New York Nun Offers Housing and Mentoring to Women Recently Released from Prison

One caring nun up in New York is helping women get readjusted to life after prison in a powerful way!

Sister Tesa Fitzgerald is the founder of Hour Children, a non-profit in Long Island City that provides housing, mentoring and job training for mothers recently released from behind bars. Since 1986, Sister Tesa has helped thousands of women (about 200 a year) to get their lives back on track through the program.

One mother, Stephanie Reis, knows the power of Sister Tesa’s work for herself. After Stephanie was released from prison after two years, Sister Tesa helped move her and her 2-year-old son, Major, into one of the nonprofit’s three apartment buildings, AND got Stephanie enrolled in college. Sister Tesa’s love made the difference in my life, as I know it did and does for many,” Stephanie revealed to PEOPLE. “There’s been no more stumbling through darkness to figure out which turn is right. Instead, a hand is extended and you’re embraced the entire way. I’m extremely grateful.”

Check our more of Sister Tesa’s work with Hour Children below!

The program has also helped women to be able to rebuild relationships with their kids who visit, with Sister Tesa and her team encouraging the moms to even take parenting classes. “Our guiding principle is that children who grow up with their moms have a better chance of becoming successful adults,” Sister Tesa said. “We’re all about second chances. More than anything, we want these women and their children to have dignity and hope.” That’s what it’s all about! 

Funded primarily through donations and sales from two Hour Store thrift shops, Hour Children also runs a food pantry and will soon be opening a teen center. Wow…Sister Tesa and her team are seriously busy! This nonprofit is so necessary, because often, ex-cons are written off without a second chance to come back and make a positive influence on their community. These women that take part in Hour Children have a real second chance to get things right, and this organization shows that there are people around who care enough to help them. I look forward to hearing more good things from them! 

Woman Starts Coffee Shop That Specifically Employs Adults with Mental Disabilities

Positive stories like this first thing in the morning really do make my day!

In Wilmington, NC, Amy Wright has gotten national attention for creating a coffee shop that employs people with mental disabilities! Not only is business booming, but Amy and her team are helping to shut down stereotypes at the same time.

Before the shop’s official opening in January 2016, Amy and her husband were shocked to discover that almost 70% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have jobs. Thinking of her own children, Beau and Bitty, who both have Down syndrome, Amy decided to take action.

She created Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, which now employs 40 people with disabilities, as well as two managers who have degrees in special education. “I realized it would be the perfect environment for bringing people together,” Amy told CNN of starting the shop. “Seeing the staff taking orders, serving coffee — they’d realize how capable they are.”

Check out more about the shop below!

The idea of this shop is so great to see because people can have preconceived notions about people with disabilities, like they all aren’t capable of doing things or having positive interactions with others, when they are! The interaction between customers and staff her at Bitty & Beau’s helps breaks that stereotype.  “Creating this has given people a way to interact with people with disabilities that [they] never had before,” Amy said. “This is a safe place where people can test the waters and realize how much more alike we are than different. And that’s what it’s all about.”

All the profits from the coffee shop go to Wright’s nonprofit, Able to Work USA, a nationwide initiative created specifically to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) find meaningful employment!

This was definitely really cool to see. If you’re in the Wilmington area or close by, you should check it out. Maybe one day I’ll get down there for a visit myself!

Baby Makes Her Own Artwork for Her Room and It’s Incredible!

Ryan and Raniece Dalton have a little Baby Picasso on their hands!

These parents let their 16-month-old daughter Maya’s creativity run wild, even as a toddler. “I like her to explore and be free,” Ryan said of his daughter to Buzzfeed.

Ryan, Raniece, and Maya Dalton
Ryan Dalton / Buzzfeed

So when Ryan and Raniece bought their first home, Ryan decided to let Maya create her own artwork for her room. He laid out a canvas and paints, kind of showed her how to brush the paint on, and then let her go at it. The results were incredibly surprising!

Maya, who had never painted before except one brief moment at a children’s museum, was “very particular,” about how she painted. The baby ending up creating this beautiful abstract painting that some art connoisseurs might want in their own homes. Shoot, I kind of want it myself!

maya painting 1
Ryan Dalton / Buzzfeed

Here’s another she created with a black canvas!

maya painting 2
Ryan Dalton / Buzzfeed

This made me smile so much! For one, the art is extremely dope. What’s even cooler though, is that Ryan and Raniece are helping to cultivate their child’s creativity even at this young an age. I know she’s a baby and all, but she might have an eye! Maybe she’ll grow up and be an artist herself in some years…

World’s First Museum of Happiness is Coming to the UK

No, that title is not a joke, and I’m all here for this! The world’s first Museum of Happiness is coming to the UK this September!

The museum has been running as a nonprofit for the past two years, providing workshops, classes, and pop-up events for things like mindfulness origami, laughing yoga, ukulele lessons, art, and dancing. Just fun to stuff to get people smiling and laughing! Now, the Museum of Happiness has an official location.

After raising over $36,000 in one month on Crowdfunder, the organization will open up their physical museum at Arlington House – the UK’s biggest homeless hostel in Camden, London.“At the Museum of Happiness we offer tangible, science-based tools you can implement into your everyday lives. Our society needs such physical spaces like a Museum of Happiness to explore this vital skill, emotion and state of being in a secular way,” the museum said in a statement. “Most importantly, we can run initiatives to bring people together to create friendships, have fun and find balance in a city of chaos, regardless of your background or belief system.”

Hopefully with donations, as well as memberships and other programs, the museum will be free for people to come visit. The team also plans to develop outreach programs to collaborate with homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and youth centers.

Can you imagine this being your actual job?! Coming up with ideas and developing workshops, events and exhibits literally to make people smile? I would love that! Might need to make a visit over to the U.K. to go visit…

Head on over to the official website for the Museum of Happiness to learn more about their work!

Garbageman Creates Free Library with 20,000 Books Found in the Trash

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure!

Out in Bogota, Colombia, garbageman Jose Alberto Gutierrez would see books in the trash all the time from wealthier neighborhoods. Not wanting to see them go to waste, he began saving those books. Using the literature he collected, Jose began building a free library in his home for folks in his own neighborhood!

Jose collected his first book, a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina20 years ago, and has since collected over 20,000 books in his library, named “Strength of Words!”

 

Watch more of Jose’s story below…

Literally every single room of this guy’s house has books, and he opens up his home to kids in his community on the weekend. It’s significant because his area is a poorer area, that doesn’t have books as readily available as other neighbohoods. However, Jose’s work now gives local children an opportunity to read and learn more as well. He’s even started shipping books to other areas that don’t have many books either!

I thought this story was so cool and interesting. For one thing, it shows that books should really be cherished. Even if you do want to get rid of some, consider them donating to your local library or elsewhere for others to read. The fact that Jose thought of creating a library for people in his own community is incredible and moving!