Monday, November 25, 2013

Filipino Students Pitch In With Relief Efforts

By Regiem-Melech H. Ocampo
Junior Reporter
SILANG, Cavite, Philippines – For its annual gift giving activity, the principal of the Adventist University of the Philippines Academy decided that its efforts should go to help victims of Yolanda.
Yolanda is what we in the Philippines call Hurricane Haiyan, the super typhoon that hit hard in other areas of the country early this month.
Principal Ardel Sarmiento arranged for students to collect goods by homeroom, starting on Nov. 15 and the first batch of volunteers departed on Nov. 21.
All the goods gathered by the Academy were brought to the National Service Training Program’s Department of the Adventist University of the Philippines and the ₱12,400 cash donation, which is about $280 USD, was converted to 12 sacks of rice.
The goods were carried along with other items from various churches around the province of Cavite, where the Academy is located.  Lt. Dan Alfanoso led the work of the relief team, which was composed of Adventist volunteers from the Adventist University of the Philippines, rescue teams and churches.
Ormoc, a hard hit city in the province of Leyte, is the primary target of the relief work.
The team, including people from the Academy, will be working with the Philippine Coast Guard, Metro Manila Development Agency, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Local Government Unit of Palo, Leyte.
Carolina Sarsadiaz, a rescue work coordinator from Cavite, said the operation will last as long as there is a need. Volunteers will alternate, with groups staying up to a week at a time in Ormoc, depending on the conviction and capacity of the volunteers.

The team is to offer medical services, relief operation and disaster counseling.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Striking Professors Keep Eager Students Out Of Class At Nigeria's Public Universities

Linus Okechukwu /

Yohanna Obadiah, who is in his first year of biology education at the Nasarawa State University in Keffi, is sick of the strike that has kept him out of class for almost five months.

By Linus Okechukwu
Junior Reporter
LAFIA, Nasarawa, Nigeria – Hyacienth Onah is increasingly becoming frustrated, despondent and disillusioned.
Onah, a physics student in his final year at the Federal University of Agriculture in  Makurdi, just wants to be in class. He would have graduated in September, but the professors at all the public universities in Nigeria have been on strike for nearly five months.
The ongoing strike by the the Academic Staff Union of Universities – the union of university professors and lecturers which closed college campuses all over the country – is making his stay at home unbearable.
The strike by college faculty has not only crippled expectations and plans for hundreds of thousands of students, but wreaked havoc on the academic calendars of at about 75 public colleges and universities.
“Honestly, the feeling of every student and me in particular has not really been good, owing to the fact that the strike and everything about it took all the students unawares,” he said.
Onah is not alone; many students share in his frustration and pains.
For Yohanna Obadiah, a first-year student of biology education at the Nasarawa State Univeristy in Keffi, the protracted strike, which began July 1, has brought him nothing but hopelessness and melancholy.
Not only does he feel exasperated about the current situation, Obadiah said, but staying at home without a job makes the whole situation miserable.
“I feel extremely sad. We have been at home for over four months now; nobody in our situation will feel happy,” he said in Hausa, a predominant language in Northern Nigeria. “Happiness is really elusive as it stands now.”
Sharing in Onah’s and Obadiah’s pains, Uche Onah, a second-year physics student at the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi (who is not related to Hyacienth Onah), berated the Nigerian government and the union for being insensitive to the plights of students.
“I feel sad because when the strike started, we were hoping it was something that will end soon. So, we have been very sad,” Uche Onah said.

Linus Okechukwu /

Physics student Hyacienth Onah from the Federal University of Agriculture in  Makurdi, would have already graduated if not for the strike.
According to reports in Nigerian newspapers ThePunch and The Daily Sun, union officials blamed the strike on what it said was the federal government’s failure to implement agreements it made with the union in 2009 and 2012. 
The papers said key areas of the agreement included increased funding for the revitalization of Nigerian universities, the establishment of a faculty pension commission and additional money to pay professors for duties not covered by their salaries.  
Representatives of the union and the government, including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, have had lengthy sessions already, and despite public pleas from students and others, there has been no resolution.
The two sides could meet next as soon as Monday.
Haycieth Onah still believes that after other viable means are explored and no agreement is reached, then strikes can come in handy, sort of a last resort. He also begged the federal government to always keep its own part of any agreement with the union.
Chigozie Uwaoma, who is studying biochemistry at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, said that students should be patient with the union, and prays that the impasse will be broken.
The union is fighting a “just cause,” Uwaoma said, so students should not worry as this will lead to the betterment of university education in Nigeria. He called on striking teachers to consider the situation in the country and remember that students are becoming frustrated and hopeless at home.
As the strike continues unabated, students are glued to the mass media, hoping that very soon the news they have long waited to hear will come: that the strike is over and class is once again in session.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Of Age In Nepal's Festival Season
As part of a Nepalese holiday tradition, YJI reporter Nischal Kharel is fed sweets by his sister Nishma, for a prosperous life.

 By Nischal Kharel
Junior Reporter
POKHARA, Nepal – Every year I used to celebrate the Nepalese festivals of Dashain and Tihar festivals in my own home, but this year took a different turn.
The festivals, which usually fall during the harvest time, are when I get to spend a whole wonderful month with my family in our village of Bayarban in eastern Nepal. My parents, sister and I have fun playing cards, eating delicious foods – we usually sacrifice a goat – and playing on the swings.
Part of the tradition of Tihar, which lasts for three days and is also called the festival of lights, is applying tika. Tika is a mixture of rice, curd and red powder and, applied to the forehead, represents the third eye.
During Tihar, brothers and sisters travel to each other’s homes to honor each other. My father usually travels to his sister’s house. For this holiday, the tika is special – multi-colored and applied through a hole in a leaf.   
I used to receive tika from my parents during Dashain and go to my grandparents’ house, where many family members would gather to celebrate the holiday. There, my sister and I received tika from our family.
Nischal Kharel applies tika to his sister Nishma's forehead.

This year too, Dashain went as usual but Tihar, which we celebrated early this month, was different, because my father gave me an important new role.
He asked me to travel to his sister’s home for Tihar since he wasn’t well enough to make the journey.
“Son, this year I want you to go to your father’s sister’s house to receive a blessings on Tihar,” my father said to me three days before the festival.
He tried to explain.
“As you know, she hasn’t received tika from anyone on Tihar since a decade. And this year, too, I couldn’t go to Pokhara from here terai on bus having the journey of 13 hours. My blood pressure and sugar level is not in balance condition. So you have to go to Pokhara this time.”
I was surprised and shocked to hear that I have to go back to Pokhara before my holidays ended.
As I have been staying there since a year, it won’t be good to leave my aunt’s forehead bare and without tika during the auspicious occasion of Tihar.
I study science in Pokhara in the western part of Nepal, where my aunt lives, as there are no science colleges nearby my hometown.  But she couldn’t go to my house on Tihar because many relatives visit her home during the festival time.
So my father told me to return and my journey to Pokhara was set for two days before Bhaitika, which is an important day of the festival for brothers and sisters.
Then I realized that, with me traveling, my one and only sister would have no one to put tika on if I left her alone at home on Tihar.
So I talked with my parents and sister and arranged to take my sister along with me to Pokhara. She was very happy to hear the news that we would be celebrating Tihar in Pokhara – and making a trip together as well.
Our parents made all the arrangements and bought bus tickets, gifts for his sister and other items. I packed my clothes and books and met up with my friends since I wouldn’t be able to see them after Tihar.
That night, my sister and I left on the bus.
Nischal Kharel and his sister, Nishma, after tika.
I felt proud and grown up. I know I am capable of taking my father’s role and participating for him in his absence.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling unhappy and upset about leaving home without celebrating Tihar, Nepal’s second biggest festival.
The holiday hadn’t ended and I was leaving my parents alone in their home with memories of the Tihar festivals of the past.
With my one and only sister, Nishma, I used to celebrate Tihar peacefully, at our family home. But in Pokhara, I knew there would be many people and relatives there and still more coming to receive tika.
I was feeling quite uncomfortable too, because in my hometown, Nishma and I played Bhailos and Deusis, a custom of going from one house to the next, singing holiday songs, with friends. But they don’t do this in Pokhara.
My sister and I arrived at Pokhara early the next morning and went to my aunt’s home, where we spent an enjoyable day eating meat and bread called rotis and playing cards.
Later, we went with our cousins to enjoy the evening in Lakeside, which is the tourist area of Pokhara and filled with restaurants and hotels. We spent about four hours watching Bhailos and other dancing programs organized for Tihar.
Besides all that, the houses in Pokhara are decorated with lights, which surprised me and made me happy. As my home is in a village, I’d never seen such amazing decorations.
Finally, the holiday felt great.
Though I had lingering sadness that I couldn’t celebrate Tihar at home, I felt grown up and proud of the responsibility my father had given me and the trust he had in me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After Fifty Years, Sorrow Lingers At The Dallas Site Where An Assassin Killed JFK

Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
The view of the Texas School Book Depository from near the spot where President Kennedy was shot.

By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
DALLAS, Texas, U.S.A. – Looking out the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, you can see a river of pale concrete running from downtown Dallas through Dealey Plaza and out into the world beyond.

President John F. Kennedy
From this height, the road seems to be flanked by plains of green grass that stretch for miles before ending abruptly at the foot of a stark white Works Project Administration project that stands no more than 20 yards from the empty pavement.

Beyond the green and white of the Plaza and the pale gray of Elm Street hangs an endless Texas sky, blue and cloudless on this day.
It is a pleasant scene, though unremarkable. Bright colors gleam in the morning sun. Yet below the surface there remains a red stain that 50 years have failed to fade.
The bloody moments of Nov. 22, 1963 cast a specter over this place. This is where President John F. Kennedy died.
Today the Book Depository is home to the Sixth Floor Museum, which tells the story of Kennedy’s life and death.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
Historical marker shows the location of Dealey Plaza
The museum takes a wide-lens approach at the outset, exposing visitors to the cultural trends of the early ‘60s, and gradually narrows its scope as they walk toward the window where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fateful shots.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
A view of Dealey Plaza from the Grassy Knoll, which borders Dealey Plaza.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
The stretch of road within Dealey Plaza where Kennedy's motorcade came under fire.
A minute-by-minute account details the responses of the Secret Service, the Kennedy family, the news media, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson, among others, as they lived through and dealt with the assassination.
The short tour ends with an examination of the various conspiracy theories that continue to surround the shooting, and a display about the aftermath, measured both in days and decades.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
Architect Philip Johnson's memorial to

President Kennedy, about a block from
Dealey Plaza.
An additional site in Dallas – a block away from Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum – also serves as a reminder of that awful day.
In an open square near the old Dallas courthouse stands a large concrete box, 30 feet high and 50 feet wide on each side, with an open top embracing the sky. 
Inside is a small black platform, empty, with the slain president’s name engraved on it.
Though architect Philip Johnson’s memorial is not a beautiful space, it captures the mood of things well. That day in Dallas was bracing and tragic, not just for the city, but for all Americans.

Read another piece by YJI reporters who visited The Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza two years later.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
The centerpiece of the memorial to President Kennedy in Dallas.

After Haiyan, Philippines Faces Tough Road

Photo by Aly Yap, used with permission
Repacked goods for Haiyan relief, ready for transportation at the Ateneo de Manila University. 

By John Eroll Yabut
MANILA, Philippines – Death toll estimates have risen to the ten thousands. Billions of pesos worth of damage are all over the news.
Thousands of people are hurt and hungry in my country and law and order have faded to the background.
The world’s eyes are on the Philippines. Just as international aid flowed generously into the nation, so did international media probes. There is political unrest, a disparity between government and media, and issues of pride, public image and misinformation.
Typhoon Haiyan departed and dissolved, but the Philippines still suffers her wrath.


Thousands of lives were taken and interrupted as disaster struck the Philippines last week. The storm left Tacloban city in ruins. Houses, commercial buildings and old churches went down as the winds and storm surges washed the coastal regions of the island group Visayas.
There are a lot of stories being run by local and international media about families that died together in their homes and children who died in the school that served as an evacuation center when the tsunami-like storm surges hit.
These are the darkest days of the Philippines in 2013. And the days drag on, as the survivors stay hungry for food and aid due to the slow transmission of relief from the cities.


Government response has been criticized by international media groups like CNN and the BBC. CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported for several days at ground zero in Tacloban city and one of his reports resulted in a tiff with popular Filipino news anchor Korina Sanchez, who is also the wife of the Interior and Local Government Secretary. In the report, Cooper noted the state of disorder in Tacloban five days after the typhoon left, which was mistakenly taken by Sanchez as a direct criticism of the Philippine government’s response to the situation.
The arrival of relief goods and effort to the affected areas has been notably slow due to transportation constraints. The use of RORO (roll-on/roll-off) ferries take 48 hours for each truck of relief goods. AirAsia has partnered with presidential sister Kris Aquino in order to deliver relief faster.
In the midst of all this, the Aquino administration has received a lot of criticisms. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the 10,000 number on the death toll has “no basis” and is influenced by “emotional trauma.”
Photo by Jenny Orlina, used with permission
Ateneo de Manila University Student Council President Dan Remo, left, and Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jett Villarin and Philippine President Benigno Aquino during the Ateneo relief operations. 

Aquino also said that things are fairly in control, with the exception of the island of Leyte and Tacloban City, which are the most severely affected areas.
Interviewed by CNN’s Andrew Stevens, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas – and the husband of news anchor Sanchez – plainly said that the situation is under control and that “nothing is fast enough in a situation like this.”
Criticism is rooted in the government’s response – reactive as opposed to proactive – given that reports of Haiyan’s strength and threat had been widely reported days before it hit the country.
Pointing Fingers
“In our framework, the local government unit is the first responder, the national government is supposed to come in on day two or day three,” Roxas said in his interview with Stevens.
But what went wrong in the Haiyan situation was that the local government units were also victims of the typhoon, leaving only the national government to respond.
Despite this, Aquino said in a briefing at the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council that he felt the local government of Tacloban was not as prepared compared to other areas. This drew the ire of Filipino netizens, and a public response from Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez noting that Metro Manila can say it felt ready for the typhoon because it was not hit, but who can comment on Tacloban’s preparedness?
It should be noted that it was not only the storm that killed and wrecked Tacloban, but the surprisingly strong storm surges which came through the city’s sea walls.


Photo by Allison June Lagarde, used with
Typhoon Haiyan relief operations at Ateneo
de Manila University.
Haiyan caused a chaos still evident in the Visayas region, but it also gave rise to people helping other people. The generous flow of international aid into the Philippines is the major player in the relief operations. Millions of dollars have been donated from governments and private corporations alike. A lot of help in-kind and human resources also came in.
Relief operations also began in colleges and universities. Lacking manpower, the Department of Social Welfare and Development delegated the task of repacking relief goods into usable family packs to schools.
According to Ateneo de Manila University Alumni’s Facebook page, the social welfare department asked the school to act as a satellite relief center for the government.
Photo by Allison June Lagarde,
 used with permission
Volunteers wait in line at Ateneo
de Manila University. 
The goods come from the government and the university provided the manpower. Staff from Malacanang, the presidential palace, visited on the second day of operations and were so impressed with Ateneo’s process that Aquino also visited.
The president thanked the volunteers and his fellow alumni. He observed how Ateneo conducted the relief operations. The government is to replicate the process in other relief centers such as at the Villamor Airbase manned by the Philippine Army.
Students, teachers, staff and even people from outside the school contributed greatly to the relief effort in Ateneo.


There are heartbreaking news stories of people watching family members decompose on the streets, of church ceilings and chandeliers succumbing to the strength of the wind. Still other stories tell of children dying in the waves that came without warning, of political strife and chaos.
The day when peace and order will be restored is far from today, and it may be true that things will never be the same way again. But there are also stories of survivors, of the ones who remain alive to build a new Tacloban, a new Leyte, a new Visayas, after Haiyan.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Turning Disposable Into Sustainable

By Robert Mooney
RICHMOND, North Yorkshire, UK – Made up of volunteer leaders, Team V is a great opportunity to meet new people and get lots of experience in campaigning on issues that matter to young people.
Over the next nine months, more than 100 youth leaders from around the United Kingdom will be campaigning on three issues, the first of which is being eco-friendly and proving that our generation can take positive action for the better.

“The Sustainable Generation,” Team V’s first campaign for this year, aims to prove that young people like me can be the ones to solve the problem of environmental damage to the planet.
My generation is often branded as being the “Disposable Generation” but these inspirational people are out to prove that wrong.
For many, including myself, the issue of the environment and sustainability is an important one. We know that whatever action we take now will have a big impact on us and future generations.
Just as parents would want their child to succeed in life, as a leader for Team V myself, I want us to make this a healthy planet for our children and generations afterwards.
Team V, aside from being a great opportunity, is a great way to make change in your local area and it does work as past campaigns have proven. With people all over the UK making the case for change on social issues, it’s hard not to listen.
On top of the initial impact of the campaign, it encourages young people to think twice and take action themselves, going against the stereotype that most teenagers are lazy and don’t care about much.
Overall, the general message the campaign is sending is something that will have a positive impact on young people, now and in the future. It will also prove adults wrong – young people can live up to the campaign’s goal and become “The Sustainable Generation.”

If you would like to find out more about Team V, please see the campaign video on YouTube

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hungry Filipinos Take Desperate Measures

Regiem-Melech H. Ocampo
Junior Reporter
SILANG, Cavite, Philippines – In spite of the early preparation of different local governments, official weather forecasts and President Benigno Aquino’s reminders, the people keep on blaming the government for typhoon troubles.
They blame the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration for not explaining how strong the strong surge would be after Typhoon Haiyan - known as Yolanda here - and Aquino for slow action in attending to the needs of the victims.
As many news outlets have reported, the super typhoon left people almost without hope.
The typhoon’s victims are crying for help, demanding food, clothing and medicine. Hunger and the traumatic experience of the storm left people desperate and emotionally unstable.
Many were so desperate that they broke into stores for food and a ship carrying goods that was stranded on land was looted. People have attacked trucks or other vehicles that contain food.
Aquino ordered the deployment of police and soldiers to secure order because of looting.
In an interview with Philippine news outlet ABS CBN, Civil Defense Office spokesman Reynaldo Balido said, “We have sent substantial (forces) there and if we need to add some more, it won't be just the police but even the armed forces.”
As of Monday, Aquino declared the country under a National State of Calamity. It was estimated that about 26 billion pesos or more will be needed for the recovery.
Many nations and organizations are sending money to help with relief efforts.
Not yet recovered from Yolanda, the Philippines was hit this week by another tropical depression named “Zoraida.”

Compared to Yolanda’s brutality, Zoraida was far weaker, with 55 kph wind, or about 34 mph near the center. It later dissolved into a low pressure area as it moved away from the country.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nature's Paintbrush At Work In Connecticut

Francis Byrne /
A small aircraft makes its way through an azure colored sky which backdrops the yellow-greens of a Sugar Maple.
Francis Byrne /
The fall colors are at their peak in Central Connecticut as the sun shines through the leaves of a Sugar Maple and a Japanese Dwarf Maple.

And below, in two more photos by Francis Byrne, leaves 
with shades of yellow that are highliter-esque drape themselves over this garage in residential West Hartford.