Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems these days. Whether it’s the devastation in Nepal, refugees perishing at sea in Europe or despair and anger in major cities here at home, many of today’s news stories can leave one feeling powerless and without hope. Yet every week, other stories cross my desk as well — stories about individuals who take it upon themselves to change the world.
For example, Venetian gondoliers Alessandro Dalla Pieta and Enrico Greifenberg got tired of having to say no to wheelchair-bound tourists who wanted to ride in a gondola, so they founded Gondolas4All. With the help of a local engineer, the organization invented a sturdy gondola capable of taking on wheelchairs, as well as a lift system that easily puts the wheelchair onboard the boat. Now they are using crowdfunding to help build a new pier that will finally enable all visitors to have that quintessential Venetian experience.
Or there’s the story of Harsha Chanrai and Felix Tabary, former students of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, whose business plan won a 2014 student competition. Their company, Saira, aims to provide hospitality training and placement for at-risk youth. Saira is launching a pilot training program this summer by selecting six students from Los Angeles or New York City to do a short internship in the U.S. before participating in a longer internship in Panama.
These are just two stories of everyday people — from very different parts of the world — who refused to be discouraged by the scale of the problems we face. As people whose business it is to be aware of today’s global issues, we can’t turn our backs on the communities that need our help. Plus, doing something positive is a great remedy to feeling helpless.