Childhood under bullets

March 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm (From the news)

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For over six decades childhood in Palestine has been torn apart by occupation. Battlefields have replaced Playfields and there is no promise for a better tomorrow.

Over 60 percent of the population in occupied terroteries of Palestine is under the age of 19. Many of them don’t even have time to be kids.  Playing with toys or kicking ball on playgrounds is a distant dream  for the children living in this war ravaged region.

Palestinian Monitor, the information and analysis website monitoring the human rights abuses across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem gives these numbers.

Children there are often forced to prematurely start their adult life and work to support their families.

Palestinian journalist,  Yousef Al-Helou, who was born and raised in Gaza had his early days taken away by the conflict. He says: “I did not enjoy my childhood. I grew up hearing the sound of bombs and witnessing soldiers shooting people. I saw blood and massacres everywhere.”

Yousef’s concern is that the future generations are experiencing the same horror he once did.

“Children in Gaza have been traumatized by the war and seige. They are deprived of their basic rights and needs, the right to proper education and health,” says the journalist.

Many children have lost one or both of their parents and are forced to leave schools in order to work. Often the jobs are very hard and dangerous. A lot of them get killed collecting scrap metal and gravel for construction materials.

Though many of them suffer from physiological and physical problems, bear hardships they are not giving up. “They are trying to live a normal life. Hope is the only thing they have left,” says Yousef with pride.


Most of the children in Palestine have access to education. Some are luckier than others to study at schools with decent facilities; most of them however study in public schools.

Nandita Dowson, the coordinator of Camden Abu Dis Frendship Association has been to the West Bank numerous times and witnessed the studying conditions over there.

“It’s just a serious of classrooms around the yard and kids are packed into those classrooms, sitting two to a bench. There is no room to move, and no displays on the walls. They [kids] look straight out of the window onto the separation wall; come out of the school to be stopped by an army. The occupation is all around them, in every classroom,” Nandita describes the plight of children.

In the Gaza Strip a lot of schools were partially or totally damaged after the war and the lack of materials didn’t allow rebuilding.

Editor in chief of The Palestine Telegraph Sameh Habeeb who grew up in Gaza goes down the memory lane recallinf memories of playtime which aren’t the most colourful.

“When I was seven or eight I used to play football after school. But I would play bare foot in a dust. The conditions were very bad,”says Sameh.

Not much changed since.

Daily struggle

Not all the kids experience this occupation the same way. Some are lucky than others.

“If the family members are educated and have better standards of living there is a better chance these children will cope,” says 25 year old Sameh.

Those who are not as lucky live the lives forced upon them. “The children reach a level when they adjust to the conditions. I documented this with my photos. When the Gaza war was happening, I’ve seen the F16 above in the skies bombing and the children on the streets were playing,” says Sameh.

He believes that in a way they get used to it, they acknowledge it as an every day life, but inside they are suffering.

“People are agonised, new generation grows up amidst fear. Men and children are traumatized,” adds the journalist.

Adding to the plight of growing up in war zone many young Palestinians are suffering from malnutrition and trauma.

A conflict that has been going on for over a half century has seen boys turning into young men, fathers into grandfathers, all growing up through terbulant times. In recent years the awareness of the conflict has grown, but to bring about a significant change needs times, something that the Palestinian children don’t have.


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March 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm (Different) (, , , , , , , )

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Education, ambition and the will to make a difference is driving women from emerging economies to chase illustrious careers.

Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Kathryn Bigelow, Karren Brady: they’ve made their mark and the world has heard all about them. It’s time for remarkable women from other parts of the world to have their five minutes.

Women have made it to every field almost all over the world. They are CEOs in large companies, filmmakers, politicians, scientists and athletes. They take part in global policy making.

That wouldn’t happen without a few great making larger strides than others. However, not all of them are given enough attention. Each community has an Eleanor Roosevelt or Mother Teresa.

In January this year Dilma Rousseff became the first female president of Brazil. She came a long way, from an activist to a politician, gaining respect and trust of her fellow citizens. Victory was not only hers it was an attestation for her countrymen that women are able to attain any goal.

In her inauguration speech she said: “I would like for fathers and mothers to look into their daughters’ eyes today and tell them: ‘Yes, women can.’”

Moving to the other site of the world, Chinese TV hostess and a successful business woman Yang Lan sets an example to the women in her home country. Lan is a recognised and award-winning journalist. Over the years thanks to her skills and personal style she interviewed hundreds of well-known personalities like Henry Kissinger, Nicole Kidman and Bill Clinton. Her achievements as a TV journalist were honoured with “She-Made-It” award from the Paley’s Center of Media in 2007.

Meanwhile in Somalia, Dr Hawa Abdi runs her own hospital using her savings and donations. She also helps women to get education by opening schools and running literature classes. Abdi is a role model for many Somali women but in particular for two. Her two daughters follow in her footsteps and bring aid to those in need.

“We women in Somalia are trying to be leaders in our own community,” said Abdi in an interview with The Guardian recently.

Northeast from Somalia, in Poland another great woman, Janina Ochojska – Okonska is making her mark. She is a humanitarian worker and the founder of The Polish Humanitarian Action, which brings aid to people all over the world. She travels to various countries in need with humanitarian aid. Despite her disability she became a symbol of a strong woman who overcame her condition to help others.

From under more sunny skies in India comes Mira Nair, a film director and producer. She is the first woman to win the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival. But the list of awards for her contribution to the industry is long.  Nair shared her success with others by using the proceeds to establish an organisation called Salaam Baalak Trust, helping street children in her home country.

Some of these women have changed the lives of millions, some just their own. Nevertheless, in a world full of violence and ugliness there is a place for a kind female touch. It is worth remembering however, that the world is huge and the scope for women to chase their ambitions and make a difference to their respective communities is vast.

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Keeping healthy and fit during pregnancy

March 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm (Around me)

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Pregnancy yoga is becoming a more and more popular trend amongst mums to be, as it is believed to prepare the mind and body for labour and birth.

According to the British Wheel of Yoga, the discipline’s governing body, around half a million Brits practice yoga regularly. Johanna Ahmadzai, an experienced yoga instructor from London claims that more women chose yoga as a way to prepare them-selves for pregnancy.

This art is known for keeping one limber and supple. During pregnancy “it helps women to relax, stay flexible and relieve stress. It also helps to prepare for labour and birth. In pregnancy yoga class we place a special focus on breathing techniques,” said Johanna. According to the practitioners, the breathing techniques used in yoga can be very useful for women during the ups and downs of pregnancy, but also during labour and delivery as they reduce stress.

In some countries, pregnancy yoga has been practiced for centuries and is considered the only option to go through this special time.

Those who decide to do yoga during their pregnancy should inform the instructor about their pregnancy and the trimester they are in, as the poses change as the pregnancy progresses. “For future moms it is best to join pregnancy yoga class as it is designed especially for them, but if someone has already practiced some type of yoga and wants to stick to it, she should ask her instructor for an advice.”

Lisa, who recently became a mother practiced yoga during her pregnancy, felt that the parental classes were a great help to her. “I felt I had more energy and my aches and pains generally were less after class than before,” said Lisa. “Pregnant or not, I recommend yoga to all of my friends,” added Lisa.

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Change your profile picture and the world will become a better place

December 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm (Around me) (, , , )

A campaign to stop violence against children took over Facebook profiles, but did it make any difference to the abused kids?

As Facebook develops people come up with new ideas on how this popular network can be used. One of them is spreading a word about different social issues by creating awareness raising champagnes.

I took part in one of them that suppose to make people more aware of breast cancer. The idea was to write on your status where you like to put your bag. A lot of people joined in, however it seemed to me it was more of some sort of game, and I don’t think it actually fulfilled its purpose.

Now someone came up with an idea to change profile pictures to a carton characters from childhood. I saw a lot of people doing it for the last month but only yesterday I finally learnt why they’re doing it.

This campagne was created to stop child abuse. Did it really? How changing a picture can change a life of an abused child? I think that again this became more of a game than anything.

I completely agree that it’s important to raise awareness about all social issues but I’m not sure this is the way to do it. I wonder how many people after changing their profile picture actually did something to stop the child abuse.

On the other hand this campaign caused a lot of debates, many wondered how this suppose to make a difference. So I guess in a way it was a success because people did spoke more on the subject. However to see if it really achieved its aim we will have to wait for some numbers.

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Lesson on good behavior

December 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm (Around me) (, , , , )

The world we live in is aiming towards catastrophic instability and wars because we forgot what it means to be mature and respectful.

I came to a conclusion that if it wasn’t for people who do not respect others right to have an opinion and are not willing to open their minds to other possibilities we would have a very peaceful world.

It might not sound like a huge discovery. It’s a common knowledge that because of views of those who hold the power we have different issues all over the globe. However it’s important to start from each one of us before we start judging the top men.

I attended a seminar of Professor Richard Falk who was talking about “The Israeli Assault on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. The audience was a mix of Palestinian and Israeli supporters, what was interesting and seemed to me as a sign of open-minded attitude was that some Jewish people came to support the Palestinian site.

Unfortunately there were also those who didn’t even want to start to open their minds, and came only to throw stones. Fortunately not literally.

I respect the fact everyone is entitled to have their own opinion, I don’t understand however why people won’t even try to listen to the other site. Why would one close and not let others present their views? If you are that confident about your stand listening to others won’t change it, you might not like what you hear but it might help you understand the views of another human being.

It’s all about communication and about listening to one another. When people finally understand this basic fact world will be a better place.

And I’m not being naive here, I’m not trying to say if people talk we will have peace in the whole world. This is just the start, then it comes time for compromises but without communication none of that can be achieved.

When I saw people screaming “Liar” 15 min into lecture, I thought to  myself: those people didn’t come to listen they came to protest their views, hoping that will quite the other site.

But if their not acting in a mature way,  and by this I understand listening to what one has to say and then trying to have a debate and not just scream out opinions and leave, it will not bring any good.

During the seminar there were people who waited asked questions and got their answers. There were also those who waited and then when they didn’t like the answer left in the middle of it. How will this ever solve anything.

Of course this topic is very sensitive, but the reason it’s been going for so long is the lack of communication. When I was sitting in the audience observing the way people acted it seemed to me like I’m looking at kids who when they don’t want to hear something, cover ears with their hands and scream until the other party is done talking. Is that the way to deal with serious problems?

Seems like our society needs a lesson on good behavior, other wise we will not solve any major problems and we will just get deeper into them.

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FIFA gives a chance to new regions

December 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm (From the news) (, , , , , )

The results are out. Russia will host 2018 World Cup and the World Champion of 2022 will get his trophy in Qatar.

I wasn’t a big fan of football but since the last World Cup it’s growing on me. I saw matches in Johannesburg‘s stadium including the final (Every time I tell this to a football fan it seems like he will fall down his chair). And only then I finally realized the greatness of this tournament.

World Cup is not only about great football, is about the unity and the atmosphere it creates as much inside the stadiums as all over the world. It brings changes to the hosting country and it spreads it’s culture and tradition to others. World Cup it’s beautiful in many levels.

As a good football fan to be, I watched the presentation of bids and FIFA’s announcement of the hosts. Without a doubt it brought a lot of controversy, if one looked at Facebook or blogs could see how many discussions it caused.

Many were disappointed with England not winning, some blamed media, some the presentation, others made fun of Beckham. Winner for 2022 also caused debates. Isn’t the country too small? Isn’t too dangerous? Will it really change something?

After few good discussions I gave it some thought. I’m a bit disappointed England didn’t win, but whatever the reasons were I think it’s time for this tournament to be played in new lands. I also think that it’s time for those two countries to show themselves from a bit different side.

I’m not as concern about Russia as it always finds it’s way. What worries me is that Qatar might not be able to reach it’s aim. I feel it’s going to be hard for them to change world’s image of Arab society. The task is not impossible, however a lot depends on how much their neighbors will contribute to this cause. And right now there are more negative than positive comments.

As I stated before World Cup brings unity. I strongly hope soon when the bitter taste of loss is gone, more will open their minds to idea of getting to know whats unknown. And when the tournaments are over we again experience the great power of this world event. But only the time will show.

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Together to help Hungary

November 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm (Same Same News)

Musicians from different countries are coming together to raise money for hundreds of those who lost their homes in the toxic sludge disaster.

The red flood that engulfed Hungarian towns in October this year has disappeared from the headlines, but now a few young Hungarians and their friends are planning to launch the first contemporary music fund-raising event in London.

The idea came to three young Hungarians over breakfast. Now, over a month later, they have English and Hungarian companies and organisations standing behind them. “Stop The Flood” will take place on 2 December in The Luminaire in Kilburn, London.

Its organisers are aiming to collect  £1,500-2,000 through concert tickets, limited edition CDs and raffle tickets. Around 300 people are expected to attend the event, which means a full house for the venue.

Gyongyi Salla, Nora Leskowsky and Kata Poka work and study in London. They’ve never organised a charity event before. “We were so devoted to do this,” said Nora, event management student, and event manager for “Stop The Flood”.

The money collected during the event will be devoted through the Red Cross to rebuild houses of those who lost them in the toxic sludge.

“They lost their homes, and I’m far away from mine, so I know how hard it can be without your family and without your home,” said Nora.

Well-known Hungarian companies based in London and back in their home country are contributing without any benefits for themselves. “If you don’t ask you don’t get,” said Gyongyi, a student of The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance and musical director for “Stop The Flood”. She claims that it didn’t take much to get all the companies to say yes.

The event will be filled with performances of many up and coming musicians: vocalists, bands and DJs from different parts of the world, who in this way wanted to express their support for victims of Hungary’s red flood.

“When you are far from home you feel useless. I sang in so many charity events, and I had nothing to do with them, so I thought why wouldn’t I do something for my own country,” said Gyongyi.

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Don’t hate what is to you unknown

November 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm (Around me) (, , , , , , , )

Where is John Lennon to spread some love? Seems like we need hippies back to fight hatred that took over the world.

I was going through some You Tube videos the other day. I thought I could use some laughs so I went on funny videos. I watched car tricks made by Saudis and I founded pretty funny. Then I did something I don’t usually do. I checked comments.

There was a lot of laughs in the beginning but as I was scrolling down they become longer and had nothing to do with laughter any more. The surfers from commenting on a video moved to stating their views on Saudis. I’m actually not sure if I used the right words here as one’s view is usually backed by reasonable explanation, or some facts, it’s also usually stated in a polite way. Those were just, to define correctly notes of hatred.

After reading it more closely I realized it’s some sort of “conversation” between two groups: Saudis and Americans. Both sites seemed to be filled with hatred, but none of them really backed their opinions with facts. Their were some pieces of information which seemed liked modified news.

I think it’s great when people debate on serious issues, but it’s important to keep facts straight and when one has nothing more to ad there is no need to curse his opponent.

There is another issue that cries to be noticed. Where is this hatred coming from? It seemed to me those people didn’t know much about each other’s nations but still had so much to say. Maybe into some extend media are to blame, but their should not control what one thinks.

Learn more, than create your opinion. Don’t just throw words that can hurt and leave a mark for centuries.

Lennon said ones “It’s amazing how low you go to get high.” He meant it in a different way, but I’m going to use it as a hope for the future, we hit the bottom, now it’s time to go high.

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November 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm (Around me) (, , )

I’m Daria and I’m a Facebooker.
Facebook took over our lives. And it doesn’t matter whats your age, sex, religion or race. You can be a business woman or a housewife. You check Facebook every day. I know cause I do it too!
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s good to keep in touch with people, especially with the ones who live on the other side of the globe. See how they’re doing, comment on their holiday pictures, send halo or a friendly poke.
Facebook is also a great source of information, and I don’t just mean gossip also news. I often find serious data there, that I missed in a morning paper. Everything and everyone is on Facebook.
But aren’t we too much? Yes, all mentioned above its great. However, it’s important not to forget about the real world. And to see our friends face to face and not only through a glass screen.
Did you know there are people who do not have Facebook? Believe it or not, there are still some! My good friend is one of them he refuses to open a Facebook account. I think now, he is doing it just to prove a point, but fair enough. What surprise me the most about this fact though, are the reaction of people when he tells them he is not on this “amazing” social network. For many is probably like when someone says he does not have a phone.
Sometimes, I think to myself: Facebook is not that important to me. But then why do I check it every single day?

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Lowkey about high matters

November 27, 2010 at 10:59 pm (Around me) (, , , , , , , )

I believe one person can make a difference, but can one person make a difference in few cases in the same time?

I’ve been introduced to Lowkey and his work only recently. This young musicians, poet and activist of British and Iraqi descent is through his music trying to bring society’s attention to issues in the Middle East.

He not only writes about problems in the Arab world but also takes active part in protest and lectures on those subjects. In 2009 Lowkey traveled to Gaza with humanitarian and medical aid. In his speeches he talks about his brothers in different Arab countries dealing with different issues.

It’s great one person is trying to change so much, but when it comes to such complex issues is one voice enough? I’m not trying to underestimate other supporters and organizations here, I just wonder if one man can handle so much and put the same amount of effort into all of them.

The Middle East definitely needs supporters who can show the world different image of an Arab man and who can bring more help to those who need it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and places we don’t hear in a media. It’s time to listen to people like Lowkey, and multiply them, so there are millions of them for each case.

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