Here come the girls! How one woman is inspiring a new generation of female adventurers

In an age of selfies and filters and aspiring to be reality TV stars, it’s good to know that there are some girls out there that know there are more important things in life than make-up or a designer handbag.

And it’s all thanks to author Ailsa Ross who has written a book for budding female adventurers who need to overcome their confidence hurdle in order to reach for the stars.

The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women is a collection of biographies focused on women and girls who have written, explored, and made their mark on history.

From a Canadian astronaut to an Indian secret agent, Ross sets out to prove that being adventurous and discovering new horizons isn’t just for the boys.

Speaking to GoodNewsNetwork, she said: When I was a kid, in truth I was a bit of a scaredy cat. The ‘adventurer’ in my family has always been my big brother. He’s the one who’s a search and rescue pilot. He’s the one who’s climbed the tallest mountain in the Swiss Alps, in a snowstorm—for fun.⠀

“Still, I’m always trying to shake up the scaredy cat inside me. And I’ve always known how important it is for girls to feel brave as they grow up.”

And it’s the secondary school years that are the hardest, according to Girl Scouts developmental psychologist Dr Andrea Bastiani Archibald who said girls experience so much hesitancy and a drop in confidence from the age of 11 to 16.

Ross thinks they can overcome that if they’re encouraged to bring out their sense of adventure before they reach those important teenage years.

She said: “Such adventures don’t have to be big. Research from Anglia Ruskin University shows that even just going for a walk outside leaves people feeling more confident and better about their bodies.

“After all, nature doesn’t care about how we look. It doesn’t care who our friends are or the grades we got. It’s a place where we can really be ourselves.”

And that’s what her book sets out to do.

“I’m so glad readers can now trace the ocean-soaring flights of pilot Amelia Earhart, follow Isabella Bird’s expedition up the Yangtze River, and meet Kimi Werner—the freediving chef who hitched a ride on the dorsal fin of a great white shark,” she said. “I hope these stories help so many kids feel bold, and daring, and excited by the world.”

New Year’s Eve indoors? Celebrate in style with these party ideas

While ringing in 2021 from the comfort of your own home sounds like a dream to some, for the social butterflies it might be full of dread.

Yet if you’re armed with ideas on how to bring the fun to you, rather than worrying that you’re missing out, you may never want to venture from the sofa on December 31 again.

Whether you’re keeping it chill by flying solo, just with a friend or two, or perhaps have a big household, here are some activities to get the cogs turning about what to do.

[Credit: Pictionary]

Play a party game

First up, party games are essential.

If the classics like Scrabble and Monopoly make you want to run in the opposite direction, then try something that is guaranteed to bring in the laughs rather than test your patience.

Our faves are Pictionary, Cards Against Humanity, and Trapped – the latter of which is an escape rooms game pack so you can turn your home into your very own theme park attraction.

[Credit: Andrew Measham]

Create a new year’s resolution jar

Whether or not we ever actually stick to new year resolutions is often irrelevant, as they are always a talking point!

This year, why not write down your goals on a slip of paper, along with anyone else in your bubble, then put them in a jar before leaving them to one side and opening them again on December 31, 2021 to see if or who honoured theirs.

[Credit: Kofookoo.de]

Give mixology a whirl

If you drink alcohol, then you’ll know cocktails and New Year’s Eve are a match made in heaven. And if you’re a sober sassy, then mocktails are just as tantalising for a NYE treat.

You can either go on instinct alone, or there are YouTube tutorials aplenty to help.

Whether Margaritas tickle your taste-buds, Espresso Martinis please your palette, or you’re more of an Old Fashioned enthusiast, just be sure to buy your supplies ahead of time.

Turn your living room into a dancefloor

We’re pretty sure most of you won’t need too much encouragement for this one, though just in case you’re mourning your favourite club remember you can recreate it at home.

Turn the lights low, and if you don’t have a dimmer, switch them off entirely and use lamps or candles to bring the party vibe, whack on some tunes and dance like no one’s watching.

We’d recommend creating a party playlist on Spotify beforehand as otherwise any songs you dislike on the radio might end up being a buzzkill.

Ask your mates or family to chip in with tunes too, so there’s a little something for everyone.  

[Credit: Ian Dooley]

Recap the year

Hold fire! We know this year is one we don’t want to remember.

However, we are coming out the other side and have survived the most extraordinary year that most of us will ever witness in our lifetimes.

Take a moment to connect with yourself and family by reflecting on the positives, perhaps you have become closer to someone from having spent more time with them, or saved money from commuting, or learned a new skill, or heard the birds sing again, whatever feel-good memory you can think of will help pave the way for heading into 2021 optimistically.

Our recap moment is definitely launching Uspire, and connecting with each and every one of you.

Son creates life-changing smartwatch to stop dad’s traumatic nightmares

Don’t eat cheese before bed, avoid horror movies, and use a night light… just some of the life hacks we have been taught to conquer nightmares.

Yet what about when those terrors are more like memories, from having served in war zones and the mind is reliving the horrors of the battlefield you have left behind.

That’s what happened when Patrick Skluzaceksaw returned home from combat, as he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] which included agonisingly bad dreams.

[Credit: Good News Network]

However, his son proved to be his very own Dragon’s Den hero by creating a product that would be life-changing and help silence the nightmares in exchange for a good night’s sleep.

While studying at college, Tyler Skluzacek caught wind of an upcoming computer programming event in Washington, D.C. which was encouraging participants to focus on developing apps.

Jumping at the opportunity, Tyler, who has now graduated with a computer science degree, got to work on his ‘anti-night-terror’ smartwatch app.

[Credit: NightWare]

The prototype was programmed to detect the onset of nocturnal disturbances by measuring the wearer’s heart rate and movement – which tend to increase during nightmares.

Then, before the terror can take hold, the smartwatch delivers a subtle disruption – equivalent to a gentle nudge or lick from a dog – to reset the wearer’s sleep pattern.

Speaking to US radio station NPR, Tyler said that perfecting the app was a challenge as he and his team needed to capture the correct vibration level for it to deliver enough stimulus to pull somebody out of the deep REM cycle while still allowing sleep to continue unaffected.

[Credit: NightWare]

During REM, which stands for rapid eye movement, we enter the stage of our sleep cycle during which people do most of their dreaming.

Tyler was determined to keep working on the hurdles in order to help his dad and has now created a near-perfect app that he has sold the rights of to an investor for global distribution.

Speaking about his son’s prowess, Patrick said: “It was night and day when I put that watch on and it started working. The vibrations worked like little miracles.”

For more information, click here: NightWare.

Party like it’s 1999! Discover the fab NYE events taking place virtually

Nothing, and we mean nothing, comes between a raver and their rave – not even 2020.

While you may not be able to wave glow sticks and blow whistles outside your four walls until the sun comes up, there’s nothing to stop you from doing so indoors.

And fortunately for party enthusiasts, there are fat beats and big drops aplenty taking place across virtual events on New Year’s Eve to make December 31 a night to remember.

Thanks to our trusty pals over at Time Out, they have collated the top online parties happening around the world so all you need to do, is take your pick of your favourite.

[Credit: Rave to the Moon]

Rave to the Moon

As if the name isn’t enticing enough, there’s actually a quirky reason behind it too.

The event organisers calculated that every dancing adult makes 6,000 steps over the course of an hour on an average night out. So, if 16,000 ravers tune in during the stream, collectively they will make some 577million steps – roughly how far away the moon is.

If the gimmick isn’t enough to sway you, then the big names will be as DJ Yoda, Mr Scruff, and Beardyman will play sets to bounce around your living room from 8pm-1am.

For more info, click here: Rave to the Moon.

[Credit: Shutterstock]

BTS

If you haven’t already been sucked into the infectious, bubble-gum pop world of BTS, then slip those twinkle toes into your dancing shoes and get your groove on.

This global phenomena are headlining a huge show just outside Seoul that will feature other K-pop artists like NU’EST and GFriend, and will get any Scroodge from the sofa up dancing.

For more info, click here: BTS.

Jean-Michel Jarre at Notre-Dame

[Credit: Jean-Michel Jarre at Notre-Dame]

We’ve seen Tupac, Whitney Houston, and Amy Winehouse ‘perform’ to audiences as holograms, now Jean-Michel Jarre will follow suit using technology to play at Notre-Dame.

The synth king’s avatar will take over France’s most famous place of worship, while he actually performs live from a studio nearby.

Viewers will be able to access the action from their laptops, although those with VR headsets will be fully submerged amongst the strobes as they join in via virtual reality.

For more info, click here: Jean-Michel Jarre at Notre-Dame.

[Credit: Tomorrowland Festival]

Tomorrowland Festival

For a night of EDM glory, then you’ll need to get lost in the magic of Tomorrowland.

With world-class acts, including David Guetta and DJ Snoopadelic (Snoop Dogg’s new project), the Belgian festival boasts an impressive line-up across four digital ‘stages’.

For more info, click here: Tomorrowland Festival.

Times Square Ball Drop

If the Big Apple is more your scene, give the Times Square Ball Drop a whirl.

Here, you can live-stream a series of performances from the square. Trust us, it will all be worth it for headliner Gloria Gaynor singing the poignant lyrics of I Will Survive at the stroke of midnight.

For more info, click here: Times Square Ball Drop.

[Credit: Shutterstock]

Hogmanay

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of Scotland’s most iconic annual celebrations, and this year they’re going virtual with a line-up of performers taking part across December 28 and 31.

Doctor Who star David Tennant has already been announced, as well as Scottish poet laureate Jackie Kay and Celtic fusion band Niteworks, with many more still to come.

For more info, click here: Hogmanay.

Coding for kids! Encourage curious minds to be our stars of tomorrow

Some kids are born for ballet or footie or the West End stage, but what about those with curious minds who have an innate thirst for problem-solving?

This is where coding shouts from the sidelines to welcome them with open arms.

For those of us who left the school gates a while ago, we will have been taught the basics on a computer, like touch-typing or perhaps spreadsheets and word processing programmes.

Fast-forward to today, and our little ones are now able to learn how to write a set of instructions to override a computer into action so they’re prepped to live in our digital world.

[Credit: Coding Today]

One organisation that champions young people getting to grips with our tech-savvy future is Code Today, which runs courses for kids aged 7-16 that involves interactive learning.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, founder Stephen Gruppetta told us why he launched the business and how he hopes to inspire kids with the art of coding while still making it fun.

Stephen said: “My first career was that of an academic science, having completed a PhD in physics then gone through a number of post-doctoral positions until I got a tenured university post.

“However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that I wasn’t going to spend my whole career in academia. In my mid-30s, I decided it was time to move on.”

[Credit: Annie Spratt]

During his time in academia, Stephen felt connected to two components of his work that he found very rewarding and recognised that he was also good at: teaching and programming.

As well as becoming a father himself, this created synergy with his own talents, and he decided to pursue a path in children’s education which felt more personal to him.

Stephen continued: “This created the perfect storm for creating Code Today, a company focused on teaching coding to children in a modern, thorough and professional manner.

“Since 2016, we have expanded and refined our curriculum and our methods and have taught thousands of children, getting them started on their journey through coding.”

[Credit: Stephen Gruppetta]

Prior to this year, the courses were face-to-face sessions held at people’s homes or in the organisation’s teaching venues. However, then the global pandemic began to snowball.

Now, they have learned to adapt and offer a new hybrid course that includes live sessions delivered remotely, videos and a support system to guide students as they practise coding.

Fortunately, the response has been positive from both existing pre-pandemic clients and the many new ones that have joined since and given a dramatic boost to the company.

Stephen said: “Our loyal clients adapted very well to the changes, and the many new students who joined our community are now not just from London, but from all over the UK and worldwide. We have gone from being a local business to an international one.

“This year has been difficult, however, we have ended it with a new business model that is well-suited for growth and we plan to keep momentum going.”

[Credit: Avi Richards]

Stephen added that his greatest achievement is to see the joy each session brings to the children, and how much they look forward to their next class and grow in confidence with their new skillset.

If you like the sound of learning coding but don’t have kids, or they’ve flown the nest, then maybe you’ll be tempted by the adult courses?!

There is an introductory programme on offer that starts from the basics, aimed at those with no or little prior knowledge of coding. While the follow-up course explores topics and methods specific to using coding for analysing and manipulating data.

Perhaps this year’s new resolution might just be to learn a new skill…

For more info, click here: Code Today.

British Wildlife Artist creates stunningly life-like images of wild animals

In a world where we have thousands of selfies stored on our phones and can buy photo gifts at the click of a button, sometimes images can lose their meaning.

Yet one artist is giving pictures a whole new twist, bringing animals to life with her innate talent for sketching them with precision while reflecting their majestic beauty.

Charlotte Williams was still at primary school when she fell in love with drawing before an adventure to the other side of the world hooked her in to the animal kingdom.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Charlotte told us about how she now connects these two joys and why wildlife continues to capture her heart and be the driving force behind her artwork.

Charlotte said: “My career as an artist has been life-long as I started drawing as far back as I can remember, and being self-taught, it has been a life’s worth of practice that brings me here today. 

“Though I drew my first ‘official’ animal portrait at nine-years-old, it wasn’t until my late teens, when my travels took me to Africa and I lived on a game reserve spending thousands of hours observing and sketching to my heart’s content, that my desire to draw wildlife became deeply-rooted and developed into what is now a passion.”

On her return from Africa in the mid-1990s, Charlotte dabbled with various styles and displayed work in many exhibitions, but then marriage and family took precedence for a while.

However, after a few years out, the desire to get back to her art was overwhelming and so a decade later, she picked up her pencils and started drawing again. 

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She continued: “Fairly rapidly things spiralled, and I found I was inundated with requests to draw people’s pets and other animals. Yet my heart was still in Africa and the wild animals were calling.

“My first big commission came when Cecil the lion was senselessly killed, and I was asked to draw a portrait of him to help raise funds for VFAPU [Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit]. 

“Cecil remains one of my favourite pieces of work to date and holds a special place in my heart. It was from drawing him that I received all the wonderful feedback from around the world, which in turn gave me the confidence to continue and believe in my talent which does not come naturally!”

The death of Cecil at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe sent shockwaves around the word in 2015, when it sparked furious debate over the hunting of animals. He had been wounded with an arrow by Walter Palmer, an American recreational big-game hunter, before being tracked and killed the following morning around 12 hours after the first injury.

[Credit: Charlotte Williams]

Reflecting on the death, Charlotte believes it was bittersweet in that it became a turning point for her in realising how powerful her artwork could be for others.

She explained: “It opened my eyes to the possibility of using my art to give back. Our natural world is in a critical condition, and I for one cannot stand by and do nothing.

“There are so many causes that need funding, but for me, the looming threat of mass extinction and the ever-increasing loss of biodiversity is terrifying.

“So, I have pledged to use the best of me, as an artist, to help fund the boots on the ground, and a percentage of every piece of work that I do, whether it be an original work, limited edition print or card, is donated to myriad environmental causes.”

Charlotte added: “I want to do more on an endlessly escalating scale. I am always eager to learn and hear of new ways in which to help and I see this as the path I was meant to tread.

“It is my aim to bring the beauty of the natural world into people’s home. I want to inspire them to connect with it, feel it and love it as I do.”

For more info, click here: Charlotte Williams.

[Credit: Charlotte Williams]

You won’t want to miss this! Epic Banksy exhibit crashes into London

We’re already excited for this one and can’t wait to get up close and personal with Banksy.

Okay, so he won’t technically be present, although the world’s largest exhibition of his back catalogue is about to hit London.

Set to open in March 2021, his incredible work will be showcased in Covent Garden for visitors to explore the powerful mind of the artist meets political activist.

[Credit: The Art Of Banksy / Facebook]

While he is not curating the project, The Art of Banksy gallery will instead be a display of privately-owned Banksy art with individual collectors loaning their pieces for the exhibit.

Iconic creations will emblazon the walls of the Earlham Street venue, including Girl with Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper.

Despite his notoriety, Banksy’s real name and identity remain anonymous and a constant subject of speculation. Back in 2008, The Mail On Sunday reported him to be a Bristol bloke named Robin Gunningham – however, he has never confirmed or denied this.

[Credit: The Art Of Banksy / Facebook]

Art critics are already raving about the event, with one review stating: “You think you know his work. Until you’ve seen it live, you don’t. Powerful and passionate.”

Meanwhile, another vowed: “The Art of Banksy exhibition says more about Banksy than Banksy ever could.”

And Time Out declared: “The Art Of Banksy will serve as a welcome reminder of the explosive impact of the artist’s works, and of the powerful potential of street art.”

[Credit: The Art Of Banksy / Facebook]

The gallery will be open daily from 10am, with fluctuating closing times depending on the day; Mon-Fri will be 6pm, Thurs and Fri have a late close of 9pm; Saturday at 7pm, while Sunday is 6pm.

Prices vary too, with adults starting from £21.50. There are also group discounts and fast track or VIP ticket options available.

We look forward to seeing you there!

For more info, click here: The Art Of Banksy.

Giving underprivileged kids a chance: How teens are getting best shot at life

If only we had something like this in every neighbourhood across the globe, we could solve the problem of disengaged youth.

For one organisation is gifting a lifeline to underprivileged kids to widen their perspectives and help them see that they can achieve anything they want to regardless of background.

My Block, My Hood, My City not only provides disadvantaged youth with an awareness of the world beyond their front door but also takes them on trips to explore different opportunities. 

[Credit: My Block, My Hood, My City / Instagram]

Notably, recent expeditions have included a visit to a glassmaking factory to see the incredible craftsmanship up-close and even a trip to United Airlines to see their CEO give a motivational talk.

The My Block, My Hood, My City crew also believe in young people learning from others their own age and host youth-led tours whereby teens can get a summer job, put real money in their pockets, and showcase the hidden gems of the North Lawndale, Chicago community to their peers. 

With their motto ‘explore, experience, evolve’, the team aim to unite education and life lessons by using the fields of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics], culture, volunteering, culinary arts, and entrepreneurism to teach their teens about core values and hope.

[Credit: My Block, My Hood, My City / Instagram]

By helping young people immerse themselves in new experiences, continuously soaking up new knowledge and expanding their network, the My Block, My Hood, My City masterminds believe we can create long-lasting change to help teens step outside their comfort zone. 

They champion the idea that exposure is equal to education, it is an olive branch needed by so many who have barely left their block or experienced life outside of their neighbourhood.

Just by going a little further afield, even next door in their own city, teens can open their eyes to what Chicago has to offer them and experience a different view that will light a fire in their belly.

[Credit: My Block, My Hood, My City / Instagram]

Speaking about the mission, founder Jahmal Cole revealed why he believes exposure is key.

Jahmal said: “We just expose them to different professions, so they’ll have more options to choose from, so they won’t choose violence.

“Kids I work with; they order their food everyday through three-inch bulletproof glass windows. Helicopters fly over their house at night. This is their reality.

“I take those kids, and I show them the world doesn’t end at the corner of their block.”

We can’t wait to see how the kids who complete the programme progress in years to come.

For more info, click here: My Block, My Hood, My City

[Credit: Jahmal Cole / Instagram]

Do you know why Santa wears red? Discover the amazing reason why

Even more iconic than his white beard and love of mince pies, is Father Christmas’ infamous red suit. Though of all colours, why red?

Well, it was all down to one man named Thomas Nast.

It was this American cartoonist who is the first person ever documented to have clothed Santa in his fetching red suit complete with white fur lining and black belt.

[Credit: Jack Levick / Unsplash]

The illustrator, who is also the first person to imagine the king of Christmas living in the North Pole, was the inspiration for Coca Cola and how their use of Santa Claus is used in branding.

While Nast created Father Christmas as we know and love him today in the 1870s, Santa’s origin actually dates back to the year 280 A.D.

Many of you might be familiar with the fact that the big FC was actually a chap (or rather, a monk) named St Nicholas, who was famed for his kindness in where is now known as Turkey.

[Credit: Mike Arney]

When he died, all of the good that he had done lived on as locals celebrated his efforts to help the sick and needy on the anniversary of his death – December 6, 343 A.D.

To this day, folk in the Netherlands gift their festive pressies to each other on December 6.

Prior to Nast crafting his idea of what Saint Nick looks like, an antique-collector named John Pintard wanted the legend to become a new symbol of hope for New Yorkers in the early 1800s.

[Credit: Thomas Nast]

This inspired artists to whip out their sketch books and begin characterising what the patron saint of gift-giving and children could look like. And that’s when ‘Sancte Claus’ was born.

Pictures aplenty began flooding in, depicting Father Christmas simply in black and white before a casual 70 years later and Nast crafted his now globally-recognised masterpiece.

Tbf, most ‘Santas’ these days are usually wearing PJs though.

[Credit: Coca Cola campaign inspired by Thomas Nast]

Watch teen’s genius video of how we can walk through walls (sort of)

There’s a ‘For Dummies’ book series to help kids learn about tricky topics, and most of us will have definitely watched the movie instead of reading the literature once upon a time.

However, if Maryam Tsegaye was a teacher, we think she would have young people coming back for more and more while never growing bored from learning.

For this teen has a knack for explaining complex subjects in simple terms. So much so, that she nabbed a $250k (£184k) scholarship for her genius explanation of quantum tunnelling.

Good for her, we hear you say. But WTF is quantum tunnelling?

Well, it is the phenomenon whereby particles can pass through a barrier they classically shouldn’t be able to move through.

Quantum tunnelling is traditionally used for nuclear fusion, and while little elementary particles can walk through walls in this field, regrettably humans cannot walk through walls (yet).

This is because our bodies are made up of more than a quadrillion of these quantum objects and the odds of all of them tunnelling through the wall at once is practically impossible. Yet where humans stumble, fictional characters step in.

And that’s how Maryam, 17, broke the definition down into its simplest format, by comparing quantum tunnelling to her brother’s video games.

[Credit: Instagram]

The Canadian teen, based in Fort McMurray, filmed herself likening the behaviour of electrons to how her sibling cheats while playing online.

Maryam said: “So, I was watching my brother play this video game and he used a cheat code that let his character do a walk-through-walls hack.

“He pushed himself against a barrier in the game, hit some buttons and boom, his character appeared on the other side.”

[Credit: Maryam Tsegaye]

She added: “Imagine if you could walk through walls in real life – and it turns out you can, at a quantum level.”

The footage was entered into the international Breakthrough Junior Challenge – a science video competition where young people showcase their knowledge of scientific principles in various fields – and earned her the impressive top prize.

Not only did she nab the dollar for herself, which will fund studying in higher education, she also won $50k (£37k) for her science teacher and a $100k (£74k) science lab for her school.

What an absolute boss.