Monthly Archives: March 2012

Nepali Word for Paradise

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I was struck today by a search term on Google that led a viewer to my blog. They Googled, “nepali word for paradise.” I don’t know if they were satisfied with what they found or if they discovered the answer themselves but I feel compelled to do my best to answer their search. Should they Google such things again, maybe this post will answer their question. 

I refer to as “Svorga”, which is pronounced Sworga, and is spelled in Devanagari as  स्वगर् स्वोर्ग. Confused on svorga yet? Okay, so that is actually the word for Heaven, which some could argue is a synonym for paradise, but not a direct translation.

Another word, although maybe more Sanskrit derived is Paramdham, but again this is better translated to Heaven and I think carries a certain connotation of death with it. 

One resource gave me वैकुण्ठ or Vaikuntha as a translation for paradise, but I think this is Hindi and not Nepali. 

Anyone want to weigh in? My personal belief is that Sworga is the best word to use when describing paradise in the sense of “what a paradise this place is!”. 
 

updated to reflect correct Devanagari script for Svorga 3/31/12

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How Did She Become So GIRLY?

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Let me say, I am NOT girly. I wanted to be a boy as a child. I wanted to everything boys could do and the worst insult anyone could call me as a child was “girly.” My grandmother was one of those traditional southern women who believed in curtsies and frilly dresses while sharing afternoon tea (two cubes of sugar and some milk please).

My sister was happy to engage in this sort of behavior. My sister liked being girly. She loved dressing up and playing with dolls. She wanted to be the epitome of sugar and spice and everything nice that little girls are made of. I wanted to be left to my devices wearing the same pair of jeans I’d been wearing for three days in a row, soaked in dried mud with a layer of wet mud on top. Yes, I thought it was okay to use the crystal glasses to house my new found friends, the frogs, lizards, and worms. (I swear, there was another lizard and two more worms in this cup when I brought it inside…hmmm, what happened to those missing creatures?) I dreaded Sunday mornings because I knew that somehow my family was going to wrestle me into a fancy dress and TIGHTS! Oh the humanity! And shoes with heels? How was I ever supposed to play tag once Church was over in heels?!

I should have known I was expecting a girly girl while I was pregnant. Suddenly, I enjoyed wearing pink. When had I ever enjoyed wearing pink in my life? Suddenly, I took to simple walks in the gardens over running through at break-neck speed. Why did I one day wake up and think that the corn snake in my yard was gross and not cool? I should have foreseen that the ultrasound reading was wrong, I wasn’t 30 weeks along with the little boy the Dr. had promised. I was 10 weeks away from meeting the girliest girl in my life.

Being as how we thought we were having a boy, everything we had was boy. I didn’t see the point in replacing everything we owned over a gender fact, who cared at this age, no one would know the difference. Plus, my daughter’s name has a masculine sense to it and anyone who hears the name without seeing my little one thinks I’m talking about my son. I just didn’t think switching out wardrobe over gender was important. Our family…did! Within a month we had TONS of girl clothes. A friend of my daughter’s father had just given birth to a boy so we passed all the boy clothes on to her and indulged in some gender stereotyping. I didn’t know that it was going to stick.

Now, I have a daughter that will cry and refuse to leave the house if she thinks her pants don’t look good with her shirt. She’s not thirteen, she’s three! She brushes her hair and teeth because they “look pretty” not because I make her. She puts her dirty clothes in the laundry because “Mommy needs to wash them so I can look like a princess.” Just this morning, I told her she needed to finish her breakfast…”Why?” She asks. I answer, “So you can grow big and strong. So you’ll have energy to learn what you need to know and be able to have lots of fun playing.” Then she says, “So I can be a ballerina or a singer? Will I be pretty if I eat my food?”

Is our society’s importance on beauty and femininity that pressing that my three year old aspires to be a female career like pretty ballerina? Is she just naturally this way and I should encourage her facination obsession with tutus while still telling her that I think she’s smart and capable of being a scientist or a leader? When she says, “I want to go to college to be a dancer” should I just be happy she wants to go to college someday?

The feminist in me cringes every time she puts beauty as the most important part of her life. And my grungy t-shirt, baggy pants wearing self wonders, how did a girl with a mother like me become so girly?

Writing a Nepali/English Children’s Book

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I’m putting this idea as a sounding board for ideas (and hopefully language corrections). As part of my teaching position, I am incorporating the Nepali language. My first lesson on this is in three weeks. I will be teaching basic colors. The colors I am teaching are black (Kalo), blue (nilo), green (hariyo), yellow (pahenlo), red (rato), and orange (suntala).

Since this is a baby book, think those thick board books that babies chew on, I’m planning on keep it very very simple. With hopes that nobody steals my book and sells it to a publisher, here’s the idea of the text.

Little baby on the first page, thinking to himself. “I am lonely, I am going to find some new friends.”

Next page, little baby meets a new baby and says “Hello baby, I see you are wearing a green shirt. I like hariyo. Let’s be friends.”

Opposing page.
Green shirt baby says to first baby. “I see you are wearing a kalo shirt. I like black. Yes, lets be friends.”

Turn page.
Green shirt baby meet a new baby. One says, “Hello saathi. I see you are wearing a pahelo shirt. I like pahelo. Let’s be friends.”

Opposing page.

“You like my yellow shirt? I like your hariyo shirt and your kalo shirt. Yes, lets be friends.”

Turn page.

Babies meet new baby. One says “K cha, saathi. I see you are wearing an orange shirt. Malai suntala rang man parcha. Let’s be friends.”

Opposing page.

“Timilai mero suntala rang ko shirt man parcha? I like your kalo shirt and your hariyo shirt and your panhelo shirt. Ho, lets be friends.”

turn page.

Babies meet new baby. One says, “Namaste bao. I see you are wearing a rato shirt.” Malai rato man parcha. Sathi haru garaam.”

Opposing page.

“You like my rato shirt? Malai timro kalo shirt , timro hariyo shirt and timro pahelo shirt pani mann parcha.  Sathi haru garaam.”

Last page.

First baby says. “Malai mero naya sathi haru man parcha, Yes I really like my new friends.”

So, my biggest question is…would “sathi haru garaam” be the best way to say, “let’s be friends”? Is bao the best way to spell baby in Nepali? And because I ALWAYS get mixed up between Malai, Timilai, and Maile, Timle…are those right? Is it right to use timi, or should I be using tapaii? Any other words of advice?

Copyleft: 2012
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Timro man partun by Padmini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://padminisvorga.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/writing-a-nepalienglish-childrens-book/.
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Your Name is the Sound My Soul Sings

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The ocean is in me.
Its part of my soul.
The crashes of the waves are the nature of my whole.
I rise, I fall, I rise again.
Your heart is my shore, will you take me in?
I’m rough, unpredictable, unyielding like the sea.
You are the ground accepting me.
You aren’t afraid to stand up to me, my tempest, you don’t fear.
Its your name, sounding in the waves of my being that I’ll always hear.

Butterfly effect of a baby born in Kathmandu and 32 infants now learning Nepali.

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Here’s the chain of events. 

Newari boy born to a set of parents in Kathmandu back in the 80’s, right around the same time a girl is born in a southern state of the US. 

Newari boy grows up to be a daring, America loving guy that graduates at the top of his boarding school class and jumps on a plane to the US for two more years of high school.

Same boy comes back for college and meets that American girl (me).

Boy charms girl and girl falls in love with boy and his Nepali/Newari heritage. 

Girl gets a cool job after college working with babies and is told by her boss to incorporate any languages she knows. 

Thanks to Newari boy, girl now has a little bit of Nepali knowledge and a tiny bit of Newari. Boss, says go for it, develop some lessons incorporating Nepali and Newari. 

So, almost thirty years after boy and girl are born, a set of babies and their parents are now learning Nepali children’s songs, lullabies, and words for body parts, colors, animals, and commands like “eat, drink, sleep”. 

Boy thinks he came to the US to learn at American schools. Now he’s inspired American kids to learn about Nepal, maybe in 20 years, just one of these American babies will find themselves in Nepal charming a Nepali youth the way the boy in this story charmed an American. I love the butterfly effect. 

Low Class = Low Scores = Repeat Cyle

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This is a response to Nepali Jiwan’s post about Nepali educational norms. 

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I’m also a teacher and its so disheartening in the US for teachers to be blamed for failing students. As for public schools having a wider range of demographics, I disagree. I can’t speak much for my new home as I haven’t been here long enough to develop an opinion but I can speak very clearly about my home state.

In that state, parents can get vouchers to send their kids to private school. So, if you have parents that care, chances are, you aren’t at a public school at all. Also, the parents that can afford it, just won’t even try public school. The result is that in most school districts in my home state (If memory from a semester ago is doing me justice the statistic is 68% for 2009 and 72% for 2010) serve households at or below the poverty level ($23,000 for a family of four). That means public schools have become the schools where the poor kids go.

Also in that state, school districts are drawn geographically and their funding is supported by property taxes. Short story, poor neighborhoods yield less property tax and have less funding although they usually have more students. So, poor districts have less money per school and even less money per student than their richer counterparts. This sort of socio-economic segregation is the new form of racial segregation.

The average school wide in my home state is 50% of students on free or reduced lunch. But when you adjust for districts, you’ll learn that my home county, the highest property taxes in the state has 30% of its students on free or reduced lunch, but the neighboring extremely low and extremely impoverished district has more than 90% students on free or reduced lunch. Really good teachers tend to work in higher paying districts, while younger less experienced teachers are left to tough it out in low paying, low priority districts.

The cycle for public school is really tough when you consider how many disabilities are present in my home state. Nearly 80% of students in public school in my home state are labeled with some sort of special need!!! Is it really likely that 80% of all kids have a disability? Well, part of the issue is that for each “special needs” student, the school gets more money. Teachers are working with insurmountable ratio difficulties, so if I child starts falling behind, the only way to get that child some one on one attention is to label them with a disability.

Then there are the physical problems. In those poor districts, many students come to school with less than 5 hours of sleep and no food in their bellies. So, even if they may perform on level if well fed and well rested, they definitely won’t without. The chances of abuse and neglect are much higher in these regions. When is Maslow’s Heirarchy going to make its way to education politicians?

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In Florida, 1 in 155 child is Autistic. I don’t know how this number is so low (and its really not) because when I was teaching with a group of 27 other teachers, most of us had an Autistic child in our class. Our ratio averaged 1 teacher to 20 students. I know that definitely 9 teachers had at least one Autistic child in their class, 1 teacher at 2, and 1 teacher had an Autistic child. That’s 10 students in 560 students or 1 in 56. That’s A LOT! Is that just our district, I couldn’t tell you? 

But, I can tell you that in that state the C-section rate is 4 out of 10 births. The March of Dimes lists C-sections (especially due to birth inductions) is the highest cause of preterm and premature birth in the US. We do not currently know what impact this is having on learning a few years down the line because its yet to be studied. But, considering the highest risk you can be for having a c-section is socio-economic status, and in the public school settings I worked in, the highest indicator of being test and found to have a learning disability would be socio-economic status, there may be a link there. I’m implying correlation, not causation. 

In addition to the overwhelming c-section and lack of food/sleep risks to the low socio-economic students, there is the risk of a real disability. Miscarriage rates across the nation are 3 in 20 pregnancies. I know of much higher incidences in Florida and Mississippi. The physical proximity to large commercial dumping sites yield higher miscarriage rates, as high as 1 in 4 pregnancies (5 in 20 for you fraction challenged peeps). THAT IS HIGH! So what does it mean for the children that are born in those communities? They are at a higher risk for a defect. 

When whole communities are seeing education problems, lack of funding, lack of legislative support, lack of quality educators, and overworked quality educators…the powers that be ought to look for the source of the problem. In this case, I fear that teachers are being given a stacked deck and punished for losing. How can a classroom with such high chances of having economically disadvantaged, physically drained, unsupported, and physically disabled students and almost NO FINANCIAL RESOURCES be expected to compete with privatized programs where the wealthier healthier students have the freedom to thrive? 

I do believe the culture of narcissism has something to do with it, but I also believe there is a lot more at work. There is a cycle of punishing the poor for being poor. What is it Thomas Moore said in Utopia? “Who are the privileged to first make thieves and then punish them?” Who are the top tier to first create an untouchables class and then ridicule them?

Weighing in on Weight Loss

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Weight loss. Something a LOT of women worry about. Something I have had to really struggle with. Not because I am fat, obese, overweight…heck, I’m not even on the high end of a normal BMI. I struggle with not letting myself get too skinny. I struggle with anorexia.

Anorexia, I first learned about this in middle school. In some required health class we watched a video about it. And it had the wrong side effect on me and several of my friends. Instead of scaring us away from the horrible illness, it set of a light bulb. “Hey, we could be skinny too!” And so began the unhealthy competition that lasted well into high school. I reached my adult height by the seventh grade. Due to that insane growth spurt I hit in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I hit that five foot five stature I currently hold. The difference? Back then, my weight hadn’t caught up so I was a meager 110 lbs. This happened to be the same summer my friends and I took our a health course. So, armed with a scale, a set of friends eager to stay equally skinny (read: light), and a BMI of 18.3 I dedicated myself to staying that stupidly tiny size. Afterall, we would reason with ourselves. Staying only a tad bit under “normal” BMI can’t be that dangerous. A normal BMI beginning its range at 18.5.

In high school I became an avid cyclist. Riding between 20-60 miles a week was the height of my life. It started out because my family would not allow me to have a car or drive (despite my high driver’s ed scores), so biking was my transportation, and it became my obsession. This obsession continued into college until a really rough car accident. It turns out that the permanent SI injury took away the cycling life I’d had come to love. I can still cycle, but not like I used to and what little I can do usually results in days of hip pain afterwards. But, what is a little pain for appearance? Women every day put themselves through pain for appearance. They pluck, wax, and thread their eyebrows. They force themselves into jeans one size too small and uncomfortable, impractical shoes. They wear under-wire bras and g-strings all to make their outward appearance more acceptable. So, what is a little pain from exercise? Especially, when “staying fit” is the reason and not a perverse need to be skinny.

After my daughter’s birth, my obsession with weight finally settled down a little bit. I lost the baby weight quickly and thought I looked good. My BMI put my 145 lb self at a comfortably “normal” range and I was just grateful not to suffer from the “baby made me fat forever” complex that so many do. Until this past summer. I don’t know why, but this past summer I gained enough weight to throw me up near 165 lbs. I was that weight only once before, when I was nine months pregnant and ready to pop. I lost it and between August and December of last year managed to diet and exercise myself back into my 145 lb region. And that seemed like an accomplishment. But somewhere in that time, I stumbled onto a blog post about a girl who’s Nepali boyfriend was advising her to loose some weight and perfect dudh chiya before the upcoming meeting with his parents. She was offended that her appearance should matter so much. When I read the post to Shiva, he agreed. He said there is no better way to set a good impression on future Nepali in-laws than being very very skinny and making a perfect cup of chiya.

I told him I was going to get back to the weight I was when we’d met and he said that was fine for him, but his parents would probably think I was fat. He suggested that if I really wanted his parents to consider me, I’d need to definitely lose a LOT more weight. It is this conversation that led to the goal of 125 lbs by the time his parents arrive. Now, the opportunity to meet his parents seems unsure at best. Still, I feel a need to meet this goal, just in case. They are so opposed to our relationship that I can’t imagine giving them any other reason to object. I argue with myself that 125 lbs is still a normal BMI and I’m not finding myself back in the anorexic days of middle and high school. Still, the calorie counting and daily exercise demands are bordering on….what’s a word for more than obsessive? Zealous? I shed the first 6 lbs easily, then gained 10 lbs, then lost 10 lbs and now I’m just holding and holding and holding. This plateau just will not yield.

It takes so much focus to ensure than I do not starve myself and my fitness pal keeps informing me that I need to eat more, but the thought of eating more just makes me feel sick. And on top of it, Shiva comes around and comments on how disappointed he is to see me losing my curves. Really? Why is it that your parents would need this?

I know I know, they should accept me for who I am and if they don’t I should just tell them to buzz off. But as I keep trying to explain to various family members, that is an AMERICAN/WESTERN perspective. And one part of being in an intercultural relationship is not mandating that one perspective is better than another. In fact, I sort of side with the Nepali viewpoint on this one.

Now, its a collection of emotional grief compiled over years of sexual and emotional abuse mixed in with a dash of western sexual social norms defining beauty and a bit of poor self image that has led to this perspective, but I fear being labeled fat. My family is not small, they are almost all obese. And if there was one thing I learned from them, its that I would rather starve than suffer the consequences of obesity. Its not just the stigma of being fat, but all the health problems that come with it. Type II diabetes, self-inflicted thyroid disorders, even poorer self-image than mine, cholesterol problems, heart problems, stroke, heart attacks, death. No, I’ll take not enough calories a day over that.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t mind losing weight for the parents. And I keep being told that later, you can always gain it back. In fact, once you get pregnant its time to get really big. Who I am to say that this perspective is wrong? After all, what beauty industry is a larger world influence than the US? As for not enough calories, I don’t know that I believe MFP. I’m eating enough to feel full. I just cut out meat, upped veggies over carbs, cut out most beverages other than water, and cut portions. It doesn’t feel like I’m not eating enough, it just looks that way on paper. I don’t see a thing wrong with eating this way, even if MFP says Zumba class is costing 800 calories.

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Impoverished American’s Living Like World Citizens

Here, CNN sensationalizes a few (relative to national numbers) American families that are living like the rest of the world. According to his post about 1.5 million families are living in exceptional poverty on par with $2 a day per person. He does not define how many members per family or how many people total. He says the numbers include over 2.8 million children. The only concrete number we are given is that 46 million people are living below the Federal Poverty Line. 

According to http://www.coverageforall.org The federal poverty line is $11,000 a year income for a family of 1 or about $23,000 a year for a family of four. My daughter and I slide in at just under 175% of the poverty level for our tiny family of two. And I find it tough to get by. I don’t live in a luxurious apartment and I have a used car that is more than ten years old. I don’t even have a dishwasher or my own washing machine.  We do eat primarily organic food, but we also eat mostly vegetarian. We use public transit and walk or bike more than we drive. And we love what little we have. But, we have a really really hard time getting by.

Our rent alone takes up 61% of my monthly income. Child care takes up 38% of my monthly income. Leaving 1% of my income for food, clothing, utilities, gas, car insurance, medical care, EVERYTHING ELSE! Yes, I could live in a cheaper place and that would mean living closer to burglaries, assaults, thefts, rapes, and murders. I could send my daughter to a cheaper school, but that would mean sending her to school with a demographic with a different set of priorities, such as teachers that are not properly trained, fellow students that do not care about being in school, in fact it probably wouldn’t even be a school, it would be a daycare. And in that daycare, the teachers may be fresh out of high school making minimum wage, too high on ratio with a 14 (3 year olds) to 1 (18 year old). And the other parents will likely not have the parenting philosophy that I have and so soon, I’ll be battling with my daughter over hitting and swearing and explaining why we don’t have cable and no she won’t be getting that new Disney princess toy because she doesn’t NEED it. I’ve worked in low cost child care settings and sorry to sound elitist, I believe that all kids (including mine) deserve better. So, I’ve been accused of milking the system to purchase organic food for my child while wearing the Nike’s that were a birthday gift 6 years ago and the Columbia jacket I bought at Goodwill while sporting the Vera Bradley bag, I got off ebay. But even without the organic food and the $22 I spent on my “look” over a two year period,  I wouldn’t be able to live off McDonald’s on my 1% left over. 

This $2 a day statistic is designed to strike a cord with the fact that some of the world’s poorest countries have this as a standard of living. According to, http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934552.html Zambia comes in at the highest  population (with about 92%) living on less than $2 a day. India is around 80%, Nepal slides in at 68% and our poor neighbor to the south, Mexico reigns in about 20% of the population, all earning less than $2 per person. Of course, one should consider that the cost of living in most of India, Nepal, and Mexico is much less than the cost of living in the United States. So for a person to be living on less than $2 in the US is going to be MUCH MUCH harder than a person living in countries like those found in the third world. 

I am more than a statistic. I do not live on $2 a day and I’m not under the national poverty line, but I am one of those single parent households. I’m not one of those mothers that some Republicans claim are abusing the system having child after child to get more from the government. No, I started my daughter’s life in two parent household. And then my partner believed that drugs, alcohol, and partying were more important so that when I stood up to him, I was physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. And I decided that the only way to break the cycle was to move out on my own, bite the bullet on accepting public assistance, and teaching my daughter than no one is worth suffering your self worth for. 

So, yes, Jack Cafferty I am one of those 1 in 6 Americans on a public assistance program. Yes, I am a single parent. I am female (one nearly 51% of US population).  I am white (1 of nearly 74% of US population). And, I will not apologize. What else am I? I am a college graduate (1 of nearly 28% of the US population). I am a teacher. I am a volunteer. I am a voter. I am an advocate for something better. I believe that nothing is more important than my child and the children of our country and I’m not alone. These statistics are misrepresented and unfortunately do little to help move our country forward. Why aren’t we discussing how this small percentage of the American population is experiencing how it is in the world? Instead of griping about how much public money goes to paying for these lives, think about what it would take to help them grow out of it. 

Lets analyze how many of those single women were victims of abuse last year? How about how many of the children were victims?  How many of the parents in extreme poverty began life in extreme poverty? How many had access to quality affordable education? When we look at their communities, look at the stress the community itself is under. What is the crime rate in those regions? What are the police demographics vs. public demographic. Before I moved, I lived in a city where over half the population was black, but only a handful of officers were black. Unfortunately, this disparity leads to racial segregation of resources. This is a fancy way to say, if you were black and needed help, guess what, the white guy in the wealthier part of town was more likely to get a response than you were. 

Lets look at the legislative bodies overseeing these communities? How many women are on the local city and county councils or boards? What about their state legislatures? How many of their representatives can identify with their plights? Lets look at the national stage were our congress is arguing over limited access to health options ONLY FOR WOMEN! And lets look at the fact that our children are growing up in a world where minimum wages and single parenthood is the norm for large communities.

And instead of saying, look at these few are suffering, look at the bigger picture of look at the true cost of living and look how few can really survive it. And then ask yourself, how could the picture be brighter? 

KONY 2012: Make Him Famous

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If you haven’t heard about it, you will! This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on the internet. A time when idealism meets reality. So many people will see this, so many people will share it, and I hope that so many people will actually do something. I’ve seen the cars labeled “invisible children”, I’ve seen the posters that say KONY 2012. And I’ve been asking myself, who is this guy since December 2011 when I made a cross country road trip from the Southeast coast to the Northwest coast. And yesterday, I found out. Three of my friends posted a video from youtube on facebook that was about Kony. And these three friends are so different from each other, so unlikely to share the same video that I had to watch and see what these three had in common. And now I know, its what we all have in common.

We all have a need to feel like a community, we all have an innate sense of the fact that some things are right and some things are wrong. And what this video shows you is that in this year, the world has a chance to correct a wrong that has been allowed for 26 years, my ENTIRE life! The video producer gives a message to the world that we have the power to change the world, we have the power to make it a better place for our children. And just as he looks at his son and knows that in our country if anything happened to him the way that things are happening to the children in the film, I look at my daughter and am thankful that we live in a country that protects her. But these children deserve protection too, the man that is enslaving children far away from home needs to be stopped, but before he can be stopped, he needs to be famous!

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

http://kony2012.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/