Immigration Rights in America

By Jeffrey Pulido
July 5, 2013

dream act inside

Dream Rally 011 by Edward Kimmel, CC-BY-2.0.

LOS ANGELES, Ca. – Immigration in the United States has existed since the country’s beginning. The British came to North America, and those who stayed could be called the first immigrants. As time has passed, many laws have been created to make this a great nation, but what rights do immigrants have? The answer is not many. Some states, such as Arizona, have passed strict immigration laws, driving immigrants out of the country and separating families.

Why is this important? An estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the United States to make better lives for themselves and their families. Not only that, but one out of 20 of those people who come, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, are on government figures. President Barack Obama has enacted regulations in which undocumented students have rights, such as being able to receive financial aid, better work opportunities, and much more.

During the presidential debates that happened on October 16, 2012, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney discussed what they would do to help the undocumented. Romney was criticized for his use of the word “illegals” when speaking about undocumented immigrants. Soon, Obama told the audience that he would not go against students, but only those who abuse the law and hurt their communities. By doing so, he caught the attention of those who would benefit from the Dream Act, legislation yet to be passed that would help undocumented youth get help with going to college and becoming citizens.

Another good example of a politician who is helpful to immigrants is California Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval of the California Dream Act to support young immigrants in California. In signing the bill in October 2011, he gave undocumented people in the state the right to have work permits and be able to receive scholarships and grants for colleges and universities in California and in other states. In order to qualify, immigrants must have been younger than 16 when they came to the U.S. and have graduated from, or are attending, a California high school. With this new bill, around 30,000 undocumented people can benefit from this opportunity.

On October 9, 2013, I interviewed an anonymous person and asked him questions about his feelings on immigration, and he said, “I truly feel as if there are some rights that we are supposed to have, but Americans don’t want us to have. I have noticed many families that have been broken apart because of these rights and inequalities we have. The truth is that we are all human beings and nothing more and no one can change that. But as time changed, the people started to forget the equal rights we all have as people. I think Obama is really trying to help the undocumented with his policies.”

He added that with Obama’s reelection, “there might be a better future for the country and for its people and immigrants inside of it.”

Personally, I see some inequalities between an American citizen and an undocumented person. I’ve seen some families broken apart because of deportation. The thing that some anti-immigration proponents don’t realize is that the people who come to this country just want a better life for themselves and their children. They perform hard labor in farms to other jobs that many people would not like to do because of the low wages and tough physical demands. The truth is that, in many cases, they work to feed their families or just simply support the families from where they came. In the end, I honestly think if immigrants had more rights, it would help them throughout the time they are here to support their families.

Editor’s note: This story is one of seven pieces written by students from Santee Education Complex as part of a joint project between the high school and the Daniel Pearl Foundation.


Demi Brae Cuccia’s Story

By Steve Helmeci
July 8, 2013

MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Pictures of a young girl flash up on the projector screen hanging in the auditorium. As Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” plays in the background, the sad story of Demi Brae Cuccia is relayed to 300 or more people. Video clips of shocked friends and members of the Gateway community talking about Demi’s kind demeanor or love for life cycle between more pictures of the girl. A few news clips offer some explanation of the tragic night, but the true story isn’t fully explained. Eventually, text comes over a photo of Demi that describes her horrible premature passing.

From the raw emotion conveyed in the video, it felt as though she passed yesterday, not a whole five years ago.

But that was only the beginning of the presentation.

On Aug 15, 2007, Demi, a Junior at Gateway High School at the time, allowed her ex-boyfriend, John Mullarkey, to come over and talk. Perhaps she expected a small altercation, but not what would happen next. Nobody would expect what happened next.

In what is believed to be a premeditated assault, Mullarkey pulled a knife on Demi and attacked her, stabbing Demi 16 times. Somehow, Demi was able to escape the house, where she collapsed on a neighbor’s lawn. One of the lacerations severed a major artery in Demi’s shoulder, causing her to bleed to death that night. It was the day after he she turned 16.

Nobody becomes a parent expecting to have to bury their child someday. But, Dr. Gary Cuccia had to bury his daughter, a “beautiful girl [who] loved everybody.”

“You never want to walk in my shoes,” Cuccia said. “It’s one of those clubs you never want to be a member of.”

Cuccia is the head of the Demi Brae Cuccia Awareness Organization, which he founded in his daughter’s memory with the goal of educating high school students about the perils of teen dating violence. On May 2, he came and gave his presentation, including the sobering video, to Mt. Lebanon High School freshmen and sophomores.

Immediately after Demi’s death, however, Cuccia took an activist path. He worked to champion a bill in the state House of Representatives that mandated teen dating violence education in all Pennsylvania high schools in honor of Demi. Despite the passing of House Bill 2026, Cuccia calls the process a “nightmare.”

“I was so frustrated with the legislators,” Cuccia said. “We mailed a letter to every state representative; there’s 214 state representatives and 50 senators. That’s a lot of legislators. We got four responses back.”

Although Representative Scott Conklin (D) of Centre County agreed to sponsor the bill, the headaches were only beginning for Cuccia.

“The problem with legislation is, once there’s a bill that is getting a lot of attention, it’s gaining momentum, a lot of legislators want to attach something to it, because they think, ‘this is how I can get my agenda passed,’” Cuccia said.

After his frustrating and draining battle to get his daughter’s legislation passed, Cuccia changed tactics, despite offers to aid in federal legislation. He said, “Then I thought, I have to do something. I have to share Demi’s message to high school students.”

Though Cuccia acknowledged the importance of the legislation, he realized “it’s just not as important as I had [thought] initially.”

Cuccia knew he needed a way to get Demi’s story directly to students, to teach them that dating violence is real and prevalent. That was the beginning of the Demi Brae Cuccia Awareness Organization.

Cuccia says that, after more than 50 presentations to approximately 40,000 high school students, the presentations can take their toll.

“I get emotionally drained,” Cuccia said. “I pour my heart out when I’m speaking to you guys. I just really want my daughter’s story to resonate so that it makes a difference.”

Cuccia says that it makes him uncomfortable to do more than one presentation in a day. He has tried to do three in a day, but physically cannot do it. There are only so many times in one day he can talk about his daughter.

It is Cuccia’s belief that hearing his daughter’s story will have a more profound impact on the students he speaks to. “A health teacher can have a lesson on [dating violence], but I think it’s more powerful to see my daughter, and to feel her story,” he said.

Cuccia touched on a number of points during his presentation, but, for those who weren’t able to see it, he has one piece of advice for all teens: “If you think you’re in a controlling, abusive relationship, be extra careful in taking steps to get out of it. Do it in a public setting around friends; do not allow yourself to be put in a situation where you’re alone,” he said.

For more information about Demi or the organization, scan the QR code, go to or “like” The Demi Brae Cuccia Awareness Foundation’s Facebook page.

Jagan’s Story: Child Labor in India

By Faria Athar
December 13, 2012

Outside, the night was cold and its chilly winds made Jagan shudder as he lay in his thatched hut. Mosquitoes were hovering over him and seemed to suck both his blood and energy out of him. Lying quietly on the thin mattress, he reflected on his life.

Jagan Peters Reddy is an 18-year-old living in the slums of Orissa in Eastern India. He lives in a family of five, of which only he is able-bodied, the rest being either too weak or dependent on toddy, a country-made liquor, for their existence. He has no education but considers himself lucky enough to have learned his numbers and alphabet from the city-bred child for whom his mother worked.

Antony, Jagan’s brother, is twelve. A few years after his birth, the Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed in India, which required the state to provide free and compulsory elementary education to all children from poor families. It became a law a year later, in 2010. Antony thus had the privilege to go to school. It was not his choice; his father forced it upon him. Although he would rather have had his son working as a mason, he was lured by the scholarship money they would receive from the government if Antony went to school.

Jagan wanted his brother to receive an education. He feels that if Antony did well in school, he would get a good job in the reserved sector. Jagan himself had worked as a farmer with his father but was forced into masonry when the rains failed. His mother’s employer had warned her, saying that if Jagan did menial work without an education she could be arrested for child labor. However, she could do nothing but nod and carry on.

For his part, Jagan does not see much value in education. He thinks education is ‘highly overrated,’ though he knows that  it might lead to long-term gains, but they are not his priority. He lives in the perils of poverty and needs money to help him and his family survive for the day. The future is too far-fetched. As the rains failed, his father had quit working and taken refuge in toddy. The teenager is now the only ray of hope left for his family.

But Jagan isn’t alone. According to an International Confederation of Free Trade Unions report, there are as many as 60 million children working in India’s agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates India to be the largest employer of laborers below 14, with about 70% of child labor deployed in agriculture, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Child labor is rampant in almost all sectors of the Indian economy.

UNICEF highlights poverty as the root cause of child labor. The report suggests that in impoverished parts of the world, where schools and teachers are unavailable, children have no real and meaningful alternative. The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” It has been severely condemned by the Indian Constitution in the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Jagan’s sister often goes to church to attend mass. The clergy supported families like hers and contributed substantially to their economic uplift. Jagan accompanies her sometimes, not for religious motives but because he managed to meet some of his friends there. Like Jagan and his family, they have converted to Christianity.

This story of Jagan’s family is the reality of many Indian households, with unemployed men at home and children working in mills, over 42% of India’s population remains under the poverty line (UNICEF). According to the latest report for 2011-12 published by the Union Ministry of Labor and Employment, over 47 million Indians are unemployed. These high rates have led to an increase in child labor.  Unemployed parents and paucity of money are the main factors that have led many Indian children to join the work force. The traders see them as cheap and quick labor compared to their adult counterparts.

The recent case of Tirumalasetty Venkateswarlu, a seven-year-old who was engaged in bonded labor and was burnt, caned and ultimately killed for asking permission to go home, highlights the conditions in which such children live. According to his father, Tirumala used to work at his master’s house and business all throughout the day but was tortured and paid very little. Tirumala was forced to work as his parents had allegedly failed to repay a loan taken from the master. The master had taken Tirumala away from his family for the last few months when his parents stopped going to the farm where they had been working as bonded labor to repay the loan, according to The Deccan Chronicle.

With child labor so common in India, the question arises: Is there anything that can be done to stop it? Other than the governmental steps of banning child labor and implementing free education, a lot can be done on an individual scale. Many Indians look at such children with pity and think they are doing good by hiring them, and this factor contributes greatly to the problem. If everyone refuses to employ them, this practice can be mitigated. Awareness campaigns, legal petitions and public education can also contribute greatly towards reducing child labor.

Faith in Politics

By Steve Helmeci
June 6, 2012

MT. LEBANON, Pa. – In late June, the Republican Party will select its candidate to run against President Barack Obama and, most assuredly, Mitt Romney, a business-oriented, moderate Mormon will take on that role.

This raises an issue for the Christian Right, a group that backed Rick Santorum while he was still up for the nomination: Will they now support Romney, the Mormon Republican, or Obama, the Christian Democrat?

Much like the 1960 election that featured John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic and the first of that faith to run for president, many voters will be concerned with the fact that Romney is Mormon.

Although the Founding Fathers specifically created the separation of church and state as a platform for American politics, the trending issues in the recent GOP race were influenced a great deal by the candidates’ religious beliefs.

The best example of this was the Santorum campaign. The former senator from Pennsylvania was not expected to challenge Romney for the nomination at the beginning of the race, yet heavily contended for it after gaining the support of conservative Christians because of his stance on social issues with a religious slant such as abortion, same sex marriage and contraception.

Much like many of the towns whose citizens will take to the polls in November, my hometown of Mt. Lebanon, Pa. is home to people who follow a wide variety of religions, including Catholicism, a number of Protestant faiths, and Mormonism. When residents of Mt. Lebanon vote in the upcoming election, many will have to consider whether a candidate’s ideas and stances on issues outweigh his religious affiliation.

Mt. Lebanon is a part of Allegheny County in southwestern Pennsylvania, a county that supported Obama in the 2008 general election—57% of the vote went to Obama, while 42% went to Republican John McCain. However, there is a strong Republican base in Mt. Lebanon, and Allegheny County is an important section of Pennsylvania for any nominee, since the city of Pittsburgh is also within the county.

Americans in general have been paying more attention to Mormonism with Romney the Republican frontrunner. At the same time, the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, has come under the spotlight of popular culture and news coverage.

From the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” and the reality show “Sister Wives” on TLC to the recent blog-inspired outcry against Mormons posthumously baptizing well-known deceased Jews, such as Simon Wiesenthal and Anne Frank, and Catholics such as Joan of Arc, Mormonism has received a lot of attention as of late.

The Church has also been active in politics. In 2008, the Church backed Proposition 8, an amendment that made same sex marriage illegal in California. The Church proved to be a significant source of funding for the proposition, as church officials both inside and outside of California set monetary and organizational goals for their congregations regarding the proposition.

A website called, which supports Prop. 8, estimated that about half of the donations they received were from Mormons (45% of out of state donations came from Utah, while 80-90% of door-to-door campaigning volunteers were Mormons).

Despite the political leanings of the Mormon faith, there are a number of common misconceptions about the religion. The main misconception is that Mormons practice polygamy, a practice that was outlawed by the church in 1896 when Utah became a state.

According to high school sophomore Caroline Bushman, a Mormon, other misconceptions often voiced by non-Mormons include that members of her faith worship Joseph Smith, while he is only a prophet much like Abraham; that Mormons do not believe in the Bible, despite the fact that they study the Bible along with the Book of Mormon, which they believe also to be the word of God; and that they believe God lives on a planet Kolob, a planet only noted by Abraham in the Mormon scriptural canon for its brightness and close proximity to heaven.

As for voters who are concerned with Romney’s religion, history teacher Gary Ford noted the problem for Romney: “I think … when they hear ‘Romney’s a Mormon,’ they immediately think of polygamy… [even though] the Mormon church got rid of polygamy.

“But you hear in the news, and there is a TV show, and [the subject of the show] has multiple wives. People, and wrongly so, equate that with Mormonism,” Ford said.

Ford notes that although it seems that religion is playing a larger role in this election than in the past, it has been an important factor in presidential elections for quite some time.

He said, “If you look back to the election of 1800, between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, one of the slogans that Adams had in that election was, ‘A vote for Jefferson is a vote against God.’ Jefferson’s secular views and endorsement of the separation of church and state are well known.

“I see candidates trying to use religion to play a role within their particular campaigns,” Ford said.

Senior Mike D’Orazio feels that religious beliefs are important when choosing a candidate. “I’m a Catholic, so I want to pick someone who can represent my beliefs,” he said.

D’Orazio believes that with issues such as abortion and marriage, he would favor a candidate who followed his religious beliefs. D’Orazio supports Mitt Romney for president.

“I think [Romney] has a good record [with regard to the religious issues]. I don’t think his being Mormon affects anything,” he said. “The Catholic and Mormon churches do have similar viewpoints on these and other issues.”

Karl Bushman, Caroline’s father and a bishop in the Mormon Church, supports Mitt Romney for president, as might be expected. “Religion does have something to do with it because I know him from church,” Karl said. “I saw his leadership abilities” in the church.

However, he added, “The church does not endorse any specific candidate. The church encourages members to vote for individuals whom they think will govern by good principals.”

But much like in 1960 when Kennedy received 80% of the Catholic vote, one can expect Mormons to come out in support of Romney in a similar manner.

Educational Crisis

By Gor Mkrtchian
May 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES – The United States economy has been suffering from debt problems and overspending, which has led to many budget reductions that will likely affect the quality of education for several years to come.

The government is currently negotiating spending cuts in order to improve the condition of the economy, but this will prevent about $38 billion from reaching numerous government organizations, including schools. This may lead to more teachers being cut and fewer funds available to buy new school supplies.

Deborah Weiner, a counselor at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School when she was laid off in 2011, is now substitute teaching at the school. Photo: Rosalia Cruz

Deborah Weiner, a counselor at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School when she was laid off in 2011, is now substitute teaching at the school.
Photo: Rosalia Cruz

“The whole educational system right now is going to you-know-where in a hand basket,” said Henry Gardella, who has been teaching for 30 years and is now a substitute teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). “It’s a lot worse than it used to be. With the school districts, the cuts are made with the teachers first. They are not considered important. The people on the top sitting at their desks keep their jobs.”

Cuts toward education have already been made and new ones are under negotiation, which means that many schools, like Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS), are under threat of losing teachers and staff members next year.

“The cuts are affecting our school and the entire district. My position has been cut and there are no more magnet coordinators in the district,” said Laverne Potter, the school’s magnet coordinator. Multiple teachers and staff members from DPMHS have received reduction in force (RIF) notices. “Mrs. Kidoo (the principal of DPMHS) is doing everything she can to hire these staff members back next year. It all depends on what the District and the Teachers’ Union can negotiate with the current budget.”

A lack of funds for essential materials may also discourage new students from coming to certain schools in future years. Some students are also considering leaving the public school system entirely and transferring to private schools. The U.S. government spends about 50% of its total revenue towards its military. That percentage and total amount is more than any other nation spends on its armed forces.

In order to try to save jobs, the superintendent of LAUSD, John Deasy, proposed a one-year budget fix in April but it would require that all of the employees of the district and the unions that represent them to accept 12 furlough days without pay.

The coming school year is going to have a $408 million deficit. In order to reduce the deficit, approximately 5,000 layoff notices were sent to LAUSD employees in March. This may be not only a harmful factor to the overall quality of education in Los Angeles County, but also to the lives of the employees who are in danger of losing their jobs.

“I have been laid off two or three times now,” said Jackie Gorski, the music teacher at DPMHS. “I don’t know if I am going to come back next year so it really messed with my plans for the summer. Teachers may take classes over the summer to get better but now I don’t know if I should take them.”

Free Hugs Draw Large Crowds in Ho Chi Minh City

By Long Nguyen
September 03, 2009
freehugslong2HO CHIMINHCTY, Vietnam – Standing outside Ho Chi Minh City’s Opera House on July 31, Doan Quang, 19, a student at the city’s International University, was happy to announce that in 30 minutes he had hugged around nine people. But he also admitted that he was turned down by 15. At first, he was ashamed. “But then I got used to it. I believe the next person will be glad to hug me,” he added. This was the spirit of the Free Hugs campaign, which brought together more than 200 students, residents and visitors on a Sunday morning.

The “Free Hugs” campaign was started by an Australian, Juan Mann. After going through a personal upheaval in England, he returned to his hometown and felt extremely lonely. He carried a sign saying “Free hugs” and wandered around public places, offering hugs to passers-by. A clip of him hugging people was captured by his friends and attracted 7 million views on YouTube in the first two months. This campaign was then adopted in large parts of the US, Sweden, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.


The July event in Ho Chi Minh City kicked off in front of the City Opera House, the commercial center of the city that also attracts many tourists. The “huggers” then walked along nearby streets, holding high their self-designed “Free Hugs” signs,which were written in English and Vietnamese.

This campaign was organized by three students, who got plenty of responses from youth through their blogs. One of the organizers, Nhan Thanh, 20, said that there were two purposes for the campaign. First, it aimed to help Vietnamese people get closer and become more open with each other. Secondly, he wished to deliver a friendly image of the Vietnamese people to foreign tourists.

As the students walked around, hugs were shared with many people, especially street vendors and newspaper sellers. Le Chi, a street vendor, said that she was moved when she was hugged by not only one but many huggers. On being asked when she was last hugged, she could not remember because “it was so long ago.”

freehugslong4One elderly woman showed great interest in the signs, but said that she was illiterate. A hugger then approached her and explained what they were doing. And another warm, loving hug was soon delivered.

The crowd and the signs attracted the attention of manyforeigners. Many of them stopped to take photographs and joined in the hugging. Michael Mann, 28, an American photographer, wrapped up his feelings in one word: “Happiness.” Other foreigners thought that it was “very nice” to be hugged by so many Vietnamese youth on the street and added that it was “a terrific idea.”

While hugging an elderly man, one of the participants, Dang Hung, was asked: “Are you Japanese?” According to Hung, this question came up because it rare for Vietnamese people to hug each other. So the man thought he wasn’t from Vietnam.

There were, however, some reluctant participants too. One woman even “threatened” that “you’ll get into trfreehugslong5ouble if you dare to hug me.” Vinh Ba, 72, said that the Vietnamese still think like some decades ago and do not usually show their affection. According to him, hugs are for lovers only.

Minh Tuan, 19, said that he had hugged many people during the campaign. But he added that he did not show this at kind of affection toward his family members very often. “Hopefully, there will be a big change after today,” he said.

The Struggle of Sex Education

Child Labor in Ghana: Laws Don’t Protect 1 Million

By Matthew Ewusi Nyarkoh
August 09, 2009

childlaborGhana_1ACCRA, Ghana – Several thousand children live and work on the streets here, and their numbers are growing. Increasing urbanization in the capital city and increasing poverty in the surrounding countryside are making more children vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse, including a higher risk of exposure to HIV.

The minimum age when children can work legally in Ghana is 16. However, more than 26 percent of children between 5 and 14 work illegally, according to the Ghana Statistical Service. The service’s report indicates that children in rural areas work in fishing, herding and farming, and asdomestic servants, porters, hawkers, mine and quarry laborers, and bus conductors. In urban centers like Accra, street children work mainly as truck pushers, head porters, and sales workers.

Amina is 11, an orphan who works as a porter in the suburb of Nima. Porters like Amina, known in Accra as kayayei, carry heavy loads in a basin balanced on their heads. She said in an interview that she came to Accra two years ago, when she was 9, after her parents were killed. They were returning home from their farm field on a bicycle when theywere hit by a car and killed, she said.


Although she has aunts and uncles, they not only declined to take in the orphan but alsoaccused her of causing her parents’ deaths, she claimed. Since she had no other family to run to, her only option was to head to Accra to find work and take care of herself. So now she carries loads for shoppers in the Nima market.

She charges 70 pesewes ($ .50 U.S.) for a small load and 1 cedi ($ .68 U.S.) for a bigger load. After the day’s work, she waits for a shop to close so she can sleep in front of that shop, she said, adding that she has been robbed a few times of the money she made that day.

She added that the government should come to the aid of child laborers like her to provide them with shelter and support. She asked that her full name not be published because she feared for her safety if her relatives should learn of her whereabouts.

Jalal Mohammed, a program officer at Moslem Family Counseling Services in Accra, said in an interview that child laborers are not only denied access to education but also some are held in indentured servitude, forced to work off their families’ debts. According to his agency, over 1 million underage children work in Ghana. Of those, more than 242,000 are engaged in the most dangerous and exploitive work and over 800,000 are not in school.

Mohammed said many child traffickers in Ghana have been publicly exposed but authorities have failed to prosecute them. The government would not act and traffickers would not be deterred unless aid workers, human rights activists, and journalists continued to apply pressure, he said.

Jalilu Umar, an aide to Mohammed, said illegal child labor is a major threat to the country’s development and therefore should be discouraged by all. But Saani Ibrahim, the secretary of the Nima Youth Association, a private agency in Accra, said parents often abandon or neglect their children, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness and exploitation.

childlaborGhana_4“Children are the heritage of God, source of joy and happiness, and they represent the beginning of the future in any society,” Ibrahim said.

The Ghanaian government haslaws in place to protect children and alleviate family poverty, noted Hilda Abena, 12, a student at St. Kizito Junior High School in Accra. Enforcing those lawscould help reduce the incidence of child labor, including prostitution, and provide more children with education, health care, and skills for legal employment later in life, she said.

Children are too often treated like nothing mote than but economic assets, said Joseph Asouandze, 18, who recently graduated from the O’Reilly Secondary School in Accra. Asouandze said he has seen children as young as 4 living and working on the streets. It is not uncommon to find these children out of school, traumatized, neglected, underfed, lacking even basic healthcare and living in misery. And the girls, he added, are sometimes considered “legitimate” avenues for sexual gratification.

Asouandze compared the slavery of centuries ago to the enslavement of children now, observing that family members then and now sometimes sold children they could not take of.

For that reason, he concluded that the two are the same, and the government should more vigorously combat poverty and strengthen its prosecutions of parents and others who entrap children in servitude.

Teenagers in Uzbekistan Urge Water Conservation

By Khilola Kozubaeva, Maftuna Ibragimova
August 06, 2009


FERGHANA, Uzbekistan – The Aral Sea borders two countries, Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the south. The government of Uzbekistan has taken steps to preserve the shrinking sea, including water management policies and conservation technologies. It is also participating in the International Fund for Saving Aral Sea, whose other members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.

And teenagers in the Ferghana region of Uzbekistan are pushing for better ways to irrigate crops and to conserve the use of water in their houses.

“In Uzbekistan, the shortage of water is not so appreciable as in Africa and Asia, but that does not mean that we are allowed to use the water unreasonably,” said Mokhichekhra Maripova, 17. Maripova said she uses less water to brush her teeth or take showers “than others who can’t understand that water is not endless.”

“It’s our duty to introduce to the youth this idea because we are all responsible for nature, for our descendants, for history,” she said.

“Our generation should be more attentive to environmental problems,” said Mirzoakbarshokh Akhmedov, 16. “We should find new methods of irrigation that use less water. We can increase renewable water resources, if each person would just make an effort.”

For example, Akhmedov said he uses water from a nearby brook to irrigate his garden, rather than using tap water (see video below).

The drying up of the Aral Sea has had serious health effects on the surrounding communities. As the waters disappear, they leave behind sulfates that become airborne during the sand and dust storms that have become more frequent and stronger. According to the Republic of Uzbekistan, almost 80 percent of the children under 11 who live in the Syrdarya River delta suffer from eye illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

By 1993, some 75 million metric tons of dust and salt had been dumped on surrounding lands, killing vegetation and cattle. Salts from the Aral Sea have even been traced as far away as Belarus, over 1,000 kilometers to the northwest, according to, an online portal for environmental and health news.

The country’s media are filled with public service announcements urging residents to conserve water. Uzbekistan, as the country with the larger population, consumes more than 50 percent of the water in Central Asian rivers. However, more than 85 percent of that water originates in other countries, particularly in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Close to 94 percent of Uzbekistan’s water supply is used for farming and 2 percent for industrial purposes. Most of the country’s population live in rural areas that are dependent on farming.

Children Work on the Streets of Brazil’s Capital City

By Bruna Santos
July 08, 2009

BRASILIA, Brazil – Child labor in Brasília is becoming more common day by day. The laboring children work mostly on the streets selling candies, flowers, stickers and other small items. Some perform services, such as watching over cars or washing them in public parking lots. Others shine shoes.

Brasília has 2 million inhabitants and is the city with highest per capita income in the country, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. But research done by the Federal Policy Department shows that about 7,512 children are now working on the streets.

Most of these children come from low-income families, and their parents do not have a steady job or do not make enough money to take care of their children. So, the children work on the streets to help buy food and pay for bills.

“These children do not have good life prospects because the work denies them a normal life, and they don’t even have dreams,” said Geraldo Marcelino dos Santos, 34, the president of the Public Tutelary Council in Novo Gama, a neighboring city.

The Brazilian National Congress approved the Statute of Children and Adolescents in July 1990 to guarantee children the right to health care, proper nutrition, education, leisure activities, a home, and other essentials. Almost 20 years later, the situation has improved but is far from ideal.

For too many children here, these rights simply do not exist. Instead, they carry heavy obligations for their young ages. “I sell stickers because my mom is pregnant, and my father doesn’t have enough money to keep our family,” said Marcos, a 13-year-old boy who did not want his last name published out of fear that his parents would beat him.

Wesley Pereira, 12, and his brothers, Walisson Pereira, 14, and Wellington Pereira, 16, sell candy at a busy downtown intersection for 9 hours a day. They have been working at that intersection for more than a year, said Wesley. They earn about 150 reais ($68 U.S.) a day, but must spend 60 reais ($28 U.S.) of that to buy candy for the next day, they said. That means the three brothers take home a combined 90 reais — $41 U.S., or less than $14 each per day. That may not seem like much but it’s more than the minimum wage their mother would earn if she worked as a housemaid. The boys said their mother is unemployed and the father died a year ago.

“It’s very common to have parents who are unemployed for a long time to put their kids to work,” said dos Santos. “One of the reasons is because they get more money than if the parents worked full-time on unskilled jobs.”

Wesley said his mother worries about them working on streets because it is dangerous. When the traffic light is red and the cars stop, the brothers run between them offering candies. But when the traffic light changes and the cars start moving again, the boys must get out of the way quickly. “My mother is afraid we will get run over,” he said.

Child labor in Brasilia is not new. Celso Maurício da Silva, 50, said he worked as a child. “I was 6 years old when I started working,” said da Silva. “We had a big family: my mother and four children. My mother used to make homemade bread and I would sell it in the morning before going to school and in the afternoon, after school.”

He said he gave the money he earned to his mother. “She would pay the bills and buy food for us,” he recalled. “I used to work weekends as well. When I had time, I played soccer or something like that, but it was just a few times.”

He finished high school when he was 20, and became a taxi driver. “Nowadays, I have three daughters and I don’t want them to work,” he said. “It is not right for children to work because they lack time to play. I know it because it happened to me.”