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© Reuters. 69th Berlinale International Film Festival

A movie premiering in Berlin tells the true story of a young boy from a famine-stricken village in Malawi who studies books about energy then builds a wind turbine that enables farmers to irrigate their land.


Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” tells the story of William, an engineering enthusiast who resorts to secretly using the school library to learn when he is expelled from school because his father - a poor farmer - cannot afford to pay the fees.

The farm land around the village gets flooded, ruining the crops, and then later dries out, leaving people with hardly any food. Desperate villagers steal food from William’s family and they end up with just enough for one meal per day.

Less educated villagers doubt William’s turbine idea will work and his father initially refuses to give him the bike - one of the family’s few possessions - that he needs to make it, telling him to start helping on the farm instead of studying.

The father later gives in and William uses the bike, some wood and junk that he finds in a scrapyard to build the towering construction that powers a water pump. At the end of the movie, he climbs the turbine to see green plants shooting out of what was previously dry, cracked and barren land.

“I was struck and continue to be struck by just what an extraordinary achievement it was,” Ejiofor said. “What his story represents is really living in the solution, not living in the problems.”


The film is based on an autobiographical book with the same title written by the real-life William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba said he hoped people who had not read the book would see the movie and learn about his story, adding: “They might get inspired by my work that I did, so I’m very excited.”

Maxwell Simba, who plays William, said he was struck by William’s determination to fight for what he believes in despite his difficult relationship with his father and despite being expelled from school.

“If you are really determined to go get what you want, then the universe has its own way of working out for you to achieve at the end of the day what you wanted to achieve,” he said.
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The death of a loved one can affect the psychological makeup of a person affected by the loss. At this time, it is not unusual to see them plunge into depression. Due to the different ways of grieving, it is most important to be a good support system for them.


To do this, you need to understand the seven stages a grieving person goes through. They include shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, adjustment, working through, and acceptance and hope.

To support in this trying times, here are a few ways you can lend your support:

Season your words with kindness

Let your body language make them know that they can talk about their pain without judgment. Bear it in mind that upsetting words can trigger actions that might be filled with regret.

Support them while they grieve

Sometimes, the best way to help a grieving loved one is to say nothing and do something. They could need physical support to help with the times. If talking is not giving the desired effect, allow them to grieve in quiet while being conscious to their needs.


Keep them away from harmful objects

Take away all objects that are likely to cause harm. In times like this, people who are worst hit and blame themselves for the loss are likely to make subconscious decisions to harm themselves. To avoid any infliction of physical harm, remove all objects that might inflict injury.

No reminders allowed

Take away reminders of the death while the memory is still fresh. These reminders serve as a constant reminder of the passing on of their loved one. Things such as a scent or a clothing item may trigger adverse reactions. Knowing this, it is best to keep them away from the grieving until you are certain that they are in the adjustment or acceptance stage.


Submit your article for publication, email; contact@heraldnigeria.com

Credit: Njideka Agbo
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An aerial view shows recently constructed houses at the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana county, northwest of Nairobi, Kenya, January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Refugees turned poets, film-makers, models and teachers sought to shatter stereotypes and inspire a global audience on Saturday by sharing their stories of perseverance through suffering in the world’s first TEDx event to be hosted in a refugee camp.

TEDx events - devoted to spreading ideas through short presentations covering everything from business and technology to environmental and humanitarian issues - are often broadcast live internationally and watched online by millions of viewers.


The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said the event in Kakuma - a sprawling camp housing 185,000 people located in northern Kenya - aimed to shine a spotlight on the plight of refugees and challenge negative perceptions and stereotypes.

“TEDx events are often in privileged settings so we thought about bringing the power of the TED stage to a refugee camp,” UNHCR’s Melissa Fleming told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We wanted refugee speakers to use this platform to tell the world not just what they have gone through, but also show that they too have amazing things to offer.”

There are at least 22 million refugees around the world, says the UNHCR, mostly fleeing conflict, persecution or rights abuses in their countries. About 90 percent are being hosted in developing countries including Kenya in camps such as Kakuma.

From a stage set up in a white tent in a school playground in Kakuma camp in Turkana county, the refugee speakers spoke of how war had forced them to leave their homes in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia.

They discussed their struggles to restart their lives as refugees, their battles to fight cultural practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, and their desire to return and rebuild their homeland.


The speakers included activist Riya William Yuyada, athlete Pur Biel and teacher Mary Nyiriak Maker from South Sudan, Congolese film maker Amina Rwino, and Sudanese poet Emi Mahmoud.

Somali American Halima Aden, an international fashion model who has featured on the covers of magazines such as Vogue, was born in Kakuma refugee camp and lived there for seven years.

Aden, 20, said despite sometimes not having enough food to eat or being sick with malaria, she enjoyed a happy childhood.

Kakuma helped her gain a sense of community and respect for other cultures, Aden said, adding that she wanted to change the narrative of refugee camps as a place of despair.

“I want you to remember that although the children here are refugees, they are children,” Aden said at the TEDx event.

“They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream, to be successful,” she added. “My story began here in Kakuma refugee camp, a place of hope.”


Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Somali refugee Abtidon Ali Mahat sorts through plastic waste at the recycling plant in Dabaab refugee camp in Garissa County, Kenya on May 30, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nita Bhalla

Somali refugee Adow Sheikh Aden, 32, was mocked when he started gathering empty plastic water bottles, broken buckets and old jerry cans around one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

“Everyone used to laugh and say I am mad because I am collecting rubbish. Here it is not normal to do such things,” said Aden at the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya’s Garissa County, near the Somali border.


“But then I explained I am helping to keep our environment clean and our community healthy, and also I am selling the plastic to earn money so that I can manage my life and my family better,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Having fled war in Somalia, Aden is part of a small band of refugees who have taken up the fight against the plastic waste generated in Dadaab - and also earns an income from it.

Dadaab’s waste recycling project, set up by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) just over a year ago, has only eight refugee staff. But initial results are promising, and the plan is to grow, aid workers say.

In a cement-and-iron building equipped with a plastic shredder and compressor, the refugees have recycled about six tonnes of plastic waste so far, generating some 160,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,580) in revenue.

Nelly Saiti, KRCS project officer, said plastic recycling has huge potential as a sustainable business for refugees, and could be a model for other large camps such as Bidi Bidi in Uganda, Kakuma in Kenya and Nyarugusu in Tanzania.

“We are collecting just a fraction of the plastic waste that is recyclable in Dadaab, and so a lot more revenue can be made from this,” she said.

The next step is to train refugees in entrepreneurship so they can take control of the project, reducing their dependence on aid, she added.

PLASTIC-PACKAGED AID

One million plastic drinks bottles are purchased every minute globally, while some 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year, says the United Nations.

It is running a campaign for World Environment Day on June 5 to raise awareness of the urgent need to beat plastic pollution. (here)

Nearly a third of plastic packaging escapes waste collection systems, and at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the oceans each year, smothering reefs and threatening marine life.

Plastic also enters water supplies and the food chain, where it could harm humans in the long term, the United Nations says.

Action is gearing up around the world - from countries banning plastic bags to companies vowing to cut their usage of plastic - yet still more efforts are needed to both reduce and recycle plastic, say environmentalists.

The sprawling refugee camp at Dadaab is no different.

Situated 475 km (300 miles) east of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Dadaab is home to more than 200,000 refugees, largely from Somalia, who depend on aid - much of it packed in plastic.

As Somalia descended into civil war, Dadaab was established by the United Nations in 1991, and has since mushroomed, with more refugees streaming in, uprooted by drought and famine as well as ongoing insecurity. Many have lived here for years.


The settlement - spread over 30 square km (7,415 acres) of semi-arid desert land - has schools, hospitals, markets, police stations, graveyards and a bus station.

Residents have few ways to earn a living other than rearing goats, manual labour and running kiosks sewing clothes, selling camel meat, or charging cell phones from solar panels.

Kenyan government restrictions mean refugees cannot leave the camp to seek work.

As a result, people are poor. They live in tarpaulin tents or shacks made of corrugated iron and branches, and rely on rations of cooking oil, milk powder, rice and sugar - much of it sent by foreign donors in plastic packaging.

There is no accurate data on the amount of plastic waste produced in Dadaab, but aid workers estimate hundreds of thousands of tonnes are generated annually. A 2015 Red Cross study said 270,000 jerry cans were discarded each year.

Plastic water bottles and other trash add to the waste, often burned at informal dumps scattered throughout the camp.

“Humanitarian organisations have a role to play,” said Kathrine Vad, sustainability advisor with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which supports the Dadaab project.

The agency is working to cut the volume of plastic, especially packaging, used in its operations and to extend the life of plastic products by improving their quality, she added.

CHANGING MINDS

At the recycling plant in the KRCS compound near Dadaab, workers wearing overalls, face masks and ear protectors push pieces of plastic buckets and chairs into a funnel atop the shredder.

The machine’s blades slice the plastic noisily into hundreds of thousands of shards, which pour out in a heap. It is loaded into sacks and sold to two firms, Premier Industries Ltd and Polytech Plastics Industries Ltd, which transport it to Nairobi.

With his monthly wage of 8,000 shillings, worker Abtidon Ali Mahat, 45, a resident of Dadaab since 2011, has been able to get married, build his own makeshift home and buy three goats.


In the past year, he has saved 12,000 shillings.

“My wife is now pregnant and I will use this money for her and the baby, and also to buy some more goats,” he said.

The refugees want to expand the business, but say they need extra staff and a vehicle to cover more of the camp.

They face other challenges too.

Collecting waste can carry a stigma in these communities, which see it as a “low job”. And many refugees have yet to grasp the health risks of burning plastic and releasing toxic fumes.

Views are changing gradually but greater awareness is needed to tackle misconceptions and deepen understanding of the benefits of recycling, Red Cross workers said.

Besides challenging views on waste inside Dadaab, the project could also help shatter stereotypes about refugees outside the camp, said Saiti of the KRCS.

“It shows that refugees are not a burden as some people think, but that they can be contributors in our societies - not only in terms of income-generation, but also in environmental protection,” she said.


Thomson Reuters Foundation
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FILE PHOTO: Fifteen-year-old Mamadou Doumbouya, a Talibe, or Islamic student, holds a begging bowl in front of a wall of graffiti in Senegal's capital Dakar,REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Young boys who were forced to beg on the streets for Islamic teachers have turned their suffering into art, as they join more than 1,000 artists showing their work at Africa’s biggest and oldest biennale art exhibition in Senegal this month.

Some 50,000 child beggars known as talibe live in religious schools called daaras in the West African nation, according to rights groups, who say some were trafficked from neighbouring countries and many are beaten and abused.


“Being in the daara was like being in prison,” read one caption for an image of a sorrowful eye peering through a row of fingers. “My friend’s hands represent the feeling of being locked up.”

All of the photographs in the “Look at me” exhibition - which is part of the Dakar Biennale, known as Dak’Art, founded in the 1990s - were taken by and of street children living in a nearby shelter run by Samusocial, a charity.

Most children who come through the shelter are former talibe, while others escaped forced labour or family disputes, said Samusocial, which provides medical care and shelter while attempting to reunite them with their families.

“For me, the colour red is like pain,” said another caption, describing a photograph of a boy, known as D.D., wrapped in a coloured cloth.

“I put it in the background because it’s in the past.”

In plastic sandals and bright T-shirts, the boys walked down the street together to visit the exhibition. They gazed wide-eyed at the photos printed larger than they are.

“I am happy,” said D.D., 16, who worked in a sewing shop for several years where he was regularly beaten. “I didn’t expect to see this,” he said of his photograph.


Samusocial often uses art and music to help the children build confidence and open up, said director of operations Isabelle Diouf.

“These children need beautiful things. It takes them out of the realities of the street a little and makes them want to move forward,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Spanish photographer Javier Acebal, who worked with the children on the exhibit, said he hopes it will change viewers’ perceptions of beggars.

“When you’re walking down the street you think you know about these children, but in fact you know nothing,” he said.

“They say they want to be like normal kids. I hope people start to think about that.”


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A software engineer, Sidney Osahon, who was about being evicted by his landlady, has emerged the winner of the N20 million ‘Give n Take’ national lottery jackpot in Abuja.

The 35-year-old native of Edo state explained  that he was contemplating selling his mother’s landed property  in the Federal Capital Territory, when he received information last Sunday that he is now N20m richer.


Speaking to journalists on Thursday in Abuja, Osahon, said he has been playing the lottery for sometime and seeing others winning, noting that his win came at the time the landlady was threatening to evict him.

He said, “I was owing my landlady a few months’ rents and she has been threatening to evict me. In fact, the day I received the news of my win, she had sent me an SMS in the morning that she was coming for a showdown with me over the arrears of rent.”

“My mother was saying maybe we should sell her parcel of land in Abuja  and use part of the proceed to settle the rent, but I felt that was not a progressive thing to do. So I prayed to God that am tired of paying rent and that I would like to move into my own house, and God did it for me, I am now a landlord,” he said jubilantly.

Osahon added that his mother did not believe him when he informed her that he is now a millionaire, noting that she almost fainted in hearing the good news.

“When I told her I have got the money to build my house, she didn’t believe it; She said, ‘I would faint,'” he explained.

The Managing Director, Give ‘n’ Take lottery, Jolly Enabulele, disclosed that Osahon played the lottery with N100, noting that his win from available records, is the biggest lottery prize in the history of lottery in the country.

He further explained that Osahon win the N20m jackpot because the first winner failed to claim the prize, adding that the money was rolled over to another week and Osahon won the star prize.

Enabulele said, “It will interest you to know that a ticket on December 24,2017 emerged the first ticket to win the N20m bonanza, but failed to come forward within seven days to claim his winnings.

“That failure and in keeping with our avowed promise to ensure that someone wins the national jackpot prize, we held a second electronic draw after the weekly jackpot draw, which then saw Osahon joining the millionaires’ club.”

The organizers stated that the jackpot winner would be presented his cheque on Sunday by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission officials.
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Lombok villagers beat poverty with tortilla chips
As 2017 draws to a close, the term ‘resilience’ has become a buzzword for many humanitarian organisations and governments who are set on preparing for major disasters so any recovery is much easier.

Resilience covers broad disasters ranging from climate change induced floods and droughts to economic shocks and health epidemics.

At the frontline of these changes are communities – people who unite in a common cause to benefit the wider population.

Here are five communities who made the world a more resilient place in 2017:

ENERGY ACCESS – NEW YORKERS TRADE HOUSEHOLD ENERGY

Renewable energy was on the agenda this year as the price of wind and solar power plummeted, while mayors from 25 cities pledged at international climate talks in November to cut their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

In New York City neighbours living across the street from each other in Gowanus Canal and Park Slope figured out how to trade excess solar power through a scheme called the TransActive Grid and electrified their community.

Similar local schemes have been launched in Australia, Finland and South Africa and experts say this could herald a global energy revolution as communities take direct control of their energy access.

TECHNOLOGY – NIGER YOUTHS USE SMARTPHONES TO PLOT FLOODS

In Niger, young people armed with smartphones and boots used data to map flood risks.

In one of the world’s poorest countries, flooding killed at least 56 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the 2017 rainy season, according to the interior ministry, with residents concerned that efforts to rebuild were not fast enough.

A team of 20 “investigators” – a mix of students and young professionals from OpenStreetMap Niger – plotted flood-prone areas on their smartphones in two of Niamey’s districts.

By the end of August the group had drawn up a list of more than 15,000 properties and buildings at risk that were sent to Niger’s interior ministry to help target relief efforts in times of flooding.

SMALL BUSINESSES – LOMBOK VILLAGERS BEAT POVERTY WITH TORTILLA CHIPS

On the Indonesian island of Lombok, crunchy tortilla chips and shrimp paste transformed one housewife reliant on her husband’s unstable income into the main breadwinner.

In a coastal neighbourhood with low levels of development where most people live off fishing, a small development project aimed at diversifying incomes helped women and the poorest into stable work.

A project taught women how to make and package the snacks locally which were then sent to bigger towns to sell.

RECYCLING – MEXICAN ARCHITECTS USE PLASTIC BOTTLES TO BUILD SHELTERS AFTER EARTHQUAKE

After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico in September killing at least 369 people and leaving thousands homeless, architects asked communities in the town of Jojutla in Morelos state to donate empty plastic bottles.

These were filled with rubble and local humanitarian agencies showed people how to use them to build simple, emergency shelters to protect those left homeless and at risk of aftershocks and tremors.

The so-called “bottle-bricks” were found to be four times more resistant to earthquakes than concrete due to their flexibility, experts said.

HEALTHCARE – AFRICA FIGHTS FISTULAS WITH MOBILE MONEY & COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS

The agonizing childbirth injury obstetric fistula still ruins the lives of millions of girls and women in the developing world with a number of community initiatives underway in Africa to encourage better treatment.

This included training community ambassadors in Cameroon to encourage women with fistula to get treatment, providing cash for transport to hospitals in Tanzania, and telephone medical hotlines for women in remote locations in Burundi.

Men were also enlisted into so-called “husband schools” set up to educate them about the dangers of home births and child marriages, while in Ethiopia scores of fistula surgeons were being trained.

Thomson Reuters Foundation covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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Smiling faces in Ganyiel in South Sudan

From Kung Fu nuns teaching Indian women self-defence to freewheeling female students in Pakistan, here are five good news stories you might have missed in 2017 amid headlines of bloodshed, natural disasters and sexual harassment allegations.

KUNG FU NUNS STRIKE BACK AT SEX ATTACKS IN INDIA

If you think all that nuns do is sit and pray, think again.

The Kung Fu nuns – women from an age-old Buddhist sect based mainly in Nepal and India – use martial arts to teach women how to fend off sex attackers.

“The heroes of the Himalayas” also hike and cycle through the mountains to raise awareness among local communities on issues ranging from pollution to human trafficking.

“We walk the talk. If we act, people will think if: ‘If nuns can act, why can’t we?'”

A “HAVEN OF PEACE” IN WAR-TORN SOUTH SUDAN

Protected by marshes and inaccessible by foot, an ethnically mixed town in war-torn South Sudan has been dubbed a “haven of peace” by its 40,000 residents.

While fighting in the rest of the country has created Africa’s largest refugee crisis, Ganyiel’s residents have been living together in relative peace, rowing through the surrounding swamps in their tree-carved boats.

“Just two months ago, 2,700 Dinka arrived here, fleeing food insecurity and conflict. They are welcome. The war is political. It’s not between us people.”

BICYCLES HELP TO CHALLENGE TRADITIONS IN PAKISTAN

A bike-sharing start-up on a Pakistani university campus has brought more than convenience for the students: the sight of freewheeling women has been helping to challenge gender stereotypes in the conservative society.

Female students, reluctant to share cars with their male colleagues, now make up more than half of the cycling scheme’s customers, pedalling across the nearly 1,000 acres of campus to attend classes.

UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIPS AS ITALIANS EMBRACE REFUGEES

A new drive in Italy to match child migrants and refugees with residents who volunteer to support them has resulted in unexpected friendships.


A 16-year-old Bangladeshi boy or a 17-year old from Gambia may share no common language with guardians who could be their grandparents, yet the project has helped the young refugees find someone who cares for them in a place they now call home.

COLOMBIA’S NEIGHBOURHOOD WHERE WOMEN CALL ALL THE SHOTS

With no money and no husbands to support them, a group of women displaced by Colombia’s civil war has turned dreams into reality by building their own homes.

Despite death threats, arson and even a murder, they learned how to make bricks and mix cement, and the City of Women that they built is run entirely by women who are now fighting for other rights like bus routes or a school for their children.

“We fought tooth and nail to build our homes. Men can’t come here and say this is mine. It’s ours.”

Thomson Reuters Foundation
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A girl in Kibera holds up the Peepoo, a hygienic bag which has helped to solve sanitation problems in Kenya
From London buses rumbling along on the power of coffee beans to a football legend championing the transformation of plastic bottles into building blocks, 2017 has been a year full of innovative uses for the things we usually throw away.

Here are five of the quirkiest uses of waste worldwide:


London buses

The red London bus may be an age-old symbol of the British capital – yet in recent months it is also becoming the focus of an innovative scheme to cut the city’s carbon emissions.

Waste coffee grounds will now be used to help fuel some of London’s buses, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and clean technology company bio-bean announced in November. The new biofuel, which contains part coffee oil, can be used without the need for engine modification, the companies said in a statement.

With the average Londoner drinking 2.3 cups of coffee a day according to bio-bean, wasted grounds are collected from high street coffee chains and factories, and then dried and processed to extract the coffee oil.

Poo Power

“Flying toilets” – usually a plastic bag filled with poo and often flung overhead in a random direction – has long been a pesky problem in some of Kenya’s most fetid slums.

But developers have found a new way of not only collecting toilet waste hygienically but also turning it into fuel.

Social enterprise Sanivation installs “blue box” plastic toilet containers in customers’ homes for free, then charges a monthly fee of 700 Kenya shillings ($6.78) to collect the waste.

The excrement is then heated to kill dangerous bacteria and turned it into (odour-less) charcoal balls, sold in supermarkets under the brand Eco Flame.

This means less trees are felled to cook food for Kenya’s 44 million people, who are rapidly depleting its forests by illegal settlements, logging and charcoal production.

Plastic bottle building blocks

In Cameroon, football legend Roger Milla – whose hip-shaking dance moves propelled him to international fame at the 1990 World Cup – has turning to recycling plastic bottles in order to make building blocks.

His organisation Coeur d’Afrique (Heart of Africa) pays around 300 unemployed young people in the country’s capital, Yaounde, to collect the plastic which blocks drains and exacerbates flooding during the rainy seasons.

Slabs made from the recovered plastic have already been used in construction projects in the city, including a national sporting facility for handball.

Waste for plastic

Meanwhile in Tanzania, by February 2017 one entrepreneur had transformed nearly 1 million kg of waste into “plastic lumber” that can be used for fences, house beams, signposts and more.


The initiative by EcoAct Tanzania won the $10,000 Africa Finance and Investment Forum Entrepreneurship Award in Nairobi earlier this year. The company says it is reducing waste in the East African nation’s cluttered commercial capital, while creating jobs for young people and saving trees.

Raving for rubbish

In April 2017, night-revelers across five continents took to the dance floor in an unusual effort – a mass rave to tackle food waste.

The world’s first ever World Disco Soup day, an event promoted by the Slow Food movement to encourage young people to think about the mountains of food thrown out every day, was powered with food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Organisers collected ingredients from farmers, restaurants, retailers and markets and cooked them with the help of professional chefs and disco-crazy movers and shakers alike.

About a third of food produced every year, equal to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, is never eaten because it is spoiled after harvest and duri transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.

Saving 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the more than 800 million people that go to bed hungry every night, according to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
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Professor Antonia Moropoulou, Chief Scientific Supervisor from the National Technical University of Athens, who directed the project of the restoration on the site of Jesus's tomb, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Athens
Mortar under a slab at the heart of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates to the era of Roman Emperor Constantine, confirming historical accounts of the discovery of the place where Christians believe Jesus was entombed, researchers say.

According to historical accounts, Constantine – who was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity – discovered the rocky tomb with assistance from his mother Helena between 325 and 326 AD, buried beneath a temple to the Roman goddess Venus.

Today it is visited regularly by millions of pilgrims and tended by priests from several Christian denominations under strict rules still in place from the Ottoman era.

Virtually razed to the ground in 1009, the Holy Sepulchre complex was rebuilt over the centuries by various Christian groups, including the Byzantines and the Crusaders from the 12th century onwards.

But a team of scientists and restorers who completed almost nine months of work on the tomb last March said they were able to determine that a slab at the heart of the compound dated from Constantine’s time.

“That was a great moment to validate,” said Professor Antonia Moropoulou, Chief Scientific Supervisor from the National Technical University of Athens who directed the restoration project.

The researchers restored a structure inside the church called the Edicule, which is believed to house the tomb itself. Their work included removing a marble slab which covers a ledge where Christ, according to Christian scriptures, was lain after crucifixion and resurrected on the third day.

A second fractured slab was found beneath the top slab, attached to the bedrock and engraved with a cross. Analysing gypsum mortar connecting that slab to the bedrock allowed them to determine its age, dating it to 335-345 AD.

“When we opened the tomb and saw this broken grey slab with an engraved cross we didn’t know from which era it was,” Moropoulou told Reuters. “We concluded, according to concrete results, that the slab which was adjoined to the bedrock of the tomb of Christ was of the Constantinean era.”

Moropoulou said she herself had half expected to find that the slab, like the church around it, dated from a later era.

She felt “great. Very happy indeed. I did not expect it…but the monument talks, and it says its history.”
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Marvel, U.S. comic book publisher has launched the first superhero comic set in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos and inspired by the adoption of the Chibok girls in 2014.

The comic titled Blessing in Disguise features Ngozi, who is a superheroine fighting evil in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos. This is the first story to be set in an African country by Marvel.


Created by science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor, the story was published on Wednesday as part of Marvel’s Venomverse comic with Ngozi appearing alongside Black Panther and Spider Man villain Venom.

Ngozi is a character based on one of the Chibok girls and is expected to serve as a role model for girls, said the award-winning Nigeria-American writer Nnedi Okorafor.

“I had asked the artist to make Ngozi in the likes of one of Chibok girls … I asked her to draw Ngozi in her likeness,” Okorafor told the BBC.

“They were normal girls who suddenly had to deal with a huge change in their lives … and their story of perseverance is so powerful. Like many Nigerian girls, Ngozi comes in a small package but is strong-willed and determined,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Okorafor has created over 20 novels and short stories including award-winning Binti and her debut novel Zahrah The WIndseeker which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa award.

Okorafor said her dream is to see the Ngozi character create diversity in the world of superheroes which will inspire the creation of more African comic book characters.
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A pregnant teenager who fled abuse at home sits in the courtyard of the Maison Rose. The Maison Rose aims to help women recover from psychological trauma through music, art, and other types of therapy

When Binta found out she was pregnant, she knew she would have to leave her home in southern Senegal.

Pregnancy outside of marriage is taboo in the West African nation and abortions are punishable by jail. The father of Binta's child was an extended family member, she said, not specifying whether their relations were consensual.


"I didn't know how to tell my family about this... The family is too sacred," the 30-year-old said. Her name and those of other women interviewed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation have been changed to protect their privacy.

So Binta made up an elaborate story about finding a job and packed her bags for Guediawaye, a poor suburb on the outskirts of capital Dakar, where a social worker had told her she could find refuge at the Maison Rose, French for "pink house".

An old court building with pink-painted walls, the Maison Rose is a rare refuge in Senegal for women and girls who have fled abuse, rape, forced marriage and other trauma. Hundreds of people have found sanctuary there in its nine years.

"Anything that can happen in Senegal, we've seen it," said French founder Mona Chasserio, who has given the shelter a warm and homely feel. Most women come to see out unexpected pregnancies and give birth, she said.

Now Chasserio is broadening its impact by including more job training programmes to help the women gain economic independence when they leave. The shelter also teaches community leaders how to handle sensitive cases and guide women toward support.

The Maison Rose aims to help women recover from psychological trauma through music, art, and other types of therapy. The women do daily activities to relax and refocus and when they are ready, begin learning professional skills.

Six toddlers played in the sunny courtyard one morning while their mothers shared stories as part of a workshop. Binta sat across from a 16-year-old girl who was seven months pregnant from rape.

Building economic and social resilience is the goal, said Chasserio, but she believes that peace of mind must come first.

"END OF THE WORLD"

Senegal ranks high in some areas of gender equality, with equal access for girls to primary education and one of the world's highest proportions of women in parliament.

But in other areas women are disadvantaged and vulnerable. Domestic violence is a widespread problem, abortion laws are strict and child marriage is common, experts say.

Single women have difficulty accessing contraception and often lack basic information about it because it is expected that they will remain virgins until marriage, said Sanou Gning, country director at international charity Marie Stopes.

"When a woman who is not married gets pregnant, it is the end of the world," she said.

The stigma leaves unmarried pregnant women with few choices. They can tell their families about it and risk being thrown out of the house, or seek an unsafe abortion, which could land them in jail. Many run away from home instead, said Gning.

There are a few shelters in Senegal that will take them in, she said, but not enough for all the girls in need. Many unmarried mothers end up in the streets and are forced to beg.

The Maison Rose takes women to a nearby hospital to give birth and helps with early childcare. In some cases it even brings in the mother's family to convince parents or relatives to let the girl come home.

"I think it is an initiative that needs to multiply throughout Senegal," said Marie Sabara, a national programme officer at UN Women, of the Maison Rose.


JOB TRAINING

Many of the women who have left the shelter have gone on to vocational schools, while others have found work as hairdressers or tailors, Chasserio said.

"The problem here is jobs for women are extremely limited," she added. Women lack a strong presence outside of traditionally female fields in Senegal such as sewing, housekeeping and hair salons.

Chasserio is planning to rent a building next door to expand Maison Rose's training programmes. She plans to start a store to sell the women's jewellery and crafts and has an partnership with a local mill so the women can get jobs making bread.

Women who leave the shelter often bring their children back for holidays, she said, and are always welcome to seek advice or provide it to newcomers.

"It's helped me a lot," said Fatima, 24, whose mother brought her to the shelter after she got pregnant. She is taking a class in couture at the Maison Rose and hopes to find a job in a clothing shop.

"I came to rebuild myself," she said.

The shelter is expanding its work with social workers and religious leaders so that they know when women should be referred. Chasserio also hopes to train others in Senegal and across West Africa to start similar shelters of their own.

"Here we see lots of suffering, but you can see (the women) change," Chasserio said. "It's incredible."

Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit news.trust.org the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, climate change and resilience.
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Olena Gorbatova gave birth to her third child in war-torn eastern Ukraine to the sounds of gunfire and exploding shells in the Kyiv-held flashpoint town of Avdiivka.

The 40-year-old Gorbatova calmed herself by thinking the attacks were just a celebration of the baby girl she named Myroslava - which in Russian and Ukrainian means “glory to peace.”


The wartime birth was not unusual. The town in which dozens were killed in early February has seen a mini baby boom that doctors attribute to the fact that people want to couple in times of stress and a change in women’s hormonal behavior.

“In recent years, we have managed to deliver babies from older families who are now in their 40s,” gynecologist Svitlana Khomchenko told AFP in the dilapidated and partially abandoned town of less than 20,000 people.

“They had been trying without success for many years. And now families who were considered sterile have children,” said Khomchenko.

“It turns out that stress is a factor.”

Gorbatova’s 38-year-old husband Sergiy had to make it past a series of road blocks to reach the maternity ward where his wife was resting.

A part of it has been turned into a military hospital. Women about to give birth lie side by side with the wounded from the 34-month revolt in the pro-Russian region that has killed more than 10,000 people and left nearly 25,000 others injured.

Sergiy laughed off local jokes that the rising birth rate is down to the large number of Ukrainian soldiers defending the town.

He admitted that many people tried to convince him not to bring more children into the Ukraine’s unsafe world.

“But we still decided to do it,” he said.

The fog of war means that no real scientific study can explain why couples have more sex and women appear to be more fertile when disaster strikes.

Gynecologist Khomchenko simply cites the statistics she has.

The year the war broke out in 2014 there were 45 births in Avdiivka compared with 110 babies born in 2016 - more than double the figure despite people fleeing the region for more peaceful parts of the ex-Soviet state.

Khomchenko recalls scenes of horror as women were hidden in basements to shield them from exploding shells that blasted out windows and mortar rounds that landed in the hospital’s garden.

The city’s heating system is periodically not working and the doctor says she has had to take many deliveries by candlelight.

A power generator has been recently installed and the windows replaced.


The maternity ward stayed open even during the frightening days in early February when constant clashes between rebels and government troops claimed 35 lives in Ukraine’s east.

“We worked while people were dying,” said Khomchenko.

“But we were forced to move some of the women in labor to neighboring towns because there was no heat or water.”

Now the fighting has eased and the hospital is preparing to bring more babies into the world.

“The situation has normalized - if, of course, you call a war a normal situation,” the gynecologist said.

Gorbatova and her husband Sergiy say they are preparing for tough times but are still filled with hope for their baby daughter.

“It will be difficult,” Sergiy said. “We will have to deny ourselves many things.”

But he added with a smile: “We want her name to give people a signal - enough war and glory to peace.”
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Angus building his mansion on Minecraft in the oncology ward at Wellington Hospital

Children and nurses are angry after someone stole a PlayStation from the oncology hospital, according to police in New Zealand.

Wellington police said that they are investigating the theft that occurred at the Wellington Hospital oncology ward, where kids like 9-year-old Angus Little are treated for cancer.


Little is currently getting chemotherapy after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He gets chemotherapy once a week, and each session lasts for about 3 hours.

While getting the treatment, Little loves to play Minecraft on the PlayStation. Little is very angry and sad as the PlayStation was stolen along with the castle he built on Minecraft.
Angus Little, 9, said of the theft: "I'm angry, and pretty annoyed because it was a good distraction for me, and other kids too."
Hospital staff said that they cannot understand how someone can steal from kids who are suffering from cancer.

A spokesperson for the Wellington Regional Hospital, said that it was nearly impossible to pinpoint the thief as thousands of patients and visitors are on the premises each day.

Luckily for Little, a good Samaritan donated a new PlayStation for the hospital’s oncology ward.
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South African artist Percy Maimela stumbled upon his talent by chance, when some salt crystals spilled on the floor of the shop where he worked and as he tried to collect them he realised they formed shapes that he now turns into portraits.

His latest inspiration is former U.S. President Barack Obama.
"You can just take small stones and make something that no one ever thought of," he told Reuters in the capital Pretoria.


"Even salt companies, they wouldn't say salt is just for food anymore," he said, crouching over his portrait of Obama on his dining room floor.

The 31-year-old applies glue to cloth and then sprinkles table salt to sketch the portrait. Some of the famous faces he has drawn include global icon Nelson Mandela. Often, he'll chance his luck with passers by.

"I'll just carry just a black cloth and a bag of salt, then you can just come and give me 300 rand ($23) and then I'll just sketch your face, quick," he said. "And for you it's a memory and you'll never get that anywhere else."

Maimela - who quit his job at a retail store last year to pursue his craft - said he has loved art since he was a child but could never afford professional training.

Getting started on a commissioned piece of work requires a tiny investment of less than 50 US cents for salt and a little extra for glue. He said he can sell a piece for about $30.

Maimela, who also works in pencil, has not been able to get any of his work shown in galleries and relies on the Internet to generate interest in his work.

"Being an artist in total is not easy, because not everyone understand art and then not everyone is willing to buy art. But everyone is willing to buy something that's provoking to their feelings," Maimela said.
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A recently rescued Nigerian Chibok girl with her child at a local Nigerian government council house in Maiduguri, Nigeria


When Boko Haram militants decided to release some of the 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped two-and-a-half years ago in northeast Nigeria, Asabe Goni did not dare to dream that she would be among the girls allowed to go home.

During their time in captivity the girls were encouraged to convert to Islam and to marry their kidnappers, with some whipped for not doing so, but Goni said otherwise they were treated well and fed well until supplies recently ran short.


Hungry and ill, the 22-year-old did not even have the energy to stand up in October when the Islamist militants said that any girls who wanted to be released should line up. She just sat and watched as other girls scrambled to get into line.

"I was surprised when they announced that my name was on the list," Goni told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the first interview by one of the 21 freed girls to international media.

"It was a miracle," she said, while expressing regret that she had to leave behind her cousin who was also abducted.

A group of 21 girls was released two months ago after Switzerland and the International Red Cross brokered a deal with the Boko Haram. They have been held since in a secret location in the capital Abuja for debriefing by the Nigerian government.

But the girls have been taken back to the Chibok area in Borno state to spend Christmas with their families, returning home for the first time since being seized from their school in April 2014, an act that sparked global outrage.

"I was very happy when they said I should go home," Goni said in an interview in her family's home in the northern city of Yola, surrounded by her father, stepmother, five siblings and several neighbours.

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 hit international headlines and prompted global figures, including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and a list of celebrities, to support a campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

But none of the girls were sighted again until May this year when one of the students, Amina Ali, was found in a forest with a baby and a man claiming to be her husband.

Her discovery prompted hopes that the girls were alive and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to ensure the release of the remaining girls in captivity.

"GIVEN UP HOPE"

Recalling the abduction, Goni said the girls, which included her younger cousin Margaret with whom she had lived since she was a child, trekked for three days through Sambisa forest, Boko Haram's vast woodland stronghold, before they arrived at a camp.

"I was in great pain," she said. "Many of us didn't stop crying until about three months after we were kidnapped."

While the girls were not forced to convert to Islam, the militants told them that they would all be sent home if they did so, said Goni. Neither were they forced to marry, she added.

"But the way they talked to us about it, you would be afraid not to," she said, recalling how the girls were sometimes flogged with a whip. "That is why some were convinced to marry."

Goni said the girls were otherwise treated well by the militants. They were given material to sew clothes and fed three times a day until recently when food became scarce.

The girls told state officials they were not abused or raped by the militants, and all tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases, according to a confidential report based on a two-week debriefing prepared for Buhari and seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in November.


When Goni was released, she did not have time to say goodbye to Margaret, whom she calls her sister, or the other girls.

"Some of the other girls left behind started crying," she said. "But the Boko Haram men consoled them, telling them that their turn to go home would come one day."

Nigerian authorities say they are involved in negotiations aimed at securing the release of more of the girls, while the army has captured a key Boko Haram camp in Sambisa forest, Buhari said earlier today.

Far away from negotiations and army operations, Goni chatted with her siblings and helped her mother prepare breakfast as she spoke of her excitement of going to church on Christmas Day.

"I never knew that I would return (home)," Goni said. "I had given up hope of ever going home."
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In the northern Nigerian town of Bama the streets are eerily quiet. Houses lie empty, riddled with bullet holes, and symbols of the jihadist group Boko Haram are painted on the walls.

Bama, once the militants' stronghold, was liberated from the Islamist fighters by the Nigerian army in March 2015, but is only reached safely by helicopter - the roads still too dangerous because of the risk of ambush by the insurgents.


Despite its ghostly atmosphere and violent history, the town is now a safe haven for around 10,000 people, among more than two million in Nigeria who have fled areas held by Boko Haram.

Two years ago, when militants seized Bama and rounded up all the men, 55-year-old Malam Wana hid in his house for a month, surviving on grain and sending his wife out to collect water.

When Wana was eventually discovered by Boko Haram fighters, they took him to the yard of Bama prison, crowded with men.

"They spared the older men, but took the others out of the prison and shot them all," said Wana, who was released due to his elderly appearance before fleeing to a nearby village.

Since the town's liberation, Wana has lived in Bama's camp for those uprooted by the conflict. The walled compound, full of makeshift shelters covered by tarpaulins bearing the names of aid groups, is home to 10,000 people who have fled fighting.

Some like Wana are from Bama itself - forbidden from leaving the confines of the camp as the town has been designated a military security zone. Most camp dwellers are from surrounding villages, many of which are still controlled by insurgents.

Those who have reached Bama are the lucky ones. Abdi Farah, an official at the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) in Maiduguri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that some areas still controlled by Boko Haram are out of the reach of aid agencies.

In many areas north of Bama, people are suffering "famine-like conditions" and millions are in need of urgent food aid in order to survive, according to several United Nations agencies.

NEW CHALLENGES

Although they feel safer in Bama, the thousands displaced by conflict face a new set of problems on arrival. Kelu, 20, had just been dropped off by pick-up truck with her two infant sons.

"I left my village because of fear," she said. "(Boko Haram) used to come to the village and would take all of our possessions, everything, even our shoes. Now I have nothing,"

Security is still a concern, even in Bama. The prison where Wana was taken is now used as a processing centre by the army where arrivals are screened before being allowed into the camp.

"They call people from our village (who already live in the camp) and ask them if we are Boko Haram. If they say yes then you will be taken to a prison in Maiduguri," Kelu added.

The camp provides counselling and medication to treat mental illnesses. The seven-year-old insurgency aimed at creating an Islamist caliphate - in which thousands have been killed and women abducted and raped - has left psychological scars on many.

"Fifty percent of (those in the camp) have depression. The family break-up is part of it. You see families with no father, the breadwinner. Some are orphans and widows," said a psychiatric nurse at the camp who did not want to give his name.

Once new arrivals reach Bama most have no way of earning a living and farming is impossible due to security concerns and restricted movement outside the camp.

A livelihood programme run by the camp manager, Ali Musudi, employs people in carpentry. Some of the women work in the school which also helps train them to become teachers, but most are idle and completely reliant on food handouts from the WFP.

BACK TO SCHOOL

In the centre of the camp children play on slides and swings built especially for them. The camp school is a cluster of five tents. "How many oranges and bananas?" shout the pupils in unison, reciting dictations from their English teacher.

For some of the students learning English, Arabic and social studies, this is their first taste of schooling in the rural state, where conflict has crippled education.

Yet this is not the case for all. Aba Modi, 12, attended one of Boko Haram's Islamic schools, or madrasas, when he lived in Banki, a town under the militants' control for two years.

"They only taught the Koran at our school. All day, we were just memorising the Koran," Modi said.

Occasionally the pupils would be taken out of class to learn to shoot a weapon or how to crawl under fire. Modi eventually fled Banki with his brother in the middle of the night.

"Life is completely different now. I enjoy coming to school," he said. "Some of the things they [Boko Haram] taught are correct. Being taught about the Koran is right, but there is nothing in the Koran that says you should hurt people or take their possessions."

Modi said most of his friends did not believe the ultra-hardline Islamist teachings either, but some still joined Boko Haram. "They offered them money or even a motorcycle," he said.



FOOD AID

Around 4.7 million people are in need of emergency food aid in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, said a recent report by the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

Some 400,000 children are at risk from famine in the three states, 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within months, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said in September.

Yet the WFP, which provides food in the camp, only began operations in oil-rich Nigeria in March this year.

In 2017, it hopes to reach 1.8 million people in need of food aid, said WFP's Nigeria country director Sory Ouane.

"If we do not get funding we might face a humanitarian catastrophe in the area. The biggest challenge is access and security and we need funding to scale up our assistance," he said by phone from Abuja.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) earlier this month doubled its humanitarian funding appeal for northeast Nigeria to $1 billion in 2017.

For now, the displaced, like Malam Wana, are relieved to be living in relative safety, with food aid provided by WFP.

"When I first came to the camp the situation was terrible. Now we have three meals a day. I have two wives and nine children and they are all healthy," he said.
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A woman was forced to make a heartbreaking decision between saving her brother or her unborn baby.

24-year-old Yang Li of Hangzhou, China, was three months into her pregnancy when she was faced with the life-changing choice.


Li and her family made the difficult decision of giving up her unborn baby so she could provide bone marrow to her 29-year-old brother Yang Jun.

Jun was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system.

The family was informed by doctors that the only way for Jun to survive was by having a bone marrow transplant.

Family members were tested and Li was identified as the perfect match.
However, doctors told Li that donating marrow during her pregnancy would have a significant negative effect on her child.

Li and her family were left to choose to either save her brother or keep her baby. Li discussed the issue with her husband, brother and her in-laws.

The decision was made to terminate the pregnancy in order to save her 29-year-old brother.

Li underwent the abortion and she is recovering at a hospital in Hangzhou. Once she fully recovers, doctors will proceed with the bone marrow transplant.

While many people on social media called her a hero, some criticized her for ending the life of her baby.
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Benicia police officers giving Jourdan Duncan the bike 

A police officer in California, stopped a young black man because he was walking in an industrial area late at night.

The officer questioned the teenager as to what he was doing in the area after all businesses were closed.
Benicia Police Cpl. Kirk Keffer was patrolling an industrial area late at night late when he saw Jourdan Duncan walking in the area.


Duncan, 19, explained that he was walking home and that he walked eight miles to and from work every day. The officer offered to drive him home and the teenager accepted the offer.

During the trip, Duncan said that he walks four hours each day to and from work because his car broke down and he does not want to spend the money to fix it as he is saving money for college.

Keffer went to his police union to see if they would help him buy a bike for Duncan, and they did.

Duncan was surprised when he was presented with a brand new bike, helmet and free tune-ups for the bike.

The teens mother said that she was not aware of the fact that her son was walking to work everyday. 
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There are some people in this world who take every opportunity, every chance, and even in the face of overwhelming odds, never give up. They persevere and endure, and serve as an inspiration to us all.

11-year-old Shi Luyao was diagnosed in 2013 with acute lymphocytic leukemia, which could only be cured through long-term chemotherapy, and then monitored through bone marrow biopsy.


The treatment was only partially covered by insurance because it was not undergone in his home province of Guizhou, but in Anhui where his father had moved for work after Luyao's mom walked out on the family when he was only two years old. Over a period of two years, his father was forced to borrow 200,000 RMB to afford to pay for Luyao's medical treatment, NetEase reports.

Funding cancer treatment in China is not an easy thing, particularly when you're not born wealthy. A year ago, a father whose son was suffering from leukemia donned a horse mask and offered rides to raise money to pay the medical bills. Two years ago, a leukemia patient knelt down in front of a company building in Sichuan with fellow students and friends to beg the director to loan him money.
After undergoing chemotherapy, Luyao returned to his hometown in Guizhou in August of last year when his condition improved.

It's heartbreaking to see someone so young with his whole life in front of him battling leukemia, but it's something else to see him put on a brave face, fight the illness, and then go further.

Following his return home, Luyao had to undergo irregular bone marrow biopsies to monitor his condition at a hospital in Kunming, 400 kilometers away -- a journey he always took by himself.

From his hometown, he would take a bus to Liupanshui city, before transferring onto a train bound for Kunming, the capital of neighboring Yunnan province.

Speaking to reporters, Luyao painfully recalled how he would have to wait for six hours for the train to arrive, and how he had to frequently stop himself from crying because he didn't want other people to know that he was alone.
The painful procedure of a bone marrow biopsy would usually warrant a couple of hours spent relaxing in bed, as per his doctor's recommendation, but instead the young boy always starts his journey home immediately after the procedure is completed so that he can race back home to attend school, China Daily reports.

Upon his return to Liupanshui, he would wait for daybreak before being able to catch the first bus back to his hometown. "I can't remember how many times I saw the sunrise at the railway station," Luyao said as he burst into tears.


But, for Luyao, the torturous trip is all worth it when he gets back to his hometown in time for classes. During his chemotherapy, he was forced to leave school for two years. Any ordinary kid would rejoice at such an opportunity, but Luyao is extraordinary. He borrowed books to review previously covered content, as well as learn upcoming topics. Even in facing the hardest battle of his life, Luyao never stopped learning.

He asked his grandparents to send him back to school once his condition improved. Since then he has maintained a high level of academic performance and hands in his homework every time he returns from the hospital, recalled his Chinese language teacher, Peng Lu.
Upon learning about his illness, Peng was surprised and sympathetic, arranging four classmates to study with and take care of Luyao. The boy's doctors have said that while this treatment will continue for another two years, there will likely be no need for a bone marrow transplant.

Seeing someone go through so much at such a young age reminds us all of the people who face hardships everyday, but have the willpower to push forwad. It's an inspirational story, one that represents humanity's ability to face fear, loneliness and death all at once, and win.