International Day of Happiness is March 20. The United Nations declared this day in 2012 at the request of Bhutan. A country that publishes its own annual happiness index.
So what does such a day mean? “It’s a day to be happy, of course!” The UN says – “a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.”
Since 2023 has so far been plagued by conflict, natural disasters, and an ongoing pandemic, celebrating the importance of happiness may not be as strict as it sounds.
Happiness can be caused by financial well-being, the UN points out. But this year, the International Day of Happiness has embraced themes beyond material well-being: “Be aware. Be grateful. Be kind.”
We reached out to photographers around the world who have contributed to our blog and asked for images from their archives that depict gratitude and kindness.
The pictures they sent warmed our hearts. They affirmed the joy that can be found in kindness. They made us happy. We hope they will make you happy too.
Ten-month-old Ahmin Esas, who was born with clubfoot, shares a happy moment with his mother and brother at the family’s home near Battambang, Cambodia in February 2023. His mother, Pho Sok, had believed he would never make it. walk or live independently until a doctor tells him the condition is treatable. Sok, a single parent, earns about $4 a week stripping palm fronds and selling the fibers to a broom maker. To get treatment for her son, which included putting his legs in new casts every week for the first months of his life, she borrowed money and rode her neighbors’ motorbikes to a clinic run by a local. NGO, NextSteps. “I was desperate for his leg to heal and for him to live a good life,” she said. If she wears pants at night for the next few years, she says she’ll be fully mobile.
“I visited New York in August 2022. Walking through Prospect Park, I ran into Jeremiah Balan and was amazed at how much fun he was having by the lake feeding the ducks,” says photographer Yolanda Escobar Jiménez. Originally from Haiti, Balan told her that every day after work he walks through Prospect Park to relax. He finds a quiet place to sit, turns on the speakers to listen to the gospel, and enjoys nature.
Pasio Caballero lives in the small town of Pucallpillo in Peru. Pasio – short for Pasiona (Passion) – cooks three meals a day for some of his neighbors who depend on food to survive. In June 2022, the day before the traditional San Juan holiday, Pasio was cooking Juanes for the feast – a traditional Amazonian dish of chicken, rice, olives, spices and egg, all wrapped in the leaves of the bijao tree. It’s a tough job, but photographer Macarena Tabja says Pasio is unstoppable, motivated by the goodness of his heart and the desire to make people happy doing what he does best: cooking.
Izna and Saba and friends dance for joy in August 2022 with the high tide and monsoon rains bringing relief to Mumbai from the summer heat. They are members of Mumbai’s transgender or Hijra community who face prejudice and discrimination. “Photographing and interacting with these friends was a reminder to me that I am grateful for the bigger and more significant events in my life, but also for the small everyday moments in life,” says photographer Viraj Nayer. “Also, that both happiness and gratitude are connected and are best experienced and shared with others.”
The House of Sharing is a residence outside of Seoul, South Korea for former “comfort women”. It is a euphemism for women (mostly teenagers) who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II. Today, Koreans call them affectionately halmonis (grandmothers). “While at The House of Sharing in 2010, halmonis there were constant visitors, from elementary school children who want to learn more about their history, which has been banned and erased by the Japanese government, to women who came regularly to give them massages,” says photographer Arin Yoon. “As a young mother and her two daughters gently placed their hands on Kim Hwa Seon Halmon on and began to rub her soft skin, she closed her eyes and her thoughts and words drifted into another state. When I think of kindness, I think affection Jeong — a Korean concept that unites Koreans in collective social responsibility through acts of caring, empathy, and gratitude. It encourages people to be present in the moment and develop deeper, more meaningful connections. While testifying halmonis getting a massage from younger generations of Korean women, I could feel the healing of old and ancestral wounds. I could feel Jeong.”
Sinagtala Warrior Weavers (left to right) Naidah, Jalilah, Salam Sybil, Soraida, Salam Abdullah and LJ share a happy moment after receiving new threads from a donor in Marawi, Philippines on December 27, 2017.
The women are Maranao, a Muslim indigenous people in the Philippines. They lost their homes in the 2017 conflict between the Philippine military and the ISIS-inspired Maute group.
Sinagtala means “starlight” in Tagalog. For women, the word symbolizes guidance and hope in times of darkness. “We started training [in weaving] without pay only to forget the scenes of the battle that haunts us at the same time [learn a skill to] to earn an honest and decent living,” says Naidah. According to her, making something beautiful by hand and seeing the finished product is fulfilling and satisfying. At the end of 2022, many Maranaos are still waiting to return home.
Beatrice Alosa, 22, will be credited for the event sponsored by David Avido, a well-known Kenyan fashion designer.
Hailing from Nairobi’s Kibera slums, Avido is famous for his Lookslike Avido label and has dressed celebrities and influencers, including the President of Kenya. She also brings fashion and beauty to those members of the community who may face discrimination – like Alosa. In Kenya and other countries, people with albinism are discriminated against because of their skin color and are sometimes subjected to violence. Avido also reaches out to the physically challenged, including the deaf, people with the skin condition vitiligo, and the transgender community.
Avido, 25, is not just a fashionista. He was one of 68 Kenyans recognized by the President of Kenya with the Uzalendo Award in 2020 for outstanding community service during the COVID-19 pandemic. He led a free mask initiative that provided nearly 23,000 masks to residents of Nairobi and has worked with friends and partners to distribute food to hundreds of families in Kibera.
In the Bolivian Amazon region, near the Brazilian border, a hospital ship called Esperanza – Spanish for hope – visits some communities along the Mamore River and provides free medical care to around 60 people a day. Many of the patients are very old and have difficulty getting to the boat on the river bank. In January 2022, this young person helps elderly people get on and off the boat while waiting for the inspection itself.
Ana Hernández plays with a group of girls in the village of Panimaquín, Guatemala in May 2022. She is the coordinator of Coincidir, a charity founded by activists working on youth rights and gender-based violence. The aim of the charity is to teach girls to swim, ride and repair bicycles and defend themselves. In this photo, the girls had just finished their bike class and Hernández suggested a race back to headquarters.
Bayo Omoboriowo is the official photographer of the President of Nigeria, but he has another mission – to improve the lives of people in need. During the COVID lockdown, he donated and distributed food and drinks in his hometown of Ijero-Ekiti, providing sustenance to those who could not work due to the pandemic.
The women of South Africa’s Black Mamba anti-poaching unit love animals and want to teach young people to appreciate nature. (Pictured above, two members are happy to see that three of the students in the class they are visiting in 2017 are the children of Black Mamba members.) The women do daily foot patrols in Balule Nature Reserve, where they check fences. who line the property and tend to injured animals. They live in the same villages as many of the poachers and relate to them as mothers, sisters or friends rather than soldiers or guards, telling them the importance of protecting the animals and not capturing them.
Indio Badaross (who today has only one shoe on) gives a ride to his friend Yori, who needs crutches to get around. They are members of the Birico collective, an artist association that lives nearby Cracolândia (Crackland), an open-air shop in downtown São Paulo, Brazil, and paints with materials he finds on the street. Drug user Badaross Makes money mainly by recycling garbage. Yori makes and sells small paintings. They both say they paint to express their pain and suffering.
Dr. Gustavo Gutiérrez checks on Marta Navarro Morales, 63, at her home in Matamoros, Mexico. In August 2020, Navarro was recovering from a case of COVID-19 he contracted a month earlier. She gestures as she reminds Navarro — a breast cancer survivor — to exercise to keep her strength up. The doctor believes in home visits – some patients are afraid to go to the hospital. And he goes above and beyond to heal—he makes Navarro smile and calls him a VIP patient.
An indigenous mountain guide performs a ritual of thanksgiving in the shelters of Mount Huayna Potosí in the Bolivian Andes in March 2019. At nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, it is one of the most climbed mountains in the Bolivian Andes. As a thank you, the guide uses balloons, petals, firecrackers and alcohol pachamama – Mother Earth – for what she offers to humanity and asking for luck for future expeditions.
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