What’s Happening for kids in Southern Sudan? By Kelly Mongomery

 

uganda-201711-emillstein-0559-2. Medium Resolution_0

South Sudan should be a country full of hope eight years after gaining independence. Instead, it’s now in the grip of a massive humanitarian crisis.

Political conflict, compounded by economic woes and drought, has caused massive displacement, raging violence and dire food shortages. Over seven million people — about two thirds of the population — are in need of aid, including around 6.9 million people experiencing hunger.

Food security is expected to deteriorate more, with 7.7 million people estimated to face crisis levels of hunger with the onset of the July to August lean season, the period of time between harvests when food stores are low.

To read more of this article, please follow the link below…

https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/south-sudan/south-sudan-crisis

Advertisements

How the Housing Crisis is affecting Kiwi Kids: More than 250,000 New Zealand children living in poverty, new figures show

The report from Stats NZ said the proportion of children who lived in households, with less than half the median disposable income – jumped once housing costs were taken into account.

But advocates said major changes were needed if the country was serious about tackling the issue.

The Child Poverty Reduction Act set both three and 10-year targets to reduce poverty and hardship.

To achieve those targets, government statistician Liz McPherson will report each year against a set of 10 measures.

Susan St John from the Child Poverty Action Group said the last two years’ figures could not be relied on.

“The adjustments by Stats NZ mean that the Government now has a reliable baseline against which to measure the success of its policies,” she said.

Living with kids in a car…. the Housing Crisis in New Zealand. Photo Source:http://www.wakeupkiwi.com/real-New-Zealand-history.shtml

“We can be confident for example that on the primary measure, before housing costs 50 percent income, New Zealand had about 180,000 children in poverty,” Ms St John said.

That figure jumped to 254,000 children – about 23 percent – once housing costs were accounted for.

Childrens’ Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the data backed up what was already known.

“There is nothing new in these stats, they are really telling us what we knew in the past, but because it’s from the chief statistician and it’s comprehensive and it’s recent, there is some degree of reliability we can place on them. So it’s nothing new, but the extent of the challenge is laid bare,” Mr Becroft said.

To read more of this article, please follow the link below…

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/386181/more-than-250-000-new-zealand-children-living-in-poverty-new-figures-show

“Refugee” by Alan Gratz: A Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Refugee by Alan Gratz is a New York Times best seller, and for good reason.  I came across Refugee when my fourteen year old son was reading it for school.  My husband then read it and raved about it, so I decided to read it too.

Refugee follows the stories of three young refugees (all about 11 to 14 years old) from three very different cultures and time periods.

Photo Source: Back Cover Schoolastic Australia 2018 edition.

Initially, before reading the book, I thought to myself, “Why not a Vietnamese or Cambodian Refugee?”  I have lived in Vietnam (Hanoi) for three years and have a number of Vietnamese former refugee friends.  During my time in South East Asia I travelled extensively and also visited Cambodia.  As well as this, during my childhood, a number of refugees from both Cambodia and Vietnam came to my home country, New Zealand, and I attended school with some of them.  A Cambodian or Vietnamese young person would also fill the “timeline gap” in Gratz’ book, as most of these refugees were making their journeys from the mid 1970s.

There are refugees from numerous other countries and time periods throughout the 20th Century too.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees defines a “Refugees” as:

“…people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country.  They often have had to flee with little more than the clothes on their back, leaving behind homes, possessions, jobs and loved ones. 
Refugees are defined and protected in international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention is a key legal document and defines a refugee as: ‘someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.’  By the end of 2017, there were 25.4 million refugee men, women and children registered across the world”.   Source: https://www.unhcr.org/what-is-a-refugee.htm

There have always been refugees throughout history.  Unfortunately mass human displacement has intensified during the 20th and 21st Centuries.  Battles have never just been between soldiers of opposing sides,  but recent conflicts have become, more and more, centred in our cities and towns, effecting ordinary men, women and children.  Our weapons have become more destructive.   As well as this, there are “environmental refugees”, those fleeing natural disasters, some of which have come about through “global warming” and human created environmental issues.

As I read Refugee it became clear that the three stories (of Josef, Isabel and Mahmoud) are very cleverly connected.  There is a reason for the Gratz’ choice of these three.  Through connecting them, the book shows, without needing to state it directly, the interconnectedness and commonality of all humanity: across cultures, faiths, times and places.

The characters in Refugee are fictional, but Gratz has successfully entered their hearts and souls.  Each is a “real” child with hopes, fears and dreams, set in the context of their own nationality/ religion/ race.  At the end of the book Gratz describes the inspiration behind each character, as well as minor characters in the stories who are real people, as are the events from history.  My husband says he found the book “confronting”.  I agree, but I also found it compelling: the stories are interspersed: first Josef, then Isabel, then Mahmoud, then back to Josef and so on.  The chapters end on “cliff hangers” and we want to read on, not only to see what will happen, but also because, as the interconnectedness of the three stories becomes apparent, they are also fascinating.  We all know that the journeys made by refugees are dangerous, life and death ventures.  We become embroiled in their worlds, we worry for them and hope for their eventual safety: elements that definitely make this book a page turner.

For me personally, I found that Refugee connected with my sense of humanity and social justice.  As a mother, I thought of how I would hate my children to go through ordeals like those suffered by the children in the book.  Refugee children are among the world’s most vulnerable and are often go without health care and education, due to being “on the run” and “countryless”.    They also suffer from the trauma of things they have seen and experienced, things which are sewn into the fabric of the “forever years” of their childhoods.  Many refugees and former refugees whom I have known personally say that they never expected to have to leave their homes.  We never know what the future will hold: it is a situation which no one would want to find themselves in, but which could happen anywhere.  Gratz expresses this in Refugee, particularly through his tying together of Josef, Isabel and Mahmoud’s stories.  This is a powerful book, by a skilled author, which young people– indeed any people– should read to understand the human face of this very important world issue.

Autumnal Crafts to do with Kids, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Some fun ideas for Autumn themed crafts to do with kids.

The Forever Years

Crafts Header

There are numerous positive effects which come from encouraging our kids to be aware of nature and the seasons.  Recently in our house we have done some Autumn related crafts, which I will share with you below.  Some of these were my own ideas, while others came from a book we borrowed from the library: Art for All Seasons, 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children inspired by Nature and Contemporary Artists, by Susan Schwake.  (For more information about this book, please follow the link here…   http://www.amazon.com/Art-All-Seasons-Kids/dp/0991293592).

Some of these Autumn crafts require coloured Autumn leaves, so they are also a great excuse to go for a walk in nature.  Teach your kids words such as “deciduous”  and “evergreen” and draw their attention to the different shapes, colors and textures of the leaves from various kinds of trees.  You may also like to create a box or tray of “Autumn things” at home, such…

View original post 717 more words

“The Half Mermaid” by Carol Krueger: Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

The Half Mermaid is the latest book written by magical Dunedin children’s author Carol Krueger.

Ondina appears to be an ordinary fourteen year old girl who lives with her Mum, step Dad and two younger brothers. One day, however, she discovers something extraordinary about herself… something which appears whenever she gets wet.

The Half Mermaid is a magical tale for children and young people and Krueger’s style is very accessible.  The book is also packed with colourful, engaging photographs.  My eight year old daughter and ten year old son spent an afternoon transfixed by the magic of Krueger’s tale (or should I say “tail”?).The story also has an environmental message and gives us practical ideas for how we as individuals can keep our oceans clean and habitable for sea creatures.

I highly recommend this book to all who love mermaids, mystery and magic.

 

25 Kids’ Movies Coming Out in 2019 That Are Worth a Trip to the Theater By Marisa LaScala

There’s nothing more fun than family movie night at the theatre. And children — not to mention parents — are in luck in 2019, because there’s a lot of exciting films on the lineup, including a new Lego Movie, a new Star Warsthree Disney remakes, and the sequel to Frozen.

To read more of this article, please follow the link below…

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g25308827/kids-movies-2019/

“Smile” by Raina Telgemeier. A Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Smile 3 cover

This comic-style book is suitable for kids from about age 8 (depending on their reading level).  My 8 year old daughter and 10 year old son both read and loved it.

Set in San Francisco, USA, Smile tells the true story of how, at age 11, the author Raina Telgemeir broke her two top teeth, resulting in numerous trips to the orthodontist and other dental specialists.  The “journey of Raina’s teeth” in the early 1990s is a true story, and not just one about dental issues.

Smile2 FY

Many young people have braces or other things that effect their physical appearance during the “transition” period (teenage years) between childhood and adulthood.  Many will sympathise with Raina’s fate and her concerns about the reactions of her peers.  (Having had braces myself, I “got” where she was coming from).

The story is very reader friendly, as well as interesting and engaging.  A major San Francisco earthquake happens during the course of the story and impacts Raina and her family.

Smile is a story of “growing up”.  The author is eleven years old at the beginning and around fifteen at the end.  As well as telling us the story of her teeth, Telgemeir chronicles the things that were most important to her at this time of life: friendships, romantic crushes, moving from Middle School to High School and, ultimately, her journey towards self-acceptance.  A great read with colourful illustrations, I highly recommend this book!Smile 1 fy

forever-years-icon

Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp: “Dear World” by Bana Alabed

Cover

Bana Alabed, a brave young girl from Syria, was born in 2009 in Aleppo.  Her early years were peaceful and happy, surrounded by a loving family.  The onset of war in her country changed her life and the lives of her family forever.

“Dear World” is Bana Alabed’s account of what living through a war feels like, through the eyes of a child.  Alabed writes in a simple, straightforward and very honest way and her book is very readable, both for adults and children.  It is also interspersed with writing by her mother, giving us an insight into the pain of a parent trying to protect her children from harm in the most terrible circumstances: circumstances which ultimately lead to the family deciding to leave Syria and become refugees.

Alabed says, “I dedicate my book to every child suffering in a war.  You are not alone.”   Her book is prefaced with a quotation from Anne Frank…. another very famous girl who wrote about her experiences living through a war.

Anne-Frank-quote-about-life-from-The-Diary-of-a-Young-Girl-1a6515

What struck me, as an adult, reading “Dear World” was the universality or Bana Alabed’s experience of modern war: the similarities of her story to that of children and young people (like Anne Frank) who have suffered as a result of war, in our world’s recent history.  The words, “When will they ever learn?” from Bob Dylan’s famous song come to mind.  Regardless of the time period and technology, the trauma experienced by children living through a war is the same.  Alabed is a child of our modern technological age, born in 2009 (the same year as my third son).  She plays with Barbie dolls, wears “Princess Barbie boots” and watches Sponge Bob Square Pants and Tom and Jerry with her two younger brothers… in between running to the basement during shelling.  There is a sense of a “normal” childhood, interspersed with the horrors of war.  Alabed has an I-pad and she uses it to communicate with the outside world.  Her “tweets for peace” in English become famous around the world and draw attention to her country’s plight.

bana-alabed.jpg.image.784.410

aw-bana-alabed-tweet

These same tweets also made Bana Alabed, then aged only seven, an enemy of the Assad government, who actively attempted to silence her.  As well as living in fear of the war, the Alabed family were terrified for their young daughter’s life and dressed her as a boy whenever they went out, to avoid drawing attention.  Alabed is an intelligent, sensitive and perceptive child who lives through her father being taken away by the secret police and the death of her best friend  Yasmin, whose body is lifted from the rubble after a bombing.

“After Yasmin was gone, I was even more scared to die….the way I missed Yasmin…gave me a feeling like I was sinking inside. I couldn’t talk to her. We wouldn’t get to dress up in our favourite princess dresses ever again. I bet Yasmin’s favourite dresses were all under the rubble still.” [pp.114-115].

Alabed tells us that all the things she loved about her childhood vanished because of the war: going to the local swimming pool, going to school or the playground or shops.  Hospitals, schools and public places became targets and even in their homes, people felt like “sitting ducks.”

Although Alabed’s story ends with her safe escape from Syria as a refugee (and it does not destroy the story to tell you that), it raises questions for us all. What use is our modern technology and ability to communicate with those in a war zone if we are unable to help?  And why, despite our technological advances, do we still live in a world where war is necessary? And where children suffer because of war?

Alabed also draws attention to the plight of refugees the world over.  At the beginning of her book she speaks of her pride in Syrian culture and sense of belonging in her family and history.

“I wanted to live in Syria always.” [p.15]

Her mother says they never imagined a war could happen there.

“I suppose that’s what everyone believes until it’s too late.” [p.51].

This puts me in mind of people the world over, who have had to leave their countries.  Everyone likes to feel safe in their homeland, the land of their ancestors, and to believe that their children and grandchildren will always live there.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  Alabed advocates for children still living in war zones everywhere and for fellow former refugees.

“…children are still dying and getting hurt everyday…we all have to help one another, no matter what country we live in.” [p.203]

“If you had no country or your parents or children were going to be killed, what would you do?” [p.201]

Here at the “Forever Years”, we see the world’s children as our own children.  “There but for the grace of God go I” (John Bradford) is a phrase that comes to mind.

I recommend “Dear World” to children and adults alike.  As J.K. Rowling says, it is “a story of love and courage amid brutality and terror.”  Through reading this book, we come to love its young author, Bana Alabed, and the strength of character she displays as she continues to send her message of peace to the world.

forever-years-icon

 

 

 

Art that Rocks! (A fun creative project), by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

“Rock Art” seems to have become a “thing” in recent years.  In schools and kindergartens, in particular, you often see colourful painted rocks, created by students and teachers, brightening up gardens and playgrounds.  My five kids and I and a friend recently went to a “rock art” workshop and had great fun.  Here is what we did and how we did it, so you can have a go too.

Seven year old daughter and I painting rocks in the workshop.

  1. Choose Rocks…..For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Summer now (November, December, January), and a good time to “choose rocks” when out and about.  Rocks washed smooth by streams are great.  It’s better if at least one side is smooth.  If it’s winter where you are or if you can’t find any smooth stones or rocks, garden shops often have them for sale in bags.  The workshop we went to had some of these.  They are not always especially large, it’s good to have an idea of what size you want and where you’d like them to go when you’ve completed them.  Although we did ours at a workshop, we also did more at home later, including some larger rocks we already had in the garden.
  2. Choose Paint….. oil based paints are not ideal when allowing kids to paint.  A good exterior paint is fine.  Tester pots are great for saving money and getting lots of different colours.
  3. Our 10 year old engrossed in rock art

    Paint!…..   It sounds very logical, but, after this just paint!  Kids tend to use excessive amounts of paint, so a prepared palette with some of each colour can help prevent paint waste.  Or a good plan to salvage unused paint at the end of the activity.  My daughter kept quoting her art teacher who, she says, always tells her students that “a little paint goes a long way”.  A good motto which helps kids remain mindful of waste.  The themes on the rocks are up to your imagination.  I found it was best to give the kids “free reign” in this area,  I had a plan for our rocks and didn’t mind how many they painted.  It was great to see them experimenting with lots of different ideas.  The rocks can be completely covered in paint so you can’t see the original, or a small image with the rock “background” still visible.  If you’re really stuck for ideas, here are a few: ladybugs; cats; dogs; people; flowers; butterflies; snails; mushrooms; fairies; caterpillars; trees; rainbows; korus; balloons; emoji faces…. Another good idea is to use a vivid marker afterwards (when the paint is dry) to create clear outlines.

  4. Varnish…  it’s far better to do this than not.  If your rocks are going to sit in the garden or in an out door area, they will be exposed to the elements.  A friend painted a beautiful rock for me a couple of years ago which, because it wasn’t varnished, now has the paint almost completely worn away after just two years of “weather” exposure.  Rain in particular is hard on the unvarnished paint.  The best varnish to choose is an ultraviolet resistant polyurethane or similar, which protects colours from fading.  I chose a gloss finish which gave the rocks a “wet look” and made the colours stand out brightly. Leave the painted rocks for a day or two after varnishing, to be sure any colours are completely dry.  As I said before, kids tend to use a lot of paint and sometimes the thickly coated rocks take a while to dry.  The varnished rocks will then need to be left for at least another day before they are ready to set up outside.

I love that when we step out on our deck now there is a colourful (almost “magical looking” array of rock art.  It’s Summer here now, but I imagine that this will make us feel warm during the cold days of winter and will maintain a “splash of colour” in our garden even after the flowers have died down.  Thanks to whomever first picked up a rock and turned it into art… perhaps in a cave thousands of years ago.  Perhaps our rock art will be discovered and analysed many years in the future.  Perhaps children will find it and say, “that looks like fun!”