The week's good news: March 23, 2017
It wasn't all bad!
This 8-year-old's class assignment is now a bestselling picture book
When her first grade teacher told the class to write about something they were experts on, Nia Mya Reese didn't take long to come up with a topic: Being able to handle her 5-year-old brother, Ronald Michael. That assignment turned into a book, published last November: How to Deal With and Care for Your Annoying Little Brother. Already, it's a bestseller, ranked No. 1 on Amazon's Sibling Relationships list. "It's kind of surreal," the Alabama resident's mother, Cherinita Reese, told AL.com. "I think the best way to explain it is, you know you're supposed to be walking on this path, and then it happens." Now 8 years old and in the second grade, Nia Mya is unfazed by her newfound fame. "I just feel normal," she said.
This California man does homeless people's laundry for free
One Apple engineer is using his own ingenuity to help Santa Cruz's homeless population. Ron Powers spends his evenings and weekends driving around in his mobile laundromat, a van that he outfitted with two washers and two dryers, offering to do strangers' laundry for free. For many people on the streets, Powers' "Loads of Love" initiative is a blessing. Homeless individuals, he says, often throw away socks and other clothes when they get dirty because they can't afford to pay for laundry and buy food. "I want to restore dignity to people," says Powers. "I want to improve health."
Middle school security guard spends his free time teaching kids about music
During the day, Marvin Hatchett is a security guard at Wilson Middle School in Pasadena, California, but once the bell rings, he becomes the volunteer music teacher. The school does not have enough money for a performing arts department, and since 1983, Hatchett has taught students everything from the drums to the violin. Many of the students can't afford to purchase their own instruments, and when he's able to secure funds, Hatchett buys them for the kids. "Everything that involves drums, Marvin has taught me," student Dillon Akers told NBC Los Angeles. "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be doing this right now." Some of his former students have gone on to become professional musicians, and "that's what gets you to keep going, and that's what makes you say, 'I got to do it again,'" Hatchett said.
After losing his parents, boy makes it his mission to cheer up strangers
When Jaden Hayes was 4, his father died, and soon after his mother also passed away, unexpectedly, in her sleep. Understandably, Hayes was surrounded by upset relatives and friends, and while trying to cope with his own grief, he decided he wanted to cheer people up. Hayes asked his temporary guardian to purchase small toys they could pass out in downtown Savannah, Georgia. "I'm trying to make people smile," he told CBS News' Steve Hartman at the time. Hartman recently reconnected with Hayes, now living in Winterville, Georgia, with his aunt and uncle. Two years ago, Hayes set the goal of making 33,000 people happy, and after taking a break, he told Hartman he's ready to pick it back up again. He's also looking ahead to the future — Hayes has set his sights on becoming a "famous basketball player and a famous baseball player."
American rescue dogs are helping fight poaching in Africa
It's a long way from Nevada to Zambia's North Luangwa National Park, and Vicka, a high-energy black dog who was abandoned at an Elko animal shelter in 2015, is enjoying her new life helping park rangers catch poachers. Vicka is one of five rescue dogs trained by the Working Dogs for Conservation organization to assist rangers protecting elephants, leopards, rhinos, and pangolin. The dogs are taught to sniff out hidden weapons, ammunition, and harvested animals, and they're responsible for rangers making dozens of arrests and finding contraband like ivory tusks and bush meat. Vicka started off strong — on her first day at work, she discovered 10 guns that would have been used to shoot elephants. The dogs are considered 40 times more effective than trail cameras, and the handlers say searches that used to take them all night now only take about 20 minutes, thanks to their four-legged assistants.