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News getting you down? Here are some reasons to be cheerful

An uncertain winter approaches. We’re promised economic gloom, job losses loom and a second round of Covid that nobody ordered is taking grip – but there is still hope shining in dark times

Since the pandemic began, we’ve hailed the Covid Crusaders, the thousands of people across the UK who, driven by kindness and solidarity, bring practical, positive change to their local communities and the wider world. They prove that there is always joy to be found if you know where to look.

So here we share a few good reasons to remember: it’s not all bad.

Sing when you’re isolating

singing for fun choir, wilmslow guild

When lockdown put an end to the Singing For Fun choirs run by Wilmslow Guild getting together, conductor Taylor Giacoma was determined to keep the sessions going. She moved choir practice onto Zoom.

With no audition necessary and no criteria other than a desire to belt out a tune or two, the daytime classes have been a huge hit among retired people and those aged 65+. Each week the choral crew meets virtually to sing together. 

It’s been the most wonderful adventure, and I’ve seen kindness that only such an extraordinary set of events could create,” Giacoma told The Big Issue. “It has been an important source of connection throughout the pandemic. The benefit of continuing practice, however we have to do it, is that we’re not alone.”

Man’s best friend is a Covid champion

covid sniffer dogs
Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

The UK’s Covid-19 testing systems have been plagued with problems – but it would seem we can rely on man’s best friend to get the job done. Scientists in Finland have found that sniffer dogs can detect the virus within ten seconds and with nearly 100 per cent accuracy, even before a person becomes symptomatic.

Four smart-nosed pooches will spend four months hard at work in a trial at Helsinki airport providing cheaper and faster testing. Anyone the dogs indicate is carrying the virus is tested by nasal swab to verify, meaning a potential infection is identified in the space of less than a minute.

Nice guys don’t finish last after all


There’s now statistical evidence that lockdown, a period of forced reflection, pushed many of us to shake off old grudges.

The Global Forgiveness Initiative, a charity helping people learn to forgive effectively, has seen demand for its resources soar to 250,000 people per month. That’s over ten times more than last year.

It’s a good thing too because new research shows that it quite literally pays to be nice. Forget running ruthless to get ahead at work – there’s no evidence to suggest aggressive or deceitful tactics will bring you any more power than being generous and trustworthy in the workplace, according to a study by the US National Academy of Sciences.

You’re as young as you feel

With families separated under Covid-19 restrictions, the loss of precious time with loved ones is a growing concern. But there’s good news: older people are getting younger.

Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä found that men and women aged between 75 and 80 were mentally and physically better off than people of the same age in 1990. Between muscle strength, working memory and walking speed, the older population is fitter than ever. Scientists say it’s down to better nutrition, hygiene, health care and education, plus having enjoyed greater work-life balance than their counterparts from three decades ago.

Revolution’s on the cards

super sapiens

Alexa Virdi was fed up with her daughter being bombarded with unrepresentative toys which only depicted white people. Together with husband Arhat, she created Super Sapiens – a game made up of 54 cards which show children the role inspiring women from around the world played in history.

The game comes with a world map showing where the women – from Ellen Ochoa, the first Mexican-American woman to fly in space, to pioneering slavery abolitionist Mary Prince – come from, plus blank cards that kids can personalise to feature the heroes in their own lives.

Now, after receiving a grant from the University of Oxford, the pair are getting Super Sapiens into local schools.

“The response has been great from both parents and educators,” Virdi told The Big Issue. “Teachers are really loving the free school resources which help to decolonise the curriculum, and a number of sustainable online retailers have also placed large orders.

It’s important to have an age appropriate fun way to show kids that we are all part of the same human race and also be able to explore issues such as white supremacy and gender inequality.”

Premiere league

This year’s Homeless World Cup (HWC) was cancelled but that doesn’t mean football isn’t still changing lives. Last month saw the premiere of Street Leagues, a film following the Irish team’s journey through the tournament in 2017. As well as giving audiences insight into football’s impact on the marginalised people called up to represent their country, the documentary features an interview with team ambassador Colin Farrell and the inspiring stories of people who found hope after life on the streets.

These are just some of examples of the good that’s there to be found in the world. Got your own? Email, and pick up a copy of this week’s Big Issue magazine for pages of pick-me-ups.