Helping the needy

It felt like spring yesterday, but it’s cold again today. It’s hard to imagine having to “sleep rough” but that’s what the homeless are faced with.

In Brussels, Belgium, where (according to the video below) there are 2,600 homeless, and where canvas is illegal but cardboard shelters are not, Belgian entrepreneur Xavier Van der Steppen helps the homeless with “origami cardboard tents” that cost only $35 to make.

More about this story from the BBC

More about homelessness in Brussels (from the Brussels Times).

How about the homeless in Tokyo? According to this article from Mainichi Shimbun, “Tokyo sees 4,000 homeless sleeping in 24-hr cafes on any weeknight”.

One interesting point about the cardboard tents is that they’re made by prison inmates. One possible research project topic is to find out what prison inmates in Japan (or another country you’re learning about) are doing. Do they work? Do they make anything that contributes to society?

Another project for helping the needy (of a different kind): help the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare with their English-language information. This is just awful: “Self-support of needy person” (PDF)

One incomprehensible sentence:

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The best of 2017, part 1

(image from Pixabay)

Today and tomorrow, I’ll share a couple of lists about the best of last year. Today is a list of “The 99 best things that happened in 2017” (from Quartz).

Some inspiring statistics on the list:

#27: Eleven countries are building a wall of trees on the border of the Sahara desert to slow desertification, and it’s already working. (video from BBC)

#38: 16,000 schools were built in Afghanistan, where the literacy rate increased by 5%, and the youth literacy rate increased by more than 16%. (from USAID)

#68: Almost a quarter (23%) of worlwide parliamentary seats are occupied by women. That’s up from 12% 20 years ago. (this and much more about gender equality from the World Bank)

#71: The number of biracial couples in the U.S. is now at 17%, five times as many as there were 50 years ago, when it was legalized in 1967. (from Pew Research)

#99: India and Italy banned the use of wild animals in circuses, making the total 40 countries which have done this. (from Inhabit)


Something you could do in your portfolio: make a list of a few of the best things that happened in Japan in 2017.

Let’s dance

This story is about a tap dance school in Seattle, created for primarily disadvantaged kids to have an outlet for their energy, to help them build confidence, to give them a group to belong to, and also to call attention to social justice. Here’s their website.

It reminded me of a scene in the movie “White Nights” in which the two main characters — one who comes from ballet and one who comes from tap and jazz dance — collaborate on a dance that mixes both worlds. The movie has lots of other things to talk about: interracial relationships and prejudice, defection, and the Cold War.

First books

Do you remember the first book that had an impact on you? A few that I remember very, very vividly from my childhood, as much for the pictures as the stories. Not suggesting you should buy these, but take a look at the “Look inside”:

Anyway, I thought about this after seeing this video about a non-profit called First Book in a rural part of Iowa, where a “lunch lady” is organizing a book bus to help get books to children during vacations:

Our short winter vacation is coming up soon. What do you plan to read?