Saturday, September 28, 2013

Far From Her Kenyan Home, Teen Follows News Of Terrorist Attack On Nairobi Mall

Martina Ghinetti
CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom – For 17-year-old Africa Simpson, the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya last week hit close to home.
That’s because Simpson, a student at Impington Village College in Impington, Cambridge, relocated to the United Kingdom from Kenya only a few weeks ago.
The attack by Westgate Premier Shopping Mall that began a week ago and lasted several days, left more than 60 people dead, including children.
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, an ally of Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the assault. It began when a group of terrorists entered the building on Saturday morning, Sept. 21 and started shooting.
The mall, said Simpson, is located on a Nairobi street that is full of shops.
Simpson said she was shocked that a place she thought was safe, like a little bubble, was not anymore.
Her first thoughts after hearing about the attack, she said, were of her friends and their loved ones in Kenya. She said she prayed they were not hurt or involved in any way.
Following news reports and updates on Facebook, Simpson learned that the mother of a former classmate was among those killed. She said several other people she used to know were in the mall but managed to escape.
Simpson said that Kenya is at war with Somalia and that the attack on the mall was likely in retaliation for the advances Kenya had made against Somali troops. She said she thinks al-Shabab is also responsible for burning the airport in Nairobi in early August.
Those who committed these crimes aren’t human in Simpson’s view. She said while she is not “an eye for an eye” kind of person, she thinks they should be punished.
It’s the first time, she said, that she knows what it feels like for her country to be attacked from another nation.
While Kenya has had internal conflicts in the past, Simpson said, and was nearly split in half from the inter-tribal war a few years ago, the nation has come together after the Westgate assault.
The attack, she said, brought Kenyans a lot closer and they are standing together as one country.
Everyone is helping, Simpson said, by donating blood or whatever they can to contribute. That makes her happy, she said, as does the moral support the country is getting from people worldwide. She said she appreciates those who put a Kenyan flag as their Facebook profile picture.
Kenya is a very lively place, said Simpson, who has fond memories of her homeland.
The country is covered with several large open forests, she said, and despite a huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the people are happy.
What she remembers most, Simpson said, is the dusty road where she used to live, complete with roaming dogs.
“I just loved it,” she said. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

YJI Henna Artists And Face Painters A Hit At The Annual Bristol, Connecticut Mum Festival
Thespians of Bristol Theatre Arts' "Seussical" show off the henna designs they got at the YJI booth at the Mum Festival in Bristol, Connecticut on Saturday.
YJI's top facepainers,Yelena Samofalova, left and Mary Majerus-Collins with a little boy who was very happy with his Spiderman face.
This girl wanted her face painted to look like a frog.
With the magic of YJI facepainting, this little girl turned into a lion.
Gaggan Dhanjal's henna design
Volunteer Gaggan Dhanjal loaned YJI her expertise in applying henna.
Bristol Central High School Interact Club members Gaggan Dhanjal and Gabby Raymond, both sophomores, helped out at the YJI booth and the Bristol Rotary Club booth.
YJI's booth at the Mum Festival offered henna art and facepainting.
Yelena Samofalova painted
a lot of faces on Saturday
Yelena Samofalova applies henna to a woman's hand.
Yelena Samofalova's henna creation
YJI alum Hila Yosafi-Lehman and her son Noah stopped by YJI's booth to show support.
YJI alum Hila Yosafi-Lehman and her mom, a great friend to YJI, Zarmina Yosafi
YJI's booth, next to our friends at the Bristol Rotary Club, was busy most of the day with children wanting face painting and people of many ages looking for the henna artistry we offered.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spending Precious Time With A National Hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Mariechen Puchert on the MV Explorer

By Mariechen Puchert
Associate Editor
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The MV Explorer, home to more than 600 students on the Spring 2013 voyage of Semester at Sea, suddenly got quiet. Too quiet.
It could have been that finals were around the corner, inducing a silent panic of late-night studying. It could be that the ship’s recent visits to South Africa and Ghana have thoroughly exhausted these students. Or, it could be that a characteristic laugh was absent from those halls.
For two and a half months, the students of the MV Explorer had the unprecedented experience of sailing with a Nobel Laureate in our midst. The Most Reverend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, is known and loved around the world. He sailed with us from the start of the voyage in San Diego at the beginning of January, and disembarked in April, when we arrived in Cape Town.
A fellow South African, Archbishop Tutu, or “Arch,” as the shipboard community affectionately called him, is well-known for his ethos of peace and acceptance.
He has been vocal about human rights violations in Zimbabwe, Tibet, Gaza and the gay community.
As a South African, I consider his most valuable contribution to be his involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which may be one of the single greatest reasons South Africa did not turn into a bloodbath after the end of apartheid.
How does one begin to describe the experience of having such a great mind in our midst? He ate breakfast with us, surprising us with his jovial laugh. He is certainly a better morning person than I am!
When I finally gathered the courage to introduce myself to this role model, we spoke at length about the many challenges faced by South Africa. He took to talking to me in my home language, and so alleviated some of my homesickness.
At the age of 81, Archbishop Tutu was an active member of the shipboard community, and I witnessed his selflessness on more than one occasion.
He was happy to talk at many events. Once, he addressed the Black Students’ Association, and shared with us what had inspired him as a young child. He talked about how Jackie Robinson becoming the first black professional baseball player showed the then-16-year-old Tutu that black people could achieve anything white people could do.
He told us of the all-black cast of Stormy Weather (1943), and how they, too, inspired him. His point was this: everybody has a role to play in inspiring the change-makers. Americans, too, contributed to the eventual victory over the apartheid regime.
He did not shy away from sharing less-glamorous experiences. He shared the humiliation of needing a pass to enter the city of Johannesburg, despite the fact that he was, at the time, Bishop of Johannesburg. He shared the horror of seeing his children’s faces when they received telephonic threats.
Archbishop Tutu made regular appearances in our classes – sharing his experiences in, among others, an International Law class and a Public Health class.
In the Public Health class, he expertly explained the intricacies of South African healthcare, illustrating how some of the problems originated during the apartheid years, while also explaining how the current government of South Africa contributes to the problem.
Archbishop Tutu’s humility struck me. Once, we saw a student kissing his hands, expressing how honored he was by the Archbishop’s presence. The Archbishop kissed his hands right back. Several times before ceremonies or shipwide meetings, students would dance to upbeat music, and several times, the Archbishop joined in with a slow shuffle-and-sway.
He stole the hearts of the little children – or perhaps they stole his? – and it was not uncommon to see him sharing a high-five with a toddler onboard.
When asked what his favorite part about Semester at Sea was, Archbishop Tutu’s  response was always the same, “You. The students.” He said that seeing young minds, ready to change the world, inspired him. His message to us was always to remain inspired and hopeful, and not to become disillusioned.
It was wonderful to learn from an individual with so many accolades to his name, and who has seen so many tragedies unfold, and has not become disillusioned himself. Shortly after disembarking South Africa, we heard that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had become the latest recipient of the Templeton Prize, which has previously been received by the Mother Theresa and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
In his absence, the shipboard community celebrated this award, which we knew he truly deserved.
The spring voyage concluded, Puchert is back in Cape Town, studying medicine at the University of Stellenbosch.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu Believes In Young People
Archbishop Desmond Tutu's message to youth is to follow their dreams for peace in the world.

By Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn.  – South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has some simple advice for youth: dream.
“I want to say to young people, dream,” Tutu said.
“You have to go on saying peace is possible,” he said. “Dream that this world can become better.”
Tutu, 81, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his unifying role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid in South Africa. At the time, he was General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Still a powerful figure worldwide in the fight for social justice and peace, he recently returned from a Semester at Sea program where he sailed most of the way around the world with a ship full of college students.
It wasn’t his first voyage. Tutu referenced his four-month journey with about 600 college students during a 2011 visit to Connecticut.
“They are fantastic,” Tutu said.
During the visit, Tutu shared his thoughts about young people in public appearances and a previously unpublished interview with Youth Journalism International.
“I love you and I hug you!” a joyful Tutu told a crowd gathered for a peace walk in West Hartford. “You are all beautiful; you really don’t know just how beautiful you are.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu interacts with YJI reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins in Hartford.

Tutu said he is particularly keen on young people getting involved.
“God is using young people today,” Tutu said, just as God once relied on famous Biblical figures such as Joseph, the youngest of his brothers, and David, also the youngest in his family.
Tutu shared some of his own experiences with young people, recounting the days of apartheid, an institutionalized segregation of the races in South Africa that insured the nation’s white minority controlled the government and most of the money.
He said young people freed South Africa from its racist past, and lauded the college students of that time who pushed their universities to pull investments from South Africa. They made a real difference, he said.
Tutu also spoke of other times when youth made a difference.
“It was young people who were involved in demonstrations,” he said, “and managed to force this country out of the Vietnam War.”      
“I doff my cap to you young people,” he said.  “I metaphorically take off my cap and say, do all of the things you want to do. Dream.” 
Tutu said that young people have an “extraordinary” power to do good for the world.
“I have a great deal of time for young people,” Tutu said. “An oldie like me is going to depart into the sunset, thrilled that the world is in safe hands, the hand of these beautiful, extraordinary young people.”
Tutu said that he has “often been upset with the media” for vilifying young people simply because one goes astray.
“They splash it as if it was representative of all young people,” he said.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
is a cheerleader for peace.
Tutu said he’s seen young Americans working “in remote, isolated villages helping to building classrooms, helping to build clinics.”
Tutu brought a soaring message of hope for the future and reminded young people they are the future and they should not allow anyone to keep them down.
He spoke, for example, of young people on the divided island of Cyprus who are coming together to try to resolve their land’s problems.
He urged people not to allow themselves to be infected with the cynicism of the “oldies.”
Tutu, who called himself a “prisoner of hope,” said there is no option but to believe in peace.
“Imagine if we said it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You have to go on saying, ‘Peace is possible.’ Imagine if it wasn’t.”
Tutu said his own experience with racism helped spur his support for the gay community.
“You don’t choose your sexuality,” he said. “It is a given. For some of us who have been penalized for their ethnicity, it’s almost unthinkable not to say by the side of those who are being clobbered.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an advocate for peace wherever he goes.
Tutu took his message beyond youth.
The planet needs everyone’s attention, according to Tutu.
“We have only this fragile planet home. For goodness sake, let’s cherish it,” Tutu said.
He said that everyone has a responsibility to help our fellow humans and not harm them.
Tutu said that only a small portion of our global “defense budgets” could be used to give food and clean water to people who truly need them.
“God cries!” Tutu said, over the miserable conditions that some live in. We should spread our prosperity, he said. “You can’t be human on your lonesome.”
Tutu said the dreams of young people are God’s dreams.
“Go on dreaming,” he said. “God is looking to you to help make this a better world.”
Youth Journalism International reporters Celeste Kurz, Erez Bittan and Kiernan Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back To School: And Now I Am A Senior

Minh Nguyen /
Last spring, these Hanoi Amsterdam High School juniors were on the cusp of senior year. From left to right: Trang Luu, Thao Hoang, Anh Vu, Linh Vu, Linh Vo. In back are Quynh Nguyen and Ngoc Do.

By Chi Le
HANOI, Vietnam – Time flies and summer ends with the feeling you haven’t done enough. School is well underway in Vietnam, the grand opening ceremony already fading from memory.
I don’t care much about that in particular, so what is there about the ceremony that has me toss and turn at night? Truth being told, there isn’t. Yet I’m slightly bothered right at this moment in time.
I am not ready to be a senior. 
But don’t let yourself be troubled by my situation, as there are numerous perks to being a high school senior.
If you participate in an extracurricular activity, no more insecurities, I promise. Should you be an occasionally socially conscious person, you’re hereby freed from the nagging thought that seniors are disregarding your presumably dissatisfactory performance.
Though senior year hailed me with the warmest cheers, I still tucked my hands cozily in the pockets of summer.
The most common thought about senior year is how it equals hard work.
When I said hard, I mean pulling frequent nighters if, A.) you still fail to arrange the schedule wisely as in your junior year, or B.) you have too much load to carry.
I expect senior year to be a stressful phase of schooling, when I am subject to the normalcy of being a student and the irregularity of preparing myself for college. 
Congratulations self, you are now old enough to decide your future, at least where you will be in the next four years.
While not exactly the most soothing factor in being a high school senior, it could genuinely serve as a gentle reminder for me to put my best efforts into the game. For anyone who has the disturbing tendency to procrastinate, truth is motivation.
But there is no way I will let myself have panic attacks at night. Senior year is not even close to a nightmare. It is the probably the best time in a student’s life.
I may not have walked the walk, but I harbor this gut feeling that most of my school memories will trace back to this year.
The fact is, the best school traditions are for seniors and seniors only.
When I used to wonder what it was about senior year that made it so awesome, an awkward silence was all I got for an answer. I could discover little of what made the year magical.
Being serious about the future is hardly fun, and goodbyes are never easy.
Knowing that I am granted one last time to be in high school scares me: I could never savor everything I adore.
But at the end of the day, it may not be the quantity that matters. I should be content making the most of my time with friends (and teachers) and trying to be a little more adventurous as senior year never comes back for a second try.
Maybe after all, I should not be bothered. Maybe there are things I could never be ready for; graduating is among those. Even then, it should never keep me from embracing this precious gift of time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

German Youth Speak Out About Election

Katie Grosser /
Political posters tout national candiates in Germany's upcoming election on a signpost. The top poster, from the Christian Democratic Union, when translated to English, says, "Successful together. For Germany." The poster below features a photo of Peer Steinbrück, candidate for chancellor, and is from the Social Democratic Party. It says, "Determined by 'we.' "

By Katie Grosser
Associate Editor
MÜNSTER, Germany – Germans will be taking to the polls Sunday, and up for grabs are all 598 seats – or more, if extra seats are required – in the Bundestag, the main legislative house in Germany. The outcome of this election will resonate in the rest of the world.
Currently, five parties are seated in the Bundestag. The governing coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel comprises the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the main conservative parties in Germany, and the Free Democratic Party, the classic liberal party. The opposition is made up of the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, and the Left, which describes itself as democratic socialist.
These coalitions are likely to change, however, since recent polls have shown that neither the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria and Free Democratic Party, nor the Social Democratic Party and Greens – both the preferred and most common recent government coalitions – are likely to get a majority.
Many have been predicting another grand coalition between the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the Social Democratic Party, which is what occurred eight years ago after the 2005 federal election.
Germans have been pondering various campaign issues during the run-up to the election. On the top of everyone’s minds is the situation in the financial markets. Germans are asking who will pay to get the European Union out of the financial and debt crisis and how the banks should be regulated.
Katharina Pöhlke, 19, a first-time voter and recent high school graduate, concedes that this is a difficult topic.
“The fact that Germany is helping other EU-countries is good,” said Pöhlke. “But we have to be careful not to harm ourselves. Sometimes it seems like, Germany is the only country helping the others.”
Maya Argaman, 23, an English student, thinks that all EU-countries should be on the same page concerning payments to those countries which are in a crisis.
“As long as that isn’t the case, Germany should hold back,” Argaman said.
Ultimately, said Jan Engelke, a 23-year-old economics student, people should keep in mind that “Germany’s well-being depends on the Euro and therefore on other countries in the Eurozone.”
Not only financial and European, but also social, employment and family concerns have been dominant issues in the current campaign.
The parties are split on whether Germany needs a mandatory minimum wage, with the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria and Free Democratic Party against it and the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Left favoring it. The parties in favor also want to change the current dual system of private and public health insurance and introduce the new “Bürgerversicherung” (public health insurance) for all.
Another important question concerns women and whether there should be a women’s quota for management positions.
Samuel Wemhöner, 24, a future teacher from the most populated German state, Northrhine-Westphalia, is torn on this issue.
“In terms of equal opportunities a women’s quota should theoretically be put into place,” Wemhöner said. “But in my opinion, women are already getting preferential treatment in many areas, so I don’t think a women’s quota is really necessary.”
Pöhlke is also skeptical. “Women not being in leading positions as often as men is more of a social problem,” she said. “A women’s quota would lead to more women in such positions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be accepted. Maybe this is the wrong approach.”
Argaman is of a similar opinion.
“I’m against women’s quotas or men’s quotas or foreigner’s quotas,” Argaman said. “The best candidates should simply be in the leading positions.”
And lastly, politicians and citizens alike are torn on how to be implement the German “Energiewende” (energy transition), which mandates greenhouse gas reductions, higher energy efficiency and a growth in renewable energy.
Fracking, for example, is very controversial in Germany. While the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Left are against fracking, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the Free Democratic Party want to further investigate the possibilities of this method.
But some voters are skeptical.
“Fracking should only be put to use when a more environmentally friendly method has been developed,” said Engelke, the economics student.
“Under no circumstances,” said Argaman. “Germany has to put a halt to pure economic thinking and put the environment first for once.”
Pöhlke is especially vehement in her opposition. “Our neighbors are very active in the fight against fracking, so I learn a lot from them. I think we humans harm our environment enough as it is and we need to put an end to it.”
One of the main reasons why there has been no coalition clearly leading in the opinion polls so far seems to be that – even though they may have different positions on the important issues – the parties have grown more similar over the years.
“I don’t follow politics and the parties regularly and I can’t really tell any difference between the two big parties,” said Wemhöner.
Engelke said that while Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party’s positions do differ on some of the important issues, “ultimately, even if we have a new government coalition, there will barely be any difference anyway.”
According to Pöhlke, both parties basically want what’s good for Germany. “I think a grand coalition would be a good thing for our country.”
Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate for chancellor, was Minister of Finance during the grand coalition under current Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has publicly stated that he would not take a position as minister under Merkel again if it should come to another grand coalition.
Although Steinbrück has been gaining momentum in the last few days of the election, he has had a hard time so far. Merkel is very popular in Germany, even though she is often criticized for avoiding real discussions about Germany’s future. Nevertheless, many voters trust her.
“While I think Steinbrück is competent in the area of finance, I’m not sure how he would do on other issues of political relevance. He also comes across as a bit arrogant and sullen,” said Engelke, who sees Merkel as both likeable and competent.
Pöhlke agrees with the critics and thinks that Merkel beats around the bush a lot, but likes her nevertheless. Steinbrück, too, has grown on her and she thinks he would not be a bad alternative to Merkel.
“I think that both candidates could lead the country,” Pöhlke said.
Merkel left a positive impression on Argaman in the way she persevered as Germany’s first female chancellor, but Argaman said she thinks some of Merkel’s positions are questionable. Steinbrück, in her eyes, seems unfriendly.
“To be honest, I don’t really want either of the candidates to lead the country. But since it will end up being one of them, I would prefer Merkel, since she has already proven herself to be an esteemed and respectable chancellor both on a European and international level.”
As Europe’s largest national economy and, as of 2010, the world’s fourth largest economy, Germany played a pivotal role in the Euro crisis.
Germany is starting to regain – albeit often reluctantly – its position as one of the world’s leading nations.
“Germany is one of the most influential countries in the EU, and whoever is in power in Germany could also shift the political direction of the EU,” Engelke said. “The outcome of this election will resonate in the rest of the world.”
But if Merkel stays chancellor, not much will change, according to Argaman. “If Merkel is reelected, the world will register the outcome, but it won’t really feel the effects of it,” she said. “Business as usual will continue.”