Good morning friends! I had only begun this post when the news flash came across my screen that FBI Director James Comey had been fired, making it a bit tough to concentrate on good deeds. But ever mindful that readers of this blog look forward to this Wednesday morning feature, I soon came back to it and am pleased to have a couple of people that I think you will tip your hats to after you read their stories. The first was a carryover from last week when I ran short of time and space on my “pay it forward” piece.
Her name is Jessica Mayfield, and she used to be a nurse. To many, she is now a saviour, an angel. In 2014, Ms. Mayfield was serving as a nurse on a missionary trip to Tanzania. While playing basketball with some local boys, she had an epiphany that she was meant to be more, to do more, and when she returned to her home city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she quit her job as a nurse and got down to business helping people. Jessica started a non-profit called Neigh’tions, focused on helping refugees fleeing persecution.
At the time Jessica started Neigh’tions, there were 86 refugees living in Chattanooga, and she came to think of them all as family, and vice versa. A young man named Adam was one of the first refugees she helped. “Sometimes she’s like my mom, sometimes she’s like my sister, a friend, she means a lot to me.”
“There’s a lot of prejudice in our area, and just in our culture and fear, and so a lot of what God has called me to do, is to break some of those barriers and walls to educate people on the reality of the challenges they face,” said Ms. Mayfield. Still not convinced she was doing all she could, she recently went to Iraq, where she served as an emergency nurse in a makeshift hospital in Mosul. She says more than 30,000 people are waiting for a home.
Neigh’tions helps refugees in a number of ways, including English classes, and matching up local citizens with families in need of a mentor during their transition to society in their new country. While so many are advocating for banning and deporting refugees, it warms the heart to know there are people like Jessica Mayfield who just want to help them find their way in the world.
Last week, Jessica became a Pay It Forward prize recipient and won $500. Asked what she would do with the money, she replied, “Oh! there’s been a program that’s been on my heart for the last few months, developing a program for women and children, specifically to address trauma,” said Mayfield. Not a new sweater or pair of boots, not a new Cuisinart blender nor a trip to a spa … something to help others. Small things, helping just a few people at a time, but they add up and Ms. Mayfield is definitely leaving her mark in the world.
The preceding story was about one person helping many. The next story is about many people … 700, in fact … helping to save … a river!
For decades the Kuttemperoor river in Alappuzha, India, slowly choked under the weight of rampant illegal sand mining and construction sites that dumped tons of sewage on its once-pristine banks. Fish and aquatic life were completely wiped out.
Kuttemperoor is a small tributary that connects the Pambha and Achankoil rivers but is crucial for the villagers in this region where water sources are increasingly polluted. “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong,” said Budhanoor panchayat president P Viswambhara Panicker.
Tired of waiting for the government to act, and suffering from a drought, the villagers took matters into their own hands. They first removed weeds and then plastic that was lodged solidly in the river bed. The next step was to dredge the water of pollutants and other debris dumped over the years. Many of the workers were women, a number of who fell ill with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. “I was down with dengue for two weeks but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” said P Geetha, one of the villagers.
It took them 70 days of back-breaking labour, but finally the water flow has returned and the people’s wells are once again full. The river now brims with water, the stench is gone and children are playing on its green banks once more.
But a bigger challenge awaits: To fight off the sand mafia and encroachers and ensure the river doesn’t turn into a sewer again. But for now, their herculean effort has catapulted the sleepy village to the headlines. With climate change and environmental issues being so important to the future of our planet, it is wonderful to see a small group of people who are willing to take control of their environment, roll up their sleeves, and just do what needs to be done. Two thumbs up to these villagers!
That’s all I’ve got for today, folks. Sorry, but I’m still battling tiredness, so I am going to take Doc Gronda’s advice now. Just remember … we may not always see them on the news, their good works may be overshadowed by politics and incidences of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man, but they are out there … those good people doing good things!