Sunday, March 1, 2015

Meet YALI Connect Camps Mentees Converging in Tanzania

The Institute for International Journalism introduces and congratulates the first group of Mandela Washington Fellows’ alumni and their mentees for becoming the very first cohort to participate in YALI Connect Camps. YALI stands for the Young African Leaders Initiative. The first two week-long Connect Camps take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from March 8th to 20th, 2015. The Connect Camps are funded through a U.S. Government grant from the Collaboratory, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), at the United States Department of State. Partnering with the Collaboratory, Ohio University’s Institute for International Journalism in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism will implement eight camps in Eastern, Southern, Central and West Africa. Participants in the first two Camps are from Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda.

The overarching goal of this Connect Camp is to reconnect YALI alumni in their home regions with mentees, to bring into the conversation to engage in deliberative discussions and to work on a group-driven project. Just like their mentors, mentees are expected to share their experience at the Connect Camps. The mentees’ experience and professional occupations come in many forms. Here are some examples of the exceptional leadership of some of the mentees who have been selected to participate in the first two Connect Camps:

  • Joyce Shikuku, a professional counselor working with Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), is also the founder of “Mentor Me,” which is a program aimed at empowering the youth from different backgrounds, both HIV positive and negative, to become good leaders. As part of her work, she facilitates trainings to empower female sex workers (FSWs), and gays to discuss safe sexual practices with the aim of preventing HIV infection and reduce the prevalence rate in Kilifi County.
  • Allen Kimbelwa is Founder and Chairperson, Tanzania Young Leaders – Empowering Vijana (TYLEV), an organization that advocates providing empowerment to local youths. The main goal of TYLEV is to ensure that critical youths’ issues including engagements in economic and social responsibilities are addressed. To achieve this goal, Allen works with disadvantaged youths including street children, school drop outs, unemployed youths, and the young people involved in drugs and alcohol by empowering them and providing training in areas including leadership, health, planning, social entrepreneurship and confidence so that young people understand their talents and potentials in furthering these areas.
  • Mural Nyangaga is an actress and a model with Amazon Theatrix Ensemble, where she has been taking part in community outreaches, creating awareness on issues of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, health and governance. She also volunteers to train under privileged teenage girls on modeling skills, to develop their self-esteem, and to make them understand their bodies, and to help them get access to basic education and stay in school. Mural is currently working to develop Smart Siz project, a girls club under Young County Change Makers. This project will support more under privileged girls from informal settlements in Kisumu by empowering them on life skills, core business skills, entrepreneurship, behavior change and health.
  • Neema S. Gamasa is IT Director at RE/MAX and holds a computer science degree from the Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salam. Neema developed a Student Information System for Eckenforde University Tanga  ( and is currently finalizing the same system for the University of Bagamoyo. The system saves time, reduces cost and paper work since every important function is automated such as registration, examination and results provision. Neema also trains and supports the agents and the brokers (Realtors) using the platform developed (iConnect supported by Gryphtech company) for the Real Estate activities and manages the region’s system and website ( for its daily performance. The amazing family and friends she is having motivate her to live life spontaneously and ride along the IT career path with confidence and self-ambitious towards the attitude she has with Information Technology.
  • Mustafa Sharif has been working on, organizing and leading various youth development programs and activities for more than five years. He has been a member of the organizing committee for Global Entrepreneurship Week since 2012, and has also worked as a focal person in the Centers for Youth Dialogue project. Mustafa has been working with various youth organizations on a voluntary basis to share his experiences and expertise on issues like entrepreneurship, youth participation and community development and in decision making processes.
  • Zion William has been a social activist since 2008 and has worked with several non-profit organizations that work to provide support to underprivileged individuals with Education Sponsorships, empower youth and advocate for children's rights, especially for marginalized children. Zion has also volunteered with various organizations that send volunteers to Tanzania to work directly with local organizations such as hospitals, schools, orphanages, conservation areas and more. Currently, Zion is an assistant manager for Karibu Africa Tanzania Volunteer adventure. She is the co-founder of "Fahari ya Msichana" (“A girl’s Pride”), which works to provide sanitary pads to girls in public schools that cannot afford them. The girls would otherwise have to stay home during the menstruation period. She is also the founder of "Sewing Seeds of Change" project, which works to support local women in villages to setup sewing projects as a source of income to support their families.
  • Lydia Owomugisha works at Xclusive Cuttings (U) Ltd as the MPS Coordinator. Her main task is to ensure that daily farm activities are operated in such a way that encourages sustainable production. In this position, Lydia sensitizes workers on environmental and social aspects at the company and advocates for the improvement of workers’ lives. Earlier, she interned with Wagagai Limited that focused on developing horticultural enterprises that exposed her to and gave her an understanding of greenhouse production and management of horticultural crops.
  • Kakyo Sylivia has had multiple years experience working with personal development and women’s empowerment. She is currently working on a program for defending women against domestic violence who are suffering in silence and educating the men to end violence in families.
  • Cressida Mwamboma is an artist and business woman. She creates art drawings advocating for various issues such as gender-based issues, and is currently working on a book that portrays gender-related issues in the workplace. She interned at the International Labour Organization (Dar es Salaam Country Office) where she had an opportunity to showcase her artwork for Orange Day, which is a day dedicated to end gender based violence.
  • Paul Benjamin John works at Tanzania Airports Authority (Julius Nyerere International Airport Station) as Senior Electrical Technician. He has worked in the electrical engineering field for seven years, and his responsibilities at TAA include maintenance of airport facilities such as transformers, generators, medium and high voltage switch gears, airfield ground lights, and remote control system of airfield ground lighting. He is working on installation of a TV satellite dish, laying high voltage underground cable installation and designing standalone solar panels.
  • Lillian Secelela is the current chapter head for Africa 2.0 in Tanzania, sits on the board for GEW Tanzania, is part of the community of Global Shapers for the Dar hub, and a member of Smart29er and #LetsReadTanzania. She also is a host of a popular weekly youth-business radio show. Lillian also finds time to hold various speaking engagements to youth organizations, schools, and universities in her spare time in order to show youths that they have to be the change they want to see.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Connect Camps Coming to Tanzania

The Institute for International Journalism in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University is scheduled to conduct two YALI Connect Camps in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in March. YALI stands for the Young African Leaders Initiative. The Connect Camps are funded through a U.S. Government grant from the Collaboratory, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), at the United States Department of State. Partnering with the Collaboratory, Ohio University will implement the camps in Eastern, Southern, Central and West Africa in 2015. 
From March 8-20, the Mandela Washington Fellows (MWF) will be training as mentors and working with mentees. The overarching goal of this years Connect Camps is reconnecting with YALI alumni in their home regions who will bring their mentees into the conversation to engage in deliberative discussions and work on a group-driven project. The MWF alumni, who are from Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda, will be sharing their expertise and experience with their mentees and the facilitators during the Connect Camps. 
This experience comes in many forms. Here are some examples of the exceptional leadership of the some of the 20 MWF alumni who have been selected to participate in the first two Connect Camps:
  • Brian Mogaka, Director of Social Work for Blue Cross Kenya, has been working in community development for more than five years. At Blue Cross Kenya, some of his duties include rehabilitating and reintegrating street children, transferring life skills to more than 100 children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs, and also starting AA groups for drug addicts. He is also the founder of Young Change Makers CBO where he uses football as a tool to empower children and youth living in informal settlements through health education, violence prevention, and life skills building. 
  • Ramadhani Ndiga, Founder and Director of Where Talent Lives, an organization advocating at both local and policy level for the implementation of existing policies on sexual reproductive health & rights (SRHR) of young people in Kenya, uses innovative approaches and skills including taekwondo to increase awareness and educate the most at risk populations on HIVprevalence, trends, and prevention measures. 
  • Vandana Boolell, a business development executive at Temple Group, which is a multidisciplinary firm focusing primarily on legal, financial and professional training services in Mauritius, focuses on creating and developing business opportunities for the firm and has assisted with the establishment of a number of strategic domestic as well as cross-border partnerships leading to positive impact for the business. 
  • Fatoumata Sylla, Director General in the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Seychelles, has also worked for the Department of Youth serving as the Senior Policy Analyst and later as the Director General of Youth Affairs. In this capacity, she made recommendations to the government on issues related to youth development, implemented youth programs in line with national policies, and fostered relationships with international youth bodies. 
  • Chikulupi Kasaka, a lawyer working with the Parliament of Tanzania, analyzes bills and laws, drafts private members motions, and prepares the schedule of amendments. As part of her work with the youth led NGO Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA), she advocates for youth engagement in the ongoing new constitutional making process. 
  • Hon. Joshua Nassari has worked for various grassroots non-governmental organizations targeting peasants, youth, and orphans. He previously worked at the American-supported Foundation for Tomorrow, which offered scholarships to orphans and abandoned kids. Currently, Hon. Nassari is the youngest Tanzania Member of Parliament (MP) representing Arumeru East constituency in the National Assembly and also a deputy shadow minister for education and vocational training. 
  • Rose Peter Funja, the Dean of the College of Science at the University of Bagamoyo, lectures on courses in ICT. Prior to academia, Rose worked with Huawei Technologies International as a Senior Product Manager. She is experienced with wireless telecommunication technologies and pioneered projects in various countries and regions including China and east and South Africa. Rose has been actively involved in Rotaract and served as the Club President when she was a student at the University of Dare Salaam and until 2005. 
  • Mohamed Sauko has five years of experience working in the field of engineering. He currently works with Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) as a Senior Engineer (Electrical and Electro- Mechanical) where his responsibilities include supervising projects to ensure that applicable standards and regulations are implemented and projects are executed, overseeing the maintenance of airports facilities, preparing strategic plans for projects, and providing advice on major rehabilitation works whenever foreseen. 
  • Nancy Mwaisaka, a Program Assistant with the International Labour Organization office for Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, focuses on planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Decent Work Country Programs. Nancy is also a poet and co-founder of La Poetista, which is a group of young artists and arts lovers committed to grow the art of poetry and other art forms in the Tanzanian community. In addition, she is a coordinator for Daughters of Destiny, which focuses on women and girls empowerment and a founding member of Friends of Children with Cancer, a non-profit organization that supports children with cancer in Tanzania.
  • Abella Bateyunga, the Governance Officer at BBC Media Action Tanzania, is responsible for designing and implementing a civic education training program for Tanzanian media to equip them with knowledge, skills, and resources that enable them to report objectively on the countrys political events while promoting a constructive conversation between citizens, leaders, politicians, and the electorate. 
  • Amnah Ibuni is a co-founder of Sure Steps Nursery School, which is a community-based nursery school. She has been a longstanding and active member of the Zanzibar Youth Forum, and is the Principal Secretary for the Youth Parliament in Zanzibar and possesses skills in event management, advocacy, peer mentoring, and awareness programming. 
  • Hashim Pondeza is a Zanzibari scholar with a regional focus on sub-Saharan African countries, with specific expertise in the politics of Zanzibar and Tanzania. He has previously worked with Save the Children International as a Child Labor Technical Advisor to the Child Labor Unit of the Zanzibars Ministry of Labor, Economic Empowerment and Cooperatives. He has also taught child protection courses at the Zanzibar University and previously worked as a Senior Research Officer for the Zanzibar Institute for Research and Public Policy. Currently Hashim is an Advisor for ILPI in Zanzibar, working across Tanzania with local governments, CSOs and other international development partners on efforts to strengthen democracy and good governance in Tanzania. 
  • Immaculate Katushabe has over three years of experience in greenhouse production and management. She is skilled in plant protection, gene bank management, breeding, selection and seed processing of chrysanthemum. Currently, she works with Xclusive Cuttings U Ltd and volunteers as the Crop Production Advisor with a women farmers group in the Bupai, Wakiso district. 
  • Lucy Athieno has more than three years of experience working with youth, with a special emphasis on girls and women. As part of this work, she has created Eco-pads, which are environmentally friendly, cost effective, and comfortable sanitary kits for women and girls to ensure increased retention of girls in school. She also serves as the Project Coordinator of Kadama Widows Association, an organization that supports families living and affected by HIV/AIDS to enjoy longer and productive lives. 
  • John Ilima has a passion for working with underprivileged children and youth and co-founded and currently serves as a volunteer Executive Director of Integrated Response, a nonprofit entity that works to advance the interests of disadvantaged children and youth in Katakwi district through increasing access to meaningful education and training.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Environmental Issues Remain in Spotlight Following Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

By: William Hoffman

Produced & Edited By: Zainab Kandeh

         When three of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant went into meltdown after the 2011 tsunami hit, radioactive material started spilling into the water and land and became the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
         Families and businesses are still suffering from the effects of this disaster and it has caused an upheaval of environmental issues and a focus on a new green movement in Japan that has consequences in many different facets of East Asian environmental issues: radiation, agriculture, social responsibility and sustainability in business.
         One of the areas that has been most affected by the disaster is agriculture and fishery markets. Mari Takenouchi, an independent journalist in Japan, has followed the effects of the disaster, and found the government is doing a lot to hide some of the radiation’s effects.
         She speculates strontium 90 and yttrium 90 radiant raise the incidence of leukemia, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, damage of nervous systems and developmental damage to unborn babies. However, the government was slow to include these radiant in its initial reports.
         “Since the Japanese government acknowledged the severe danger of strontium 90, they are doing their best to avoid this topic,” Takenouchi said. “Since there is no scientists who do the research on this in Japan, nobody can say the negative impacts for sure, but I think it is already happening.”

Radiation Effects More Than General Area

         These effects can travel far when the fish are affected by this radiation, Takenouchi said, yet canned pacific fish are still being exported to countries such as Cambodia, Ghana, Senegal, the Congo and Sri Lanka. While no connection to the radiation can definitively be made, Takenouchi said the reports of adverse health effects come from school children out of that country are cause to stop exportation of pacific fish to these developing countries.

Taking A Stand Against Nuclear Power
Nuclear protest continue in Japan 
following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. © Courtesy of: AFP
  Takenouchi said the Japanese government has no plans to limit the sale of pacific fish but intends to restart its nuclear program. 
         “In spite of majority of people's opinion, more than 70 percent are against nuclear power now in Japan,”  Takenouchi said. “But one day, I think Japanese people's inner outrage could translate into real change when the next nuclear disaster takes place.”
         Despite the government's actions there is a strong anti-nuclear sentiment growing in Japan. The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) is one such group which looks to spread information on the dangerous consequences of nuclear energy and strive towards a nuclear free world.

         Hajime Matsukubo, an officer with the center, said the organization has gathered eight million signatures towards its 10 million signature goal to prove there is a strong opposition to nuclear power.
         While these efforts have an impact on the startup of some nuclear plants such as the Takahama Power Plant, the government is ultimately looking to restart its nuclear program by January or February, Matsukubo said.   
      “Maybe it’s difficult that nuclear power is one of the main political issues,” Matsukubo said. “It’s only nery one political issue and to people the economic issue is more important.” 

Environmental Issues Stem From Lack of Resources 

     Many different environmental issues make-up the Japanese political landscape and many of them stem from Japan’s lack of mineral resources. The country is largely dependent on imported resources in order to sustain itself ranking it the world’s largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas, according to the CIA World Fact Book. Japan also suffers from low levels of food production, making it more dependent on imports.

         Larry Korn, student of the farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka and English translator of Fukuoka’s book The One-Straw Revolution, said rice is heavily subsidized in Japan, a practice left over from the Tokugawa period (1603 - 1868).
Farmer Takashi Nakajima operates a tractor in his lettuce field in 
Kawakami Village, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.
© Courtesy of Masaaki Iwamoto/Bloomberg

       “They feel like they have to grow enough rice to feed the country,” Korn said. “They have to depend on other places for all of their oil and most of their natural resources, but rice they won’t let go of that one thing, so they subsidize the rice growers.”
       But very few people make their way as farmers anymore as 91.3 percent of the population lives in urban zones according to the CIA World Factbook.

Sustainability is Opportunity
         This has brought about the need for more urban agriculture in the cities. There’s been a dramatic increase in urban farm production with one-third of all Japanese agricultural output generated by urban agriculture according to a United Nations University article.

         Even businesses in the largest cities are beginning to see the advantages of incorporating sustainable practices into the work environment.

   Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) works with corporations and organizations to catalyze change within business by integrating sustainability into strategy and operations.

         “Japanese companies, if one leading company stands to do one program then a lot of Japanese companies tend to copy,” said Asako Nagai, BSR’s director in Japan. “Sustainability might be a risk … but sustainability is a lot about opportunity.”
An employee harvests veggies grown inside an office "urban farm" in Tokyo. 
The Pasona Group, an employment and staffing company, established the 
growing area to foster a work environment that "coexists with nature."
© Courtesy of Yuriko Nakao, Reuters
   As this urbanization continues to increase, these sorts of sustainable business models will be ever-more important to the long-term progress of Japan.
         “Tokyo is growing bigger and bigger and the population is concentrating into Tokyo and we’re seeing less people in the rural area,” Nagai said.
         Sean King, an Ohio University student studying in the city, said in his short time there he’s seen this urbanization turn towards animosity at the “boonies” outside of Tokyo. However, he admits the city is very clean as people never simply throw trash on the ground, a result of cultural attitudes toward litter.
        “The Japanese term is Geri,” King said. “It’s a prevailing mindset where you want to uphold your own personal standing in society — you owe a debt to everyone around you and everyone around you owes a debt to you.” 

         It’s this attitude which might just push Japan into the future.

       “I’m expecting, hoping Japan can move forward taking the global initiative to prevent climate change,” Nagai said.

A Divided Society: Lack of Black Professors a Detriment to South African Higher Education

By: Jim Ryan

Produced & Edited By: Zainab Kandeh

          Lesego Serolong grew up poor, in the shadow of South African Apartheid. She spent her youth in a reserve dedicated for unskilled black people, where her parents were government servants. Her father died when she was 11 and her mother followed suit not long thereafter. 

         Now the recipient of a master’s degree, Serolong cites a good education as giving her the opportunity to emerge from the township in which she lived and ultimately help those she left behind.

         “I realized that it would be really hard for me to change the system from inside,” she said.

          In order to do so, she set off for the United States, where she attended school. Her first stop: Wilberforce University in Ohio, a historically black college. The landscape there is similar to what she would have experienced had she attended a South African university, as more than 70 percent of South African university students are black, according to The Guardian.
Students attend a lecture at the University of Cape Town. 
© Courtesy: University of Cape Town

Lack of Diversity Amongst South African Professors 

        Only 14 percent of university professors in South Africa are black, however, meaning that there is a cultural disconnect between the professor and pupil.

         "The South African education system is really's really behind," Serolong said.

          The topic is a divisive one among South African educators, many of whom agree that something must be done to improve the lack of diversity among the professorial ranks. Many would like to see a rise in the number of black educators, mirroring the surge of black officials that have begun working for the South African government since the fall of Apartheid. 

          South Africa’s current parliament is composed of predominantly black men, and each of the country’s four democratic presidents have been black. Still, only a small percentage of the more than 200 full professors at the University of Cape Town, one of the country’s largest universities, are black. Finding an educator of color there, says Xolela Mangcu, an associate professor of sociology, is like finding a needle in a haystack.

         Mangcu is one of few educators who are outspoken about this issue. He has been quoted extensively in the media about the lack of black professors in South Africa, while many of his peers defer comment.
         He said that the small number of black professors speaks to the South African government’s failure to modernize its education system. The root of the problem is two-pronged, he said. The first is that the conservative government mistakes political power for democracy. The second is that white professors have dominated universities for so long that they view black professors as a threat to their authority. 
          This, he said, is to the detriment of South African students who attend institutions of higher education within their home country.

         “South African universities are poorer for not having black academics,” he said.

           The lack of diversity within the University of Cape Town, he said, is also reflected in the quality of its course offerings.

          “How can any university teach history, politics, anthropology, arts without a single black professor, and without a single black woman professor — which is the case right now at the University of Cape Town,” he said.

           Zethu Matebeni, a University of Cape Town senior researcher, said that there is an “unspoken notion” that white people are those who should be conducting research and teaching students at universities such as hers.

         “Current research at UCT tells us that students are alienated because of the institution and also because they do not see any professor who represents them and their background,” she said.

Students attend a graduation ceremony at the 
University of Free State in South Africa
©  Courtesy: University of Washington

          She said that an increase in the number of black professors at the University of Cape Town would make black students feel less alienated and would generate a more diverse range of research. 
Reinvesting in Education for All Students

          Gabriël Botma, who teaches journalism at nearby Stellenbosch University, said that the legacy of Apartheid is still apparent in South African society. The majorities of black South Africans, he said, continue to struggle to compete against the white privilege that is entrenched in South African culture and generally have fewer financial and symbolic resources than their white peers. 

         Botma, who is a white man, thinks that the South African government must reinvest in education.

         “(That) would add value in terms of more diversity of views, experiences, cultures, languages, approaches — and thus the broadening of the mind of students, as well as bringing people from diverse backgrounds closer together and creating relationships,” he said. “It would also provide role models for the youth and challenge entrenched stereotypes in a divided society.”
Building a Stronger South Africa

         Sue Wildish, managing director of South African nonprofit The Lunchbox Fund, agrees that the way to build a stronger South Africa is to invest in today’s youth — the next generation of university students. 

         “A child that finished school (and) possibly goes onto tertiary education can take a whole family out of poverty in the course of a single generation,” she said.

         Serolong is looking to do just that, but on a larger scale. After returning to South Africa with her master’s degree from the United States, she chose to work for two years in a rural school rather than hit the job market. 

       “I always felt like with all the opportunities I was getting, I left a community behind,” she said.

       In addition to her job as a managing director of Soul of Africa — a shoe company whose profits aid African orphans — she also works with Raise The Children, a nonprofit that places orphaned children in private schools.

         She said that it’s her goal to get students thinking toward the future — whether that means becoming a tradesperson, shopkeeper or university professor. 
         “It’s been great for them to start thinking about other careers,” she said of her South African students. “We have two this year that are interested in being teachers. We are slowly getting there.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

En Buscar del Sueño Americano

By: Amanda DePerro
Produced & edited by: Olivia Harlow

Hugo Chinchilla was starving. After paying huge sums of money, crossing the border between Mexico and Guatemala, swimming through rivers and running through the night, then-24-year-old Hugo and his 16-year-old cousin had been left in Mexico City by their coyote. Stranded without food, money or a way to contact family, the two slept in a fruit stand owned by a stranger they’d befriended. Before taking refuge in the market, Hugo and his cousin hadn’t eaten for three days.
“I had family in the United States. I could have called them but I didn’t have a penny,” said Chinchilla.
They had no other choice: They had to return home to Guatemala.
Chinchilla’s story from 2000 is not unusual or unique to Guatemalans. UNICEF estimates that 44,000 people from Guatemala are successful in leaving the country each year, many of whom are undocumented.
It is common for Latin Americans looking to leave their home countries to pay coyotes, or people who are paid to smuggle Latin Americans across borders, close to $3,500 each. Journeys across borders usually require multiple coyotes, and it is not unheard of for coyotes to kidnap and ransom the smuggled once they reach their destination for even more money—money that impoverished people and their families simply do not have.
Guatemalan families deported from Mesa, Arizona in the United States cover their faces as they wait to be processed for re-entry at an air force base.
© Jorge Dan Lopez ; Reuters Images
Chinchilla attempted twice in 2000 to cross the border into the United States. During his first attempt, Mexican police caught him at the U.S.-Mexico border.
For Juan Manuel de León, a Guatemalan farmer, the trip was more successful. Like Chinchilla, he took buses and taxis, shepherded by coyotes, to get to the United States. Along the journey, both Chinchilla and de León were forced to swim across the Rio Suchiate, which marks a section of the border between Guatemala and Mexico.
For de León, the trip took eight days. Running through the night from town to town, through the desert and swimming across the river were just the beginning. Once he reached his destination, a milk farm in Dallas, he faced other hardships.
“I felt marginalized because I did not speak English. I didn’t understand what was happening around me,” said de León.
After paying for false documents and working for a year in Dallas, de León returned to Guatemala. He does not plan to go back to the United States, he said, unless he is able to go back legally. Both of his sons attempted to cross the border; one was successful and has lived in Indianapolis for 11 years, the other was unsuccessful and still lives in Guatemala.
“Most people aren’t coming here because they want to live in California,” said Richard L. Johnson, a Ph.D. student at Arizona who lived in rural Guatemala for two years with the Peace Corps, and is studying immigration from Guatemala. “They’re looking for a way to escape the poverty they’ve been in—when you deport someone like that, you’re deporting them into economic hardships that they’re here to escape.”
More than 5,000 people have died attempting to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, according to the ACLU. Many of those crossing are children; according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, nearly 45,000 unaccompanied, undocumented children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador combined have been apprehended in attempt to cross the U.S. border in 2014 alone.
“To me it’s incredible that kids do this travel,” said Javier Ronquillo, an international graduate student from Guatemala studying mathematics at Ohio University. “It’s so hard. They get exposed to so many dangerous things; they get raped, they get harassed, they even get sometimes killed.”
However, for many who want to leave Guatemala, obtaining a visa rather than migrating without documents is unrealistic. A visa can get up to 10,000-12,000 Guatemalan quetzals (around $1,300-$1,500), but it is not a certainty that one’s visa will be granted after one’s money is paid. A coyote may be more expensive, but it is often seen as a guaranteed success.
Guatemalans face extreme violence tied to government corruption, poverty and drug trafficking every day. The promise of safety and opportunity in the United States can lead Guatemalans to attempt coming to the States undocumented.
© Giles Clarke ; Getty Images 

“Immigration laws are closing the door for immigrants,” said de León. He had been convinced not to try the journey again without documents, however, after hearing a story of Guatemalans who were locked in a cold, dark room for three days without food by the U.S. border police after being caught.
“There’s forced labor at the border, kidnappings, other forms of violence that people experience,” said Johnson. “It’s a fracaso more often than it’s a success.”
However, the U.S. government has had little victory in quelling the flow of undocumented migrants into the country.
“The idea that we can just deport this problem away is totally false and an illusion that needs to be countered,” said Johnson.
“It’s clear that deportation doesn’t work, because they are going to come back again,” said Ronquillo. “It’s incredible because they face so many risks coming back; getting killed, getting kidnapped, getting raped, getting—a million of things.”
On November 20, President Obama gave a speech on immigration and the steps the U.S. government has taken to lower the number of crossings at the border.
“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?” said President Obama in the speech.
 Chinchilla’s brother, who came to the United States successfully and is working in Stanford as a gardener, told Chinchilla not to come back to the United States. “This is not as good as it seems,” he said. Chinchilla’s brother’s wife and children still live in Guatemala. He hopes to be able to save enough to start sending money back to them, but is barely making enough in the United States to support even himself.
“I wanted to change my life, because in Guatemala you are condemned to poverty,” said Chinchilla. “Ir en los Estados Unidos es un sueño.”
“To live in the United States is a dream.” 

Mental Health in the UAE Calls for Community Involvement

By: Zainab Kandeh
Produced & edited by: Olivia Harlow

Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are just few of the many mental illnesses that people all over the world live with everyday including those who have yet to be diagnosed.
While there are facilities and professionals ready and willing to help people who have a mental illness, coming forward and seeking help in the UAE and throughout the world can be a difficult step.
Zayed University Associate Professor and Psychologist, Dr. Justin Thomas said that issues with treatment methods often make people reluctant to seek help. 
“Treatment is often poor and takes little account of the clients world view, Dr. Thomas said. “Anti depressants for example [are] over prescribed and [have] lots of side effects with little evidence of efficacy beyond placebo.”


Zayed University Assistant Provost for Student Affairs and counseling psychologist, Dr. Fatima AlDarmaki said that differences in culture and fear of alienation are factors that contribute to why people may be reluctant to seek treatment. 
“There is a lot of cultural misunderstanding and stereotyping about the mentally ill,” Dr. AlDarmaki said. “Not everybody who’s having mental health issues is insane. That’s what I think mainly people are afraid of. The concern about their image and the concern about how other people will perceive them is sometimes why they try to tolerate the sickness or the problems alone without talking to anyone about it but it gets to the point where they can not tolerate it and they have to share it with somebody.”
A client feeling as if they can share their experience and build a relationship with a health professional is something Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Psychology Division for the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, Dr. Susan Partridge said is most important in the UAE.
“The therapeutic relationship is really important in working here,” Dr. Partridge said. “It’s important anywhere but in the Arab world the emphasis on relationships makes it even more central-without it you are likely to fail to engage your client in the therapeutic endeavor.  After that you need a good formulation (an understanding of how the problem started and what maintains it) and that should indicate what intervention is needed.”
Dr. AlDarmaki said that honesty and clear expectations also add to the success of a client continuing with treatment.


“You have to explain to the patients and clients how [treatment] works and what the expectation is. If the client expects that in one session, oh, I will feel good or I will recover from my issues, they will be disappointed if they don’t see immediate results and maybe they will not come back. You have to explain how treatment works and you have to explain the role of what they need to do to outside of therapy. Clients need to be motivated. If the client is not motivated treatment usually doesn’t work.”
There are many facilities throughout the UAE equipped to help people with mental illnesses, including centers such as the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City managed by the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi and the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
While facilities continue to expand and improve American University of Sharjah Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Sabrina Tahboub-Schulte said the effort must continue.
“It is great that there is an increasing number of clinics and hospitals available,” Dr. Tahboub-Schulte said. “This trend should continue combined with more awareness campaigns and educational programs.”
Zayed University Psychology Professor Man Chung echoed Dr. Tahboub-Schulte’s sentiment and challenged the public to take an active role in learning about mental illness.
“I think we have to educate the public first on what mental illness is,” Dr. Chung said. “We need to educate the public about that and almost begin to change the way in which people think about mental health difficulties. Mental health is nothing that people need to be afraid of. People with mental health problems are able to help themselves but I think the general public doesn’t necessarily see that.”


The World Health Organization hopes to and is activly steps to ensure that the importance of mental health education is known around the world. In its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 the World Health Organization plans to influence mental illness with four objectives; to strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health, provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings, implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health and strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health.
While the world has come a long way in the treatment and understanding of those who have mental illnesses, it is on the radar of many countries that more should be done, including the UAE. Being as that mental health affects all people, Dr. AlDarmaki said she hopes that people realize the role that mental health plays throughout one’s life.
“Mental health is part of our lives,” Dr. AlDarmarki said. “Mental health is what brings you to work and makes you interact with people so it’s important that we support any effort to emphasize mental health and the services for mental health for those who need mental health services. Policies, procedures, services, accessibility, education and awareness are all important. As physical health is important mental health is important. As education is important mental health is important. Emotional support and mental health support is important.