Friday, December 31, 2010

Fondue And Oliebollen Ring In The New Year In The Netherlands

Nelissen sisters: Caroline, Michelle and Frederike

By Caroline Nelissen
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

Oliebollen
ERMELO, Netherlands - This year we celebrated New Year's with a fondue. We also traditionally have champagne and what we call "oliebollen."

Roughly translated, "oliebollen" means "oilballs" (not the most charming name) and they're basically lumps of deep-fried dough.

In the Netherlands, we eat these on New Year's Eve.

Another picture is a ticket of the national lottery that always gives away big prizes on New Year's Eve, but unfortunately we didn't win anything.

Another tradition is fireworks. I tried to take pictures of ours, but the shot didn't work out. Therefore I only have a picture of it BEFORE it exploded.

Lottery ticket





Fondu







Caroline and Michelle Nelissen

The firework before lighting

"First Night" Fireworks In Hartford, Connecticut


Youth Journalism International reporter Mary Majerus-Collins took some photographs of the annual "First Night" firework celebration in Hartford, Connecticut on the grounds of the state Capitol building. You can see the historic Capitol in the background.
These pictures are from the early show at 6 p.m. rather than the midnight fireworks that won't be booming overhead for another 3 1/2 hours.

New Year's Eve In Durban, South Africa


YJI reporter Nicole Megan Gounder of Durban, South Africa sent these photos she took at her New Year's Eve celebration at the Durban Christian Center.

She wrote, "It's been POURING cats and dogs since last night! I only hope this was showers of blessings for the new year."

Above, from left: Azrel and Azaria Naidoo celebrate new years.

Below, from left, Vijie Naidoo, Lucy Gounder and Nancy Moodley enjoy the evening.




Coal Or Firewood Braai Is Essential To Her South African New Year's Eve


F.C. Puchert helps with the braai -- By Mariechen Puchert

By Mariechen Puchert
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

EAST LONDON, South Africa – Greetings from a rainy East London, South Africa!

Quite to our disappointment, it has been raining in our little town for the past few days and today that has picked up a notch.
  
While many of my friends have already headed back to larger cities to celebrate 2011 there, in my family, New Year's Eve has always been distinctly for those close to our hearts. This year we are spending it with some close family friends, as much of our family are not currently in town.

Mariechen Puchert, photo by F.C. Puchert

F.C. Puchert

As befits any good South African, come rain or shine, we had a “braai,” which is very similar to the USA’s barbeque, although a “braai” always uses coal or firewood.

While New Year’s Eve for us usually entails eating and socializing underneath the  open skies, on the beach or in the pool, the current weather means that we have to occupy ourselves inside.

The game of the night has been pool, which has been rather fun as it is the first time I am learning to play it.


Gonubie beach, East London, South Africa, Dec. 27, 2010

Also due to the weather our dress-code is so different than usual.  Where we would usually be in our bathing suits, I had on my long jeans.

We are now mere minutes from the New Year and have just had an awesome New Year’s Eve supper.

In a few minutes we will be welcoming the new year with South African sparkling wine (like Champagne) and – despite the weather – will probably be deafened by the sound of fire crackers.




Geseënde Nuwe Jaar, or blessed new year, from South Africa!

Karachi Welcomes 2011 With Fireworks

Waleed Tariq snapped this shot of the fireworks at Sea View Beach in Karachi, Pakistan

By Waleed Tariq
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

KARACHI, Pakistan - With the continuing flow of Western culture, this age of globalization has created an outburst of diverse celebrations in Pakistan. Halloween, Christmas and even New Year’s Eve are celebrated almost with the fervor seen in the West.

New Year’s gets maximum attention here from the media and those who just love the idea of a new beginning.

The new year is welcomed by the lots of special activities, including television coverage, parties, get-togethers and most importantly hanging out at the Karachi Beach.

This time, for the first time in Karachi, fireworks were arranged by the Karachi Port Trust authorities at Sea View where thousands were set to celebrate the new year on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Despite a challenging security situation, 2011 was warmly welcomed.

Viking Ships In Flames, First-Footing: It's Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) In Scotland

By Robert Guthrie
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
DUMFRIES, Scotland – “Hogmanay” – yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a weird word. But believe it or not, it is the Scots’ word for “Last Day of The Year” and is a night of many superstitions, traditions, and fun.
First of all, Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, becomes a hive of activity, with Scottish pipers playing our national instrument, the bagpipes. There are many fireworks – though we can’t live up to Sydney’s high standards – and many people, well, they have a very GOOD night, with a few drinks.
This year, there is going to be a big fire torch procession, and you can buy a flamed torch and join in the march.
There is also a large Viking ship that will be burnt in celebration of the New Year. This was a Viking cleansing tradition.
Another celebration also happens around this time, on the Shetland Isles, called “Up Helly Aa” and it is another Viking tradition of fire. It does not happen on New Year’s Eve, but it is around these next few weeks.
For those who don’t know, the Shetland Isles are far away from the mainland of Scotland at the far north. There are even the Orkney Isles between Scotland and Shetland, and the Orkney Isles are very like Shetland. Long ago, Shetland used to be under Viking occupation, but the weird thing is, Shetland is closer to Norway than it is closer to Scotland!
In my village in Scotland, some people choose to stay at home.

Robert Guthrie snapped this photo of his family's New Year's Eve buffet
We will be playing some games, and having a buffet dinner. Many people in our village will do the same, as it is roughly 90 minutes to travel.
One superstition is that everyone who comes to your house for your event (if you have one) is to bring a lump of coal and a piece of food to share.
This is known as “First-Footing.” It may sound odd, but the first person to get to your house with a piece of coal will bring good luck!
Grown-ups also drink the Scottish alcoholic drink, whisky. It is made out of malt, yeast and barley.
Some places might have a community Ceilidh. This is a Gaelic word which has been adopted for the Scottish Dance Night.
People can come along with their friends and dance with a full band playing lots of music into the night, to celebrate the New Year.
Scots Gaelic, pronounced phonetically “Skotts Gaylik,” is the language which many Scottish people used to speak, and still speak, on the islands and highland areas of Scotland.
It is a complex language to learn, and if you travel to the Highlands, you see some signs written in it as well. Gaelic is the first language for some Scottish people.
This is just a taste of what some people in Scotland get up to for New Year’s.
I wish the whole world a Happy New Year, wherever you are. Celebrate it in your own special way!
May 2011 be a happy and healthy year for all.

A New Year's Celebration In Malaysia

Here's YJI reporter Evangeline Han, sending new year's greetings from Melaka, Malaysia

By Evangeline Han
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

MELAKA, Malaysia -- I have never celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bang of celebrations. Not being the type who makes New Year resolutions or yells at countdown parties, my past New Year’s Eves have always been quiet ones.

Most of the time, what I look forward to most on New Year’s Eve are the special countdown movies the TV stations air.

However, this year, things are a little bit different.

The government of Malaysia declared December 31 a public holiday after our national football team won the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Football Championship title for the first time.

A check on the day’s TV guide showed no special English movies other than Iron Man and that isn’t my type of movie.

And for the first time, I decided that I would join my church youth group’s countdown gathering. Other than adding my voice to the countdown, I’m also looking forward to a fun-filled first hour of 2011.

While New Year’s Eve is going to be different this year, I’m excited about adding another year to my age. 2010 has been a radically different, travel-filled year for me and I think 2011 is going to be even more wonderful.

Goodbye 2010, hello 2011!



Evangeline Han snapped this shot six hours before midnight, on her street in Melaka, Malaysia


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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Movie Review: The Tourist Takes A Disappointing Trip to Venice

wallpaper_tourist_venice_800x600

By Eugenia Durante
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

GENOA, Italy – Is there anything better than sitting in a comfortable cinema seat with popcorn in your hands while outside it is cold and stormy?

wallpaper_tourist_angelina_800x600
Something better is, or what should be better, is when the stars of the movie you are going to watch are Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.
The Tourist is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s latest movie, mainly shot in Venice, which is another reason I trusted the actors and went to watch it without even reading the plot.

It is the story of Frank (Johnny Depp), an American man who meets a beautiful, mysterious woman called Elise (Angelina Jolie) on a train to Venice.

Frank falls in love with Elise, but he soon gets trapped in a spiral of violence and intrigue which nearly kills him.

wallpaper_tourist_johnny_800x600The ingredients are those typical of the thriller-spy movie: we have the police, the beautiful woman who hides her real identity and her connections with the police and the criminals, we of course have the criminal – and the bad, fat, scary gangster who tries to kill everybody and, in the end, never succeeds.

The Tourist has nothing new or remarkable.

The ending, which is thought to be surprising, is instead boring and unlikely. The plot itself is weak.

Depp and Jolie’s performances are the only things which prevent you from yawning, even if these can’t be considered their best.

If you were expecting more from the director of The Lives of Others, you will be disappointed, but if you are planning to visit Venice, at least The Tourist won’t make you change your mind.

Toronto Fire Disrupts York University

By Mehran Shamit
Reporter
Youth Journalism International
TORONTO, Canada – A fire interrupted classes and exams at the Keele campus of York University this month.
No one was killed in the December 13 fire, which shut down the steam boilers and co-generators and damaged the roof, a steam boiler and electrical cables in the Central Utilities Building, according to the university’s website.
There was no heat or hot water going into the buildings on campus and the temperature fell to -14°C, causing the university to briefly close the campus.
Classes and exams resumed December 15.
The fire started about 1 p.m. and firefighters managed to completely extinguish it by about 4 p.m., but about 4,000 students had to leave their residences on campus and more than 1,000 were relocated to hotels for a night.
Beds were also set up by the Red Cross in the Rexall Centre.
The disruption in the middle of exams – and unexplained delays in relocating students – upset some.
In some cases, students waited for several hours – without information from the university – for buses to take them to temporary housing.
“There was a lack of communication,” said John Lawrence, a PhD student in political science.
Linda Ding, a fourth year accounting student, said, “Things weren’t done efficiently. I had to call the housing office to get information.” 
Students started gathering in the lobbies of their residences from 7:30 p.m., but buses did not arrive until 9 p.m. and at many residences buses arrived near midnight.
Students at the Atkinson Residence, many with families and small children, waited for two and a half hours until a bus finally arrived at 10 p.m. to take them to a hotel near Pearson International Airport.
“I wasn’t concerned about myself, I was concerned about the people with families,” said Lawrence. “Their emergency response was very slow and the fact that they failed when there was no heat or hot water questions how they would have reacted if it was a real emergency.”
Lawrence was also shocked that there was “no police presence” in a situation dealing with such a large number of students.
“The people in the housing office told me not to use any electrical appliances and said I could only use one light and one computer. They said the water pipes could burst anytime, but at the same time they kept us in the lobby for two and a half hours,” said Ding. “It makes me question how concerned they really are about our safety.”
Vouchers were handed out for food and each person was given a $50 limit for that night and another $50 for the next day.
Students were also told that they had a choice to either stay in their apartments or go to the hotel. Those who chose to go to a hotel were told they had to check out by 11 the next morning.
In at least one case, the bus that was sent was very small and got overcrowded. Many students, who had been waiting since early evening, stood through the hour long bus ride and were checked into the hotel around midnight.
The next morning, students gathered in the lobby of the hotel and checked out, but the university did not send a bus there until later that afternoon, so the displaced students waited through the lunch hour without food.
“I think it was very disorganized,” said Julie Bergevin, a fifth-year theater student. “It was really frustrating and unfortunate that we did not get here and were checked in until almost midnight and that we had to leave at 11 this morning, because it didn’t really give us an opportunity to settle in and get anything done. “
Bergevin speculated that even though the heat wasn’t yet operating on campus, the students had to leave the hotel so the school wouldn’t have to pay for another night.

Reporter's Notebook: York University Fire A Tiring Disruption At Exam Time


By Mehran Shamit
Reporter
Youth Journalism International

TORONTO, Canada – What started out as a normal day turned out to be the most tiring two days of the year when a fire turned my family out of our home.
I live on campus at York University, because my mom is studying here and the December 13 fire affected me as well as all the students living on campus.
As usual, I came home from school at around 3:40 p.m., taking the long way through the campus buildings, but I didn’t suspect anything. I didn’t know about the fire and went to sleep for a while. I found out about the fire from a neighbor who came over about 6 p.m.
The good thing was that only the heat and hot water were gone, or so I thought. My neighbor called the housing office and apparently the water pipes were going to burst at any time.
Hearing that got my parents panicking and then we got a notice saying that we had to pack our backs and wait in the lobby, so that a bus could pick us up at 7:30 p.m. to take us to a hotel.
After packing, we headed down as soon as we could and found the lobby jammed.
There were people everywhere, but nobody to give any information about what was happening.
At first, it seemed like a party where everyone was having a good time talking to friends or meeting new people, but as time passed, the crowd grew tired and restless.
Not having anyone present to update them became a cause to be frustrated and angry at the university. These were all students and they had exams to worry about. In their eyes, the university was wasting the time they could have spent studying.
People with internet access on their phones tried getting information from the York website, but the situation still wasn’t clear.
About 9:40 p.m., two people finally came to give us information on what was happening and a bus arrived around 10 p.m. to take us to the Residence Inn Marriott.
We were told that we either had a choice to stay in our apartments or go to the hotel. It was amazing how they didn’t say anything about having a choice to stay or leave before the students – many of them with little kids – waited two and a half hours in the lobby.
Almost everyone decided to go to the hotel, where they were expected to check out at 11 the next morning and wait for a bus to bring them back to campus. Vouchers for food were handed out and each person could spend $50 that night and another $50 the next day.
After processing all the information – which should have been provided while people were waiting for two and a half hours – most people made the decision to go to the hotel because they didn’t have any trust left in the university and questioned whether the heat and hot water could actually be brought back at 11 a.m. the next day.
Everyone got excited about staying at a hotel and getting free food. All they could talk about was getting every single penny out of the university.
Nobody could blame them for doing so, though, because the university is a money making machine and students who actually have to pay the high tuition are the ones who are suffering a loss, not the university.
Honestly, in our time it’s rare to find a person who will give you a second of their time if there isn’t anything in it for them. So, what makes the university think that they have the right to waste students’ time?
The bus sent by the university was very small. By the time everyone got on, it was clear the number of people exceeded its maximum capacity. Many people stood through the hour-long ride to the hotel, and it was almost midnight by the time everyone was checked in.
The next morning, we all checked out at 11, but the bus didn’t come for three more hours. When we wanted to order lunch, the person in charge at the hotel who was in contact with the university prevented us from ordering with the false hope that the bus was coming soon. We were also told that food would be provided once we were back on campus, but it wasn’t.
Everyone was fed up with the false information given by the university. They assumed that nothing was fixed in university housing, and that the only reason they had to check out at that morning was so that the university didn’t have to pay for another night at the hotel.
After this incident, the university’s concern about students’ safety is questionable. Even after the university was aware that the temperature fell to -14°C and there was a possibility of the water pipes freezing and bursting if the heat failed, they still gave students a choice to either stay or leave.
If the water pipes did burst, it would have caused a lot of damage and become a safety concern, but it seems like the university was too worried about spending its money. If students wanted to stay back, the university would have let them, even if it meant compromising the students’ safety.
It’s also very hard to imagine that the university couldn’t make arrangements sooner.
Though the fire was completely extinguished by 4 p.m., the university didn’t bring buses to residences until 9 p.m., with many buses arriving near midnight.
Atkinson Residence, where I live, finally got a bus at 10 p.m., even though the notice said 7:30 p.m.
Many students think that the university never really called buses to come at 7:30 p.m. and that the university wanted to see if students would really wait that long, especially when there are exams.
If students went back to their apartments because of the long wait for a bus, then the university would have spent less on food and accommodation.
It’s clear that the university could have done more and should have done more to make it easier for students.
In the future, the university should take these situations more seriously and improve on how they respond.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Afghan Student Called For Peaceful Protest Over Cartoons

Today, the Christian Science Monitor and other news organizations reported that the Danish intelligence agency had arrested five men in an alleged terror plot against Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper that ran cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in September, 2005 that offended many Muslims.

Riots in the Muslim world in the months that followed prompted Edrees Kakar, then a teenage refugee living in Peshawar, Pakistan and a YJI student, to write this opinion piece calling for both restraint and respect. It's worth repeating.

Edrees, now a senior reporter for YJI and a member of its board of directors, attends the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.


-- Opinion --
Protest peacefully against anti-Muslim cartoons

By Edrees Kakar

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (April 9, 2006) -- In the world where we live, there are different religions and faiths.

Every person has the full right to believe in any of the religions according to their own understandings.

Indeed, religions are the main pathway of humanity, and every religion talks about friendship and peace between people.

Islam, which is one of the largest religions with more than a billion believers, is a balanced faith. Following the teachings of Islam, Muslims respect all other religions and faiths in addition to their own.

From the Muslims point of view, however, Islam is the last of the religions and its book, the Koran, is the complete one.

That is why we Muslims make Islam their religious priority.

Outside of religion, democracy under human laws is a blessing. As people, we have the right to live life to the fullest in a democratic society.

As the outward appearance of every one of us is unique, so, too, is everyone’s imagination and ideology different.

Every person has got the right to have freedom of speech, ideology and imagination and to express comments on each issue, but we must be careful not to harm anyone while doing it and not to torture anyone’s heart in the process, either.

To read the rest of this piece by Edrees, click on this link.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toy Story 3: A Suspenseful Sequel

By Robert Guthrie
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
DUMFRIES, Scotland – Toy Story 3 is a fantastically exciting film which will get you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Throughout the film, we see how relationships between characters change in both good and bad ways.
It is also very comical in many places.
Brought to the cinema screen in 2010 by the Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Studios, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex the dinosaur, and Slinky Dog are back, as always, with a whole host of fun for the family in the third part of Toy Story.
Many other characters are added this time, including Mr. Pricklepants, Lotso, Chatter Telephone, and Barbie.
This film has a terrific story line. While Andy is leaving for college, the toys are accidentally given away to Sunnyside daycare center, a place which is said to be lovely and caring, but turns out to be a place with toddlers who misuse toys.
Woody wants the toys to return to Andy, but the other toys don’t agree.
It is Woody’s job to persuade the other toys to escape with him. Eventually, the other toys agree, but they don’t know what they’re in for.
The strawberry-smelling Lots-O’-Huggin’Bear leads them through a ton of danger, including sliding down a landfill metal-melting machine, nearly being caught by humans moving, and being wrecked by three-year-olds.
The 3D version of this film made the characters and settings stand out really well. I was tempted to stretch my arm out and touch the flying objects!
The characters were excellent and well-animated, with every word being animated as if their mouths were moving.
There were good special effects, and with the 3D, it was like you were standing watching everything happening.
There were some very sad points in the film, but at the same time they were very nice and the ending is a wonderful one.
The thing I like about the ending is that the film’s producers have left it open to another Toy Story film.
Toy Story 4, maybe?
I recommend that other children see this film, as it is excellent. It has a viewers rating of “Universal” and this is another reason why it’s great for families to view, and kids, too.
I hope that there is another Toy Story film to come out some day. I never want it to end!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

South African Girl's View of Germany

YJI's Lara Puchert, a 16-year-old girl from East London, South Africa, is spending time in Germany. She recently snapped this photo of Neuschwanstein Castle and shared it with YJI readers. Thanks, Lara!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cheer, After The Hurricane


December 25, 2006

 -- Hurricane Journal --

Christmas in the parish

By Samantha Perez

Christmas Day, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana -- I’ve learned a lot about growing up in the past year and a half, and probably the most important of these lessons is that you never stop learning. This past semester taught me about loyalty, kindness, and human compassion.

Just in time for Christmas.

We put up our tree. It had been spared the flood in the attic above our garage, and now it stands in our newly furnished living room. The living room is different than what it was before, but it makes the house feel a little more like a home. We added our ornaments and stockings, and garland over the doors.

It was a real house for Christmastime.

More and more houses are being demolished by the parish, trying to meet a December 31 deadline to clear away abandoned structures. It doesn’t look as though they’ll tear them all down, but the parish does look cleaner. Roads are clear. Shops are opening — we have a McDonald’s again. Domino’s Pizza works out of a trailer in a closed bakery’s parking lot. Grocery stores are popular. We have three of them.

It never felt like Christmas until last night. Nothing really has that same magic, the same quality, anymore. Even though we have a tree and lights in our windows, it never felt the same because everything has changed.

To read the rest of Samantha's moving hurricane journal, click here.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowy Austria



Here's a couple of stunning shots from young photogs at the Ehrwalder Albahn Ski Resort in Austria. Sixteen-year-old Lara Puchert of East London, South Africa, snapped the top photo and 16-year-old Marnice Oberholzer, also of East London, South Africa, took the lower shot.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Around the World: New York, U.S.A.

December 21, 2009
When Mom's the minister on Christmas
 By Luke Pearson

 HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, New York, U.S.A. – When most people think of Christmas, they automatically think about Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and presents.
People in our modern era have lost touch with the real meaning of Christmas. But my family is not like other families during the Christmas season because my mother is a minister for Grace Episcopal Church.
Ever since I was a little child, I’ve gone to church during the Christmas season. My mother and father taught me the lessons from the Gospel and told me to “always remember what Christmas is really about.”
To read the rest of Luke's piece about being a minister's kid, click here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Looking Back: Katrina Christmas

December 30, 2005

-- Hurricane Journal --


Christmas cheer in a FEMA camper

By Samantha Perez

Monday, Dec. 26, , Ponchatoula , Louisiana

No one can predict what happens in life. Fate is crazy like that. Sometimes, Fate makes life good, warm and sweet like freshly baked cookies. You meet people who care about you or you gain a friend. You walk through a parking lot and find a shiny penny face-up on the ground. But no matter how many good things happen, there are other times when Fate turns cruel. You lose your home in a hurricane or, worse, you lose yourself and become hurt and confused.

Christmas was yesterday. I played my flute for Midnight Mass with the church choir. Even though he had to go to work early the next morning, Dad came to church with my mom and listened to me play. I had a few solos, and when I played, the people in the pews below me turned and looked up at the choir loft. They turned to look. They turned to watch me play.

We came home after Mass and opened a few presents, because Dad would be working on Christmas Day. Mom had bought me the first season of Jonny Quest, and Dad and I were both really excited about it. Mom and Dad fell asleep on the sofa while I watched Jonny Quest until in the morning. Then, Dad woke up and left because he needed to be at work for -- and work for him is back in St. Bernard, over an hour away.

I have been looking back lately, thinking about everything that’s happened. In a way, it’s a frightening, statistical wonder. In the months since the weekend of the hurricane, I have lived in four separate locations: a house, a hotel, a dorm room and a FEMA camper. I have been enrolled in three different schools. At night, I sleep on a sofa, a space heater plugged into the wall beside me. I drive on the interstate to get to my new school, where the people around me do not know me. This is my senior year of high school.

To read the rest of this entry in Samantha's amazing hurricane journal, click here.

Please Santa, Bring World Peace


December 12, 2005
-- Travel --
Santa at Macy's makes the season
By Zach Brokenrope
Like anyone visiting New York City for the first time, my expectations were high when I set foot in the Big Apple last Christmas.
Little did I know how those expectations would be exceeded as I marveled at the sights and sounds of the city at Christmastime.
My first taste of true New York Christmas tradition was navigating the maze that is the Macy’s department store on 34th Street at Herald Square.
My mission: find and sit on the lap of one of the world’s most famous men. Yes, I’m talking about Santa Claus.
To read the rest of Zach's piece about his visit with St. Nick, click on this link.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Suicide Stories Still Sadly Relevant

Fourteen years ago, a small group of brave teenagers in Bristol, Connecticut -- some of the earliest students of Youth Journalism International, though it wasn't even called that then -- tackled the tragic topic of teen suicide.
They combed through death records and did eye-opening and painful interviews with survivors, mostly parents, of teens who had taken their own lives. Though years had passed, these parents could never forget.
They spoke with teens who tried to kill themselves, and happily, didn't succeed.
These teens, Amanda Lehmert, Brian LaRue, Danielle Ouimet and Bryan Pena, had some help with the research, but they did the writing.
The whole group won awards for the work, but more importantly, they touched readers who continue to find these stories today.
The holiday season can be tough at times, and too many look to suicide as a way out.
The young people who wrote our initial suicide project -- and the many teens who followed with other stories about suicide and depression over the years -- did that work in hopes that they might prevent even one young person from taking that terrible, irreversible step.
They did it to comfort survivors, the family and friends left behind with their grief, never understanding why.
This holiday season and always, please remember that suicide is a permanent end to a temporary problem.
Life is good, and while middle school, high school and even college years can sometimes be rough, it does get better.
Today, I offer readers a link to those initial stories and others about suicide and depression, written by teenagers, for teenagers and the people who care about them. The cartoon above is by YJI editor and alum Katie Jordan, drawn when she was a high school student working on a package about depression.
To see the stories on suicide and depresssion, click on this link.
If you need help, don't keep it to yourself. Tell a friend or a trusted adult, and call the suicide hotline nearest you. You can find it by searching online or looking in the phone book.

Armenia Is Ready For Christmas

YJI reporter Narine Daneghyan of Yerevan, Armenia, sent this photo she took of a Christmas tree near the opera house in her city:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

YJI alums Teague Neal and Stefan Koski

Two former Youth Journalism International writers who are now valued alumni, Teague Neal (left) and Stefan Koski, came to visit at YJI Central in West Hartford. Teague is a travel agent in Toronto and Stefan graduated this year from the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he honed his film-making skills.
We had a great visit catching up.

Snow Has UK "Virtually At A Standstill"


More snowy images from the United Kingdom, these and the short report below from YJI student Myah Guild:


This from Dunstable, near London in the United Kingdom. The whole country's virtually at a standstill. As you might know, we near London are not very accustomed to this type of weather.

In parts of Scotland, people are stranded and without electricity. The south is slightly better, although large amounts have fallen in the past hour.

Airports are closed as everyone tries to get away for the holidays. Some people are even stranded abroad trying to get back.

Personally, I love the weather. It makes you remember how beautiful our world is, even when it’s buried under varying amounts of frozen water.  -- Myah Guild

Winter in Scotland

 

Robert Guthrie, a new YJI student from Dumfries, Scotland, sent these photos he took early this morning.
Some of them have a bluish tinge, which he explains is because the sun, if it was even to shine in Scotland today, had not yet properly come up, and many of them were taken on the shady side of the house, where there was even less light.
Robert wrote this: These are some photos which I have taken at my house, in Scotland. We have had a lot of snow recently, just like other parts of the UK. I took these this morning  and we have had at least 4" of snow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Around The World: The Netherlands

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Christmastime on the streets of Amsterdam, 2009


December 21, 2009

Dreaming of a snowy Christmas in the Netherlands

By Caroline Nelissen

ERMELO, Gelderland, Netherlands – I’ve always loved snow, though I must admit it’s much more fun to watch it from a nicely heated room than to actually plow your way through it.

Indoctrinated by the perfect Christmas card images of little wooden houses and pine trees that are heavy with a thick blanket of blinding white snow, I’ve always thought of snow as something that makes for the perfect Christmas atmosphere. Every year I hope it will be a white Christmas, but here in the Netherlands, romantic Christmas snow more often than not remains a distant dream.
It hardly ever snows here. Instead, most of the time we’re saddled with rain, its more wet and less romantic counterpart. And when it does snow, it’s not the crisp and immaculate kind you see on Christmas cards, but the sort of wet snow that immediately turns all muddy and completely ruins your shoes.
Fortunately, there’s more to Christmas than just snow.
The Christmas card image is not completely lost here, as we do have pine trees in abundance. Most people take one into their homes as a Christmas tree. They decorate them with lights, Christmas balls and other decorations, like “kerstkransjes.” These are cookies or chocolates with a hole in the middle so they can be used as Christmas ornaments.
As it does for many people all over the world, Christmas offers many Dutch people the opportunity to let out their inner decorator.

To read the rest of Caroline's article on Christmas in the Netherlands and see more of her terrific photos, click here.

Christmas After A Hurricane

December 18, 2005
-- Hurricane journal --

Ready or not, here comes Christmas

By Samantha Perez
Sunday, Dec. 18,
Too fast. Everything is moving too fast. I want time to slow down, just for a moment, so that I can have a chance to just think about everything that is happening. 

Since the month the hurricane hit, I have lost my house and lived in a hotel, dorm room, and camper. I have enrolled in three different schools, had three different American History teachers, and slept in six different beds. Six different beds.

My friend told me that Christmas is in a week. One week. I laughed because I thought he was joking, speaking crazy talk. That was until I looked at my phone and added 7 to 18. That equals 25, and Christmas is on day 25. Christmas is in one week.

This isn’t like any Christmas I’ve ever had before. There aren’t any decorations. I’m not running around, screaming Christmas carols, and embarrassing my friends. We don’t have any room for a real tree, so instead we have a tiny 17-inch one from Target. We keep it on the table, but I don’t like it because it takes too much room when we are trying to eat.

Maybe it’s different for other displaced families with houses. Maybe it’s just my family. I don’t know. This Christmas isn’t like anything we’ve had before. My dad won’t be home; he’ll be in St. Bernard working. I don’t know where we will be going for Christmas Day, probably only to my grandparents’ house trailer again, to see them and spend time with them.

Then I will come home into my little camper, where there is hardly any evidence of Christmas. I guess it doesn’t matter. Not really. I bought a few little things for my friends for Christmas, but I don’t get to see them often anymore. I have no idea when I will be able to give them their presents.

I hope soon. After all, Christmas is only a week away.

This is only a tiny piece of Samantha's breathtaking journals about Hurricane Katrina. To read the rest, click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Around The World: Ireland

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Traditions rule in Irish Yule
December 21, 2009
By Marese Heffernan

LIMERICK, Ireland – Imagine having to arrive at the church 45 minutes early to make sure you get a seat for Mass. The idea is unheard of at any other time of year, maybe even in any other place, but that’s Christmas in Ireland.

The 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass means getting dressed at 5 p.m. and ready to go by 6:30. Even in this day and age with religion taking a backseat as people focus on other issues, the people of Ireland would never turn their backs on the church at Christmas.

As the holiday season becomes more and more commercialized every year, with shopping, partying and gift-giving at the fore of the traditions, Ireland remains determined to keep the religious celebration at the center of the Irish Christmas.

As a mainly Catholic country, it is not surprising that Christmas has remained true to religious traditions. That’s not to say that people don’t go crazy buying expensive gifts, decorating their houses elaborately and celebrating the season with many a night on the town, but the subtle traditions remain which remind us that our Christmas is about something more than having fun and celebrating the break from school.

Each year, many Irish households light candles on Christmas Eve and put them in the window as a symbol that Mary and Joseph are welcome in their home. This also serves to remind us that visitors should be welcomed at this time of year and some families even set an extra place at the dinner table to show this. Many people spend Christmas Eve in the local pub to meet with friends and enjoy the festive time together.
To read the rest of this piece by Marese, click on this link.

Snowy Chevy Chase, Maryland

John Gallagher, a Youth Journalism International student from Chevy Chase, Maryland, U.S.A., took these photos of the snow near the nation's capital today.  John was out with his camera in the Kenwood Forest Section of Chevy Chase, which is in Montgomery County, adjacent to Washington, D.C.