Education for Liberation

Jorge Chojolán founder of the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. photo | John Abernathy

Empowering students to understand and transform society is the mission of the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The Academy and its founder Jorge Chojolán were profiled in Issue 4. Chojolán visited the US to present a workshop about his vision of education at the international Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference “Mad as Hell? Now Move (or Draw, or Act…): Organizing for Social Justice” this weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chojolán modeled his workshop on the Academy’s teacher training about Paolo Freire’s theory that education can be a tool for liberation. Conference participants discussed the limits of the traditional teaching style that conceives of children as blank slates that the teacher imposes knowledge on. Students at the Academy are instead treated as active learners supported by teachers. Chojolán describes an incident when the Academy’s radical approach enabled students to stand up for their community: “We visited City Hall and the kids got a chance to ask the mayor questions like, ‘Why is there trash all over? Why isn’t this a priority of the municipality?’ Teachers from other schools asked why I did not quiet the students, but I think it’s important that their questions be heard.”

Director of development Steve Mullaney (right) and founder Jorge Chojolán (left) challenge preconceptions about teaching and learning at the PTO Conference.

In contrast with traditional education, experiences outside the classroom are acknowledged as learning opportunities. Schoolwork at the Academy is framed in the context of students’ lives and used to solve real problems. Chojolán gave the example that in math class, students don’t work with abstract numbers; they add and subtract how many of their classmates have experienced violence, or how much food their families have.

The Academy endeavors to eliminate prejudices through education. The indigenous 65 percent of the student population encounters racism on a daily basis. They are often treated as second-class citizens when they wear Mayan clothing or speak the k’iche language. Sexism is equally problematic in Guatemala, where women are discouraged from taking on roles outside the home. After a class discussion about women and housework, Chojolán says, “a student went home and saw his father watching television and his mother washing dishes. He said, ‘Why don’t you help out and I’ll help too.’” Students apply their learning by challenging the status quo in their homes, community and society.

photo | John Abernathy

Chojolán is committed to extending educational opportunities to the wider community as well as students. The Academy’s library will be open to everyone when construction is completed. “We would like the library to give birth to a love of reading both in students and in community members,” Chojolán says. In Guatemala, the high tax imposed on books make them prohibitively expensive, costing as much as two week’s wages for an average book. The two university libraries in Quezaltenango are only open to students, and the local government-run library isn’t much more accessible. Visitors can only request books whose titles they already know since browsing the stacks is not permitted.

Prejudice, poverty and limited education make it difficult for Guatemalans to envision a better future. At the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, students and teachers are overcoming those obstacles to transform their community. Once the library is built, Chojolán hopes to expand this educational model to other locations in Guatemala with the Academy as the prototype.

Miguel Angel Asturias Academy
Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference


Short Films, Big Issues

On June 3 the annual Media That Matters Film Festival (MTM) will make its premiere at New York City’s School of Visual Arts Theater. On the same date, all 12 short films can be viewed online in their entirety at the Media That Matters website. The collection will also be distributed nationwide on DVD through Netflix and do-it-yourself screenings. Last year, more than a million people participated in the festival online and through local screenings held around the world.

One of the world’s first and largest online film festivals, MTM is as unique in content as it is in distribution. The theme of this year’s festival is “Screen, Act, Impact.” Each film includes “take action” tools that allow the viewer to learn more about the film’s topic and direct them to specific ways to help. “The Media That Matter Film Festival aims to not only entertain, but to also motivate audiences to learn more and get involved,” said Katy Chevigny, co-founder and executive director of Arts Engine. “All of the films explore difficult and challenging topics in ways that will surprise, delight and inspire.”

The complete film festival lineup is as follows:

The Next Wave
Pacific Islands & USA | 8:03 | Documentary
The Carteret Islanders, some of the world’s first climate change refugees, struggle to relocate.

Bits and Pieces
Jordan | 4:38 | Experimental / Animation
Traditional mosaics illustrate a collage of contemporary Jordanian sentiments, challenging common misperceptions of the Middle East.

Lone Wolf
USA | 5:29 | Documentary
The rights of an independent journalist are compromised by the government's attempts to control media content.

USA | 6:33 | Docu-Music Video
Hip Hop artists join Detroit citizens to speak up about the effects of ill-planned urban developments.

Exiled in America
USA | 9:25 | Documentary
Five siblings living in America struggle to support themselves after their mother is deported to

Why Do White People Have Black Spots?
Ghana & USA | 6:24 | Documentary
Youth in Ghana pose questions to people outside of their borders and spark an ongoing dialogue through film.

La Hoja
Bolivia & USA | 9:59 | Documentary
The United States’ war on drugs challenges Bolivian traditions with broad and damaging results.

Will I Be Next?
USA | 6:31 | Documentary
Chicago youth explore the effects of gun violence in their neighborhoods and demand change for the future.

USA | 12:00 | Narrative
Moises, a ten-year-old student, struggles to communicate in his new English-only school with limited access to his native language.

The Secret Life of Paper
USA | 5:36 | Documentary
Why does the United States consume far more paper than any other country on the globe?

Knock Knock, Who’s There?
India | 0:59 | Public Service Announcement (PSA)
What would you do to stop domestic abuse in your neighborhood?

Looking Back
USA | 5:31 | Documentary
Homeless veteran Albert Lewis photographs his life and sheds light on the support of his community.

The MTM film festival is co-presented by Arts Engine and Cinereach.

Media That Matters
Arts Engine

NEED Rocks SPJ Page One Awards

from left to right; Kelly Kinnunen, Kasey Hatzung, Emily Sauer, Liz Werner, Rachel Yuen, Salli Jaaskelainen, Stephanie Kinnunen, Kyra Gibson, Lauren Fischer, Adam Hanson, Katy Petershack

The SPJ Page One Awards Banquet, held in Minneapolis on May 14, proved a rewarding and exciting night for the NEED staff. We submitted entries for issues 4, 5 and 6 and won seven first place awards including “Best Overall Magazine” (for less than 50,000 circulation). NEED was also recognized for excellence in several other categories.

The awards ceremony was great experience and opportunity for all who attended. Awards were also given for distinguished newspaper, television and radio journalism. After meeting remarkable Minnesota journalists, we listened to a speech by news veteran Tom Brokaw about the value and future of journalism.

Founded in 1909, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is the oldest, largest and broadest-based organization of journalists in the US.

Magazine Awards Received:


Best overall - Issues, 4, 5 and 6

Best overall design - Issues, 4, 5 and 6

Best department - WORK (Issues 4, 5 and 6)

Best commissioned photography - Begging in the Rain by Paul Corbit Brown(HOME issue 5)

Best feature design - In the Crossfire (KIDS issue 5)

Best spread design - Muhammad Yunus (DIALOGUE issue 5)

Best single page design - In the Crossfire (KIDS issue 5)


Best cover using photography - The Sounds of Success (GENEROSITY issue 5)


Best use of multimedia - Breaking the Cycle (HOME issue 5)

Best single news story - Kosi Flood (Blog 12/05/08)

Lauren Fischer and Katy Petershack


Dazzle us with your Humanitarian Genius

Think you’re clued in on global issues? How much do you really know?
Take our quick Humanitarian IQ quiz and see how your humanitarian brainpower stacks up. Show us your brilliance when it comes to everything from India’s street children to Sudanese doctors.


When you’re done, show off your score and challenge your friends to beat it. If they can.


2009 Social Entrepreneur's Cup Four Finalists

Social Venture Partners have announced the four finalists for the 2009 Social Entrepreneur's Cup. The judges have selected four outstanding social entrepreneurs whose organizations are finding new solutions in education, health care, sustainable energy, and homelessness. The finalists will make live presentations before judges and attendees at the Engaged Philanthropy Conference.

Admission Possible helps promising low-income high school students gain admission to college.

Apple Tree Dental provides dental services year-round for almost 15,000 low-income children, adults, elders and people with disabilities who struggle to get dental care.

Hearth Connection has created a "turnkey" solution capable of eliminating long-term homelessness in Minnesota that proves that getting people off the streets and out of shelters into homes of their own is not only possible, but is also life-saving and life-changing.

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is saving low-income families money while reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions; helping educate tomorrow's leaders about solar power; localizing energy production and thus improving national security; and creating green jobs in an impoverished community in northern MN.

for more:
Engaged Philanthropy Conference featuring the Social Entrepreneur's Cup Awards June 18, 2009


NEED | New Videos | James Nachtwey Interview

Photojournalist James Nachtwey discusses photojournalism, tuberculosis, his TED wish and inspiring involvement with Stephanie Kinnunen, founder of humanitarian magazine NEED.

Visit XDRTB.org for Nachtwey's images and more information about extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).

>> watch the interview


Students Sleep Outside to Protest Child Abduction

photo | Lauren Melcher

A friend and I made our way to St. Paul to check out what the Invisible Children: The Rescue event was really about.

By the time we got there all the participants had made the mile and a half trek from Rice Park to the capitol building. Lindsay Luczkowiak and Erica Schwartz, the local coordinators of the event, later explained that participants made the walk in groups of 20-30 people, and holding twine to keep them chained together. This reflected the way the child soldiers have to walk to any destination. Campsites of blankets, sleeping bags, and coolers were scattered across the front lawn of the building, and everyone was getting ready for the night ahead, since they would be camping there overnight. The seriousness of the event and the threat of a cold, rainy night approaching didn’t stop people from having fun: playing Frisbee, unwrapping new decks of cards, charades. There was even a group of people doing handstands and back flips. The mood was light and positive and everyone looked like they were happy to be there.

photo | Lauren Melcher

At about 6:30 PM, the event’s local coordinators spoke from the steps leading to the capitol building. Brandon Palma and Tessa Deleo rallied the crowd by telling everyone that they were participating in an event that was taking place in 100 cities in ten different countries around the world. They explained the history of children abducted by Joseph Kony in Africa. Brandon also explained that colored flags would be raised throughout the evening to indicate certain successes.


Sailors Bring Medical Care to Honduran Villages

Cross-post from United States Southern Command

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ron Kuzlik
Beyond the Horizon Public Affairs

Optometrist Cmdr. Louis Perez uses a retinascope and lens rack to check 9-year-old Sergio Colocho´s eyes in Capiro. (Photo courtesy of Ron Kuzlik)

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras– US Navy personnel from Operational Health Support Unit (OHSU) Dallas, Texas, completed two days of medical services to over 700 villagers in Agua Salada, Honduras, as part of their commitment to Beyond the Horizon 2009 – Honduras.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Behrendt of Corpus Christi, Tex., explains the different uses and proper dosages of certain pharmaceutical prescriptions to villagers of Aguacatal. (Photo courtesy of Ron Kuzlik)

From March 25 to April 4, the Navy team of 32 Reserve component doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and hospital corpsmen provided general medical care and diagnosis, dental check-ups and extractions, eye exams, prescription services and preventative care lessons to six different villages in rural Honduras.


Building a Future

Esther lives in Gita, Uganda, where soon she will go to school for free. Her mother, Hariyet, is helping to clear land and dig foundations for Esther’s new school. Hariyet, who only went to school through 4th grade, wants better for her six children. This fall, Esther along with her siblings, will begin classes at Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one-sixth of the world’s children, but they make up half of the world’s uneducated children, in large part because of the lack of available educational facilities. Building Tomorrow works to reduce this disparity by connecting college students in the US with educational needs in Uganda.

George Srour was an undergraduate when he interned with the United Nations. Through the internship, he became aware of the vital need for educating the millions of children under age 15 in Uganda who make up half the country’s population. Returning to his campus, College of William & Mary, he organized a fundraiser which raised $45,000 to build a school in Kampala, Uganda. He went on to found Building Tomorrow to continue this project.


Inaction is a Choice

“I rather immediately fell in love with the piece,” said director Warren Bowles. “Because I went through the experience of totally ignoring the issues in Rwanda. Not totally ignoring, you have some concept of what’s going on, but no real concept. And to see a piece that deals with the issues of what went on without being in any way voyeuristic about the scope of the genocide or wallowing in the genocide itself, is something that I found very fascinating.”

‘I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda,’ now playing at the Park Square Theater, takes a penetrating look into a survivor’s guilt and how one women looks to resolve her feelings through the act of writing.

“We really try to get in touch with the events of the genocide and the overall scope of the genocide. And now we’re trying to figure out how we speak to one individual’s part in it. And by part in it, I mean both as the victim, which Juliet is, but also as the disinterested third party, which is what most of us were,” said Bowles. “Our ignoring the issues was not a lack of action: it was kind of a choice. You could say it was lead by our government, and Clinton, and Madeleine Albright. It’s always easy to find an excuse but still—we needed to do something. We needed to pay attention.

“I would hope that it [the play] would pique an interest not only in the situation in Rwanda but the whole idea of being able to have an effect on the world. Being aware changes that world because your awareness changes you and your actions. It’s the butterfly wings kind of thing. … I think what it will do is let the audience see that there are individuals that went through this and not only that, the effects of this horrific genocide in 1994 are not over yet and won’t be for a long time.”

The Park Square Theatre is generously offering $10 off the ticket price to “friends of NEED magazine.”
To get the discount, use the NEED code “document” when ordering.
The play runs April 24 – May 17, 2009.

Park Square Theatre: www.parksquaretheatre.org; phone 651.291.7005

New NEED Digital Editions

Thank you for your feedback on our digital version of Issue 1. Issues 2 - 4 are now available.

Why are we creating digital editions of back issues?

1. To share the amazing past stories of hope and change with others
2. To quickly reach global and tech savy readers
3. To make it easy for you to share NEED with others

Enjoy the digital editions and share them with others!



Yarn and a Hook: Crocheting for Community

Krochet Kids International (KK) is proof that you do not need to be a surgeon or a millionaire to help those in need. Co-founder Kohl Crecelius reminded me that helping out is about realizing what skills you already have and using them to make change. For Crecelius, Travis Hartanov and Stewart Ramsey, this skill happened to be crocheting.

After learning how to crochet from an older brother, Crecelius, Hartanov and Ramsey started a small crocheting business in high school. “We’re all from the Northwest, all skiers and snowboarders, so we appreciate a good beanie. … We were on this little regimen where we were crocheting beanies everyday of the week and taking orders from people,” says Crecelius. Soon the three of them were dubbed the “crochet kids.”

During their first years of college the three friends traveled for different volunteer opportunities. Crecelius spent a summer in the Dominican Republic, and Hartanov and Ramsey went to Bali to volunteer in orphanages. Crecelius says, “We all came back from those experiences and, separately from each other, had a desire to help.”The crochet kids thought over the next year about what they could do to help. “We came back to this skill that we had that was crocheting. As silly as it was, it just takes yarn and a hook and you can create awesome things. … We were like, ‘Okay, crocheting is something we know how to do and can sell here. … We’re going to teach people to crochet,’” explains Crecelius.

Homeless in Argentina

This post was submitted by photographer Toby Binder

Roque lives with his family under a bridge in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina. They have been homeless for five years now.

Habitat for Humanity Argentina. Volunteers work with local leaders and families to build homes for people in need of housing.