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December 15, 2017

1. Wildfires in Southern California expose farmworkers to dangerous conditions

It’ll take a while before the smoke clears in Southern California. Even as firefighters get closer to containing major wildfires, the lingering smoke has caused a spike in health problems. Local authorities are encouraging people to stay indoors and to wear a breathing mask when going outdoors. But not everyone is able to heed this advice.

Thousands of farmworkers in the region are still working in the fields, and the majority of workers haven’t received protective masks from their employers. Employers are only required to ensure “safe” working conditions. Despite being exposed to really poor air quality, many workers, especially those who are immigrants of color, have stayed quiet to avoid getting fired or deported. Immigrant rights advocates are calling for greater protections for farmworkers. In the meantime volunteers are stepping in and distributing face masks to farmworkers.

2. Women in South Sudan protest civil war – in silence

Enough said. Last Saturday hundreds of women marched through South Sudan’s capital, Juba, with tape over their mouths, demanding an end to the country’s civil war. Just two years after gaining independence in 2011, the country found itself in an internal conflict that has yet to be resolved. Entering into its fifth year, the war has displaced millions of people and caused the deaths of tens of thousands more.

The women want their leaders to provide humanitarian aid “for people in need” – including the 1.2 million who are facing a food crisis – and to bring peace to their country.

3. Syrian teenager wins Children’s Peace Prize for building a school for refugees

It takes a village. Mohamad al Jounde missed school so much, he enlisted his family to help him build one for himself and fellow refugees in Lebanon. Just three years later, he’s on stage holding up a peace prize, awarded to him by none other than Malala Yousafzai.

After fleeing his home in Syria, al Jounde decided to set up a school in the Bekaa Valley refugee camp in Lebanon. He was 12 years old. Since then the school has grown to educate more than 200 refugee children and even provides literacy and gender equality classes for adult refugees.