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The Pope Opened A Free Laundromat For The Homeless In Rome

At a new laundromat in the center of Rome, no one needs quarters. The Pope Francis Laundry–opened by the Pope himself–is a place where homeless people and others struggling with extreme poverty can wash and dry a load of laundry for free.The laundry is meant to “restore dignity to so many people who are our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Konrad Krajewski said in a press release from the Vatican. “One of the greatest difficulties for those who live on the streets, along with that of finding food, a place to spend the night and public baths, is to wash and dry the clothes they wear, in many cases the only ones they own.”Inside a former hospital near the Vatican, run by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, the facility has six washers and six dryers donated by Whirpool, and a free supply of detergent from Procter  Gamble. A barbershop, showers, and health care facilities will be added on-site later.[Photo: Whirlpool Corporation EMEA]It might be the first laundromat opened by a pope, but it isn’t Pope Francis’s first effort to help the homeless. In 2014, for his 78th birthday, the pope handed out 400 sleeping bags, each emblazoned with the Vatican’s coat of arms, to homeless people in Rome. In 2015, he turned a space next to St. Peter’s Square into showers for the homeless and a barbershop that offers free haircuts and shaves on Mondays, and arranged for a homeless man to be buried in the Vatican. In 2016, at the canonization of Mother Teresa, the pope invited 1,500 homeless people to have seats of honor (and free pizza) at a luncheon.The new laundry is one of a handful of projects that try to address the challenge of clean clothes for homeless people. In the U.S., volunteers from an organization called Laundry Love partner with local laundromats to offer free services at certain hours to people in need. The project started after founders asked a homeless man what he needed, and he said, “If I had clean clothes I think people would treat me like a human being.”During a Laundry Love session, which typically lasts two to five hours, volunteers either pay for someone’s laundry or, in some cases, the laundromat offers the free use of a machine or two. Other laundromats donate the proceeds from particular machines to the nonprofit. While people wash and dry their clothes, volunteers get to know them, and also often offer services such as tutoring for children or assistance with a job search.“Dignity is built,” Laundry Love co-founder and national director Greg Russinger tells Fast Company. “Relationships are built…all you have is free time inside a laundromat.” (One of the organization’s supporters,  Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce, says she shared the idea with Pope Francis, which may have been part of the inspiration for the new Roman laundry).In Australia, a nonprofit called Orange Sky Laundry engineered a washer and dryer that can fit in the back of a van. Volunteers drive the vans–now a fleet of 11–on streets in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and other Australian cities, offering homeless people free loads of laundry.Still, it’s a basic necessity that many people struggle to afford–and may be even more difficult to access for people who are on the verge of homelessness or not yet connected with other homeless services. In the 14 years that Laundry Love has operated, it has seen clear evidence of the need: to date, the program has helped nearly 750,000 people do a million loads of laundry.“We have a large constituency of people who are going through the wringer,” says Russinger. “They’ve lost jobs, they’ve lost houses, they’re in their cars or low-income hotels, nobody knows about [their homelessness] because if they shared about that, they could lose whatever job they might have. There’s a large constituency of people . . . that most people don’t see and think about. That’s who we see.”Pope Francis’s new laundry might inspire others to also help. “I just appreciate the fact that he’s jumping on and recognizes that clean clothes matter to people, whoever they are, wherever they come from,” Russinger says. “I think it matters.”

Search for Haitian boy results in hundreds of children Rescued from human trafficking rings

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It was Super Bowl Sunday. Across America, people were having parties, eating hot wings and watching the big game.

Meanwhile, in Haiti, a group of Americans docked a yacht outside a small resort for what appeared to be a pre-game party on the beach. But their minds were not on football; they were on children.

Timothy Ballard and his team at Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking, worked undercover pretending to purchase young girls for sex. A Super Bowl party was the perfect disguise to lure in suspected human traffickers.

“They were so grotesque,” Ballard said, “talking about 10-year-old kids and what they were going to do; talking about them like they were selling computer parts.”

Ballard said the men sold him 20 minors as young as 11 years old and nine 18-year-olds — all of them trafficked for sex. “These kids were the subject of child pornography, videos that were being distributed outside of Haiti. Some of the kids had been branded as property,” he said.

When police arrived, they arrested nine men from three separate human trafficking rings and liberated 29 victims.

Ballard’s team has been conducting missions like this in Haiti for more than three years. They originally went to the country looking for Gardy Mardy, an American born in St. George, Utah, who was kidnapped outside an LDS church building in Haiti shortly before his third birthday.

OUR’s very first bust rescued 28 children from an illegal orphanage where kids were being sold. Ballard said he was humbled by Guesno Mardy’s reaction when he told him his son was not found in that initial attempt. He remembers the father saying, “If I have to lose my son so that your team could come and rescue these 28, that is a burden I am willing to bear.”

The search for Gardy led to more busts throughout Haiti and into the Dominican Republic. “We’ve rescued over 100 kids just on that island,” Ballard said, “and we’re on that island because of Gardy.”

Guesno Mardy is now a regular volunteer on the OUR team, serving as an interpreter and a liaison with Haitian police, but his satisfaction is bittersweet. He runs an orphanage in Haiti where some of the victims rescued by OUR now reside.

“When I think about it, myself caring for other people’s kids and knowing that my own child is at the hand of criminals, not being protected or loved, it is painful,” Guesno Mardy said. “But I understand it is part of my trial on this earth and I bear it.”

Guesno Mardy and his family have shed a lot of tears over the last seven years. Gardy would be 10 years old now.

“I’m just hoping and praying that we’ll find him alive, in whatever condition that might be at the moment. I’d be happy with that,” Guesno Mardy said.

With each bust OUR makes, Ballard remains optimistic they will find the first child they set out to save.

“We continue to look for Gardy. We’ll never stop,” Ballard promised. “What we’ve realized is the more that we look for this little boy, the more time we spend on this island, the more kids we end up rescuing.”

Since its inception a little over three years ago, OUR has rescued more than 600 victims in 15 different countries. Ballard said they’ve also helped police arrest about 280 traffickers and pedophiles.

Muslim driver delights Jewish passengers with ‘Passover bus’

A Muslim bus driver in Jerusalem decided to craft a holiday surprise for his ultra-Orthodox passengers and transformed his vehicle into a “Passover bus” with aluminum foil, flowers, and even a miniature Seder table.

Ihab drives his bus on the 77 line in Jerusalem, explained simply to Ynet, “I wanted to make my passengers happy so that we’ll feel love for at least one day, in the hope that it’ll stay forever.”

The passengers of Line 77 were greeted with flowers and balloons and a whole bus interior covered with aluminum foil. In the center of the vehicle was an improvised Seder table, and one of the passengers even found the Afikoman, receiving dinner for two as a prize.

Ihab didn’t really know how render a bus (or anything else) kosher for Passover. “I don’t really understand that, because I’m not from the Jewish sector,” he said. “But a guy who works with me, Nadav Azariah, helped organize the ‘Seder night’—he set the table and bought the groceries.

“I thought about what to do. I bought flowers, I bought balloons, I decorated the bus, and it was beautiful. People were happy. I was moved, and the passengers were touched.”

This is not the first time that Ihab has delighted his Jewish passengers: “I also decorated the bus on Purim,” he said with a smile.

DJ Paul Oakenfold performs gig at Mount Everest base camp to raise money for victims of the Nepal earthquake.

DJ Paul Oakenfold has performed a gig at Mount Everest base camp to raise money for victims of the Nepal earthquake. He described the experience as “exciting and scary” but said that he spent months preparing for it.Music: “Tokyo” by Paul Oakenfold, Perfecto recordsProduced by Jamsheda Young and Joshua Lim

Whale rescued from fishing nets puts on beautiful show for tourists off the coast of Cornwall

A humpback whale rescued after being trapped in fishing nets for several hours has shown no ill effects from her ordeal by putting on a stunning show for tourists.

The 20-tonne mammal – known as Doris – thrilled onlookers as she frolicked off the coast of Cornwall at Falmouth Bay.

Sightseers on a local wildlife cruise were treated to the sight of the gentle giant breaching the surface a total of 25 times.

Keith Leeves, who has run AK Wildlife Cruises for many years, described the moment as ‘pure joy’.

He said: “We know it’s the same whale that got herself entangled in nets in Devon because we could see rope burn marks on her.