Just 3 days south of Texas, there is a Latin American country on the verge of Civil War. The little country of Nicaragua is experiencing social unrest and violence throughout the country that some are calling the worst it has been since the civil war 30 years ago.
Currently, 78 people have been killed, over 868 people have been injured five of whom are in critical condition and roughly 438 people, including many students, have fallen victim to government disappearances. On one side is the communist dictator Daniel Ortega and his vice president and wife Rosario Murillo, along with the Sandinistas or Nicaraguan Communists. He has most of the government’s support, as well as a fairly large portion of the poor population. Those opposed to the communist dictator are a large group of people ranging from college students, to poor farmers, to other local municipalities who all feel that Ortega is destroying the constitution. Nearly all the major cities in the country are experiencing mostly peaceful protests.
The protests started on the 18th of April after a proposed social security reform that passed practically overnight. The reform would have increased funding for the program while raising the age for individuals to access social security and decreasing the number of benefits given out to those recipients. As with most protests and civil movements, students and the young were the first to protest the bill. The Sandinistas in turn sent in the police to break up the protest. The unarmed protesters were met with police officers firing live ammunition and Pro-Sandinista groups armed by the police. After the first week nearly 50 people were killed, most of which were student protesters. In addition to the deaths, hundreds were injured and arrested. The overreaction of the government to the protests has morphed a simple protest over social security into a nationwide referendum against the Ortega regime.
Since the beginning of the protests, Ortega has given some concessions to the protesters, including withdrawing the social security reform and releasing some of the people arrested, but to the protesters, it isn’t enough. During the unrest, pro-government groups were looting local businesses and causing destruction while under the protection of the police. This only fueled the protests further and caused more people to come out against the government. There are currently hundreds of thousands of people protesting and the number continues to grow daily.
Nicaragua is a poor country with people willing to do whatever it takes to get food. To some people, their only choice is between supporting the oppressive dictator or starve. Others truly believe that the Ortega’s plan can really work and can give everyone a better life. Not all government officials are acting out. Some government workers are joining in the protest and actually keeping the peace through the chaos. The Nicaraguan military has decided to not become involved on either side.
The situation in Nicaragua is still developing and it is hard to tell which way this conflict will go. Currently, the government is engaged in the second day of talks with the protesters in an attempt to bring peace to the country. The demands by the protester are for the government to release those arrested, fire the officers who injured citizens unjustly, and for the President and Vice-President to step down from office. More information can be found by following the social media hashtag #SOSNicaragua.
Justin Juenemann, a backup kicker for the University of Minnesota’s football team, recently received an unexpected gift from an equally unexpected source. The 23 year-old has diligently worked as a volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital throughout his college years. His coaches and teammates were inspired to do something for him.
“Our goal was to create a moment of memory for Justin and his family forever because that’s what he earned,” said P.J. Fleck, head coach of the Minnesota Gophers.
Kyle Tanner, a teen patient at the hospital, spoke in front of the team and singled out Juenemann as his favorite player. Coach Fleck handed Tanner a t-shirt and told him to put it into a t-shirt cannon and fire it directly at Juenemann. He did so. Juenemann caught the white shirt, unraveled it and read the message on the front.
“Justin, congrats you have earned a scholarship,” it read. Justin and his teammates celebrated afterward and he FaceTimed his mother to show her the shirt.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Juenemann said. “It is something that I will never forget.”
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy who is not a star player,” Fleck said. “He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything, and he does is continue to keep his oar in the water and live that holistic life academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually. His life is not about him. His life is about serving and giving to other people.”
This scholarship will help Juenemann complete his senior year.
“I am pursuing a human resources degree and I’m looking…to help people throughout the rest of my life,” he said.
Over 800 teenagers have been participating in a work camp and have been working on 104 different projects throughout northern and central Virginia this summer. The Diocese of Arlington is sponsoring this camp.
“I didn’t even think we had people like this in the world anymore,” said Kevin Curtis. Curtis, 59, has been the beneficiary of the teenagers’ hard work. They’ve built him a deck extension and a ramp so he can get out of the house. Due to his disability, he has been unable to leave without being carried by two strong men for the past 15 years.
“It’s so wonderful to have somebody come to you and help you. I’ve never reached out for any kind of help in my life,” Curtis said. He has multiple health issues stemming from a car accident he suffered in 2003. “I crushed every bone in my body, in my chest. Both collarbones were broken. All my ribs were broken. My back was broken. My leg was broken in several places.”
Contractors oversee all the teens’ projects but the teenagers do the majority of the work.
“We have to dig the holes first, put the posts in, then the concrete,” said Monica Castro. It is her third summer participating in the work camp. “All three years I’ve been building decks. So I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole ‘dig the holes, mix the concrete, pour the cement and let it set.’ And then the measurements that come afterwards.”
“I’m so excited! I’ve got a doctor’s appointment…that I won’t miss because I will be able to get out of the house,” said Curtis. He recalled that after he met the kids, he bent his head. “And I prayed. I asked God to bless them all, deeply and fully.”
The deck and ramp were completed in time for Curtis’s appointment.
When Kelso, Washington students heard that their teacher needed a new wheelchair, they decided to act. The students organized a GoFundMe campaign to purchase a new electric wheelchair for substitute instructor John Jankins. An overwhelming response from donors enabled them to collect over $32,000 in less than one week.
Jankins, who is affected by cerebral palsy, rides his motorized wheelchair to and from Kelso High School, where he has worked for almost thirty years. Jankins’ students couldn’t imagine Kelso High without him: “Rain or shine Mr. Janke has been a part of Kelso classrooms for years. His presence has touched the lives of countless students/staff and now it’s time to show our appreciation,” the students’ GoFundMe page read.
The students initially aimed to raise $25,000, but an outpouring of support for Jankins prompted the students to increase their fundraising goal to $30,000. Extra funds will cover the cost of future wheelchair repairs.
Anushka Naiknaware, a thirteen year-old from Portland, invented a special bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed. The invention was a finalist in an international science contest sponsored by Google, an honor that has won Naiknaware a $15,000 scholarship, a trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark, and a year of entrepreneurial mentorship with a Lego executive. She was the youngest scientist to win one of the contest’s substantial prizes.
The bandage has tiny monitors embedded into its design, allowing nurses and doctors to “see” if the dressing has dried enough to be changed, without having to remove it from the patient. Large wounds have to be kept moist to improve healing and pulling up bandages too often to check moisture levels can worsen wounds. Naiknaware created and experimented with different ways to use ink printed into fractal patterns in order to embed nanoparticles of graphene into the bandage. These particles allow for accurate monitoring of moisture levels.
The Google contest judges were enthralled with her invention. She was named one of 16 global finalists chosen to travel to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Interacting with other teen scientists from all around the world was one of her favorite life experiences, she said.
Naiknaware won the Lego Education Builder Award that recognizes “a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.” In addition to the scholarship, mentorship and the trip to Denmark, she won a chance to address Lego’s board of directors and her own custom-built Lego brick.
Naiknaware intends to make the most of her mentor’s advice to see if her bandages can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used in hospitals across the country.