Monday, February 22, 2016

Images From Uganda's Election

Youth Journalism International Senior Photographer Daniel Gilbert Bwette of Kampala, Uganda captured many images of the voting last week in his country. Below is a slideshow of his photos. Click on the arrow on the right side of the photo to advance to the next image:

Uganda Election 2016
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
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Deadpool: A Superhero, A Decent Movie

Image from the official Deadpool Facebook page
Matthew Albrecht
Reporter
AMHERST, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – It was no surprise to me that there was going to be a Deadpool film. It seems that recently both Marvel and DC comic book characters have all been getting their fair share.
All a company has to do, in this example 20th-Century Fox, is grab a big name actor and people will come in droves. These comic book movies have become more successful in their search for a large mainstream audience and Deadpool is no exception.
The movie may be R-rated for its nudity, sexual content, violence, and language, but it attempts to get anyone 18 or over in the theater. The movie succeeds in this through clever advertising and a long running media campaign.
Deadpool escalates when Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) gets his cancer diagnosis. He and his love interest Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) must find a way to combat his new health diagnosis. This is when things take a super turn and Wade is on the path to becoming the unconventional hero we know and love.
Both Reynolds and Baccarin deliver more than enough in their roles but the real scene stealers are T.J. Miller as Weasel and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al.
The film has more than enough action and wonderful graphics for any action junkie. It does an especially great job using an action sequence to pull all of the pieces of the movie together.
But what the movie is surprisingly good at is making us care about the romance between Wilson and Vanessa. Do they end up happy and safe? Are the happy with each other at the end? For those answers, you will need to see the movie.
When all is said and done, Deadpool is primarily a comedy and that is where it shines. The jokes maybe irreverent, slapstick at times, and in your face, but they are numerous. There were times when not one person in the theater was quiet.
However, there were a few times when it felt like they were trying too hard. Deadpool tries to be a romance, comedy, and action movie all at the same time and can seem to distract itself in the process.
This movie is a great watch and I recommend it as a movie going experience. But you don’t necessarily need to see it again or own it. 
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Teen Fan Happily Goes Down To 'The River' With Bruce Springsteen, E Street Band

Justin Hern / youthjournalism.org
American rocker Bruce Springsteen performing in Hartford, Connecticut on February 10, 2016.

By Justin Hern
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen concerts are truly something special. They fill you with so much joy and really resonate long after the concert is done. It is an experience of a lifetime.
The first time I ever saw him perform live with the E Street Band, it impacted me so much that I knew I would need to be in the house if ever he came anywhere nearby for a concert again.
Springsteen is an amazing musician, songwriter, and performer who, in my opinion, is the best example of true rock ‘n’ roll. He has been putting out albums since the early 1970’s, but four decades later, I feel very lucky to have witnessed his genius in person.
Amelia Hern / youthjournalism.org
In the center of the arena, Bruce
Springsteen performs on a
small walkway before
crowdsurfing back to the stage.
I had the honor of going to the Springsteen’s Feb. 10 concert with the E Street Band at the XL Center in Hartford. I’ve been a fan for a while and had already been to four shows. The Hartford concert was the ninth show in The River Tour that he started in January.           
My family and I left our house in the early afternoon. We had General Admission tickets, which means you watch the show from the floor of the arena. If you’re lucky, it brings you closer to Bruce. We got our wristbands for General Admission and had an early dinner so that we would be fortified for the concert.
A few hours later, we went to line up for the wristband lottery, where the 900 people with wristbands are lined up by hundreds and a random number is called. Whoever has that number gets to go first and all of the people after that person follow in numerical order. It’s best to be close behind the person with that number.
The genius of this system is that it makes it fair for everyone. People don’t have to sleep outside for five days to get in the front row, only to get trampled by many other fans competing for the spot. It’s all based on luck. Unfortunately, they called a number in the 700s and my family was in the 400s, so we were about 600 back from the stage.
We weren’t discouraged though, as we were happy just to be there. As an engaging performer, Springsteen makes sure to include everyone in the experience, no matter if they were really far from the stage or sitting behind the stage.
We got into the arena and claimed our territory. We stood right behind a little elevated walkway that Bruce comes out on during some songs, so we were still in a good spot.


Yoshiyuki Matsumoto / youthjournalism.org
The view of the stage from just behind the walkway in the center of the floor.
After a few hours, the show started with amazing energy. The E Street Band came out and instantly went into “Meet Me In The City,” an outtake from the album The River. To honor the 35th anniversary of The River, Springsteen released a remastered version of the album, filled with outtakes, notes, and a documentary called “The Ties That Bind.”
After “Meet Me In The City,” Bruce and the band played all 20 songs from The River in the exact order as the 1980 double album. Bruce called it his “coming of age album,” as it’s centered around themes of marriage, growing up, and family.
The River includes a fantastic contrast of heavy-hitting house-rockers, like “Hungry Heart” and “I’m A Rocker” and beautiful, contemplative ballads, like “Stolen Car” and “Fade Away.”
Amelia Hern / youthjournalism.org
On a slower number, Bruce Springsteen at center stage with drummer Max Weinberg behind him, organist Charlie Giordano on the left and guitarist Steven Van Zandt in the shadows on the right.
While it was different from the spontaneity and unpredictability Springsteen shows have become known for, this concert was special, as I got to hear many songs that I probably would never hear in a normal concert. Once The River was done, Bruce performed songs from his other albums.
Justin Hern / youthjournalism.org
Bruce Springsteen takes the plunge, backwards
into the crowd, and rides on the hands of fans
back to the stage.
He played many of my favorites, including “No Surrender,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and “Born To Run.” He also played “Loose Ends,” another outtake that is very rarely played. The real highlight for me was when he played “She’s The One,” which is a favorite of mine and my mother’s. Bruce ended the show with a cover of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers.
Bruce Springsteen is truly incredible. At 66 years old, he still not only plays music for almost three and a half hours, but also crowd-surfs, runs, jumps, and dances as if he were in his 20s.

He’s surrounded by an equally incredible band, including saxophonist Jake Clemons, nephew of late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, drummer “Mighty” Max Weinberg, guitarist and longtime friend Steven Van Zandt, bassist Garry W. Tallent, pianist Roy Bittan, guitarist Nils Lofgren, Bruce’s wife and background singer/guitarist Patti Scalfia (who took the night off for our show), organist Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell on violin and vocals.


Justin Hern / youthjournalism.org
Bruce Springsteen crowdsurfs back to the stage singing "Hungry Heart."
This concert was so much fun. Even though I had been to Springsteen shows before, each one is a totally new experience. Whether it’s due to where you’re watching the show, the songs he plays, or the people around you, it’s always different. Some of our friends came all the way from Japan to see the concert, which shows the worldwide effect that Bruce has. He also appeals to all ages, from people who discovered him back in the 1970s to people just discovering him today. That’s what makes Bruce Springsteen special.


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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Photo Essay From Kampala: Tensions High As Uganda Prepares For Election

Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A crowd shouts in support of Ugandan presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on Monday in Wandegeya, a suburb of Kampala. Click on photo to enlarge.

By Daniel Gilbert Bwette
Senior Reporter
WANDEGEYA, Uganda – Riots broke out Monday in a suburb of Kampala when police blocked a presidential candidate from holding a campaign event.
Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change party had planned a campaign event at Mekerere University, Uganda’s oldest university. But police intercepted him on the way and supporters couldn’t proceed.
In the resulting riot, police dispersed thousands of Besigye’s followers with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. One person was killed.
Besigye, a medical doctor and former military officer who has run for president several times without success, is one of eight candidates for president. President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years, is seeking re-election.
People go to the polls on Thursday.
There is much anger and tension between people and some are heading from the cities back to villages. Others who are able are leaving the country.
Election results are expected on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
Police with riot shields in Wandegeya, Uganda on Monday. Click on any photo to enlarge.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A motorcycle is partially obscured by a fog of tear gas.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
Ugandan presidential candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change in Wandegeya, Uganda on Monday.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A man holds a sign in support of Kizza Besigye, a candidate for president in Uganda at a campaign event-turned riot outside of Kampala on Monday.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournailsm.org
A tear gas cannister.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A man in Wandegeya, Uganda wearing a
shirt in support of presidential candidate
Kizza Besigye raises a water bottle Monday
as the campaign event planned for Besigye
turns violent.



Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
Police march toward the rioters on Monday in Wandegeya.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
Military police, known as "Red Tops" near where the riots were taking place in Wandegeya on Monday.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A police officer helps a man wounded by a rubber bullet in Wandegeya.


Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A police officer out of uniform was part of the operation on Monday in Wandegeya.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
Police stand in the foreground while in the background, fires set by rioters burn in the middle of the street in Wandegeya on Monday.
Daniel Gilbert Bwette / youthjournalism.org
A police officer gets a new supply of tear gas canisters for reloading on Monday in Wandegeya.
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Youth Reporter Has A Key Question For All U.S. Presidential Candidates

youthjournalism.org
YJI reporter Garret Reich, on the right, in a selfie with her mom, Anita Reich, at a campaign event in Iowa in January.
By Garret Reich
Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A. – As a proud student journalist following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I have one question for the candidates in the race.
As a 16-year-old, I cannot vote for my next president. I have four years before I will have that opportunity. And I am not the only one. In 2014, the United States Census Bureau determined that 23 percent of the population also cannot yet vote.
Having said that, I am still learning. I fully accept that. Everyone around me has a variety of opinions.
My mom is voting for Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont who calls himself a Democratic Socialist. My dad supports Ted Cruz, a conservative U.S. senator from Texas running for the Republican nomination.
Someone whose opinion I value highly is voting for the Democrat, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and my town is filled with paraphernalia for Ben Carson, a Republican neurosurgeon who also hopes to be the party’s nominee.
That is why I am here to ask all of the candidates – regardless of political positions, biases and voters’ opinions – why I matter.
Why do all of us who are unable to vote for any candidate matter to the 2016 election?
The next president will influence how much I will pay in taxes from my paycheck, how I will pay for college, and how much money I will make.
But I can't contribute my vote as a citizen to choose who will be making these decisions.
Since I can't vote, my name is irrelevant to anyone campaigning in primaries, caucuses or even the general election
This alone has kept my generation from getting involved. I see my peers choosing not to be interested, not watching the debates, and not watching our political process evolve because our votes do not yet matter.
However I, and the majority of high school students in this country will be the next voting generation.
That is why I want every candidate to answer this:
“Why do we matter to you?”
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Six Nation Showdown In European Rugby


By Felicity Rodger
Reporter
EDINBURGH, United Kingdom – It’s that time of year once again when rivalries rise up to the surface and blood boils in the hearts of much of Europe. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy will all face each other in the Six Nations.
The Six Nations is an annual rugby tournament where each of these teams play each other during seven weeks in February and March.
The more games they win, the more points they score, all with the aim of putting themselves higher on the leader board. The team with the most points will win the coveted Six Nations trophy.
The real question people want answered is who will emerge on top?
In previous years, the trophy has been awarded to various teams and there is usually no clear winner until the last weekend, sometimes even the last match. 
With the Rugby World Cup taking place only months before this particular tournament, it is interesting to evaluate which team will do well based on its earlier matches.
England had a disappointing rugby world cup campaign and will look to do better in this year’s Six Nations.
It has a new captain, Dylan Hartley, and a new coach, Eddie Jones, so it will want to get a good reputation from the start. With a large game against Scotland first, away from home, England will have to keep its cool to win this first match if it hopes to be in contention.
Although making it out of the group stages at the international competition, Ireland did not have a great world cup either.
 With its captain Paul O'Connell injured, the squad was left without clear leadership on the field. However, as the reigning champions of the 2015 Six Nations, the Irish are going to try all their hardest to keep the trophy in Dublin.
Italy did not perform at the Rugby World Cup and has not had successful Six Nation tournaments in the past.
Despite shocking wins against Scotland and France in previous years, it hopes teams will underestimate its abilities and maybe even gain some points in the process.
France's rugby team has been all over the place for quite some time. Leadership of the team has changed and players have been lacking.
With Paris in the news so much last year, I believe the French will want to make their people proud and give them something to celebrate. France is excellent when its players are on form, especially for home games.
Scotland probably had the best international rugby campaign of all the teams competing in the Six Nations.
If it weren't for a referee's poor judgement, the Scotland team could have made it through to the semifinals of the Rugby World Cup.
Sent home early instead, it could be looking for revenge. Scotland has announced a lot of new and talented young players to the team. On a good day, it can certainly give the opposition a scare.
Lastly, there is Wales, which reached the international quarterfinals, but failed to win against South Africa.
During the World Cup, the Welch team suffered from many injuries, forcing new, inexperienced players to take the field. In the Six Nations this year, and having many injured veterans back, Wales will certainly be a contender.
With the partnership of Sam Warburton, its skillful captain, and Dan Biggar, an excellent kicker, the Welsh team looks good and needs a win against Ireland first to set them straight.
Overall, this year’s Six Nations looks to be an exciting several weeks’ worth of good rugby.
Although supporting different teams can split families apart, it’s all in good spirits and is a lot of fun to watch. Fans are eager to see the tournament commence.
Check here to follow the tournament, which began today.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

'Amy' A Fitting Tribute To Winehouse

Noah Kidron-Style / youthjournalism.org
After Winehouse died in 2011, fans left a makeshift memorial in front of her London flat.
By Noah Kidron-Style
Correspondent
AUSTIN, Texas, U.S.A. – Director Asif Kapadia’s powerful documentary Amy begins with home-video footage of a 14-year-old Amy Winehouse singing “Happy Birthday” to her childhood best friend Lauren Gilbert. 
Sadly, we already know how the story ends.
Winehouse died at her flat in Camden Square, London in 2011, at just 27 years old.
The cause of death was later revealed to be accidental alcohol poisoning, and for Winehouse’s millions of fans across the world it felt almost like losing a member of the family.
As tributes flooded in, fans paid their respects in the only way they knew how – through music. By the end of the week, a record-breaking eight of Winehouse’s singles appeared simultaneously in the UK charts.
But what is extraordinary about Kapadia’s documentary is not that it tells us what we already knew, however tragic. What is extraordinary is the footage that we have never seen before, or may have seen at the time but can only half remember.
Winehouse lived her life in front of the camera, not only because she became world famous, but because her and her friends documented everything, long before anyone else had any interest in seeing it. Such is the personal nature of these films – fears, romances, fights – that watching feels almost voyeuristic.
As with Senna, his last documentary – an excellent biography of the Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna – Kapadia makes scant use of interviews with talking heads. They don’t appear on screen, only as audio on top of images of Winehouse herself taken from personal videos, performances and interviews.
The similarities between Senna and Winehouse are remarkable. They came from radically different places, and lived radically different lives, but were driven by the same burning love for their respective crafts that briefly, and excitingly, made them the best in the world at what they did. Both were hugely charismatic, beloved by millions and were tragically cut down in their prime.
Hauntingly, both seemed to predict their own deaths but were powerless to do anything about it. Winehouse was convinced she would die young. Many people close to her during the height of her career even say that she was exercised by deep fear that she would end up joining the “27 Club,” a moniker given to a group of artists such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain who all died age 27. That group now includes Winehouse herself.
Noah Kidron-Style / youthjournalism.org
Flowers left by fans outside Amy Winehouse's London flat after her death in 2011.
When it comes to divvying up blame, Kapadia pulls no punches. Amy's father Mitch Winehouse was a constant barrier to her getting the help she desperately needed because he refused to accept that anything was wrong – as documented by the line “if my daddy thinks I'm fine” from her most famous song “Rehab.”
Her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, the inspiration for the song “Back to Black,” was a destructive influence who feared that if Winehouse kicked her drug habit he would lose his own supply. Despite this, and powerful criticism of the paparazzi, the film is honest enough to admit that Winehouse was complicit in her own addiction.
One of the most painful moments in the film is when a clean Winehouse, shortly after winning a Grammy Award, turns to a friend to confess that success is “so boring without drugs.” More positively, her other addiction was to music and she was never happier than when she was singing and writing.
What shines through is not just her raw natural talent, but also her determined individual streak. As a down-to-earth North London Jewish girl who was obsessed with jazz, Winehouse realized there weren't songs being written that reflected her own life, and so set out to write them herself.

In an era of prefabricated pop, it is remarkable how personal Amy’s two albums were. She took jazz, a sometimes rarified and elitist genre, and made it gritty, real and about herself. Her work is a fitting soundtrack to her life story, and Kapadia’s film a fitting tribute.
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Monday, February 1, 2016

This Iowa Caucus Is Low Key, Respectful

Garret Reich  / youthjournalism.org
Katie Smithers, 15, went to her local caucus Monday night to learn.
By Garret Reich
Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A.  – The Democratic caucus at Precinct 4 began a couple minutes after 7 p.m.
There are about 50 people attending.
The turnout seems to be people who are over age 40 and evenly split between supporters of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
 At first, there’s a letter from each of the three candidates that attempts to persuade voters to support that candidate if undecided, or to switch.
Garret Reich / youthjournalism.org
At the Democratic caucus at the Glenwood Community Middle School, supporters of Hillary Clinton gathered on the left, and supporters of Bernie Sanders on the right.
So far, it’s pretty low key and not very exciting. There’s a lot of talk and respect for each of the two candidates.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley doesn’t have any supporters at this caucus.
Even though she’s not yet eligible to vote, 15-year-old Kate Smithers is at the caucus.
“The young generation is the future of our country and therefore, I believe that we should be educated for later when we can for our country’s leader,” Smithers said.
But older people attending the caucus appeared to be very tired, and discouraged by the lack of organization and training. The woman in charge seems to be following a book of instructions.
By 8:30p.m., Sanders had 25 votes and Clinton had 16, winning each of them two delegates. The delegate election process then got started.


Robert and Millye Rager, both first time caucus goers, supported Sanders.
"I like him because he is for the people," Millye Rager said.
Shelley Endicott supported Clinton.
"I believe Hillary is the most qualified," Endicott said. "I want to see a woman president before I die."
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2016 Iowa Caucuses Get Underway

Garret Reich / youthjournalism.org
Early arrivals at the Glenwood Community Middle School in Glenwood, Iowa are ready for caucus night. This is a Democratic caucus, where voters will gather to support candidates who are running for the party's nomination.
Youth Journalism International Reporter Garret Reich of Glenwood, Iowa is at her local Democratic Party caucus tonight, Monday, Feb. 1. She will be sending periodic reports throughout the evening from Glenwood Community Middle School, where the caucus is taking place. Voters will make their preferences clear between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. 

Garret Reich / youthjournalism.org
Voters enter the caucus site and sign in on Monday night.
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Lessons I Learned In Nicaragua, And The Difference A Pair Of Shoes Can Make

Photo credit Shelly Groff
Olivia Wright talks with Kevin, a Nicaraguan boy while his sister Estefanie looks on.


By Olivia Wright
Reporter

LEON, Nicaragua – Everyone has had 'that moment,' a moment where enlightenment ravages through your life like a storm. When the storm passes, you’re left with your eyes wide open to a shattered brokenness that is only fixed by helping people. My journey to change the world recently took me to the country of Nicaragua, to put shoes on the feet of children through an organization I am the CEO of called H.U.G.S, Help Us Give Shoes.
When H.U.G.S started, 99,000 pairs of shoes ago, one of my goals was to experience one of the shoeing trips outside of the United States for myself. This year my dream became a reality. I and Shelly Groff, my partner in peace and well-traveled missionary, got ourselves plane tickets 2889.3 miles away to the mysterious country of Nicaragua.
When we touched down in Managua I had no idea that my whole week would be sprinkled with 'that moment.' When I vividly recall my time there, my mind doesn't immediately go to the beautiful colored buildings, all red orange and yellow and full of history, I don't think of the rustic smell of rural Nicaragua or magnificent volcanoes and mountains that lay in front of the horizon. It doesn’t immediately roam to the huge tarantulas and towering tropical trees. No, my mind first goes to big chocolate eyes and wild black hair.  I remember the gentle Spanish accents as the people smiled with hopeful expressions, pleading for nuevos zapatos – new shoes – and the experiences that the people of Nicaragua gave me.
Olivia Wright / youthjournailsm.org
Some of the colorful homes in

Nicaragua.
My eyes were open at a young age to the reality that so many people so close to my home have to endure. I am blessed to say my life is colored by duct-taped shoes, bare feet, and some pretty shocking living conditions. My biggest passion in life is giving those people shoes and smiles, a mission statement I developed when I was little. I’m no stranger to destitution, but when I made my first step into the dusty heat of Nicaragua, I walked into a different world.
This story is about the reality of a people who were the victims of a bloody revolution that left orphans and confusion in its wake. People who scream for fairness, but are not heard. Who when asked about their government either go shockingly quiet, or passionately loud, who include orphans with tear-stricken faces and weary parents who try to hold back emotion after their child is given shoes.
They speak to me with wide eyes as we talk about America in a mix of broken Spanish and English. I want to give a voice to these courageous people whose shouts are muffled, starting with a boy who knew too much.
I spent most of my time with orphans. I worked on a construction team digging and concreting the foundation safe home, and went on trips to visit the dumps, where families made their homes in the trash. One day I made my way up to a child snug in a lemon tree, and met my best friend, Kevin.
“Hola!” I called up.
Olivia Wright / youthjournalism.org
Kevin, high up in a lemon tree.
Wide eyes peered down at me, and he jumped down. Kevin looked at me with a small grin and tired eyes, and I noticed he was barefoot. I smiled, thinking of the bag of shoes I had up front. I quickly removed my shoes. If he was shoeless then I was going to be, too. He spoke to me in English. The smart little boy took my hand after introductions, and his eyes sparkled.
“Do you trust me?” he questioned.
I answered quickly without hesitation, “Always.”
He giggled, “Then follow me.”
The little hand pulled me along as we sprinted across a field, towering up to my waist in the ocean of golden plant life. I was nervous of the venomous spiders and tarantulas that I knew made the field their home, but I blindly followed the fiery little spirit as we made our way.
We both fell to the ground breathless and bursting with giggles as we let the tall grass cover us. After a while of talking and laughing, I rolled over to face Kevin, with a lazy grin I said, “You’re my very best friend.”
His eyes widened and he gasped, shock consumed his face before realization of the sentiment hit him. Euphoria spread over his features and chocolate eyes met my green, he whispered, “Best friend.”
Later when talking to Cheryll Shoemaker, the orphanage mother, a gentle lady with soft eyes and a hybrid Spanish/southern accent, she told me Kevin’s story. “His parents don’t love him…. The worst part is, unlike the other children…” She trailed off. “He knows it.”
A little boy 10 years old, who knew his parents didn’t love him and starved for any kind of affection. A kid desperate for love. I loved Kevin as much as I could in a week, and before we left I noticed him sitting in a chair, unusually still for the constant ball of energy. I touched his shoulder and he slowly looked back at me. Kevin’s eyes were filled to the brim with tears the guarded child wouldn’t let fall, he gave me a wet smile.
“I love you Kevin.”
His eyes drooped shut and he went quiet for a moment.
Softly he choked out, “I love you, too.”
Early in the week, I had gotten all of the shoes ready and laid out as I prepped for all I would need to serve these kids. I knew the kids would come once word got out. I sent up a quick prayer and asked God to work through me, and touch these children’s lives. I thought through my limited Spanish vocabulary in solitude.
Photo credit, Shelly Groff
Olivia Wright sits with some of

the shoes she will distribute

in Nicaragua.
The first little feet came padding their way over to me, a swell little boy with a huge smile. He was all set up to try on shoes when I noticed his feet were dirty. Dirty feet are not unusual in my life. The difference was the constant heat in Nicaragua.
I asked the boy for a minute as I ran inside and got a big bucket of cold water and some towels. The look of relief on his face as I massaged his bare feet with the coolness reminded me why I do H.U.G.S. That same look would pass the face of countless other children as I received the honor of washing the feet of angels.
I met a man named Carlos, who worked construction for the home. He had a kind and timid disposition. One day after hours of work, we talked. Carlos had lost his job, and he told me what I would hear from many other Nicaraguans, “You only move up if you are part of politics.”
He then fell sick and was hospitalized. He chuckled as he told me, “Hospital care is free, but it’s really not, nothing is free.”
He explained how he wasn’t able to buy his children anything for Christmas. Later, Shelly and I giggled with delight as we brought each of his children Christmas gifts and a family Bible in Spanish. Later I guided him to our room and showed him the gifts that matched the interests of his children.
A single tear ran down his face, “You … you didn’t have to.”
“It was a gift to me, to be able to give this to you, so thank you, Carlos.”
He hugged me with a kiss on the cheek, a grown man who wept because his sweet children got nothing for Christmas, and then everything.
Olivia Wright / youthjournailsm.org
Nicaraguan children, some homeless, some orphans and some with their mothers, all waiting to get shoes.
Photo credit Shelly Groff 
Olivia Wright with a Nicaraguan boy.
There were so many others who touched me. One was the little girl mute from sickness who I grew to love. She found me trying to control my emotions before we left. She looked at Shelly worryingly, as if to ask ‘what’s wrong?’  Shelly told her that I’m sad I’m leaving her here. The 6-year-old baby turned to me and gave me a look fit for a mother. She reached up and hugged me, and then tiny dirty hands carefully wiped away my tears. A child who received no love herself, she had so much to give. I cried for her, for her future heartbreaks and her future achievements, I hugged her and cried for her because I knew her parents never would.
Our fellow humans are hurting. I saw children dying of malnutrition, people shunned by a cruel government, and families who had nothing but each other’s love. This is the important part: we can help them! Not only can we, but we must.
When I left Nicaragua, my team had made a noticeable difference, and you can, too. Even from the United States, by sending funds or needed goods with organizations that focus on peace, you are changing a life.
If one person is in need, then we are all in need. 

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