Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year From Athens!

Eleni Grigovits /
YJI student reporter Eleni Grigovits shares this photo of her family's New Year's Eve table in Athens, Greece. She says the dessert on the table is a traditional cake they have for New Year's called basilopita. It contains a small coin, she said, called flouri. Whoever gets the coin is supposed to be lucky in the new year.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

New York Dazzles At The Holidays

Yelena Samofalova /
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday.

By Yelena Samofalova
Senior Reporter
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Just when I thought Times Square couldn't get any brighter, it did. The ad-filled, obscenely crowded center of New York is even more spectacular during the week of the winter holidays.
YJI student reporters Alan
Burkholder, Mary
Majerus-Collins and Yelena
Samofalova in front of a
display of giant Christmas
lights in New York.
As we linked hands and made our way around the city blocks to prevent getting separated by other excited groups of people, everyone craned their necks at the starless sky and gargantuan buildings.
We passed Radio City Music Hall, where all the trees twinkled, completely covered in Christmas lights, and gigantic Christmas-themed decorations were everywhere.
A beautiful fountain stood at one corner with round red ornaments stacked on top, each at least 5 feet tall and, a little to the side, there was an oversized string of Christmas lights.

Yelena Samofalova /
Giant red ornaments make up a spectacular display across from Radio City Music Hall.
Yelena Samofalova /
Lighted trees in Manhattan
I thought this was quite a display, so I was confused as to why everyone kept saying we were looking for the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. After all, I'd already seen at least two huge, brightly-lit Christmas trees by Radio City Music Hall.
To be fair, a lot of things seem huge when you're 5-foot-5 and don't visit New York very often.
Yelena Samofalova /
Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday.
Finally, though, when we turned a corner and the Rockefeller Center tree came into view, I knew what everyone had been talking about.
Standing in front of me was the biggest Christmas tree I'd ever seen. It seemed as tall as some of the skyscrapers around us and probably 50 feet in diameter.
Its lights illuminated the whole plaza.
People filled the entire area – there was standing room only. I froze in place, staring in awe, probably annoying the families and couples all around me who were trying to take selfies or group shots.
I didn't think this place could get any better or that I could feel more Christmas cheer until we reached the railing by the tree, overlooking the famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink.
It looked like an amazing experience to skate beneath the tree. Since skating is one of my favorite things to do, I would absolutely love to come back someday to take a spin on the ice and see all the other fantastic sights again.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

New York's High Line Is A Natural Oasis

Yelena Samofalova /
Walkers on the High Line in New York are treated to great views of the city.

By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Once upon a time, the High Line tracks carried trains up and down Manhattan, but those days are long gone.
Since the 1980s, the wood and iron remained undisturbed by pounding wheels and speeding train cars, and as the years passed, nature slowly began to reclaim the High Line.
Grasses and brush grew up in the tracks, which were largely deserted. But that changed in 2006, when plans to turn the abandoned High Line into a public park started to move from blueprints to reality.
Today, the High Line is a well-integrated mix of man and nature, containing remnants of the old tracks and new concrete paths for pedestrians, as well as sections of greenery. Some are careful maintained, others relatively untended.

Yelena Samofalova /
In the photo above, the setting sun provides dramatic lighting and the Hudson River a backdrop to the High Line. Below, trains in the railyard are part of the scenery when walking the High Line.
Yelena Samofalova /

The whole aesthetic experience is quite striking, and definitely a surprise to new visitors. Unlike other rails-to-trails parks in less densely populated areas, the High Line has no room for bicycles or much non-pedestrian traffic of any kind.

Yelena Samofalova /
The High Line is a popular place to walk, even on cold days.
Yelena Samofalova /
Each section of the High Line offers different views of the city.

One of its most significant drawbacks is its popularity.
At some points, the path narrows, and moving forward ceases to be a walk in the park, and instead takes on the typical New York characteristic of too many people in too little space.
But for most of the park, this isn’t the case. Instead, the unusual mix of scenery on the High Line is a constant source of interest, and the park’s elevated position gives visitors a unique view of the pulsing rhythms of city life below.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Getting The Inside Scoop On Radio Journalism From The Best: WNYC
In the control room at WNYC Tuesday morning.
By Alan Burkholder
Senior Reporter
NEW YORK, N.Y. – As you tune into the local news, you hear birds chirp. There is a faint sound of a nearby creek in the background as a local juice maker details the steps he takes in creating the county’s finest lemonade.
While initially drawn into the scene, you are suddenly overcome with the urge to go to the bathroom. Sorry, I got off track. The point is, this is how radio news functions.
Watching The Brian Lehrer
Show from the studio control
room on Tuesday morning.
While visiting New York City, a group of Youth Journalism International students and alumni visited a branch of WNYC, the city’s public radio station. We saw the newsroom, the recording studios and watched a little of The Brian Lehrer Show, live from the adjoining control room.
While showing us around the building, reporter Karen Rouse, who is an ambassador for YJI, detailed how the radio handles its news compared to a typical paper.
One would think, from an outside perspective, that the two are very similar. Both tell the stories of current events and provide the people with information. However, there are several different aspects of each that are meant to attain the same goal.
You know how when you go to see a movie based on a book and they always change stuff from the book? It’s kind of like that.
While writing stories for a paper, a reporter has to convey their point using words only. This means the writer uses lots and lots of description and quotes and sophisticated language to make the reader understand exactly what is happening.
WNYC reporter Karen Rouse describes the differences between being a journalist working in print and in radio.
In radio, however, it’s a different story entirely, no pun intended.
Radio has a more dramatic approach to news than print. It follows a script rather than just being typed out.
Part of the newsroom at WNYC.
Since radio is an audio medium, background music and sound accompany news stories. Despite these differences, the overall set up is the same: topic, description of topic, quotes from experts on said topic, takeaway point, the end.
Describing her transition from print to radio, Rouse explained that she had to learn to do multiple takes and be a director in addition to a reporter.
No shortage of wires at WNYC.
In print, you can take notes and quotes once to use later, but when making radio pieces, the interviewee must sometimes be told to stop munching on peanuts and speak clearly.
There is a difference between working with sound and working with the written word. Both radio and print have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Print allows for more thorough research and information on the topic, but the voice conveys more emotion than words ever will.
Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.
Youth Journalism International student reporters Mary Majerus-Collins and Alan Burkholder, WNYC reporter Karen Rouse, YJI student reporters Kiernan Majerus-Collins and Yelena Samofalova at WNYC on Tuesday.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stay Out Of Ferguson Echo Chamber: Hearing Opposing Views Is Crucial

By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Minutes after the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal August shooting of teenager Michael Brown, my newsfeed exploded.
This didn’t really come as a surprise.
I’m friends with a lot of highly opinionated, politically engaged people, and many of them had interesting reactions to the news. From all sides of the political spectrum came thoughtful, insightful responses.
I didn’t always agree with what my friends were saying. I disagreed with some folks on the far left and far right. But exposure to many different perspectives improved my understanding of the situation.
Not everyone responded in the same way, however.
I saw many posts announcing that anyone who wasn’t outraged by the grand jury’s decision should feel free to “unfriend” the writer.
This isn’t a column about Ferguson, though. People can and will have different points of view on the encounter between Wilson and Brown, on the grand jury’s decision and about the broader implications. And that’s okay.
What isn’t okay is the way echo-chamber politics have become a central element of the national dialogue about Ferguson – and practically every other issue.
Take the recent slaying of two police officers in Brooklyn. Within hours, blowhards on cable news blamed the president, the attorney general, and the mayor of New York for the murder.
With no exposure to different points of view, and an insistence on rigid adherence to ideology above all else, rhetoric easily spins out of control.
This segregation of ideas has resulted in unparalleled levels of governmental paralysis and popular partisanship.
It’s become a popular idea in some circles that if only Barack Obama and John Boehner would have drinks together, or hit the links, that our government would work again. But it’s not the politicians who aren’t friends with people who disagree with their politics. It’s everyday Americans.
We’ve become insulated from opinions, and often from facts, that don’t affirm our pre-existing perspectives and biases. Some of this is unintended. Where we grow up and who our family is play a large role in whether we’re exposed to a diverse variety of viewpoints early in life.
But often, the segregation along ideological lines is purposeful.
Media consumers today seek out news sources that will put their preferred spin on the stories of the day. Just as conservatives turn to Fox News and Breitbart, liberals seek out MSNBC and the Huffington Post, just to name a few of the seemingly endless number of partisan media outlets that exist in the 21st Century. (Only the truly enlightened, of course, get their news from Youth Journalism International.)
And social media — Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr — have only served to make this phenomenon far worse. Because users only see what they’ve asked to see, politically interested users receive a steady wave of ideologically consistent information.
Far too often, this wave erodes independence and critical thinking, and makes blind partisans out of otherwise thoughtful people.
Why expose yourself to other people’s ideas when you can be only exposed to your own, expressed by legions of people who already agree with you?
I don’t have that kind of faith in my own opinions.
I know I’m wrong about some things. I don’t know what, of course — if I did, I’d no longer be wrong about it.
What I do know is I won’t ever be able to refine my own thinking without input that differs from my own.

Unfortunately, far too many people would prefer the comfort and emotional security that comes from living in an echo chamber rather than debating and defending their perspectives in the public arena, and sometimes, unpleasantly, finding they have different ideas at the end of a discussion than they did at the beginning.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fruit Waste Could Pose A Health Threat

Abdulaziz Momba /
Fruit sellers in Kiwira, Tanzania.

By Abdulaziz Momba
Junior Reporter

KIWIRA, Mbeya, Tanzania – As a small town in the Mbeya region in Tanzania, Kiwira is growing very fast every day.
There are lots of natural resources, including coal mines at mount Rungwe as well as small industries. The cool climate conditions attract tourists from around the world to come here.
But the town is damaged daily. Small businessmen who sell fruits such as mangos, oranges, pawpaws, pineaples, avocado and banana are destructive, leaving the town dirty from the remains of their fruit.
Abdulaziz Momba /
Waste from fruit sellers left on the ground could lead to health problems.
Meetings have been held by the village office in order to keep the environment clean, but the habits of the people remain unchanged.
This situation concerns me because I believe it could lead to the eruption of diseases such as cholera.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hong Kong Christmas Collage

Collage by Olga Gutan /
Celebrating Christmas in Hong Kong, YJI student reporter Olga Gutan enjoyed delicious dishes made by her friend Lorraine Wong's father, who is a chef.  They had fried rice, pork ribs with french fries, pasta, sauces, black pepper sauce, vegetables and meat, all shown in the upper left photo. In the photo at the top right are Vanessa Taylor from Colombia and Olga Gutan with Lorraine's parents. The photos at the bottom show the three friends out exploring Hong Kong.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve In Brazil

Maria Luiza Lago /
The Lago family tree in Curitiba, Brazil
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Merry Christmas From Athens, Greece!

Eleni Grigovits /
Treats from the Grigovits family table say, "Merry Christmas from Athens!" In the back are kourabiedes and in front are melomakrona, both popular and traditional Christmas goodies.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

What William Shakespeare's Town Looks Like Today, Decorated For Christmas

Lauren Pope /
Christmas decorations in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare.

Lauren Pope /
Lauren Pope /
Lauren Pope /
Lauren Pope /
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Christmas Shopping At A Tanzanian Market

 Abdulaziz Momba /
People come to the Kiwira Market in Mbeya, Tanzania to shop for new clothes and shoes for Christmas.

 Abdulaziz Momba /

 Abdulaziz Momba /

Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Theater Makes A WWI Truce Come To Life

Lauren Pope /

One of the Christmas displays in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare.

By Lauren Pope
STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England – In honor of this year’s centenary anniversary of World War I, the Royal Shakespeare Company put on a production of “The Christmas Truce.”
Described by a reviewer for The Telegraph as ‘respectful, insightful, powerful,’ we were all expecting great things.
Set in 1914, the play followed a handful of soldiers as they prepare themselves for what will most likely be their bleakest Christmas yet. The surprising temporary ceasefire that took place many years ago is a story known to many, so it was up to the Royal Shakespeare Company to put on a show that does not simply reflect the story that has been passed down for a hundred years now.
Intertwining with the story of the soldiers was the tale of a young nurse who did not hesitate to show her dislike towards the lack of Christmas celebration that took place in the hospital wards.
Although an unexpected element of the play – and most likely put there to help fill the time – the segments added humor and made the production about more than just the unforeseen truce.
When it actually came down to portraying the Christmas truce, the cast did an excellent job of showing that there wasn’t much difference between the German fighters and the British ones. They were all just young men missing their families during the festive season.
Going in, I was expecting a tearful performance, and although it was sad at times, I found myself laughing more than I thought I would. I wasn’t the only one, either.
“The exchange between tear jerking and humorous scenes was marvellous,” said Fatma Salah, 15, of Birmingham.
The comedic element gave the play a light-hearted feel not ordinarily associated with war.
Part of what makes “The Christmas Truce” so enjoyable is that the only difference shown between the soldiers on opposing sides is language. They understand different words, but when it all comes down to it there is no reason other than war that they should not all get along.
The actors did a great job of putting on an emotional and effective performance, making sure you can’t help but feel a touch of sadness when the newly formed friendships inevitably end.
Described by Anmol Sandhu, a year 11 student at Kings Norton Girls' School as "one of the best" plays she'd ever seen, "The Christmas Truce" is not one to be overlooked.
It is a thoughtful, funny and touching depiction of the events that happened this time a century ago, even if the ending is slightly bittersweet. 

Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tanzania Gets Ready For Christmas

Abdulaziz Momba /
The outside of the Kanisa La Kiinjili Kilutheri Tanzania Lutheran church in Mbeya, Tanzania.

By Abdulaziz Momba
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
KIWIRA, Mbeya, Tanzania – Soon Christians around the world will celebrate Christmas Day.
Christians are taught that Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day, December 25. 
In Tanzania, people are preparing for the holiday. Most people seem to be buying clothes, shoes, Christmas trees, drinks and food.
For Christmas, people like to eat rice and boiled or roasted chicken or beef, bananas and soft drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi.
Normally, people spend a lot of money from their salaries to make sure that the preparations go well.

Abdulaziz Momba /
Another view of the exterior of the Kanisa 
La Kiinjili Kilutheri Tanzania Lutheran 
church in Mbeya.
But the rise in the price of goods and services can cause a problem. There might be an increase of about 3 percent more than at other times of the year because every businessman wants to make as much profit as possible at Christmas.
Every year, because of an increase in crime at Christmas, the Tanzanian government makes sure that peace and security are maintained around the country.
Abdulaziz Momba /
An altar inside the church, decorated for Christmas.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at