If there’s one thing we know in this age of uncertainty, it’s that a little good can go a long, long way. While undoubtedly 2016 has been a difficult year, there are so many people out there making the world a better place – and changing the lives of those around them. From saving lives, to inventing gadgets that are transforming the way we think about the world - here’s just a few of 2016’s unsung heroes…
Standing up for the homeless - Joshua Browder
You might think that being an undergraduate at California’s prestigious Stanford University, would be enough to keep Joshua Browder busy. The British student, however, has still found time to continue developing Do Not Pay a virtual robot lawyer that he initially created to challenge parking tickets. Now, the teen is harnessing the technology to generate free legal letters to help the homeless and refugees in the UK to fight housing evictions and repossessions and claim housing benefit. The ‘bot’ uses the answers to a series of questions to create a personalised letter designed to put forward the strongest case for the sender.
Rallying the community - Helen Lineham
Appalled at the news that an Eastern European food store in Norwich was badly damaged by vandalism and arson whilst the owner and her daughter slept upstairs, local woman Helen Lineham opened a Just Giving page to help the store owner rebuild her business.
She ended up raising over £30,000 - 6000% more than her target. Delighted with the outpouring of kindness in the face of this appalling crime, the shopkeeper has only taken what she needs for the repairs and the additional money is being donated to charity.
Life saver - Billy Miles
Driving through south London in torrential rain, builder Billy Miles saw flash flood waters had pooled under a bridge and he was alarmed to discover a man trapped in his Mercedes there. He hurriedly parked his car and as the water began to lap at the car windows, he looked around for something with which to break the window. As there was a brick missing from the bridge he was able to wobble another brick off. The first attempt didn’t break the window, but the second one did and the man was able to climb out to safety. If Billy had seen the incident just thirty seconds later he may well have been too late to save the man, as by this time the car was completely submerged.
Crime stopper - Antonio Cortes
Charity worker Antonio Cortes was enjoying a pub breakfast in Gloucester when he heard screaming. Running outside he saw a man strangling a woman and attempting to rob her at a cashpoint. The man fled, but Antonio, who was fittingly dressed as Superman at the time, gave chase, caught up with the crook, wrestled him to the ground and held him there until police arrived.
The victim was treated for neck injuries. Antonio who was raising money for the Give A Smile social enterprise felt like a real-life superhero.
Altruistic inventor - Aidan McCann
After noticing how his 75-year-old grandmother Lydia struggled to reach down and get her groceries in and out of a shopping trolley, Scottish schoolboy Aidan McCann set to work designing a mechanised, height-adjustable shopping trolley. His ‘Trolley for the Elderly’ design has now won the top prize at the 2015 Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Awards and Aidan is now working with students from the University of Strathclyde to turn his vision into reality.