Five stories about people making the world a better place

From an antifascist granny, to a forest protector, to a former prisoner-turned-pastor, meet people pushing for change.

Five things for lockdown

All over the world, people are in lockdown as humanity faces a global threat from the coronavirus pandemic. But from wars to criminals to climate change, people have always faced immense challenges that have threatened communities’ ways of life. And as long as there have been challenges, there have been people rising up to meet them.

From our archives, here are the stories of some remarkable people who, in the face of fascism, corruption, crime and disaster, are pushing back against the odds to bring about positive change:

1. Germany’s Anti-Fascist Granny 

For more than 30 years, Irmela Mensah-Schramm has painted over neo-Nazi graffiti and propaganda in Germany. 

In her 70s, the retired teacher who lives in a flat in Berlin, is proud to have defaced more than 100,000 manifestations of far-right sentiment since she first began in 1986.

For more about this lifelong social activist and her fight against the far right, click here to listen to our episode of The Debrief podcast and read our article from 2017.

Irmela Mensah-Schramm Germany Antifa Patrick Strickland
Irmela Mensah-Schramm holds a map of all the places where she has defaced Nazi graffiti [Patrick Strickland/Al Jazeera]

2. Cambodia’s Forest-Protector

Cambodia has witnessed some of the most rapid deforestations in the world over the past decade. But a brave local activist is desperately trying to save some of the country’s last remaining forests.

Leng Ouch has infiltrated logging syndicates across the country and recorded reams of damning evidence using hidden cameras, drones, GPS trackers and informants.

Click here to read more about him in our interactive report, or watch our film Plundering Cambodia’s Forests.

Do not use: Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests
Activist Leng Ouch is working with a team to save Cambodia’s forests [David Boyle/Al Jazeera]

3. The ‘Super Mums’ of Sweden

In Stockholm, deaths linked to crime and gang violence have affected communities, including the neighbourhood of Rinkeby. Despite being one of Sweden’s most vulnerable areas, police presence is rare.

Disappointed by the lack of systems in place to help protect Rinkeby, a group of super mums – Somali mothers and grandmothers – have set up weekly night patrols to help prevent crime in the area.

Click to watch the film, The Mothers of Rinkeby: Last Night in Sweden.

What Rinkeby means to me - Iman patrols
Somali mothers routinely take to Rinkeby’s streets to help keep the peace [Al Jazeera]

4. Nigeria’s Prisoner-Turned-Pastor

Clinton Kanu was an ambitious, charismatic 27-year-old with a good job when he was arrested for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to death. Nearly 30 years later, he was exonerated and finally set free. 

Now 56 years old and a pastor, he is determined to work towards prison reform in Nigeria. He has big dreams to improve life for inmates, and to establish a nonprofit that will help people transition to life after incarceration.

Click here to read about Clinton’s journey.

Nigeria View From My Window - Clinton Kanu [Chika Oduah/Al Jazeera]
Clinton Kanu’s faith got him through his long years in prison [Chika Oduah/Al Jazeera] 

5. The Safe Haven for Refugees in Ecuador

Carmen Carcelen’s home in northern Ecuador has become a haven for thousands of people fleeing the most difficult conditions.

The 48-year-old mother-of-eight has been welcoming Venezuelans for the past two years, providing relief to migrants and refugees on their long, and increasingly-dangerous southward journey. She is also known for giving people hugs when they need it and rubbing their aching feet.

Click here to read Carmen’s story.

Carmen - Ecuador [Jonatan Rosas/Al Jazeera]
Carmen Carcelen works to help heal the blisters migrants get after walking several days [Jonatan Rosas/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera