It wasn't all bad...

The week's good news: April 30, 2020

Catherine Garcia
Birthday cards.
REUTERS/Matthew Childs

1.

WWII vet who raised millions for health-care workers receives 140,000 birthday cards

Capt. Tom Moore, the British World War II veteran who raised more than $36 million for the United Kingdom's National Health Service, is being celebrated by people around the world, with more than 140,000 well-wishers — including Queen Elizabeth — sending him cards for his 100th birthday on Thursday. The Bedfordshire resident raised the money by walking 100 laps around his backyard ahead of his 100th birthday. His story went viral, and donors around the world gave to his cause. People were so touched by his generosity that they started sending him birthday cards, and there are so many that they have to be stored at his grandson's school. Moore is also being honored by the Royal Mail, with all letters sent this week marked with a stamp commemorating his birthday, and he has been made an honorary colonel. Moore told BBC News it feels "extraordinary" to be turning 100, especially with "this many well-wishers." [BBC News]

2.

Tree-planting program in Pakistan benefits out-of-work laborers and the environment

Thousands of laborers in Pakistan who were out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic are being hired by the government to plant millions of trees across the country. Two years ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami program, with the goal of planting that many trees over the course of five years to counter extreme weather linked to climate change. The program was paused when the country went on lockdown late last month, but it was restarted in order to create more than 63,600 jobs for people unemployed due to the pandemic, Reuters reports. Workers are maintaining social distancing and wearing masks as they plant saplings, serve as forest firefighters, and set up nurseries. The program aims to plant 50 million trees this year. "All of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families," construction worker Abdul Rahman told Reuters. [Reuters]

3.

Amid pandemic, California neighbors discover they are long-lost cousins

For years, Erik Strom and his family wondered about the small island their ancestors once lived on in Norway, unable to find this mysterious Newton Island on a map. The island is actually called Njoten, something Strom learned when Kjetil Njoten and his wife, Zoe Njoten, moved in a few doors down from his house in Los Angeles County. Kjetil grew up on Njoten Island, home to just a few dozen residents. In English, Njoten is often pronounced as "Newton," and when Kjetil shared this with his neighbor, they joked about the possibility of being related. Both men asked their mothers to look in family history books for clues, and they soon learned that they had the same great-great-grandfather. Strom told CNN his relatives can't wait to meet their new cousin, and his wife, Jen, is practicing cooking Norwegian dishes until they can have a "huge family meal together." [CNN]

4.

Alaskan city launches joke hotline so people can start their day with laughter

The city of Juneau, Alaska, hopes its new joke hotline will bring some levity during the coronavirus pandemic. Every morning by 10 a.m., one of three volunteers — two high school girls and a retired man — records a "good, clean, corny" joke for the hotline, recreation planner Dawn Welch told the Anchorage Daily News. Prior to the pandemic, people could call 907-586-0428 to get an update on the city's hiking program, but with that on hold for now, the line was free. "We thought, 'This is a perfect time to do this,'" Welch said. The hotline launched last week, and so many people tried to call that on the second day, it broke down. The city worked quickly to get it back up and running, because "people just need a laugh," Welch said. [The Anchorage Daily News]

5.

Oregon teen creates clear face masks to help the hearing-impaired

Eric Kim wants to make sure people who are hearing-impaired can communicate safely. A high school junior living in Oregon, Kim lost the hearing in his left ear a few years ago. He had been volunteering at a school for hearing-impaired children, and "wondered how these kids there would even be able to get masks and communicate so they could live life normally" amid the coronavirus pandemic, he told The Oregonian. Despite never sewing before, Kim decided to make clear masks to help people read lips and see facial expressions. His mom helped at first, and "it took a lot of mistakes with the materials before I got used to it," he said. It takes between three and four hours to make each one, but "as long as people keep requesting, I'll be making masks whenever I have time," he said. The masks are free, and Kim will send them anywhere. [The Oregonian]