We’ve all faced challenges this year – whether that be physically, emotionally, financially or socially. And while it might be a while before we return to pre-pandemic life – in the meantime, we feel that we could all use some reasons to smile.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of 14 positive things that happened around the world in 2020, that will hopefully make your day feel a little brighter. Let us know what your favourites are in the comments below!
1. A 103-year-old beat coronavirus and celebrated with a bud light
Jennie Stejna, from Massachusetts, USA, was the first person in her nursing home to test positive for coronavirus. The 103-year-old grandmother battled the virus for 20 days, while her family prepared for the worst. But she pulled through, and was eventually declared virus-free on 13th May. She celebrated in her hospital bed, with an ice cold Bud Light!
Her grandson, David Stenja, told the New York Post: “She put it to her lips and said, ‘Ooh, that’s cold. It’s good when it’s cold.”
2. A cat missing for three years was reunited with its owner
Cat owners Keith Bigland and his wife Su, were saddened when their cat Biscuit, ran away from their family home in Cambridgeshire three years ago. CCTV footage showed Biscuit escaping the house at 04:00 GMT on 1 December 2017.
Keith, who spent many months frantically searching for his furry companion, told the BBC, “I had hope at first, for months afterwards I was calling his name around every corner. Biscuit is the last link I have left to my mother.”
Then in October of this year, Keith and Su were in disbelief when a local vet called them to say Biscuit (now 14 years old) had been found. Although Biscuit was not in the best condition health-wise when Keith and Su arrived to collect him, he recognised them straight away, and hasn’t stopped purring ever since!
3. Africa was declared free of wild polio
Polio is most common in children under the age five, and can sometimes lead to irreversible paralysis, or death when breathing muscles are affected. There are three types of the virus, two of which have already been eradicated worldwide. But in August this year, the independent body Africa Regional Certification Commission, declared Africa free from the last remaining strain of the wild poliovirus – with more than 95% of its population now immunised. There is still no cure for wild polio, but the vaccine protects children for life.
Nigeria was the final African country to be declared free from the virus, after accounting for more than half of all global cases over a decade ago.
4. A squirrel mastered a ninja warrior obstacle course
During lockdown, YouTuber Mark Rober, put a bird feeder in his garden to attract some more wildlife. However, he quickly realised that the squirrels were just as keen to get some seeds and nuts. They were also very clever about how they did this!
To try and give the birds in the garden a fighting chance at getting their share of food, Mark constructed what he calls a “Ninja Warrior” course for squirrels – where the nuts were the tasty treat at the end. He took inspiration for the TV game show, and included a rope bridge, maze and ‘the quad steps of great elevation’. Four squirrels attempted the assault course and Mark gave each of them a name – Rick, Marty, Frank and Phat Gus!
5. Nature is on the mend
While the world went into lockdown this year, the environment got a well-needed breather. Since we’ve stayed at home more and commuted less, pollution levels have dropped significantly – with NASA recording the lowest pollution levels in India for 20 years. New York also says that it’s carbon monoxide levels produced by cars have reduced by 50%, and China and Italy have reported significant improvements too.
Other notable changes since the start of the year, include:
- Venice’s famous canals which were once murky grey, are now crystal clear because the sediment is still. Many fish, swans and seabirds have reentered the canals as a result.
- Cows have been reintroduced to The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, in a bid to help revive wildlife – and they can now enjoy their surroundings in peace.
- People have been taking less flights, giving the planet a chance to breathe. Previous studies have found that airplane travel contributes up to 5% of global warming.
6. One of the world’s tiniest babies beats the odds
Diana Peguero was born at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital at 22 weeks old, weighing just 12 ounces! Doctors say that Diana is the tiniest baby to ever survive at the hospital.
The baby’s mother, Jomary Tavarez, was just 20 weeks pregnant when she went for a routine checkup – only to be told that she was already starting to dilate. She was admitted to hospital and placed on bed rest, and had to stay in the hospital alone, due to coronavirus restrictions. Then, on Mother’s Day morning she went into labour, and gave birth to Diana – who was just nine inches long. Jomary told the Orlando Sentinel, that Diana was “the smallest human she had ever seen.”
Doctors predicted that Diana wouldn’t live longer than two weeks, but six months on, she now weighs seven pounds, is 19 inches long, and is at home with her family. Diana has now been added to the University of Iowa’s Tiniest Baby Registry, which is currently a group of 10 babies recognized as the smallest and youngest to survive childbirth.
7. Blind cat gets a second chance as a therapy animal
Chrissy Santoro has always helped cats in need, but when she started fostering Tommy – a cat with no eyes – it changed her life forever. As a regular organiser of charity fundraisers, Chrissy took Tommy along with her one day to a “makeshift kissing booth” that she had organised. Chrissy said that it was amazing how many people came up to him and would want to kiss him! After seeing how friendly he was and how much people loved him, Chrissy registered Tommy as a therapy animal, and he now visits his local hospital to cheer on healthcare workers.
In a video produced by AnimalKind, Chrissy says, “Knowing that he’s going to make someone’s day, and improve someone’s day, it makes me beam with pride. When you see the look on other people’s faces, or you see how they respond to him, I can’t even really describe the pride and the joy I have in that.”
8. The second person in the world was cured of HIV
In March this year, it was announced that a 40-year-old man from London has become the second person in the world to become cured of HIV. Adam Castillejo has been clear of the virus for more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy. It was not the HIV drugs that cured him, but a stem cell transplant that he received after a cancer diagnosis. Present in the stem cells is an unusual gene that protects against HIV.
The first patient to be cured of HIV was a man from Berlin who – it was revealed in 2011 – had a similar treatment.
9. Britain’s loneliest dog found a home
A border collie named Bess was given the title of Britain’s loneliest dog after spending 10 years at Last Chance Animal Rescue in Edenbridge, Kent. She was taken in when she was very young after being hit by a car- as her owners were no longer able to provide the care she needed. The accident left Bess with injury to her neck, which remains sensitive even 10 years on, and has made her wary of other dogs or people touching her in that area.
After spending a decade at the shelter, staff launched an appeal to find Bess a living home, where she could live out her final years. Then earlier this year, after several meetings, Bess secured a home with a new family on the South Coast.
Centre Manager, Jenny Mansfield, told the Metro: “‘Bess is not the easiest of dogs and is very set in her ways, hence the amount of time she has been with us, so we still have all fingers crossed that this will be her forever home, so say a prayer. It was very emotional for everyone as she set off to her new life, but also very rewarding, as a loving home is what we want for all our dogs, and finally we have one for our Bess.”
10. Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalise same-sex marriage
On the 26th May 2020, Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya became the first same-sex couple to marry in Costa Rica, after same-sex marriage finally became legal in the country. Costa Rica have now joined 28 other countries across the globe, who are providing access to marriage for same-sex couples.
Earlier in May, more than 20 lawmakers had tried to delay the change by 18 months, but this failed and the ban was lifted as planned.
11. A bird fossil dating back more than 66 million years ago was discovered and nicknamed “wonderchicken”
This year, the fossil of a bird which was believed to walk (or fly!) the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs has been identified. Twenty years ago, amateur fossil hunter Maarten van Dinther discovered a block of rock in a limestone quarry near the Belgian-Dutch border – but he didn’t know that it contained a complete skull from the oldest direct relative of modern birds that has ever been discovered, until this year. It’s thought that the fossil of the bird, which has since been affectionately nicknamed “wonderchicken” lived, 66.7 million years ago, at the same time as the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The bird, which was officially named ‘Asteriornis’ in a paper published in Nature, is thought to be related to ducks and chickens, as it has similar features. Scientists predict that the bird had long limbs, could probably fly and was most likely found on the beaches of late Cretaceous Europe.
Experts are particularly excited about this new discovery as it provides insight into a chapter of avian evolution that we currently know very little about.
12. Our NHS did (and continues to do) an amazing job of looking after us
The pandemic is a situation unlike any that any of us have faced before, and it has come with many challenges. However, our NHS has done an outstanding job at looking after us, and helping to keep us safe. No matter how bad things got, their doors have always remained open, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
The country has also come together to try and support the NHS in the ways that it could. Sir Captain Tom Moore, who was 99 at the time, walked 100 laps of his garden to raise a staggering £33m for the NHS. Seventy-three-year-old Rajinder Singh also took up a skipping challenge, and raised £13,000 in the process. These are just some of the many amazing fundraising challenges that have gone on over the last few months.
13. First cheetah cubs were born through IVF
On February 19th, 2020, two cheetah cubs were born to a surrogate mother, as a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF). So far, IVF has been difficult to achieve in big cats, with the last reported success being in 1990, when three tiger cubs were born at a zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. The births, which took place at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, USA, were a sign of hope that IVF could help to repopulate cheetahs, increase their genetic diversity, and save them from becoming extinct.
The news comes after a 2017 assessment of cheetah populations in Southern Africa, left scientists calling for cheetah status to be upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered” – as it’s believed that just 3,577 existed in this extensive area. Today, it is believed there are only around 7000 cheetahs left in the wild, with only 5% of cubs surviving into adulthood – but this recent news provides hope that this could be set to change.
14. A puppy for stealing his owners dentures becomes an internet sensation
This naughty puppy decided to steal his owner’s dentures one day, leaving her in stitches of laughter. It’s almost impossible not to smile while watching this video!