Micro-stories of Light

Written by: Andie 

Edited by: Leela

Visual by: Yana

With recent controversies surrounding terrorist attacks on the US Capitol to debates surrounding the Philippine government’s choices regarding COVID-19 vaccines, tuning into the news can feel overwhelming at times. However, it is important to remember that amidst all the chaos and uncertainty there is still good amidst the bad. 

Here are some bits of good news, to restore your faith in the world:

Sesame Street’s First Rohingya Puppets

Aziz and Noor, six year-old twins, are the latest additions to Sesame Street’s collection of muppets. They aren’t just any ordinary twins – they are Rohingya Muslims who have escaped from their home of Myanmar to Bangladesh – refugees of ethnic cleansing. Sherrie Westin, president of social impact for Sesame Workshop, traveled to Rohingya camps herself, to ensure just and accurate representation. She states that “for most Rohingya children, this will be the very first time that characters in media have looked like them, have sounded like them, and really reflect their rich culture.

The six-year-old twins represent Rohingya Muslims’ booming children’s population, constituting more than half of the residents at the refugee settlements in Bangladesh.  From being forced out of their homes to witnessing murders and rape, the real-life trauma endured by these children is carried over through the twin’s storyline. For example, Noor is terrified of loud noises – just as many Rohingya children are – as the sound is reminiscent of gunfire.

Aziz and Noor’s story reflects Sesame Workshop’s increased attempts at cultural and racial diversity. Previously, other characters with conditions ranging from HIV to Down syndrome were introduced on the show.

Kazakhstan Abolishes Death Penalty

A notice posted on January 2nd confirmed that Kazakhstan has formally abolished the death penalty following a 20-year cessation of capital punishment (Equal Justice Initiative). This was finalized after President Kassym Jomart Tokayev signed off on parliamentary ratification of a document that commits signatories to the abolition of capital punishment – the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Al-Jazeera). 

The Second Optional Protocol is an international treaty that commits signatory nations to abolishing capital punishment. Kazakhstan is one of 88 nations to sign the treaty. Currently, there is only one person who has been convicted under the death sentence, but will now be resentenced to life imprisonment instead (Equal Justice Initiative).

Filipino-invented Solar Panel Made from Waste Crops Wins Big

27-year-old Filipino, Carvey Ehren Maigue, recently beat over 1,800 other participants competing for the James Dyson Award, an international design competition for engineers from over 30 countries. 

His award-winning technology, AuREUS, is a renewable energy system derived from rotting fruits and vegetables, converting UV lights from the sun (solar energy) into electricity. The technology was handpicked by James Dyson himself, who said that the technology was “impressive in the way it makes sustainable use of waste crops,” and that “Carvey’s invention demonstrates a convincing way to create clean energy on existing structures, like windows, within cities.” 

Maigue cites auroras or polar lights as the inspiration for the science behind his invention. He emphasizes, “I want to create a better form of renewable energy that uses the world’s natural resources, is close to people’s lives, forging achievable paths and rallying towards a sustainable and regenerative future.” (Rappler)

Through these micro-stories of light, perhaps we can continue to illuminate the dim paths ahead of us. Although taking a break from the news is warranted, we must continue to hold onto hope in any way because progress can only be made when we envision something better, not only for ourselves, but for us all.

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. “Kazakhstan Scraps Death Penalty after Nearly 20-Year Moratorium.” Death Penalty News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 2 Jan. 2021, aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/2/kazakhstan-abolishes-death-penalty-after-near-20-year-moratorium.

Beech, Hannah. “’R’ Is for Rohingya: Sesame Street Creates New Muppets for Refugees.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Dec. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/19/world/asia/sesame-street-rohingya-muppets.html.

Chua, Kyle. “Filipino Wins Sustainability Award for Solar Panel Made from Waste Crop.” Rappler, Rappler, 20 Nov. 2020, http://www.rappler.com/technology/innovations/dyson-carvey-maigue-sustainability-prize-2020-crop-waste-invention.“Global Abolition of Death Penalty Continues in Kazakhstan.” Equal Justice Initiative, 8 Jan. 2021, eji.org/news/global-abolition-of-death-penalty-continues-in-kazakhstan/#:~:text=The Republic of Kazakhstan formally,nations to abolish capital punishment.