Man in the forest hiking and exploring wild remote areas

10 Incredible and Heart-Warming Stories from 2021

31st December 2021

2021 hasn’t been the easiest year, but even when times are hard, there are always things that come along to lift our moods and remind us of the important things in life.

We hope that our final blog of the year finds you in higher spirits than you were at the end of 2020 after Christmas was cancelled at the last minute, but if you could still use a boost, then we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most positive events and stories of the last 12 months.

Just look at what we can do!

1. Vaccination Success

For all the trials and tribulations of 2021, one thing we can be proud of is the overall resounding success of our vaccination programme, with over 45 million people – that’s over two thirds of the UK population – now fully vaccinated.

Boosters are on the rise, with younger age groups being called forwards earlier to help battle the rise of the Omicron variant. They say it takes a village, and our NHS has demonstrated a fantastic sense duty to our fellow citizens over the last year.

2. Strangers Send Christmas Cards to Leeds Grandmother

Christmas truly is the time for giving, and a Yorkshire grandmother has had her Christmas made after receiving hundreds of cards this year.  

The cards came after an appeal was posted online by Margaret Pattison’s granddaughter Jenny, who had noticed how down hearted her grandmother had become now that the friends who would always send her Christmas cards had passed away.

There are fewer Christmas cards sold each year – the rising cost of postage coupled with different methods of communication means that this beloved festive tradition is becoming lost amongst younger generations.

However, the internet came through for the 89-year-old, who has since received hundreds of cards from well-wishers all over the world – including a card from Australia which depicted Santa in shorts.

3. Woman Reunited with Lost Wedding Ring

More than half a century ago, Peggy MacSween lost her wedding ring while out picking potatoes near her home in Scotland. After looking for it twice to no avail, Mrs MacSween gave it up for a lost cause. 

But when her neighbour, Donald MacPhee, heard the story, he made it his mission to locate the missing ring. After three days of searching with a metal detector, Mr MacPhee reunited her with the treasured possession she had believed to be lost forever.

Mrs MacSween lost her husband a few years ago, so being reunited with her wedding ring came as a moving surprise to her. And Mr MacPhee’s commitment to finding the ring is surely a testament to the power of friendly neighbours!

4. England Made it to the Euro 2020 Final

2021 brought with it the delayed UEFA Championship, postponed from the previous year due to Covid.  

The tournament united us as we excitedly threw our support behind our national teams. And while Italy was victorious in the end, England’s participation in the final was their first appearance in an international final since 1966.

5. China Declared Malaria Free

After a 70-year battle trying to rid their country of malaria, China went from 30 million cases to none. In June the World Health Organisation awarded China with a Malaria-free certification. 

It has been over thirty years since a country in the western pacific region has been awarded a Malaria-free certification, and China joins the likes of Australia and Singapore in its success. China is also only the 40th country in the world to be given Malaria free status, and their sustained, targeted effort to rid their nation of the virus marks a significant impact to human health across the world.

The country's continued campaign of easy to access medication and a concerted effort to minimise mosquito breeding grounds has finally paid off.

Malaria kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly children, but earlier this year Oxford University also developed a vaccine that reports 77% effectiveness after trials in Burkina Faso. Further trials of this vaccine will take place across four more African nations – the continent that is hardest hit by Malaria.

6. Bookshop Gives Back This Christmas

Thanks to the efforts of an east end bookshop, more than a hundred disadvantaged children in London will receive a present this Christmas. 

Booklover and manager of the independent Newham Bookshop was touched by the stories of underprivileged children in the borough without access to books, and made it her mission to distribute as many books as possible through local charities.

The ability to help so many children receive a literary gift this Christmas was made possible by a record £1000 donation the shop received, with the request that the funds go towards local causes.

7. Reddit Adopts 3500 Endangered Gorillas

Earlier this year you may recall the subreddit, r/wallstreetbets made headlines after Redditors took investments into their own hands. 

But what you may not know is that months on, many of these Reddit investors have used their profits for endangered species conservation, including the adoption of more that 3500 gorillas in just six days.

The actions of this maverick subreddit have brought attention to the conservation charity Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and has prompted others, outside the Reddit community to donate too!

The conservation of our natural world is increasingly important, as climate change and human interference drives more and more species to the brink of extinction. This makes that conservation charities and breeding programmes like Dian Fossey all the more essential.

8. Landowners Make Pact to Rewild

This year some of Britain’s biggest landowners have pledged to restore the woodlands on their estates. This means that thousands of acres of British land are now reserved for rewilding projects.

Rewilding is the conservation effort to restore and protect the natural wilderness, and often includes the reintroduction of species that have been driven from the area – usually through human encroachment on their habitats.

Estates that have committed to the project include The National Trust, National Parks England, and Duchy of Cornwall.

9. Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia

The conservation of endangered species is a noble goal, and for the first time in 3000 years, wild Tasmanian devils have been born on mainland Australia. You’re probably more familiar with this animal through association with the Looney Toons character Taz, but the resemblance isn’t actually all that canny. 

These carnivorous marsupials were once widespread across Australia, but the introduction of dingoes by early human settlers dramatically reduced the spread of the species. The future of the Tasmanian devil became uncertain, as disease whipped the population to near extinction. However, the reintroduction of wild devils to the Australian mainland marks a significant success in the conservation efforts of the charity Aussie Ark.

Aussie Ark also plan to reintroduce other endangered species to the Australian ecosystem, such as the brush-tail wallaby and the southern brown bandicoot, as reintroduction of animals to their natural habitats should be the ultimate goal of conservation programmes.

10. Italy’s Oldest Graduate

In a record-breaking achievement, 96 year old Giuseppe Paternò graduated with a first class honours in philosophy from the University of Palermo. Attending university was a lifelong dream for Mr Paternò, however war and poverty prevented him from doing so during his younger years.

Mr Paternò has said that “My neighbours used to ask, ‘Why all this trouble at your age?’ But they couldn’t understand the importance of reaching a dream, regardless of my age.” Even with the pandemic, Mr Paternò mastered the technology required to submit his assignments online, but dusted off his old typewriter to write his thesis.

This heart-warming story of determination and the drive to succeed proves you’re never too old to achieve your dreams, and Mr Paterno’s incredible achievement is reminiscent of ARU’s very own Tom Jenkins, who began studying with us at the age of 78.

In these uncertain times, we hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of ten positive news stories from 2021.

Warm wishes from us for 2022 – see you next year!

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