artificial leaf that can turn sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into synthetic fuel. The technology involves creating “carpets” of these artificial leaves that would float on lakes and rivers, using sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into fuel.

Dutch sewage waste is being explored as a heat source for millions of homes in the Netherlands as part of a government initiative to disconnect homes from the gas system by 2050. This sustainable heating source involves capturing warmth from showers, toilets, and wastewater to create a year-round heat source, which could significantly contribute to the transition away from fossil fuels.

A growing number of U.S. states are addressing food waste concerns by implementing programs that redirect edible food from supermarkets and businesses to food pantries instead of landfills. There is a call for a coordinated national effort to achieve the 2015 goal set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

Researchers have developed “biohybrid microrobots” designed to remove micro- and nano-plastics from water without causing further pollution. In tests, the robots demonstrated a high removal efficiency, offering a potentially cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for tackling plastic pollution in aquatic environments.

Researchers have developed a prototype heat pump that could eliminate the use of environmentally damaging gasses in air conditioners and refrigerators. The technology could provide an environmentally friendly alternative to existing heat pumps by eliminating the need for harmful refrigerants like hydrofluorocarbons or ammonia.

The U.S. Energy Department is funding clean energy projects in former coal communities as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure package. These initiatives, spanning West Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, aim to create jobs, particularly in manufacturing, addressing the challenge of transitioning workers from declining fossil fuel industries to the clean energy sector while boosting domestic manufacturing.

In response to the declining European perch population in Italy's Lake Maggiore, a team of local divers and filmmakers have successfully revived a centuries-old tradition of creating fish nurseries. The underwater nurseries, inspired by a 17th-century fishing tradition, have proven successful, hatching millions of eggs and fostering a lively underwater ecosystem, with the initiative aiming to protect the iconic European perch and reconnect communities with the lake's biodiversity.

New York has completed the installation of its first offshore wind turbine at the South Fork Wind, marking the state's first offshore wind farm. The 130-megawatt project will be the first completed utility-scale wind farm in federal waters in the U.S and is expected to generate enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes, reduce carbon emissions by 6 million tons over 25 years, and create jobs in the Northeast during its construction.

Record-breaking sea turtle nesting has been observed on U.S. beaches, particularly in Florida. Over 133,840 loggerhead turtle nests and 76,500 green turtle nests have been recorded, breaking previous records.

Google's new geothermal project in Nevada is now operational, providing clean energy to the grid serving two Google data centers. Google sees geothermal energy as a key component of its plan to achieve 24/7 carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030, providing a consistent power source compared to weather-dependent wind and solar energy.

Researchers have developed an eco-friendly thermal insulation material using shredded rice husks and recycled newspaper. The sustainable material has competitive thermal conductivity compared to other natural and recycled insulation materials, offering potential applications in environmentally-friendly buildings and other engineering domains.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. increased in 2022, marking an improvement from 2021. Most gains result from fewer COVID deaths.

In response to the war in Ukraine, a British online platform is connecting givers worldwide with Ukrainian families in need of toys. One of its initiatives, Circle of Toys, facilitates the donation of pre-loved toys to Ukrainian children, fostering joy, normalcy, and creativity through its 1,600+ volunteers.

Article Details

December 2, 2023 5:00 AM
A photo collage of a water tank sign in the outdoors, a portrait image of Dr. Ruth Gottesman, two men removing concrete off the ground, a document from the State of California, and a flatlay image of the Goodnewspaper

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