Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Dividing Line In Kathmandu

Photo by Santosh Paudel /
All rights reserved
A man stares at a crack that split a road in Kathmandu, Nepal on Saturday, April 25 shortly after a massive earthquake rocked the city. 
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Massive Earthquake Strikes Nepal, Spares City Of Pokhara, But Terrifies Its People

Nischal Kharel /
Part of Pokhara, Nepal, where people felt a giant earthquake hours ago but were spared the damage suffered in other parts of the country.

By Nischal Kharel
POKHARA, Nepal – Shortly before noon, while I was working on something for college at my friend’s house, the book rack started shaking.
We immediately realized that it was an earthquake.

We thought it wouldn't last longer, but it went on and on. It just didn’t stop.
At first we stayed inside the home under a wooden door frame, then got frightened enough to run outside to some nearby open space.
Many others had also run outside. They were crying, shouting and scared.
Fortunately, the shaking stopped and we were all fine.

I called my parents at their home in the Morang District in Eastern Nepal, and my sister, who was at my aunt's house in the Dhulabari Jhapa District, also in the eastern part of Nepal.

My aunt told me that there was some flooding in her town after a large water tank, about 60 feet tall, collapsed.

Nischal Kharel /
A neighborhood in Pokhara Saturday evening after the earthquake.
Nischal Kharel /
Homes in Pokhara, Nepal, after the earthquake Saturday.
Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city, does not appear to have suffered any damage, though we are only about 100 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed at least 688 people in Nepal, authorities said. There was extensive damage in Kathmandu, the capital, and reports of a major avalanche on Mount Everest.

Nischal Kharel /
A view of the city of Pokhara, taken about a month ago.
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Grieving Ethiopians United Against ISIS

By Dawit Leake
Junior Reporter
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The murderous attack on Ethiopians by ISIS terrorists shocked Ethiopians, who learned about it in a video released April 19.
The mood then quickly shifted as everyone started crying. There have been marches and the nation is an official mourning period until Saturday.
The beheading of our fellow citizens on a beach in Libya was not something that Ethiopians, including me, expected to see happening.
People here thought the terrorist killings were something that happened far away from Ethiopia and others didn’t even know about previous ISIS attacks. For them it was a brutal and satanic thing that they saw for the first time.
Most of the people I talked to were very sad and yet very angry at the killings of Christians by terrorists of the so-called Islamic State. Some said that they would fight against ISIS if they got the chance and that they would not tolerate any threats from ISIS.
The insulting way the terrorists killed the Ethiopian captives – by decapitation – made it even more upsetting. People saw it as slaughtering sheep at home, which is a holiday custom in Ethiopia.
On Tuesday, April 21, the national capital of Addis Ababa slowly turned quiet and that night, the government announced that three official days of grieving would begin Wednesday and end on Saturday.
On Wednesday, there was a rally, organized by the government, at Meskel Square, which is a large gathering place in Addis Ababa, where many local residents came to let out their grief.
The mood here is still sad and bitter. I believe that this is an act by ISIS to disturb the peace between Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country that has equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, with a longstanding culture of harmony and unity.
Some Ethiopians even have names that start with a Muslim name and end with a Christian name and vice versa, showing the long integration and harmony of the two religions.
People here believe that the ISIS killings are acts not of Islam, but of Satan.
For me, something that came out of this horrific misfortune is that despite the awful crime and that sadness it brought, everyone is even more united and standing strong against ISIS.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Excites Crowds Before UK Election

By Robert Guthrie
Senior Reporter
DUMFRIES, Scotland – In a recent visit, Scotland’s leader, alongside the nation’s most important group of politicians connected with voters in Dumfries and listened to the public ahead of next month’s general election in the United Kingdom.
In keeping her vow of being the ‘most accessible’ first minister ever, Nicola Sturgeon, the member of Scottish Parliament who leads the Scottish National Party and The Scottish Government, visited The Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries with her newly elected Cabinet.
The public meeting allowed constituents to hear about Scottish government policies, and gave them the chance to directly question Sturgeon and department ministers.
The new Scottish Cabinet is the most representative ever seen here, with 50-50 male-female representation and Member Humza Yousaf coming from a minority ethnic background.
Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond, who stood down as Scottish National Party leader at the party’s November conference, with no competition for the post.
Throughout the day, Sturgeon and her cabinet members each visited numerous local institutions and businesses.
She made a forceful speech at the evening conference, attacking Prime Minister David Cameron’s UK government and its damaging cuts to public services.
The first minister was keen to highlight the advantages of the Scottish National Party government in the Scottish Parliament, securing a better future for the country’s people by reinvesting in public services, abolishing Trident nuclear weapons and building more social housing.
Sturgeon also spoke of last year’s independence referendum and that while Scotland had voted to remain part of the UK, independence was still one of her party’s major policies.
Following her speech, which was met with enthusiasm, Sturgeon took questions from the public. Visitors questioned the cabinet on a plethora of different issues, ranging from wind farms and the Social Education curriculum within schools to the prevalence of new housing around the region and independence.
Ahead of the May 7 general election, the Scottish National Party could hold as many as half of Scottish seats in the UK Parliament in Westminster, allowing for significant influence.
In the past three televised election debates, Sturgeon’s party has appeared top in the opinion polls, scoring high in the estimations of English voters who cannot vote for the party.
Sturgeon has strongly argued for progressive party politics and an end to the solid austerity plans of the current government.
Scottish members of parliament could never possibly gain the 326 seats needed to have a majority in the government. This is because Scotland only provides 59, and Sturgeon has announced that the party would be keen to work with Labour as well as their counterparts in Wales, the left-wing Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru.
The party has also worked well in the past with the Scottish Green Party, who are more liberal in terms of policy, but share many of the SNP’s socially democratic ideals.
The election promises to be an interesting one, with Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalists sure to shake it up.
But with polls fluctuating by the minute, the result that will greet the electorate on Friday, May 8 is unforeseeable. 
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Living In Jersey, But Schooled In NYC

Jeremy Pulmano /

A panorama of Broad Street, Bloomfield, New Jersey. Click on the photo to enlarge.

By Jeremy Pulmano
Junior Reporter
BLOOMFIELD, New Jersey, U.S.A. – I’ve lived in Bloomfield, New Jersey for four years, and I have not had a problem with it. However, the fact of the matter is that nothing happens here.
Bloomfield is the epitome of boring. Let me explain.
I go to school in New York City, the city that never sleeps, the nation’s center of excitement, the concrete jungle where dreams are made. I commute an hour and half by train to get into NYC and an hour and half to go back home. I spend a lot of time in both Bloomfield and New York City.
To compare the two in simple terms is like comparing watching paint dry versus sky-diving.
Nevertheless, I still enjoy living in Bloomfield. Why? It provides the perfect balance. I can experience the excitement and hustle-and-bustle of New York City, but I can also enjoy the serenity that Bloomfield carries.
By day, I can marvel at the lights and architecture of Times Square, and by night, I can walk the quiet streets of Bloomfield without colliding with strangers and getting enveloped in a massive crowd of commuters.
For me, being in New York City every weekday is nothing less than a privilege and a luxury.
Jeremy Pulmano /
On Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive on the way from New York to New Jersey.
I can see the sun rise over Manhattan’s renowned skyline from the train and visit and marvel at Times Square as any tourist would.
Jeremy Pulmano /

Times Square, New York City, in a snowstorm.
In physical education in the beginning of the year, our class visited Central Park and ran around The Reservoir. The Reservoir is surrounded by trees and city buildings, and those who run around the reservoir do so not only to get their exercise, but also to enjoy the pleasure of sight-seeing.
You often come across very talented musicians and dancers in New York. It’s awe-inspiring to witness them humbly performing in the subway.
Everyone’s heard about the crazy atmosphere of New York City. There are always people rushing to and fro, colliding with each other, packing themselves into subway cars. There are few places in the city where you can find true peace and quiet. Even in Central Park, you will definitely hear noisy kids running and screaming, playing tag or pickup football.
Jeremy Pulmano /

The Reservoir in Central Park in New York, in the wintertime.
Despite its frenzy and volume, you will often – if not always – be in awe of NYC. I have been going to school there for two years, and I still marvel at the skyscrapers, the lights, the excitement.
But let’s revisit Bloomfield, my suburban home and the antithesis of New York City.
Little houses of warm colors and triangular roofs stand close together, sometimes separated by picket fences. Each house has a little porch where Bloomfielders often sit and enjoy the cool spring nights.
Jeremy Pulmano /

A Bloomfield, New Jersey street in winter.
We experience all four seasons here. Summers are hot and winters are always frigid. Autumn is the best time to be in Bloomfield, because we do have quite a lot of trees and the weather is not too cold and not too hot.
The wide roads of Bloomfield demand paving but seldom get it. New Jersey as a whole is notorious for its bad roads, and the town of Bloomfield is no exception. Recently, I received my driver’s permit, which allows me to drive a car with a licensed adult. Driving around Bloomfield myself has only made me realize how horrid the roads are. There are potholes everywhere.
Jeremy Pulmano /

One of Bloomfield, New Jersey's battered
There are, thankfully, many places to eat. You can visit the two McDonald’s in Bloomfield if you’re looking for fast food, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can stroll down Broad Street, Bloomfield’s main road, and order Italian, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, or Chinese food.
Bloomfield is also home to a myriad of diners, including Holsten’s, where a scene from The Sopranos was filmed. Beyond television fame, Holsten’s often wins awards for its ice cream, and it certainly deserves the acclaim. The bottom line: we in Bloomfield are very proud of our restaurants.
Bloomfield isn’t an eyesore, but it’s not much to see, either. I might have some bias in saying that, having experienced the grandeur of New York, but it’s true.
The most beautiful thing I can point to in Bloomfield is probably Brookdale Park. With numerous baseball fields, a football field, a track, and plenty of land for recreational play, it’s like the Central Park of Bloomfield.
There are a lot of trees to climb, too. A little road surrounds the entire park in a circle. Everyone – bikers, skateboarders, walkers, runners – uses this road to get from one point in the park to another.
It doesn’t have a reservoir, which is unfortunate, but nevertheless it’s a great place to relax, meditate, and have fun with friends. I often go to Brookdale Park to hang out with friends and toss around a football or play soccer.
Jeremy Pulmano /

Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey has something for everyone.
Bloomfield’s atmosphere is peaceful. By day, there are cars traveling less than 20 miles per hour on Broad Street, and at night, there are almost no cars at all.
Bloomfield is a town where you can take walks at night under the gentle light of lamp posts to relieve stress, taking in the silence as you collect yourself after a tough day at school or at work.
It’s not a town where everyone knows each other, but it mostly certainly is one where everyone is friendly with one another. People here are courteous and kind, sharing smiles and laughs and making small talk.
Bloomfield is no New York City. But it is the place I call home.
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Night Train: Tambaram Station, Chennai

Jereme Kennedy /
Two views of the Tambaram railway station in the city of Chennai, India. 

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Avoiding A Close Encounter With A Snake

Olivia Wright and Kitty, her boa constrictor. Wright, who loves reptiles, offers tips for those who don't share her passion. She says Kitty is "a real sweetheart."

By Olivia Wright
Junior Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tennessee, U.S.A. – Spring is a season of sun, flowers, April showers, and ... reptiles.
After months of brumation, or dormancy, they are just as eager as we are for some
warm weather. And spring is the time of year when people and snakes most often cross paths.
I’ve learned how to navigate the outdoors safely, both for your sake and for the sake of our snake friends.

I come from a household with two biology major parents and a reptile loving mother. Thanks to my upbringing, I learned about reptiles and amphibians, went reptile hunting and housed a lot of rescued reptiles growing up.
When I was three I had my first pet, a bearded dragon named Rocky.
Rocky was my introduction into the world of reptiles, and a loving pet for nine years.
When I was about four, I saw The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, on television. I was immediately mesmerized. The way he handled the beauties inspired me, and I wanted nothing more than to be a crocodile hunter myself.
A bearded dragon was my first pet, but not my only herp, or reptile. From milk snake to corn snake, to iguana to gecko, reptiles have always been a staple in my life.
At the age of nine, I got my first reptile field guide as a gift, and one day later I had read through the whole book. I took it upon myself to learn everything about the animals I loved so much, and still pick it up almost daily to flip through the worn out pages.
At 10 I started field herpetology, and just like when I was given my first lizard, I was in love. Being able to go on little adventures and getting to find my favorite animals in their natural habitat was absolutely exhilarating.
Reptile lovers like me are excited for spring, which is a great time for field herpetology.
But not everyone is eager for a close encounter – and lots of people are afraid of snakes – so here are some tips and tricks based on my years of experience and research, that I hope will help you enjoy spring without harming any reptiles.
Let's start with the basics. Take big steps while walking. What snakes don't have in hearing and seeing, they make up for in sensing vibrations.
Snakes have an inner ear with a more than sensitive cochlea, making them able to sense their prey. By taking large steps, you are able to warn off the snakes, giving them time to slither away.
Get to know the snakes in your area. Know where they are located and whether or not they are venomous.
You should learn this not only to make yourself aware of certain places you may want to avoid, but also to help understand these animals a bit more.
Knowledge is the greatest enemy of fear.
Wear shoes when outside, preferably boots. If a snake were to strike, their target would likely be your ankles or calves. This small safety precaution will make a bite feel non-existent.
Lastly, try to change your mindset.
When given the chance, snakes can be magnificent and lovely creatures. In most situations, snakes do more good than harm.
Even venomous snakes have value. Right now medicines aimed at treating disease are being derived by hemotoxins from snakes.
There's nothing to be ashamed about if you are afraid, though.
Everyone has fears, and you don't have to let yours define you. With certain precautions, you can be on your way to feeling more comfortable in the world we share with reptiles.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Olivia Wright
and other students at this nonprofit at

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nigerians Mark A Year Since Boko Haram Terrorists Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls

Arinze Chijioke /
Salamatu Usman called the kidnapping of the Chibok girls a crime against humanity.

By Linus Okechukwu
ENUGU, Nigeria – It was a mild Monday morning on April 14, 2014 as commuters around Nigeria's capital Abuja prepared to take on the day and eke out a living.
As it was the morning rush hour, commuters at the Nyanya bus station on the outskirts of Abuja chattered away, getting ready to board buses shuttling across the bustling capital.
A bomb exploded, killing more than 50 people and injuring 100 more. Nigerians were still reeling that morning attack when news filtered in that more than 200 schoolgirls had been kidnapped overnight in the northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state.
Two murderous attacks, two different towns, and two dimensions to the outcome: death and kidnapping.
"As a girl, I am depressed," said Salamatu Usman, 21, who was outraged by the abduction one year ago. "The news came to me as a rude shock. I feel it is a crime against humanity and particularly against the girl child."
Arinze Chijioke /
Giwa Ishaku said the kidnapping of

the Chibok girls threatens religious

 freedom in Nigeria.
Giwa Ishaku, 21, who is a student of Government Secondary School in Agyaragu, Nasarawa state, was also shocked.
The abduction of the schoolgirls was horrifying, Ishaku said, adding that it was more of a threat to people's freedom to choose their own religion.
Though reactions to the abductions vary throughout Nigeria, Febisola Okonkwo shares in a common mood.
"It's a very traumatic thing," said Okonkwo. "It's very sad and heartbreaking."
Okonkwo, who is the director of Help Initiative Nigeria – an NGO which helps less privileged children and based in Ibadan – said rescuing the kidnapped schoolgirls should be made a top priority.
Founded in 2002, the terrorist group Boko Haram has been launching a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria. The deadly militant group abhors western-style education, and has burned down many schools in that part of the country.
Photo provided
Febisola Okonkwo, director

of Help Initiative Nigeria.
On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School in Chibok Borno state. Of those, 57 escaped and returned to their families, leaving 219 girls still missing a year late.
In a series of videos released by the insurgents, its leader Abubakar Shekau questioned the rationale for allowing the girls to acquire secular education. They have been sold off and married to Boko Haram men, he said.
Usman, who attends Government Secondary School in Gwadenye, Nasarawa state, strongly believes in the power of education. She said that she wasn't scared about the kidnapping.
Arinze Chijioke /
Hawawu Abdullahi, age 10, fears
the terrorists of Boko Haram.
“Education has no substitute," Usman said.
Though a year has passed since the girls were stolen away, memories of the horrendous act is sharp among many people.
And the pain of it is still fresh for 10-year-old Hawawu Abdullahi.
"I feel very sad about the kidnapping,” Hawawu said. “As a little girl who wants to gain knowledge, I understand their passions and I feel sorry for them."
Hawawu, who attends Bigil Computer Nursery and Primary in Agyaragu, Nasarawa state, dreads Boko Haram.
"They are evil," the child said.
Perhaps nobody offers a more vivid description of how the missing schoolgirls constitute a part of the nation than Victoria Umahi, 23, who is working with the Help Initiative Nigeria.
"These missing schoolgirls make up a family, which is the smallest unit in any community; communities grow to form societies which make up a country,” Umahi said. “So if anything happens to any child in any family, it's definitely affecting the whole country."

Festus Iyorah /
Victoria Umahi is part of Help Initiative Nigeria. She said the kidnapping affects all of Nigeria.

Augustina Onyeachonam is a stay-at-home mother whose four children are still in school. Though safely ensconced in southeastern Nigeria where there is hardly any turmoil, Onyeachonam said she would hate any school that allowed children and young people to go missing.
Ifeanyi Onyekere /

Augustina Onyeachonam
 “If the school authority does not show any concern after my child get missing, I’ll never send any of my child back there and I will often feel terribly bad," Onyeachonam said.
Pastor Nwoko Ikechukwu, 30, who resides in the southeastern Nigerian state of Abia, said the kidnapping was more of an orchestrated plan to make President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria seem like "a weakling."
Though Ikechukwu said he feels bad about the kidnapping, he blamed religious leaders and politicians for failing to rid religion of political influences.
Are all hopes lost?
Okonkwo doesn't think so.
"All we can do is pray and create more awareness to let everybody know that these children can still be found," Okonkwo said.
This story was written and edited by YJI Correspondent Linus Okechukwu in Enugu with contributions from YJI Senior Reporter Festus Iyorah in Ibadan, Oyo and YJI Junior Reporters Nchetachi Chukwuajah in Abia, Ifeanyi Onyekere in Oji River, Enugu and Arinze Chijioke in Agyaragu, Nasarawa.

Links to more news and opinion pieces from Youth Journalism International students about the kidnapped girls:

Analysis: Schoolgirls Still Missing A Year Later, April 14, 2015:

From A Nigerian Sister, An Open Letter To The Kidnapped Chibok Girls, A Year Later, April 14, 2015:

Perspective: We Must Cry, Until The Missing Girls Return, April 14, 2015

Perspective: One Year After Their Kidnapping, The Missing Chibok Girls Are Not Forgotten, April 14, 2014

News: Missing Nigerian Girls Not Forgotten; Students Renew Calls For Their Rescue, October 14, 2014

Perspective: Missing Nigerian Girls ‘Should Not Be Traded Off Like Cheap Materials In The Market’ April 30, 2014
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support young journalists
in Nigeria and worldwide through this nonprofit at

Schoolgirls Still Missing A Year Later

By Festus Iyorah
Senior Reporter
IBADAN, Oyo, Nigeria – Nigerians shifted their attention from the recently concluded national election as they remembered the first year anniversary of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists.

 After a myriad of terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram – which is striving to create an Islamic state – ignited global outrage as they abducted the girls in the wee hours of April 14 from a public boarding school in Chibok, a town in the northeastern state of Borno.

The schoolgirls were about to conclude their final exam when the Islamist sect made away with 276 students. Of those, 59 girls escaped and 219 are still held captive.
In the outrage that followed the girls’ disappearance, the #bringbackourgirls campaign went viral on social media. It helped create worldwide awareness about the plight of the abducted schoolgirls – more than 6 million tweets have been sent using the hashtag since the girls went missing, the BBC reported.
From Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai to U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama to Oby Ezekwisili, a Nigerian leader in the effort to spotlight the plight of the missing girls, the campaign to raise awareness has gained endorsement from powerful countries, personalities and organizations.
But as time wears on, Twitter activity has dropped sharply and the campaign has dwindled.
Nevertheless, a fresh campaign continued last week as the #Bringbackourgirls group in Nigeria organized a series of events encouraging people to remember the girls ahead of their first anniversary. One event included a procession in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.
Also, last week, Yousafzai released an open letter calling on Nigerian authorities and the international community not to relent until the schoolgirls are freed.
Although military officers and negotiators from the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Israel and France offered to help Nigeria in finding the girls, analysts said they left few weeks after their arrival due to lack of cooperation from the military and the Nigerian government.
Chibok is essentially a Christian community in the heart of northeastern Nigeria, the epicenter of terrorism since Boko Haram launched its first attack in 2009.
Initially, the schools in the town closed in the month before the kidnapping due to the fear of incessant attacks rocking the region. But the schools reopened so that the girls, who ranged in age from 15 to 18, could finish their final exams.
In one of its damning reports, Amnesty International said that in northeastern Nigeria alone, terrorists, who oppose secular education, have destroyed 50 secondary schools.
This deep-seated position is clearly demonstrated in a video released by Boko Haram last year. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls shouldn't have been in school in the first place, adding that they should have been married since the age of nine.
In another video, Shekau claimed the abducted girls were converted to Islam and auctioned off for $12.50 each into forced “marriage” with members of Boko Haram.
A year and still counting, more than 200 girls are still missing and no clue about their disappearance. For their parents, it has been hell on earth as their wounds are still raw and yet to heal.
Al Jazeera reported that at least 11 parents of the Chibok girls are dead – four of heart failure and seven more killed in a bomb attack in a nearby village of Kautakari last July.
Nigeria’s outgoing leader, President Goodluck Jonathan has been pelted with criticisms for not doing enough to rescue the girls. The government announced a ceasefire deal in October, but it was nothing but a ruse.
With tension about the girls’ whereabouts still thick in the air, the Nigerian military has also been berated for not doing enough since the girls disappeared.
Early this year, a multinational joint task force comprised of soldiers from Niger, Chad and Cameroon, launched an onslaught on the terrorists, recording massive victories and recapturing many towns under the grip of Boko Haram.
Recently, Nigerian newspapers have reported that United Nations and military officials are speculating that the missing girls may have been murdered by Boko Haram as the terrorists fled the town of Bama.
Nigeria’s incoming president, General Muhammadu Buhari, has promised to vanquish the sect after he takes office at the end of May, but for now, Nigerians continue to mourn.

Links to more news and opinion pieces from Youth Journalism International students about the kidnapped girls:

News: Nigerians Mark A Year Since Boko Haram Terrorists Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls, April 14, 2015

From A Nigerian Sister, An Open Letter To The Kidnapped Chibok Girls, A Year Later, April 14, 2015:

Perspective: We Must Cry, Until The Missing Girls Return, April 14, 2015

Perspective: One Year After Their Kidnapping, The Missing Chibok Girls Are Not Forgotten, April 14, 2014

News: Missing Nigerian Girls Not Forgotten; Students Renew Calls For Their Rescue, October 14, 2014
Perspective: Missing Nigerian Girls ‘Should Not Be Traded Off Like Cheap Materials In The Market’ April 30, 2014

Your tax-deductible contribution can help support young journalists
in Nigeria and worldwide through this nonprofit at