Brushing & Braiding Bonds of Love

Brushing & Braiding Bonds of Love

Las Vegas Nurse Brushes and Braids Patients’ Hair on Her Days Off: ‘It’s That Connection’

By Abigail Adams / People

One Las Vegas ER nurse is helping care for hospital patients both on and off the clock.

Brooke Johns, a nurse for 2½ years, spends her days off at Southern Hills Hospital, where she volunteers to pamper patients.

“There’s something therapeutic about the human touch, as well,” Johns told the news station in a profile on the healthcare hero. “Human talking, human touching, it’s that connection that we’re all hard-wired for.”

During her visits, Johns will brush or braid the hair of any patients requesting the service. She is hopeful her kindness can provide a spark for those seeking a human connection while hospitalized.

Johns began tending to patients’ appearance five months ago after a friend ran into a problem while at the hospital battling an illness.

“Her hair was very snarled, she was too weak to brush it out herself and it was something she was very worried about,” she told KNTV. “So, one of the times I was up there I was able to brush out her hair and braid it and just talk with her.”

When she finally left her friend’s room, Johns said the patient “was a different person.”

Johns’ kindness has touched more than one heart. Sierra Stein, a former patient of the young nurse, credits her efforts for getting admitted to the hospital for proper care and treatment.

“COVID is going around and there’s a lot of isolation,” Stein noted. “You can’t have visitors or someone to come in with you or hold your hand and to have someone just to be able to braid your hair makes you feel like you’re at home again.”

As more nurses follow in Johns’ footsteps, the nurse is working on a new idea. Once visitation restrictions are lifted, she plans to dress up as Elsa from Frozen and visit younger patients at Sunrise Children’s Hospital.

“I think nurses, in general, get into this to help other people,” Johns said of her life’s calling.

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I Want To Mow Your Lawn (.com)

I Want To Mow Your Lawn (.com)

After Brian Schwartz lost his job early in the pandemic, the New Jersey man decided to keep busy by doing landscaping chores for people in need:  senior citizens, military members needing some help, and those in his community  who are ill or disabled.

Figuring that lawn mowing was a good socially distanced activity, he started to offer the service free of charge for his neighbors over the age of 65.

“I can only imagine the stress [senior citizens are] all going through. I realized a lot of them are on fixed incomes, so I figured there’s a creative way to help them out. Not just physically, but also mentally,” Schwartz said.

The jobs came so quickly that, within a month, Schwartz established a nonprofit – IWantToMowYourLawn.com, which has since matched people in 31 states (to date) with volunteers willing to do their yardwork; from a lung cancer patient in central Wisconsin to disabled veterans in Port Huron, Michegan.

“It makes me feel great,” said Christopher Fuller, 46, a volunteer who responded to the listing in Port Huron.  

Visit ‘IWantToMowYourLawn.com
to see how you can be matched with a volunteer to help you
– OR – become a volunteer in your community.

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Rewilding Cambodia

Rewilding Cambodia

‘Mangroves are life’: the female conservationists rewilding the Cambodian coast

By:  Gavin Haines / Positive.News

 

When storms whip up the waves, sending white horses charging to the shore, mangrove forests are often the first line of defence for coastal communities in the tropics.

And with the climate crisis making the weather ever more volatile, people living in these coastal communities are waking up to the benefits of mangrove forests, which also provide a habitat for fish and other marine species.

“Mangroves are life. Without mangroves, there is no biodiversity, and our fishermen will lose their income,” explains Varou Mat, a schoolteacher and mother of three from Kampot Province, southern Cambodia.

Kampot is one of the provinces worst affected by mangrove clearance in Cambodia. It and neighbouring Kep have seen their mangrove forests shrink by 62 per cent in the last 30 years, according to ActionAid. The charity is working with women in those communities and elsewhere to help them adapt to climate change.

The loss of mangrove forests, along with the unfolding climate crisis, has left coastal communities in Kampot and Kep exposed to storm surges. “The floods now last a whole week causing damage to crops and infrastructure,” explains Nget Mana, a midwife, whose parents are farmers in Kampot.

Identified as one of the countries most at risk from the climate emergency, Cambodia ranks a lowly 103rd on the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index. Given that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts women, ActionAid decided to launch a campaign to help Cambodian women adapt.

The campaign, She Is The Answer, supports communities to become more resilient by training women to take up climate-adaptive livelihoods. The work is underpinned by research that has shown female empowerment to be one of the most effective solutions at our disposal in tackling global heating.

One of the programmes that ActionAid has launched is a mangrove rewilding project. The charity has been working with communities in Kampot to plant 100,000 mangrove saplings along the shore – a target that has already been surpassed.

As well as being keen mangrove conservationists, Mat and Mana are part of ActionAid’s burgeoning Women Champions network. It helps give Cambodian women a voice when decisions are being made at community and government level.

“Our Women Champions programme provides women in Cambodia with the training, skills and confidence they need to play a decisive part in planning the future of their communities, and of our country,” says Samphy Eng, a programme officer for ActionAid Cambodia.

The charity has trained around 50 women across the country, equipping them with climate science knowledge and supporting them to play an active role in decision-making.

As well as planting mangroves, the women have been involved in setting up a network of climate-adaptive floating gardens, as well as floating schools, where future generations are taught about climate resilience.

“Before Women Champions existed, women were afraid to speak up,” says Mat. “Now, they are brave to speak up about their problems, their needs, and what they want.”

Since receiving training from Action Aid, Mat has become a campaigner for climate issues, and is helping raise awareness about the impact global heating has on women.

“When climate change happens, women and children are most affected,” she says. “I want world leaders to pay more attention to them.”

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Birdability

Birdability

This retired teacher found her passion while birding. Now she’s making it accessible to all

By:  Amy Chillage / CNN

Virginia Rose had just turned 14 when the Arabian horse she was riding took off under a guide fence wire.

“I fell off and broke my back, and I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since,” Rose told CNN.

The accident didn’t stop the enthusiastic teen from engaging in life. She had good friends and parents who didn’t let her feel sorry for herself.

She went to college and became an English teacher. “It was never expected that I would not continue living fully.”

Not until her forties did she realize something had been missing in her life.

Rose’s younger sister was an avid birdwatcher and suggested the hobby to her retired big sister. So binoculars in hand, Virginia headed outside her Austin, Texas home. It changed her life.

“I’d never experienced that kind of happiness before. Birding has provided me a way to be outside.”

She felt empowered using her manual wheelchair to explore parks she never knew about, getting exercise and peace of mind.

“I found my best self in nature.”

Looking skyward and into the treetops, she began identifying birds and their intricate songs from guidebooks and online apps.

“I was so satisfied spending three and four hours birding every time I went out. It really forces you to be in the present,” Rose said. “I feel like for years prior I was always looking elsewhere for that happiness in other people but not nature.”

She got involved in her local Audubon Society in Travis County, Texas. She took birding classes, joined them on outings, discovering she was the only one in a wheelchair. She’d call the team leaders the night before outings to anticipate any terrain challenges. Rose thrived, becoming a master birder by completing a rigorous course in bird identification, ecology and conservation– and leading outings herself.

Rose began thinking about mobility-challenged people who weren’t getting outside and into nature. About 30 million adults in the US — that’s one in seven — have mobility challenges serious enough to impact major life activities.

“I wanted them to have the same joy and the same empowerment that I had.”

But negotiating the outdoors can be challenging. Rose has 48 years of experience in a manual wheelchair and even she’s had obstacles birding. “Sand is impossible. Gravel is impossible. We’re talking about slopes and grades that a walking person may have no understanding of at all.”

In 2015, she began to rate local trails for Travis Audubon. “I was able to identify about 30 accessible trails and if not the entire trails, then portions that we could do.”

Rose presented her findings during a National Audubon Society convention. Some map designers in the audience approached her after her presentation.

Together they developed an interactive map where anyone can use a survey to rate their local trails, parks or birding patches. The survey gives multiple access considerations, including parking and bathrooms, slopes, gates and ground cover.

Once a site is submitted, that site location is pinned to the map for all to see. The considerations have expanded to include those who are blind or have low vision or those who are deaf or hard of hearing– even those Rose described as having “grumpy knees” who are looking for a “gentler birding experience.”

She founded the nonprofit group “Birdability” with the mission, Rose said, “to help everybody who has access limitations be able to enjoy birding.”

So far, the group has mapped out over 500 birding sites along with their accessibility scores, across the country and a few internationally.

Anyone can participate in Birdability and even become Birdability captains. They hold meetings to stay on mission and have fun.

“We have almost 40 and the captains just go crazy talking to each other. These are people they’ve never otherwise seen. I feel like I’ve just become part of a new important community.”

On a recent outing near Austin, Rose pointed at a flock of gulls that had filled the sky with their bleating. She cried out as she counted them “10, 20, 30, 40! Look they’re swinging back around.” Her joy was palpable.

“Every single time you go birding there is something you would never have thought you would see,” said Rose. “I think it’s really important to have a mystery to look forward to every day.”

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American Humane Reunites Best Friends

American Humane Reunites Best Friends

Military Dog Handlers Reunite with and Adopt Their Former Canine Partners After Pups Retire

By Kelli Bender / PEOPLE 

American Humane reunited both Army Veteran Michael Stepnovich and U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Wade Alfson with the military dogs they worked with overseas. Not only did each man get a hug from their canine partner again, Stepnovich and Ssgt. Alfson both adopted their former patrol pals since the dogs are retired from active duty.

Ssgt. Alfson was the first to see his old friend again, reuniting with Xxanthe, the Belgian Malinois, after a year apart in Honolulu, Hawaii — where Ssgt. Alfson is currently stationed — on May 5. The pair served together for 18 months, including two tours in the Middle East on classified missions, where the duo worked to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Now, Ssgt. Alfson is thrilled to have the opportunity to adopt Xxanthe, his best friend, and give her a comfort-filled, love-filled life.

Along with Ssgt. Alfson, Xxanthe will be sharing her life with Kyra, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois that Ssgt. Alfson adopted after the dog failed out of military training because she was too startled by loud noises.

“Now that she’s retired, I mean, what a place to be retired into!” Ssgt. Alfson said of Xxanthe’s new Hawaiian home. “Just the beaches in Hawaii. I live two minutes from the beach, so Xxanthe, me, and my other dog will just take trips to the beach, hang out, just vibe in Hawaii.”

In May (2021), Stepnovich reunited with Popeye the military dog. The two served together for 18 months in South Korea. The partners put in 2,000 hours doing patrol missions but went the past five months without seeing each other before meeting again in Las Vegas.

“It was a lot of emotion. He looks amazing. It was a really emotional moment for me. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s only been a few months for us, which is lucky, but it feels like it was a very long time,” Stepnovich said of the reunion. “I was just overwhelmed with joy to see him again.”

It is clear that Popeye missed Stepnovich. The 7-year-old German shepherd started showing signs of severe separation anxiety and was taken off duty after he and Stepnovich originally parted. The military retired Popeye early, allowing Stepnovich to adopt the dog. Stepnovich is looking forward to caring for Popeye and hopes to work with dogs in the future as a trainer or handler.

“Having him back in my life is going to be absolutely amazing. I’m so excited to just show him the area and take him on my adventures because I like to get out and do stuff here in Vegas,” Stepnovich shared.

American Humane, the country’s first and largest humane organization, made these reunions possible through its military program dedicated to protecting the dogs that serve the United States. One way the organization cares for military canines is by placing the pooches with their former handlers once they retire. The bond between dog and handler is often unbreakable, and both humans and canines benefit from getting the chance to enjoy their friendships in everyday life.

It is common for military dog handlers and their pups to get separated or reassigned, making it hard for handlers to keep track of their canine partners. American Humane helps military dog handlers find their former partners and adopt them when they retire, guiding the handlers through the complicated and daunting process of transporting the pooch to their home. The organization also helps cover post-retirement medical care for the canines and travel expenses.

“American Humane is thrilled to bring these heroic military dogs home to reunite with their best friends. Xxanthe and Popeye bravely served our country, and we are honored to give them the beautiful retirements they deserve. As we observe the upcoming Memorial Day and May’s Military Appreciation Month, American Humane encourages everyone to celebrate the incredible military heroes on both ends of the leash,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, the CEO of American Humane, said in a statement.

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