On Behalf of a Ten-Year-Old Girl: “Is This Who We Are”?

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“Is this who we are?” The title of this op-ed piece is very apt. It follows on an article in Buzzfeed, which describes a 10-year-old undocumented girl with a severe developmental disability. The girl, born in Mexico but brought to this country when she was three months old, was detained after she just had emergency surgery. So, I ask the same question: “Is this who we are?”

 

There are ways in which we can take action. The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a campaign to contact elected officials; the effort has been gaining publicity on Twitter and other social media channels via the #FreeRosa hashtag. We cannot remain silent. It’s not who we are.

 

Special Schools in England Not Only Respect the Child, They Practice It

A School Where Nobody's Judging YouThere are at least two takeaways from this excellent article:
* The importance of being nonjudgmental
* Adults must look at the big picture: there are often events in that child’s life that led to the current situation.

Children are not disposable. As Korczak said, one must never, ever abandon a child in need.

This fine article appeared in the October 17, 2017, edition of The Guardian.

A Boy and His Dog, Both with Disabilities, Share Their Boundless Love

Back in 2015, my younger daughter told me about a book she was reading and with which she became entranced. It’s about two misfits, a little boy and a huge dog. Both have physical disabilities. And as each is endowed with a great heart and heaping dose of empathy, they understood each other perfectly. As I love both animals and children with disabilities, I had to buy a copy and read it. I am very glad I did.

 

Haatchi and Little B

Book reviewed: Wendy Holden, Haatchi & Little B (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2014). ISSN 1250063183

He remembered the deafening roar of the train as it rumbled over him. Left for dead, an abandoned dog whimpered in the chilly night air. Fortunately, a kind-hearted rail supervisor spotted him and alerted the local animal welfare authorities. A series of veterinarians, nurses, animal shelter personnel, and animal advocates did everything they could to restore normalcy in his life. Everyone who met this dog was taken in by his large amber eyes, which belied his gentle nature. They did all they could for this unusual dog, but they could not save one of his hind legs and tail, making walking and communicating a major challenge for him. Now the problem was who would adopt a three-legged dog, an Anatolian shepherd, a breed most people associate with aggressiveness; even as a puppy, he was a very large dog. Those who met him knew he was a gentle giant. At one of the sanctuaries, the staff realized how loyal this dog was. They thought of a much-loved canine folk hero in Japan, an Akita named Hatchiko, who waited for his owner at a train station, even many years after he passed. They decided on an Anglicized variant, Haatchi. Little did they then realize that the name would suit him perfectly.

Will Howkins has a son, Owen, a boy with a very rare genetic neuromuscular disorder. The one dog he had was sweet-natured, but it was not in his nature to cuddle. Will and Kim, Owen’s mother, had divorced; Will was the boy’s primary care taker. Several years, later, Will met Colleen on line; like Will, Colleen loved dogs. One day, while browsing the Internet, Colleen was smitten by the face of an Anatolian shepherd staring back at her with enormous almond eyes. When the couple visited the dog in person, their feelings of love were even stronger. But how would Owen, Colleen’s “Little Buddy,” or “Little B,” react to a dog so much larger than he. They would have to give it a try. Little B was very shy and withdrawn, but when he and Haatchi met, they were in love; Owen became much more lively and outgoing. Soon, the story of the little boy and large dog spread, millions of people having viewed their account on Facebook. This is the book behind the story.

Haatchi and Owen had adapted to their disabilities, overcoming a great deal of painful surgery. The two inspired each other with their determination and positive outlook. Throughout the book, each experienced many more setbacks and challenges. In fact, the “happily ever after” is the astonishing positivity of all members of the family. Nobody knows the long-term future of either Owen or Haatchi; for now, however, both are extraordinarily grateful for what they have. That is the story of the family with the boy and his dog, who inspire each other—and will inspire anyone who takes the time to absorb this very enjoyable and highly readable true story.

Malala Speaks Up (Again) for Syrian Children

 

In this powerful video, Malala has hope that the Syrian child refugees will survive and one day be able to return home.  That hope, however, is dampened by the grave concerns she has for what may be the irreparable damage that has been done to these young lives.  The statistics are as staggering as they are frightening.

Malala tells their story for the world to hear.

It doesn’t have to be that way!  Syrian children need money for an education.  Let’s help them come home and rebuild their country.

 

Meet the Child Refugees

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Minute by minute, we hear the abhorrent rantings of various public figures confronting hate with hate, fear with fear, despair with despair. Rather than quote all those individuals, as well as the fine people who have stood up to this bigotry, I will let some powerful photographs speak up for the child refugees of the Middle East, who make up more than half that desperate population. A very fine photographer uses his art to document where child refugees in the Middle East sleep.  Here are the rest of the photos:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/lynzybilling/where-syrian-children-sleep#.ojdNdBX13

 

The Syrian and Other Refugees – A Follow-Up

Since my last column on the crisis of the refugees, the tragedy has garnered even more coverage, ranging from the deeply humanitarian to outrageously bigoted and mean-spirited.

The satirists and comedians have given us some of the most insightful perspectives on world issues.  British comedian John Oliver gave us one of his best performances in not only showing the very good and very bad of the Syrian refugee crisis, but also putting on a very human face on it by focusing on a lovely Syrian teen girl named Noujain Mustaffa.  Oliver then “resurrected” her favorite soap opera character in a brilliantly re-created dialog.  Half the refugees are children, many at risk of losing out on their education in addition to their childhood.

Of course, the big news has been the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.  He gave several impassioned speeches; the one I wish to share is the one he gave in Washington, DC.  Children, immigrants, and refugees were much on the mind of the Pontiff when he said, “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” adding “We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educated new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us.”

Melissa Fleming, of the UNHCR, last year presented the plight the Syrian refugees; their case has grown even more desperate since then.  She talked about the urgent need to educate the children, “so they can look to the future rather than relive the nightmare of their past.”

The White House and President Obama have set up a page, AidRefugees.gov.  In addition, US AID has a Web page on what we can do, including writing President Obama and other elected representatives.  You can also leave a message as to actions you have taken on behalf of the refugees.  Public Radio International (PRI) has a very informative page.  Children can help their peers through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.  We must speak out against the ugly racism so many people are purveying in public and counter with love and compassion, to do what we can to help these fine and innocent people.