Posts tagged UNICEF

Where are the “Invisible Children” now?

The following research paper was written by a Japanese student named Riho. She did a GREAT job in working on this paper about child soldiers and what the organization did with the money that was donated to them, intended for the “Invisible Children” in Africa.  Riho is an accounting major and so this is fitting that she would try to find out more about how they distributed the money, but she was concerned about how they played on peoples’ emotions to get the money to come in.

Invisible Lies to the Public

“The media has huge powers which influence our daily lives. Many people believe the information which is told via social media, and we change our emotion toward the facts, such as becoming sad, happy, confused, and anxious because of the information. In addition, the information could change our behavior. For example, some people decide to donate money and do charity after they are told about the poor children who do not have enough food and are in need of help because the report raises people’s sympathy. Most people just accept the information and do not try to check the credibility of the sources even though many troubles about the reliability of the media have been unveiled. The media can get not only people’s attention and sympathy but also their money and charity by using inappropriate information, so the information could cause a huge impact to our society. Therefore, we need to require media to share the right information and check the sincerity of the facts in order to avoid being swayed by false information. Jason Russell, who is the leader of Invisible Children, is the one of the people who used the media in improper ways. He became a big liar from the leader of a charity organization because of the influence of media. Even though the media is powerful, like the organization Invisible Children which tried to help child soldiers by raising awareness and money, sympathetic people should be told the truth because organizations can lose creditability by misrepresenting the facts and gaining a lot of money quickly with no accountability.

According to UNICEF, approximately 300,000 children who are under age 18 are involved in conflicts in the world. Joseph Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RLA). The group abducts children and uses them as child soldiers. The children are forced to torture their friends, family, and innocent people. According to Cadwalladr (2013), the group abducted more than 30,000 children and turned them into child soldiers and sex slaves. The facts affect the children’s physical health, mental health, education, and human rights. Therefore, Invisible Children was founded to help these kids. “Invisible Children is a non-profit founded in 2005 by friends Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole. Its mission is to use film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity” (Swartz, 2012).

I got a survey from 17 people. About 94 percent of people disagree with having child soldiers. One of the people surveyed thinks that children decide to become soldiers by themselves because of the food and money which are provided by military groups. However, the truth is most of child soldiers were forced to join military teams regardless of their wishes. I also asked them if they know Invisible Children. About 18 percent of the people know the organization, and a person recognizes Invisible Children as “Very unfortunate kids of Uganda that were being used as child soldiers because they didn’t have a place to live, food to eat or parents to protect them. Some children were used as sex slaves.” The main activities of this group are to make people aware of the reality of child soldiers and to tell people who Joseph Kony is and his crimes.

Many people are not interested in this issue because they are not familiar with child soldiers. Therefore, the founders of the organization Invisible Children are trying to make the public aware of the fact by using the power of media and handing out flyers. In the movie Invisible Children: Rough Cut, Jason and his friends actually went to Africa and met some children who were forced to be soldiers. The interview of a child whose name is Jacob had a great impact on me. He saw his brother was being killed by a member of LRA. He said if he could chose to be alive or dead, he would like to die rather than living on the Earth. The words show how hard experience he is going through. Invisible Children also collect donations in their activities. They use the money to create films which inspire global action, to mobilize teams to end LRA atrocities, to protect communities from LRA attacks, and to help former child soldiers recover from the effect of military events.”

(to be continued)

Leave a comment »

Students’ Perspectives on Human Trafficking

SunriseI realize I haven’t written much lately on this blog.  Gardening, spring cleaning, writing newspaper articles, the list is endless concerning what has distracted me from blogging more. Clearly I am not living in Kazakhstan anymore so I can’t write too much about Kazakh students. However, I am still working with Asian students so I feel right at home in my own hometown in Minnesota.  I will get more on track with writing during this summer in anticipation of next fall and teaching incoming freshmen students.

For now, here are the perspectives from my last class on an assignment I gave them about human trafficking. Most of these are Korean students from my Comp I class, some have English names which helps me as their teacher to call on them in class.

Perspectives on Human trafficking Assignment

Marcus – The thing I liked most about writing this paper was learning a completely new topic that I did not know before. I was never fully aware of the conflicts of human trafficking until I researched my topic of human sex trafficking.  The thing I liked most about this paper was that it built my perspective on life and how we should appreciate the things we take for granted. There are many people in this world that deal with daily struggles that we cannot even fathom. From this I am motivated to better myself so I can in return help others in the future.

Ju Young – Actually I like the most about Human Trafficking issue. I have heard about it before but I didn’t know exactly what the Human Trafficking is and how it is severe recent days. After I finished my Paper#3, I had a lots of chance to think about human trafficking and I tried to help them by UNICEF by monthly donation for an Indian girl ( I can’t remember her name..). Above all now I have lots of thinking about human trafficking and maybe in the future, I will help them and I would say that my helping is from the writing of this assignment.

I think I have learned about this paper is how humans are worthy. Sometimes I thought that my life is sad and why I am in the hard society? Such as hard to entering school in Korea, I have to go to military. But after I did my paper on human trafficking, my thinking was totally changing. I was surprised at too much people are struggling with their tough life and they need a lot of help from me and us. From the doing this paper,  Not only for changing my life and thinking, but I have a broaden sight for looking around me and helping them.

Hayden – Human trafficking is rather quite disturbing topic. Child soliders was my topic and through my research, I found out there are so many children who are in need of help. What I liked about this assignment is that I was glad to see that, around the world, there are people who are trying to reach out their hands to those forsaken children and strive to aid them. Basically, what I learned from writing this paper is that there are children who need help so much and the dark side of the world is just abhorring.

Janet – In this paper, I really like researching about the topic. Since I have been interested in human issues such as human trafficking. So, I really enjoyed researching about this topic. For me, I love the topic- online child pornography-in this paper. During the last topic of human trafficking issue, I really have interested in this issue. So, I choose this topic.

Calvin – Researching and finding information on the topic was not so much fun but informative and I enjoyed that part of the paper.  The troubles of others are unimaginable to those who don’t seek the truth.

Joe – Actually, this topic about human trafficking was too difficult for me to write. The topic was touchy one. However I learned about prostitution especially Asian prostitution more.

Leave a comment »

Slavery in the 21st Century in Kazakhstan

Many sad photos from Kazakhstan accompany this article. Since I’m not able to pull them off to put in this blog, please go to the Vox Populi website yourself to see real life that goes with each tragic story. http://www.voxpopuli.kz/en/post/view/id/607

“Slavery in the 21st Century” (32)  From Vox Populi March 2, 2012

Human trafficking is a billion-dollar industry and a global problem in the 21st century, still existing in practically every country around the world. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Kazakhstan have grown to appalling levels in recent years. Cases of slavery don’t happen just in the far off corners of our country, but also close to home, even in trouble-free Astana. For three years, the Komek Rehabilitation Center has been helping victims of labor and commercial slavery, protecting their rights and providing medical and psychological care.

1. Five years ago, the center’s director Anna Ryl didn’t have thoughts of social work on her mind.

“Somehow I was asked to take this one teacher to a lawyer, whose drug-addicted daughter was accused of theft. The day we were supposed to meet with the lawyer, it rained. Waiting for me, the woman stood along side the road, hurriedly eating a Samosa. She was crying and on top of that she didn’t have an umbrella which explained why the client looked even more depressed. Seeing that touched me deep in my soul. Her situation forced me to reconsider what was important in life and I started getting pulled more in social work. Now, six years later, I run a shelter for victims of labor and commercial slavery.”

2. The Komek Center was created with funds from Korgay Astana under an initiative by the Ministry of Justice in 2009. The center is a non-profit organization which offers specialized services to victims of human trafficking. From April to December of 2011, 58 people have passed through the center’s doors.

“There are 7 people working in our organization,” says Anna. “All of them are highly-qualified specialists in various fields: psychology, jurisprudence, etc. Our employee salaries are small, just 35,000 tenge (~ $235/month). The place where we work is in my apartment, which I remodeled into an office.”

3. “Before entering the shelter, the girls must sign an agreement that they are voluntarily coming to the rehab center, fill out a questionnaire, undergo testing and a full medical examination including screening for mental illnesses.”

4. According to the annual quota, the shelter is designed to take in 24 people a year. Rehabilitation takes 6 months and can be extended to 9 months as required and at the request of the victims.

5. According to UNICEF research done in Kazakhstan, sexual exploitation is most prevalent in teenagers between the ages of 15-17. When interviews by journalists, most girls request that their faces not be shown as most often relatives are not aware of what has happened to them and they themselves try not to talk about it much.

6. “We try to create a comfortable and friendly atmosphere in the home,” says Anna. “This helps the girls to gradually return to normal life and overcome their frights of closed and dark spaces and to trust people.”

7. “The Ministry of Justice finances all costs of the center: rental of the shelter, meals, clothing, transportation fare home after rehabilitation, professional courses for the girls, and staff salaries.”

8. “Every girl receives a new standard kit when they arrive: a towel, sheets, hygienic items, a t-shirt and pants. Many of them don’t have winter coats and in winter, there is no way to go outside without one. That’s why we collect whatever is possible, clean them and distribute them among those who need them.”

9. Within the center, girls can get help from doctors, lawyers and psychologists. There are various additional courses as part of the 6-month rehab program. Girls can take classes on hair and nail styling or cooking.

“The biggest problem is replacing documents lost long ago or they just don’t have,” says Anna. “Without these documents, people cannot get benefits, be placed on the wait-list for social housing, get a job, or get benefits for children born while they were in slavery.”

10. “Many girls come from disadvantaged families and can’t read, write, or know what hygiene is. We teach them the basics, like how to brush your teeth.”

11. Creative development is also a part of rehabilitation. The author of this piece already finished the course and now has a full-time job.

12. The shelter has certain rules that the girls has to follow: clean up around the living area, help with chores, no swearing, no raising your voice, provoke arguments, leave the territory without written permission and accompaniment of a center staff worker, or use cell phones.

“Cell phones are forbidden in the center for obvious reasons,” says Anna. “Girls can call their friends are tell them where the center is, making it unsafe for others. They can always call their relatives from the center’s telephone.”

13. “Pregnant women are not uncommon at the shelter and more often than not the babies’ father are the clients. After having argued with her parents, one girl left Astana together with her fiancé, who then sold her to a brothel. She came to us already quick with child. After a few months the girl gave birth to a healthy baby. Somehow the pimps reached the parents and told them what she had done and that she had given birth. At first, the parents refused to accept her, but we managed to convince them to come to us and hear the girl out. Along with the parents, all of her family came too. On that day when they came to pick her up, everyone here cried.”

14. “It’s rare when victims of the slave trade are educated and from good families,” says Anna. “But we had one such case. Ainagul from Karaganda was studying finance, fell in love with a boy and moved to Astana with him. The rest is the typical story: the guy soon sold her into slavery, where she spent a year.”

15. “Most victims of commercial slavery are girls from disadvantaged families or girls with mental illnesses from orphanages. Mentally handicapped girls are especially in demand and are more expensive. These girls are gullible and aren’t aware of what is happening to them and don’t really resist. One of the highest-profile criminal cases, and the only time to date when exploitation in this category of victims, was successfully proven not long ago. Over two years, four traffickers removed 15 girls from Temirtau and other villages in the Karaganda Region. The traffickers went around the villages, looking for mentally retarded girls. They drugged the girls with Diphenhydramine [a hypnotic sedative], moved them to Astana and sold them. The traffickers were caught, convicted, and sentenced to 4-12 years in prison. All 15 of these girls underwent rehab with us. According to the girls, they were taken to an apartment, beaten, raped and forced to serve up to 10 clients a day.

16. “Commercial slavery is a very profitable business for traffickers and pimps. Human slaves cost anywhere between 10,000 and 300,000 tenge on the black market and pimps make 20,000 tenge and higher a day. A family business associated with trafficking is the most fail-safe option. There have been instances where the wife is the pimp, the husband is the driver and nephews work as overseers or guard the girls. Girls are usually recruited from the streets, lured and deceived with offers of work as waitresses or nannies and then are forced into the car and brought to the den.”

(to be continued)

Comments (1) »

Good news/Bad news on mortality issues in Kazakhstan

Today was that kind of a day where I had one thing after another after another and there is more to come as I write this.   The tempo is picking up with our PDP classes and I am very proud of my students for listening very attentively to our guest speaker, Hanaa Singer from UNICEF.  My students asked excellent questions from their Kazakh educators point of view and I just watched it all happen.  Of course, Hanaa, is a remarkable speaker and she knew how to draw out a good discussion and relevant comments from her audience.

So much information that Hanaa gave us starting with a five minute movie that shows photos of beautiful children, the most vulnerable part of any population the world over.  Then she gave information that is close to her heart regarding Kazakhstan’s issues and then a slide show that showed more statistics to make her points.  This proved a good example for my PDP students who will have a chance to share their findings and readings from their final research paper in their 15 minute ppt presentations which they will give in about a month.

For now, let me just write down just a few things that struck me about what Hanaa shared with us.  There were many more things but this is the good news/bad news concerning Kazakhstan.

The good news:

Infant mortality rate decreased since 2008 from 21% to 17%

Under age 5 the mortality rate dropped from 23% to 19%

Maternal mortality rate dropped from 37 in 2009 to 23 in 2010 per 100,000.

Bad news:

When I heard Hanaa speak last spring, she spoke of Kazakhstan being second to Russia concerning suicide rate among 15-19 year old Kazakhs.  That has changed now according to her statistics.  Kazakhstan has moved ahead of Russia and this is not something to be proud of.  Suicide deaths and large numbers of them that are avoidable deaths are never something that is healthy for a nation. Especially a young developing nation like Kazakhstan.

According to her graphs, she showed that Kazakhstan had over 30 suicide deaths per 100,000 of males and almost 20 suicides for females, almost 50 of 100,000.  Whereas Russian had 40 with 30 males/100,000 and 9/100,000 females.  Lithuania had 30 suicides out of 100,000 and Estonia with 27 and Turkmenistan with 25 next.  About 20 countries were represented in this graph.  What’s interesting is that there were less male suicide in Turkmenistan than in the other higher countries.

We discussed this as a group and it was thought that suicides are happening in Kazakhstan among rich families where the child gets everything materially but they are not shown love by their parents.  Also, Hanaa suggested that there have been many cases of bullying amongst this age group of 15-19 year olds.

Very sobering subject.  I think I’ll try to find more baby photos tomorrow that I meant to post earlier.  Over and out.

Comments (1) »

Donating and Volunteering for Charity in Astana

What an incredible day at the Winter Charity Bazaar at the Radisson today, ALL day!! My trusty team of six Kazakh sellers and I worked like a well oiled machine!  Amazing what we accomplished from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  I felt like I talked to about 1,000 people in those eight hours.  We sold hard cover books for 1,000 tenge and paperbacks for 500 tenge (the equivalent of about $7 and $3.50 in U.S. respectively)  The DVDs did not go like they have in the past.  When I was in Almaty last year and the year before selling at the Book stall for the bazaar, they went like hotcakes.  What DID go were the children’s books but not the magazines.  Oh well, I have my American friends to thank for giving to me about ten boxes of books which started this whole thing.

Third year for this event in Astana and I hope we raised a lot of money for orphanages in the area and also for other vulnerable populations.  I only took a moment to visit a stall that was sponsored by UNICEF and they had beautiful necklaces made by children.  Anyone who knows me, knows I have a weakness for necklaces and so I bought a beautiful bead one for 2,500 tenge or about $17.  I will treasure that necklace because it was little hands that made it.  Many other necklaces I would have loved to have bought because I thought it a VERY reasonable price but I had to get back to my book stall.

Oh the memories we will all have of this grand event.  The smell of pancakes coming from the Dutch booth and then there was the yummy Indian tea that was close to us.  We were next door to the Bolivian embassy and their delicacies and there were helium balloons I think with the Swiss embassy.  Two of my worker bees wearing Santa Claus hats went over to the Indian booth and had some fun things painted on their hands that will last for several weeks. (See above photo).

I’m out of words, I talked too much and with the help of many people we survived the steady flow of customers.  These photos will have to do for now to catch the essence of what we accomplished.  We nearly made my goal in sales.  Last year in Almaty we had sold about $1,700 worth of books.  This year I had wanted to sell $1,500 but we were shy about $225 of that goal.  All our volunteering and donating of our time and energy is for a good cause.  We all feel privileged to have been a part of this awesome event!!!

Leave a comment »

UNICEF and Kazakhstan (Part II) and a poem

Yesterday at our Astana International Women’s group meeting, we heard a featured talk given by Hanna who represented UNICEF.  Hanna had many interesting facts to relate about Kazakhstan to nearly 40 expat ladies.  The questions afterwards yielded even more interesting anecdotes from Hanna. Something I just remembered today is that many childbearing women in Kazakhstan are anemic.  She explained that this was due to how the flour in Kazakhstan is milled, it needs the added fortification of iron in it but that is lacking for some reason.  Hanna stated that if it could be legislated that flour be fortified with the iron that women need, they would not die in childbirth or raise children who are also anemic at birth. Simple solutions when facts are known, when people care and are educated.

Kazakhstan enjoys many economic privileges and benefits due to its natural resources but there are still so many needy Kazakh and Kazakhstani people in the rural areas who do not get all the perks.  Hanna’s strongest point yesterday was that if families, who are poverty-stricken, dump their kids off at an orphanage the children’s fate is worse when they turn 18 years of age. They are released from the state-run home and left to fend for themselves. I know that is true because of the work some friends I know in Almaty who work with the disabled “social orphans.”  These unfortunate, cast-off children when they are 18 are put into a mental institution and many of them die or commit suicide.

Hanna emphasized that it is best if the children stay within their family unit or with relatives as the Kazakhs traditionally did in the past before the Soviet era.  Children should not be cast off into an orphanage where there is little hope and where the children are often beaten or mistreated.  Yes, they may be fed but their future is not good.  Another lady from the audience asked “What about the street children?”  Hanna had an answer for that but I don’t remember it.  I think my mind wandered to all the street children I saw in Kyiv, Ukraine.  I don’t see them in Almaty or Astana but I’m sure they are in other cities in Kazakhstan.  It is just too cold in the wintertime for the children to survive on the street in Astana, perhaps they can survive in the winter months in southern Kazakhstan, I don’t know.

Here’s a poem that I like, I’ve probably used it before but it is from Streams in the Desert.  I think that UNICEF can provide a stream of hope in Kazakhstan, they are doing many good works.  But there is much left undone…

Have you heard the tale of the aloe plant,

Away in the sunny clime?

By humble growth of a hundred years

It reaches its blooming time;

And then a wondrous bud at its crown

Breaks into a thousand flowers;

This floral queen, in its blooming seen,

Is the pride of the tropical bowers,

But the plant to the flower is sacrifice,

For it blooms but once, and it dies.

Have you further heard of the aloe plant,

That grows in the sunny clime;

How every one of its thousand flowers,

As they drop in the blooming time,

Is an infant plant that fastens its roots

In the place where it falls on the ground,

And as fast as they drop from the dying stem,

Grow lively and lovely around?

By dying, it liveth a thousand-fold

In the young that spring from the death of the old.

Have you heard the tale of the pelican,

The Arabs’ Gimel el Bahr,

That lives in the African solitudes,

Where the birds that live lonely are?

Have you heard how it loves its tender young,

And cares and toils for their good,

It brings them water from mountain far,

And fishes the seas for their food.

In famine it feeds them—what love can devise!

The blood of its bosom—and, feeding them, dies.

Have you heard this tale—the best of them all—

The tale of the Holy and True,

He dies, but His life, in untold souls

Lives on in the world anew;

His seed prevails, and is filling the earth,

As the stars fill the sky above.

He taught us to yield up the love of life,

For the sake of the life of love.

His death is our life, His loss is our gain;

The joy for the tear, the peace for the pain.

Leave a comment »

UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s Youth

UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s youth:  This morning I heard an amazing speaker at the Astana Intl. Women’s club meeting which meets monthly at the Radisson hotel.  She emphatically stated that she LOVES the organization of UNICEF, I think her name was Hannah. She related an account of where she was in some African country where she witnessed a reuniting of a young girl with her mother after civil war that tore many families apart. She first showed a film about all the different things that UNICEF does for the sake of children around the world.  Immunizations, water, nutrition, education, other health issues, orphanages, rights of children, juvenile delinquency…she touched on many topics.  I wish I had taken notes because she also had a lot of statistics that she quoted related to Kazakhstan in particular.

Of course, as a teacher, what I was most interested in what she said about Kazakhstan’s young people relating to education.  She claimed that after Russia, Kazakhstan has the highest suicide rate.  She didn’t elaborate whether that was in the rural areas of this country or among the privileged.  Those students I am used to seeing are in westernized schools in Almaty and Astana.  The young people I work with know English, have traveled, come from good families and have hope.  Hannah said after Russia and Kazakhstan there is a big drop in the statistics and again I was curious what other countries she was referring to, did that mean C.I.S. countries only or in the whole world?  Certainly there is much poverty in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kygyzstan, etc.  Why would Russia and Kazakhstan be so ranked with high suicide rates among the youth?

Once back at work, I talked to a young woman who majors in physics at a local university in Astana.  I asked her what she knew about suicide among youth in Kazakhstan.  She said she had heard of an instance recently where a young girl committed suicide when she found out the results of her qualifying exam to get into university did not make the grade.  You hear of these instances happening perhaps in China where the competition is very tight and there are few vacancies for letting students into their university system.  Here in Kazakhstan, I don’t know.  I need to explore that issue about depression, societal stresses and suicide of the Kazakh youth.  I know in the school system there is much pressure for them to succeed in learning in three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English).

The UNICEF speaker also went on to explain that immunizations for polio and also for tuberculosis need to be re-instated.  There has been an outbreak (I think in the Chymkent area?) of that where it was thought to have been eradicated since 1988.  Also, people who might have contracted HIV/AIDS are too ashamed to seek help.  One woman who had been infected by her husband would not take the medication that could have saved her life. She did not want to be stigmatized with having AIDS.  To her, that was worse than death, if her family learned of her AIDS, she would have been considered a social outcast.

The most shocking was about how there is still the hold-over of Soviet thinking among the doctors in Kazakhstan.  Their one and only definition of a live birth is if the baby is breathing air on its own. However, according to international standards of what is considered “live births,” set up by the organization WHO, there are 14-16 different ways to see if a baby, once born, is alive by checking palpitation of heart or other vital signs.  All those signs are ignored due to the old Soviet training of doctors that still exists in hospitals.  When I talked to a foreign doctor who is western trained, she said that perhaps if those babies who are birthed with complications, they might have defects or disabilities that families would not be able to take care of due to the expense.

One other thing mentioned was that many children who end up in orphanages in Kazakhstan are not actually orphans (defined by a child without father or mother) but they are castoff children and do indeed have a parent still living.  Our speaker said this concept of children being taken over by the government is another carry-over from the Soviet period where this was actually encouraged so as to train up the children according to the State-controlled regimen.  Hannah ended with a answer to a question among the group of about 40 women that the Kazakhs need to return to their own tradition of taking care of their OWN family and not giving up children to orphanages because many times if they have been institutionalized, they are without good job skills to enter the work force at age 18 when they are turned out to fend for themselves.

One foreign woman said that she and other expats had worked on a charity to improve the conditions of the orphanages because the toilets and showers were deplorable.  Our speaker said that this was a very delicate issue because if there is not better social networking to adopt these children into Kazakh families and have that working, it only encourages more people to “throw away” these young children into the orphanages that might have better conditions than what they are currently living in. She said it was more important for children, even living in poverty, to grow up in their own families or be adopted by relatives (just like what used to be done before the Soviet period) than to institutionalize children in orphanages.  She said it was important for charities to work and improve the conditions of the places where children currently are kept but better to NOT have so many “social orphans” in Kazakhstan.  If orphanages look better than a home in poverty, more and more children would be dumped.

Our speaker representing UNICEF had to rush off to another engagement so I didn’t have a chance to ask her my main question about depression and suicide among Kazakh youth.  She obviously has strong emotions about what she does for a living, obviously she LOVES children.

Leave a comment »