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Jamaica Reaching Out to the Youths

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Photo Credit: Liridona Duraku

            The YMCA in Jamaica, Queens has started a new Y Roads Program in collaboration with Opportunity for a Better Tomorrow (OBT).

            The Y Roads program reaches out to young people who are struggling to help them get back on track. The program caters to youths between the ages of 16-24. They build centers where there is a need for them.

            “Jamaica and the southeast queens area needs a lot of support for their young people,” said Clare Dwyer the Y Roads Center Director.

            “There is an issue of disconnected youth who have dropped out of school, who are not working and are really just drifting,” said Jack Lynch the CEO and President of the YMCA New York. “This is the first of what we hope will be 3 Y Roads Centers in high need neighborhoods,” continued Lynch.

            These programs are geared to help the youths become more prepared to live in the competitive business world but they help them in every step of the way.

            “We have a partnership with OBT who specialize in vocational training, GED attainment, a lot of job training with things like Microsoft office, on the Y side we do a lot of groups, mental health, we want to create an all accompanying center for young people,” said Dwyer.

            “If you are a young person getting their life back on track you have to learn how to navigate a wide system of services, we ask the question, What if we put all the services under one roof?” said Lynch.

            There are currently 10 students in the program that is now only a week and a half old. There is room for 60 students in the vocational program but in total 300 students can be helped through a variation of programs.

            “The YMCA is great at what they do as far as their programs and we are great at what we do as far as our services, we figured if we can combine we can make a great impact,” said Lashawn McCauley, the site manager for OBT.

            The assistance provided for the youths does not rest solely in the realm of business and employment.

            “We want to take care of the whole person, that involves recreation and taking care of themselves physically,” said Lynch.

            The program has received funding from a wide range of sources such as, the association office at the YMCA, OBT, private money, foundations and the economic development corporation.

             Anyone interested in the program can find information through flyers around the neighborhood, community meetings, Facebook, craigslist and of course other students.

              “We have no doubt we will gather a huge response from young people,” said Lynch. 

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Mayoral Forum Discusses Public Education in New York City

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Photo Credit: Alfredo Jeff

The Campaign for Children held a mayoral forum to discuss the New York City Public School system and the future of after school programs.

The event was moderated by Lisa Belkin, a columnist from The Huffington Post. The mayoral candidates in attendance were Christine Quinn, John Liu, Adolfo Carrion Jr., Bill De Blasio, Sal Albanese and Bill Thompson.  The event was held at The New York Law School on Tuesday May 21st.

The candidates were called in one by one and asked to answer four questions. These questions came from various sources such as, the campaign for children, from reporters and readers of The Huffington Post, from twitter, and from the audience.

The focus of the event was the youth of the city. All of the mayoral candidates agreed that the budget cuts to public education need to end. Many wanted to invest more money into the budget for education in order to improve the city’s public schools.

“I want to extend the school day, currently there is a pilot where they have expanded the school day in 20 middle schools in New York City where ¾ of the students are reading below grade level, said Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council and Mayoral candidate. “We need to have the schools be the heart and core of the community,” Quinn continued.

Along with extending the hours in which they are in school some candidates wanted to bring the children in school earlier.

“We need to have a universal Pre-Kindergarten,” said John Liu, New York City Comptroller. We need to have a full day Pre-K, we need to go further than just four year olds, we need to start with the 3 year old as well. The way we can pay for this is to stop corporate tax- loopholes and put that money where it counts,” said Liu.

The idea of starting school earlier for children was a topic that many of the candidates proposed. Other candidates emphasized the importance of education.

“We need to educate and prepare children to become good citizens and to be able to compete in the global economy. Every dollar we put into education we get eight dollars back,” said Adolfo Carrion, Bronx Borough President. “We need to baseline the funding and stop the cynical and insidious approach to politics. That’s why I became an independent,” said Carrion.

Along with understanding the value of education the mayoral candidates explain what they feel an education should do.

“I want to get away from test prepping, it is undermining the quality of education,” said Bill De Blasio, New York City Public Advocate.

The focus on standardized testing was a reoccurring topic for the candidates.

“It’s become about momorization noy comprehension, we need smaller classes in the earlier grades,” said Bill Thompson a mayoral candidate.

Some candidates believed the teachers were being shorted as much as the students.

“Being a teacher is a great profession, we need to stop demonizing teachers. We need to give them decent healthcare and pay them adequately; we need fair wages for our teachers,” said Sal Albanese, former city council member.

The discussion of the Public School system brought up many other topics, most surrounding the budget. The campaign for children is advocating for better conditions for children despite the budget cuts toward education in New York City.

 As Christine Quinn said, “Nothing is impossible.” 

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Afghani Women See a Setback

Afghani women have seen another set back to their rights this weekend, as a law banning the violence against women failed to pass through the Afghani Parliament.

The Afghani parliament agreed to hear the law again at a later date but it was not said when the date would be. President Hamid Karzai had passed the law be decree and was waiting for the approval of the parliament to put it in place.

The members of the parliament refused to let the law pass because they believe it violates Islamic law.

Some of the sections of the bill that faced opposition were to give an age limit to when women can get married. They wanted to make the official law that a girl must be at least 16 when she marries even though her male counterpart has to be 18.  They said this violates Islamic law an example used was when religious figure Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq, married his daughter at age seven.

Another sector of the law was to not punish women who have been raped. The more conservative members of the parliament see rape as adultery, which is not allowed in Islam.

The law also wanted to build shelters for abused women but that also faced opposition. Abdul Sattar Khawasi a member of the parliament called the houses “morally corrupt”.  And Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb labeled them and houses of “prostitution and immorality”, some time last year.

The law would have also banned “baad”. This is a practice of buying and selling women to end disputes between men.

Fawzia Koofi, head of parliament’s women’s commission said, “2014 is coming, change is coming, and the future of women in this country is uncertain. A new president will come and if he doesn’t take women’s rights seriously he can change the decree.”

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Trade Fair Workers in Lockout

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Photo Credit: Liridona Duraku

 

Trade Fair Supermarkets are currently under scrutiny for unfair labor practices. The local 342 union has sided along with former Trade Fair Employees as they rally against a lockout.

On Friday May 17th the former Trade Fair workers rallied outside Trade Fair store number 9, on 89th street and 37th avenue in Jackson Heights.  They were also met with the support of Senator Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights).

“I’m here to send a message to Trade Fair, that they have to deal fair, they have to sit down and have negotiations, they have to end the lockout,” said Senator Peralta.

This lockout began on March 13th when the employees went on strike for unfair labor practices such as, harassment, intimidation and threats to lose their jobs. When the protests began all those involved, mostly the meat workers, were fired and replaced.

After some pressure from the local 342 labor union some of the workers were hired back but at a lower pay rate, less hours and cut benefits. 14 workers have still not been hired back.

“We were brought back with no contract, we were full time employees with 40 hours a week. Now we are down to 24 hours a week, no benefits. It has been 2 months and some people haven’t even been called back to work. All we are asking is to come back to work with a contract and our 40 hours,” says Alexander Gonzalez a 49 year old former Trade Fair employee from store 11.

Many of these workers who have been brought back are still facing unfair labor practices.

“ What Trade Fair is doing is illegal because when you lock a group out and you bring them back you have to bring them back under previous conditions,” says Jerry Minetello, communications assistant for the 342 labor union.

The crowd outside Trade Fair made sure the store heard their cries as they chanted, “Trade fair is unfair”, “Who’s the rat? Trade Fair”, and of course “Si se puede!”

“This is a lockout, so this is different than them standing out here by choice. They had no choice, the owner took away their jobs and hired replacements and forced them to stand out here,” said Kate Meckler the communications director of the 342 labor union.

On the Trade fair website the company sends a message to its consumers about the lockout claiming the accusations against them are false.

“We provide top-notch wages, fringes benefits and safe working conditions for our meat department…UFCW local 342 has been lying to our customers about our meat products. Our meats are fresh quality. All Halal meat is certified and verified with proof of halal slaughters and can be verified with signed certificate from manufacturer,” according to the Trade fair website.

“This is a store that serves the community, I represent the community. I want to make sure they are being good neighbors,” said Senator Peralta.

There was support from other groups such as the International Socialist Organization and The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the local 348 Union and various community members.

“We support all the workers who have been locked our or have had their pay reduced. The local 342 does not stand alone,” said Ed Lynch from The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

 

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Student Research Day

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Photo credit: Alfredo Jeff

York College had its 4th annual Research Day on April 18, 2013. There were various panels of students presenting research as well as the hallways being filled with student work. The Social Work Program had a panel presenting its research from their study abroad program in Moldova.

Students went to Moldova were they took anthropology and social work classes but they also did fieldwork. Their fieldwork was to work with abused and abandoned children to study how parental absence affects children’s hostility and aggression.

“Our research was an ethnographic study of abuse in abandoned children. We collected specific ethnographic field notes, everyday we had to write down after we met with the children because it was really unsettling to them if we were writing while we were observing. This way we could track their behavior we were looking for aggression and hostility specifically in children who were abandoned,” said Irena Hanna, a social work student who went to Moldova last summer.

The students worked with younger children the oldest was 13. Some of the ways they studied the children was to have them draw pictures. The pictures the children drew had many things in common.

There were very few if any people drawn in these pictures when they were asked to draw their homes. The scale of the drawing was very separated even when they did draw people, indicating their isolation. The drawings were often simple and lacked color. Many children drew rain; these aspects indicated their loneliness and lack of connection to others.

Another way the students studied the children was by using a graph to see their aggression relative to that of a normal unabused or not abandoned child.

“The children from Moldova at least in this study had some of the highest rates of hostility and aggression due to parental abandonment…based on the charts we used the average aggression is rated at 120 our children were off the charts,” said Hanna.

120 was the average number but in this study the female orphans were at 162 and the male orphans were at 209.

“When children are rejected or abandoned by a parent the hostility and aggression goes through the roof. We saw this not only in the data but we experienced it, I saw children transform before my eyes, when they couldn’t get something that they wanted,” said Hanna.

Irena Hanna’s main study was father absence in young girls and how it affected them. She worked with a young girl named Lidia whose father had killed her mother then himself. Lidia was 13. It took Lidia a long time to warm up to Irena but they became very close soon after.

“You can see it in their behavior, it took a while for them to warm up they have a lot of volunteers that come to the home, but volunteers come and go.”

When leaving Moldova it was very emotional for the students.

“It was very emotional for me to leave, I’m not a mom so all those motherly instincts came out. They wanted to see me as mom and I wanted to see them as my children, they were already my babies,” said Hanna.

Professor Moldovan who had created the program explained how he had learned from both the children and his students.

“The more culturally different the therapist, the better for the patient,” said Moldovan.

This upcoming summer there will be new students going to Moldova to study social work and participate with the fieldwork.  Two of these students are Lashanda Moor a social work major and Bella Murnane- Victorilli also a social work major. They have updated the program and some things will be added.

“We are going to be showing neutral picture, and ask what someone thinks is in the picture to see if there is a thread of similarity, “ said Murnane-Victorilli.

There are still many problems with the social work program in Moldova. As the country is only recently capitalist after the deconstruction of the Soviet Union all of these programs are new. The volunteers are trying to help the children, as best they can but there are still glitches in the system.

“There are a lot of problems with they system of provision in Moldova… what is missing is professionalism and of course money,” said Moldovan.

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New Delhi “The Rape Capitol”

Protests broke out in New Delhi, India over the weekend when a five-year-old girl was brutally raped by a 22-year-old man, Manoj Kumar.

According to The Washington Post the girl was taken from her working class neighborhood and was raped for close to 40 hours in a rented room in New Delhi.

This isn’t the first time the people of India have taken to the streets to protest against the lack of punishment for sexual abusers. About 4 months ago protesters flooded the streets when a young woman was gang raped on a bus in India.

Though there are stronger laws in India since the last protests to protect women from sexual violence, the problem still exists. According to a study conducted by the Asian Center of Human rights there were 48,338 cases of child rape were reported in India from 2001 to 2011.

The activists are now calling New Delhi the Rape capitol. When the little girl was being wheeled out of the hospital the local news cameras caught a glimpse of her doll in her hospital bed with her, giving her the media nickname of “the doll” or “the innocent”.  The parents came out to say they were offered bribes by the New Delhi police department.

The girl is currently in stable condition but is still being hospitalized.

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Malala Yousafzai

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            Time Magazine published its list of the 100 most influential people.  On one of the US cover’s of the magazine there is a picture Malala Yousafzai, she is also on the Cover for Time Asia, and Time South Pacific.

            Malala Yousafzai is 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl and activist. Yousafzai is from the SWAT district of Pakistan where the Taliban have control. Yousafzai wrote a blog for BBC under a pseudonym documenting the injustices Malala and her people face daily. She is most known for her appreciation for education as she went to school even when the Taliban banned it for girls.

            As her influence rose she became a target for the Taliban. On her way from school Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck. Yousafzai survived the attack. She is currently back at school and writing a memoir.

            Malala Yousafzai has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also the first winner of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.

            Special Correspondent for NBC Chelsea Clinton wrote the article on Malala Yousafzai for Time Magazine she explains why the Taliban shot Yousafzai, “Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in northwestern Pakistan and shot her and two other girls, attempting to both kill Malala and, as the Taliban later said, teach a “lesson” to anyone who had the courage to stand up for education, freedom and self-determination, particularly for girls and women.”

            Time organized its 100 most influential people in certain categories, artists, leaders, pioneers, titans and icons. Malala Yousafzai was tightly filed under icon because at just 15 she became the face of tragedy in Pakistan. 

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