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Malaka Gharib

There are lots of benefits to creating art: It can reduce stress and anxiety, and flexing your creative side can give a stronger sense of agency. Plus, being creative can also feel pretty awesome and help lift your mood.

But how do you get started if you don't feel the spark? Let go of expectations and set aside 10 minutes a day to create random art.

Experts say that's all you need to kick-start the habit, whether it's finger painting or cooking or baking or scrapbooking — whatever gets you excited.

A Kenyan cracks jokes about her cash outflow. In Canada, an Inuk woman gets traditional face tattoos. A Pakistani martial arts champ cracks walnuts with his elbow.

These videos are just a handful of the international gems on the social media platform TikTok. While much of the content on the app may seem silly or entertaining, many videos — which can last up to 3 minutes -- also carry deeper meaning. For some, the clips are an act of resistance or a way to represent their culture.

If you could wish for one thing in 2022, what would it be?

That's the question we posed to global thinkers. As the world enters year 3 of the pandemic, we were curious about what one (or two or three) things they would wish for to make earth a better place.

We heard from Nobel Peace Prize winners (Malala Yousafzai and Nadia Murad), doctors on the front line of the pandemic and advocates who devote their lives to help the most vulnerable humans.

This year, Goats and Soda published a number of photo essays from photographers and artists from around the globe.

Our top stories on the Goats and Soda blog in 2021 were mostly about the pandemic. But that's not the only topic that made readers click.

Even as the world worries about COVID-19, people made time for other topics.

They definitely wanted advice on how to get kids to help out with chores. That was one of our top stories of the year.

They read articles about other worrisome diseases — like Nipah virus and cancer (and the role that alcohol plays as a cause).

Some stories on our blog Goats and Soda find an audience. Sometimes they don't. And when that happens, we editors get really bummed out!

That's why we're putting the spotlight on stories from 2021 that we think deserve more pageviews.

You'll learn about a group in Germany that teaches refugee women how to ride a bike. A Facebook page in Senegal that helps people find lost items like smartphones — and sheep! And a profile of a wheelchair basketball champion who has been finding creative ways to stay on top of her game during the pandemic.

In mid-August, not long after the Tokyo Olympics had wrapped up, the situation in Japan looked grim to Dr. Hideaki Oka, an infectious disease expert at the Saitama Medical University Hospital outside Tokyo.

As he treated COVID-19 patients at his hospital, Japan was in the grip of a fifth wave of infections. New cases nationwide had surged to around 25,000 a day, and the country's medical system was being stretched to its limits.

By late September, cases had plunged, and Oka is now getting a respite, of sorts.

For the second year in a row, the global pandemic has dominated our blog — and our readers' attention.

Our top COVID stories reveal the ever-changing nature of the crisis. In February, readers were curious about India's mysterious drop in cases, which spiked again — creating another popular story — in spring. In summer, people wanted to read about the delta variant, only to shift focus to omicron in winter. All the while, readers wanted to know: were vaccines and masks still effective against all the coronavirus mutations?

Sixty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy established the United States Agency for International Development.

It's one of the largest foreign aid agencies in the world. With a budget of tens of billions of dollars, it does everything from supporting girls' education in lower-income countries to spearheading electricity programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Say you're walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning. Would you try to rescue the child?

Joel Charny has been a humanitarian aid worker for 40 years — but one of the first valuable lessons he learned about the job was as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s.

At 21, he was assigned to work as a sixth grade English teacher in a remote part of the Central African Republic. The students didn't have textbooks. Some kids had to walk 5 miles to school and back. And many did their homework under a streetlamp because there was no electricity at home.

When Sedjro Ahouansou was a kid growing up in the West African country of Benin, he loved eating a traditional dish called piron, a starchy accompaniment made of cassava flour that's served with meat and savory foods.

Now a chef, Ahouansou serves the dish at his restaurant Chill N Grill in Cotonou, Benin's largest city – only he's reinvented it as a Japanese-style dessert. He adds fluffy white coconut flakes to the piron, shapes it like a maki roll and fills it with warm fried pineapple.

Last summer, Becca Morrison, 21, was all set to volunteer at a community arts nonprofit in Zomba, Malawi. She'd work with the marketing team as a copywriter and social media manager.

Then the pandemic hit, and the trip got canceled. "I was peeved," she says. "I was so excited to travel. I had the whole thing planned."

What kind of world will Gen Z live in 20 years from now?

That's one of the questions that Charles Kenny aims to answer in a new book targeted to 12-15 year olds in Your World, Better: Global Progress and What You Can Do About It, published this spring.

Yande Banda, 17, and Selin Ozunaldim, 18, don't want to be the world's token youth activists.

But that's how they felt at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris last week.

If you had to choose between eating a nice, tender fillet of salmon or ... umm, anchovies ... which would you choose?

You'd probably choose the salmon, right?

In the middle of a pandemic, Mavis Owureku-Asare is optimistic.

The reason? On February 24, her homeland, Ghana, became the first low-resource country to receive free COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX.

"I feel very hopeful," says Owureku-Asare, a food scientist with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and a 2020 Aspen New Voices fellow. "Ghana has become a role model for other countries."

It's been a couple of years, but I can't get this viral tweet out of my mind. It was from 2019, and it asked: "Women, what is the dumbest thing a man ever said to you about ... menstruation, etc.?"

I remember laughing so hard at the thousands of replies:

"My husband thought I had to take a tampon out to pee."

Everybody knows that the pandemic has had a chilling impact on people's daily lives.

But how bad is it? And in particular, how are people faring in countries that aren't as well-off as, say, the United States or European nations?

A study published in February in the journal Science Advances aims to provide some answers.

The pandemic has been tough for Eric Dossekpli. The 49-year-old farmer from Anfoin Avele, a town in the west African country of Togo, had trouble selling his peanuts, black-eyed peas, maize and cassava at the market. Customers couldn't buy much because of their own pandemic income loss. Then he couldn't afford fertilizer to keep growing his crops.

"I didn't know how I was going to buy food, to buy what's needed at home," he says. And with four of his six children in school, he needed to pay for their tuition.

Open up any social media app on your phone and you'll likely see links to COVID-19 information from trustworthy sources.

Pinned to the top of Instagram's search function, the handles of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are prominently featured. Click and you'll find posts and stories how to keep safe during the pandemic.

It seemed like there was only one global health story this year: the pandemic.

But that wasn't the only topic that grabbed our audience's attention. According to NPR's data on page views, readers were attracted to all kinds of Goats and Soda stories in 2020.

The mix of content might surprise you. A 2019 story about how to teach kids to control their anger made a huge comeback. Readers loved our commentary on the Netflix reality show Indian Matchmaking — and an explainer on locusts. And photos of our beautiful planet made a big impression.

It was a big year for comics journalism at NPR.

During the coronavirus crisis, our team has created and published original comics to offer COVID-19 advice and information and to tell stories about people whose lives have been affected by the pandemic.

One of the most popular was a printable zine targeted to children with tips on how to explain it all to them. It was translated into many languages, from Chinese to Spanish to Arabic.

Kids, this comic is for you.

You've been living through this pandemic for months, and you might be feeling sad, frustrated or upset. But there are lots of different ways to deal with your worries – and make yourself feel better. Here are some tips and advice to help you through.

Print and fold a zine version of this comic here. Here are directions on how to fold it.

This comic was originally published on Feb. 28, 2020, and has been updated.

Kids, this comic is just for you.

The coronavirus pandemic started in March and in many countries, thousands and thousands of people are getting sick. You may have questions about what exactly this virus is — and how to stay safe. Here are some answers.

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