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With the tragic and irreplaceable loss of Nelson Mandela, the world now must take to his words and memories to keep his inspirational message of hope alive.  Thankfully, his spirit lives on in Long Walk to Freedom, his sensational autobiography, and Conversations with Myself, a collection of his most private essays and letters.  Mandela will forever be available for any one to access.  His words will resonate on the page for long-time followers or perhaps someone not yet familiar with the great leader.

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and his written legacy, the following is a list of five essential works by African authors:

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Perhaps the single most famous piece of African literature, Achebe’s first novel is a two-part story about Ibo tribesman Okonkwo.  The story narrates African life prior to the arrival of colonial powers, and then the subsequent colonization of Nigeria by Britain.

2. Native Life in South Africa by Sol Plaatje

Sol Plaatje was a political activist and intellectual fighting for the freedom of native Africans during colonization by both the British and the Dutch.  Plaatje was in many ways a forefather for Nelson Mandela, and Native Life in South Africa is one of the most important works in African literature.  In it, Plaatje makes an emotional plea for enfranchisement and basic human rights for black Africans suffering at the hands of colonialism.

3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is considered an important figure in contemporary African literature, as she represents the next generation of authors following Achebe.  Purple Hibiscus takes place in post-colonial Nigeria, and is the painful coming-of-age story of a young girl in a disintegrating family.

4. The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

This novel is a story about a hairdresser named Vimbai and her struggle to make a living and raise her son in modern day Harare, Zimbabwe.  Described by many critics as “bittersweet,” the novel is both humorous and dark at the same time.

5. Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Petals of Blood looks at the interconnectedness between four murder suspects in the wake of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.  The novel is a skeptical look at postcolonial Kenyan politics and the impossibility of escaping a colonial past.

– Taylor Diamond

Sources: Good Reads
Photo: Kubatana Blogs

This Friday marks the premiere of the second film installment of the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. While thousands of people will wait in line to see its midnight premiere, the film is more than just a blockbuster.  The film partners with Feed America and the World Food Programme to raise awareness and advocacy for world hunger.

While the films’ website is a favorites spot for fanatics, it also offers an educational aspect, exploring hunger worldwide.  The site specifically targets the younger audience, aiming to educate fans of the film about hunger and poverty. The site features a world map with five interactive factoids and links to both Feed for America’s county-level hunger map, and the World Food Programme’s interactive map of worldwide hunger.  The five hunger facts are as follows:

Fact #1

1 in 5 kids suffers from hunger worldwide.

Fact #2

1 in 6 kids is underweight.

Fact #3

700 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in the U.S.

Fact #4

It costs 25 cents a day to provide a child with proper nutrition

Fact #5

This one is a video factoid. It features the personal impact of Feed for America in rural communities across the country.

Facts 1, 3 and 5 are sponsored by Feeding America and feature links to the organization’s interactive county-by-county hunger map.  The map is the first of its kind to investigate the effects of hunger and poverty at a county level.  Web users are able to explore how the most impoverished counties in America are affected by hunger and learn about Feeding America’s efforts to serve those communities.

Facts 2 and 4 are sponsored by the World Food Programme (WFP) and lead readers to the WFP’s world hunger map. More than 842 million people go hungry every night, and the WFP’s hunger map explores the severity of hunger country by country. The interactive map ranks countries based on prevalence of hunger and offers pertinent demographic information about each country. The site also provides information about WFP’s efforts and accomplishments to reduce hunger in each country.  The map is easy to navigate and clearly communicates the need for hunger advocacy and awareness.

The Hunger Games also sponsors charitable merchandise for sale.  The limited edition “Love Thy Neighbor, Feed Thy Neighbor” fan t-shirt is available for purchase, with all proceeds going towards Feeding America.  The film’s star actress, Jennifer Lawrence, also partners with several charitable organizations.  She has donated to DoSomething.org, Feeding America, the World Food Programme, and the Thirst Program. The film’s website presents a strong message to film fanatics that they must be educated and active against world hunger.

– Mallory Thayer

Sources: Hunger Games, Feeding America, WFP, Look to the Stars
Photo: Forbes

Nelson Mandela Dead
Nelson Mandela dead? Yes, the unthinkable has occurred. Arguably the world’s greatest advocate and symbol of compassion has passed away.

On Thursday December 5, 2013, Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. He was one of the most revered men in the world, for he was an example of dedication, forgiveness, and triumph. He sacrificed his own freedom, so that others who were less fortunate could obtain their own freedom. After spending 27 years of his life in a prison cell, he was released to the cheers of billions around the world. He was the ultimate symbol of hope for a region that was on the brink of destruction. His leadership ultimately averted a racial civil war.

As the first democratically elected president of South Africa, he faced many obstacles, but was ambitious in his presidential vision. During his presidency, Nelson Mandela set out to elevate his countrymen and women from poverty. He petitioned for foreign governments to invest in his countries resources. He pushed for fair distribution of farmland to include those who were impoverished. He was successful in implementing free health care access to children under the age of six, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, giving healthcare to the poor.

After retirement from the Presidency in 1999, he focused his attention on other noteworthy causes. He created the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which through education has brought people together to combat HIV and AIDS in his home country. Through the organization, the 46664 campaign (his prison-issued number) has staged many prominent concerts to stimulate South African youth awareness to AIDS prevention. His example of perseverance in eradicating AIDS in South Africa has brought the country closer to an AIDS-free generation.

He also urged governmental leaders across the world to do more to alleviate global poverty. In a 2005 speech in London, Nelson Mandela pushed for leaders across the world to support global poverty reduction initiatives. He said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings… While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” His words were a call to arms for leaders of more developed nations to extend their posterity to poorer nations.

The world has lost a true leader, a champion of equality, and a hero for the poor. Nelson Mandela’s example has inspired millions worldwide, and he will be missed but not forgotten.

Travis Whinery

Sources: Forbes, NelsonMandela.org, Huffington Post, BBC, The Economist, CNN
Photo: ABC World News

One of the best ways to begin the fight against global poverty is to immerse yourself in another culture.  Eastern Europe is region rich with folklore and literary tradition.  Whether you are looking to become further acquainted with Eastern European culture, or have an interest in promoting development and human rights in the region, curling up with some of Eastern Europe’s best works is a wonderful place to find inspiration.

1. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Kafka was one of the foremost existentialist authors in the world.  Czech by heritage, Kafka wrote many novels and short stories, but none more famous than his novella The Metamorphosis.  The novella is the story about a salesman named Gregor who wakes up one day and discovers that he has transformed into a giant insect.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Taking place during the Prague Spring of 1968, this novel is a classic story of a man torn between his love for a young woman he has just met and his old playboy habits.  But much more than that, it is an exploration of our choices as humans and chance events that influence our lives.  The “unbearable lightness of being” is when we forget the weight of what happens in our existence.

3. Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Although Patrick Leigh Fermor was a British author, Between the Woods and the Water is a story about the Balkans and Eastern Europe at its core.  It is a memoir about Fermor’s attempt to cross all of Europe on foot.  Stories about crossing the Danube, Budapest, and the mystical landscape of the Balkans and Carpathian mountains all abound in this exciting journey.

4. Café Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulic

This work is a collection of essays by Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic.  A humorous, but always poignant work, Café Europa is an exploration of how former U.S.S.R. states are dealing with post-Communism.

5. The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek

This piece is a biting satire on war and politics.  Written by Czech author Jaroslav Hasek, the book tries to piece together the devastation of World War I by creating a fictional story about a well-meaning Czech man in the Austrian army.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Good Reads, Rick Steves

What better way to promote love and compassion than by offering hugs? Ten seconds of hugging a day is said to lower your blood pressure and help release the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. No deaths have ever been reported as a result of a hug, and what most would think to be a relatively benign act has landed two men behind bars.

The Free Hugs campaign started in 2004 by an unknown Australian man known only by his pseudonym “Juan Mann.” His goal was simple – to reach out and hug a stranger, and brighten up their lives. “Mann” was motivated by the idea that everyone has problems, but to see someone who was once frowning, smile, is worth it every time.

Inspired by this, a young Saudi man, Bandr al-Swed, posted a video of himself offering hugs to male strangers on YouTube.

“I liked the idea and thought it could bring happiness to Saudi Arabia” Swed told al-Arabiya news. This then inspired two more young Saudis, Abdulrahman al-Khayyal and a friend.

The boys offered free hugs in one of Riyadh’s, the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, main shopping streets. They were then arrested and detained by the kingdom’s religious police. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is charged with maintaining sharia law.

Sharia law is the law of Islam. It is cast from the Quran and abides from the actions and words of Muhammad, the Prophet. It is the national law of Saudi Arabia and follows policy that includes denying the Quran, Allah, or Muhammad punishable by death.

The two were required to pledge that they would not offer hugs again. And were arrested for violating local laws and engaging what the police called “exotic practices.”

Despite this, al-Khayyal told The Independent that he would continue giving out free hugs. “I consider it an act of charity,” he said, and that he is proud of what he has done.

Controversy surrounds the religious police. After a 2002 school shooting resulting in the death of 15 girls, the police were accused for trying to keep the girls inside the building because they were not wearing the proper black robes required by all Saudi females.

– Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: Daily Mail, Free Hugs Campaign, Billion Bibles, BBC, The Independent
Photo: Disclose TV

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), in general terms, are nonprofit organizations composed of like-minded individuals that seek to influence society on the local, national, or global level. NGOs serve a wide variety of functions, but their main focus is to foster accountability and to inform the public of social issues. There are thousands of NGOs around the world, and each has its own particular goal. Some organizations may follow a general mission such as gaining equality for all women, while others have a specific focus such as providing clean water to Ugandan youth.

Each organization maintains a certain orientation in order to carry out its goals. These may include a basis of service, participatory, charitable, or empowerment orientation. Charitable groups may donate food or clothes to the poor. Participatory organizations focus on self-help programs in their area and are usually on-going. Service groups normally give time and provide much needed services in an area needing improvement. Empowerment focused organizations generally focus on the outside forces that contribute to an issue, such as social pressures and policies.

Organizations can also be classified as operational or advocacy based. Operational NGOs follow specific guidelines in order to design and carry out projects. For instance a local group hosts literature nights in order to increase female literacy in the area. In contrast, an advocacy based organization may utilize the media to inform the public of the low literacy rates and increase public support for education.

NGOs are defined by their lack of government affiliation or control. However, business leaders may become involved in several ways, such as serving as board members. Because each country has its own guidelines determining NGO status, the exact number of current nonprofits remains unknown but they usually fall into three levels:

1. Local NGOs

Local or Community-based NGOs focus on the needs of the immediate, regional area. These groups often have a particular focus group or membership such as a women’s group or a farmers association. Success is often inclusive and beneficial only to the members involved.

2. National NGOs

National NGOs operate on a wider plane and target policy in order to influence a cause or issue. They often serve the role of mediators between the public and policy makers. For example, The Borgen Project advocates an end to global poverty by directly informing American citizens of the effects of poverty and directly urging US lawmakers to maintain policy in support of foreign aid.

3. Global NGOs

Global NGOs, such as Amnesty International, advocate and design programs in order to deal with global issues. Focused primarily on developing countries, it is common for these groups to conduct several programs simultaneously in different regions of the world. Also, many of these organizations work in conjunction with the United Nations, following predetermined guide lines like the Millennium Development Goals.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: NGO.org, Amnesty.org, NGO Handbook

Photo: X-Pert Services

Top Ten Most Searched People Google Morgan Freeman
Who is the world intrigued with? Look no further than the top searches on Google. The top 10 searched for people provides a very interesting sampling of who represents humanity.

1. Whitney Houston. She became a beloved artist, actress, producer, and model. Guinness world records called her the most awarded female of all time. In later years she had a drug problem but recovered. She was posed to become the next judge on the show “The X-Factor” and revive her career right before she died.

2. Kate Middleton. She is a modern day Cinderella. Now Kate has been voted number one on the Vanity Fair’s best dressed list for three years in a row. Before she won the prince’s heart, she was considered simply “a beautiful commoner.” Today she works closely with five charities which mainly work with children.

3. Amanda Todd. Released a YouTube video about how she was bullied before she committed suicide. The video went viral and is now used to support anti-bullying movements.

4. Michael Clarke Duncan. Became famous when appearing in “The Green Mile” which won him an Academy Award nomination. He was an avid advocate for PETA. Michael died at age 54.

5. One Direction. Popularized by the show “The X-Factor,” the boy band has sold over seven million records. The teenage heart throbs are avid advocates for the organization Comic Relief.

6. Felix Baumgartner. Broke the world record height for sky diving. During his decent, he became the first person to break the sound barrier without using mechanical power.

7. Jeremy Lin. A lesser known professional basketball player until he led a winning streak for the New York Knicks.

8. Morgan Freeman. He acts, directs, and narrates. Some of his recent films include Oblivion, Now You See Me, and The Dark Knight Rises.

9. Joseph Kony. Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. He was made famous by an Invisible Children documentary that went viral.

10. Donna Summer. Known as the “undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom.” Four of her singles topped the billboard chart within a thirteen month period. She held five Grammy Awards.

How can this diverse group of people be summarized? They usually come from the entertainment business. The good outnumber the bad. They are overwhelmingly represented in the media. When given power or influence most chose to represent the underprivileged and fight for inequality. Many gain a following in the wake of their death. Their lives read like a very dramatic story. The kind of story that gets them on the top ten Google searched list.

– Nicole Yancy
Sources: Biography, Wonder’s List, Fox News, E Online
Photo: LoL Forum

The idea of health care is very different for people all across the globe. For those living in developed countries, the benefits of accessible health care improve the quality of human life dramatically. When a person isn’t feeling good and wishes to get treatment, they can go to the doctor and get the medicine they need. When an emergency or health scare impacts a family, immediate support can help save lives. But what about those without access to these resources? Help in these situations can be much more difficult to receive. Developing countries often don’t have any ability to receive treatment from doctors and emergency services.

Partners in Health looks to provide that support to those unable to receive health care. Founded in 1987 to assist indigenous citizens of Haiti, PIH feels it is their moral duty to treat the sick in poor regions worldwide. With the support of official international health institutions and thousands of generous donors, PIH has the resources ready to address those in need immediately. The organization received nearly 64 million US dollars in charitable donations in 2011 alone.

Their work vastly covers an array of health concerns. PIH holds programs in cancer and disease, cholera, HIV/AIDs, surgical procedures, maternal and child health, and mental health fields. These programs treat those in need in places such as Haiti, Rwanda, Mexico, Peru, and many other countries. The impact of the foundation of health centers and hospitals in these international communities is enormous.

People worldwide live daily at risk to diseases and changes in health. What separates some citizens from others is the ability to treat these problems right when they happen. Partners in Health is an organization determined to make sure every global citizen has the same access to health care and treatment. For more information on how you can make a donation and become involved with this important organization, visit www.pih.org.

William Norris

Sources: Partners in Health, Charity Navigator
Photo: Aid for Africa

Fiscal Discord Chaos Congo Rebel M23 Rwanda Proxy
Civil unrest in the developing world is not new.  In fact, it can be seen as one of a handful of constants uniting the plights of most “third-world” countries across the globe.  As such, the violent turmoil which has engulfed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is sadly not surprising, it is almost expected.  What distinguishes this conflict is not that it exists, but why.

Though most people would expect political dissent or religious struggle to be at the root of the Congolese civil war, it is in fact a war being waged over fiscal discord. The conflict in the Congo has resulted in the rape, murder, and relocation of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children.

Consisting primarily of ethnic Tutsi deserters of the Congolese army, the M23 rebel faction is fighting with their government in Eastern DRC over the supposed denial of their integration into the national military.  Their integration had been guaranteed in a 2009 treaty that ended a prior civil conflict.  Unlike similar wars fought over assumedly incompatible political or religious beliefs, the war in the Congo is one that would seem to be centered upon financial disputes and as such could conceivably be ended through an economic concession.

Though long-standing animosity between the DRC’s Tutsi and Hutu populations, along with the devastation which has followed the M23 rebellion, may preclude a simple monetary solution, the fact that countless people have been terrorized over such an inane clash of fiscal interests should in itself be enough to spur the international community to pursue negotiations between M23 and the Congolese government, before the DRC civil war spills over into neighboring Rwanda.

Gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege has worked in the DRC for over a decade, helping rape victims receive both medical and psychiatric treatment.  Dr. Mukwege explains, “The conflict in DR Congo is not between groups of religious fanatics. Nor is it a conflict between states. This is a conflict caused by economic interests – and it is being waged by destroying Congolese women.”

Today, fighting in the DRC city of Goma has ignited conflict along its border with Rwanda.  The DRC government claims innocence in a rash of violent incidents involving Rwandan civilians.  It also accuses many Hutu Rwandans sympathetic with M23 of collusion with the supposed terrorist faction.  The tension between the two countries over this issue has forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to send a military contingent to the besieged area.  International intercession is definitely necessary in the issue.  However, it remains to be seen if this costly conflict calls for a resolution made in blood or bullion.

– Shaun Franco

Sources: BBC News, ABC News, BBC News Magazine
Photo: Al Jazeera

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