US Psychologist Goes beyond Headlines, Tells Refugees’ Stories

After nine attempts to sneak across the border between Syria and Turkey, with an indescribable amount of fear and painful near-death experiences, 31-year-old Mustafa Hamed finally found a home in Germany, where he is working hard to piece together his life.

“The most important thing is you are lost here. So you have to find a new job, new friends — you have to find a new life,” Hamed said. “So this is a new start for me.”

His priority right now is mastering the language. His dream is to work in journalism. As he works hard to achieve this dream, he constantly struggles with a nightmare — the memory of his days in Aleppo.

“The clashes started in Aleppo in, maybe, 2012,” he recalled. “You can imagine, it was daily and you can hear every night bombing someplace near you — maybe for just two kilometers [away]. The electricity was cut down for a long time. You have to wait for 7 or 8 hours just to charge your phone.”

Resetting their lives

Psychologist and researcher Kenneth Miller, in his book War Torn: Stories of Courage, Love and Resilience, recounts Hamed’s story, among many others from Guatemala, Mexico, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

During his more than 25 years of working with war victims, Miller noticed that the majority of what has been written about war focuses on soldiers. He wanted to draw attention to what’s missing from the conversation: the experience of civilians. In his book, he shares dozens of stories of people he met and worked with in many places around the world.

One of the most compelling stories is from Samad Khan, an Afghan who became a refugee in the 1980s, during his country’s war against the Soviets. Khan participated in Miller’s research in Afghanistan. In one of the counseling sessions on dealing with painful experiences, Khan shared a traumatic memory.

“He was driving a pickup truck with his sister’s family in the back, up a steep, winding mountain road and the road was controlled by the Mujahedeen, the freedom fighters,” Miller said. “They stopped him at one point and asked him to show his papers. So he stopped the car, and got out to show them his papers, but he realized he had forgotten to set the hand brake. He watched in horror as the truck spiraled off the side of the mountain and tumbled hundreds of feet down to the valley below. He had to go down to retrieve the bodies and bring them back to Kabul for burial.”

Overcoming tragedies

However, when Miller met him, Khan was a life-loving community leader. “I said, ‘How did you get over this? You seem to be doing so well now!’ He said it was a combination of the power of his faith and he also had a tremendous support of his extended family and friends,” Miller explained. “They got him through. I tell his story because this is something that recurs in the book, in every country that I worked in, that we are more alike than we are different. His story also captures something that we’ve seen in a lot of refugee communities, which is war, of course, can be devastating, but we’re built to heal. If the conditions are supportive, safe and stable, people have a remarkable capacity to be resilient and to heal.”

When the environment is safe and supportive, Miller says, refugees not only survive painful experiences, but they can thrive.

He tells another story, based on his experience in Guatemala:

“I got adopted by this one family while I was living in the camp for a year. This family fled when they heard about a massacre in a neighboring village where about 370 people were killed. They spent two months hiding in the mountains in the rainy season. They finally came down on the Mexican side of the border and found their way in to the refugee camp. This young fellow, Emilio, had developed a combination of trauma and severe shock. After a couple of days of traditional prayers and use of herbs, he healed. I think more than anything what really helped him heal was this tremendous love and support of his family. He has become a vibrant young professional musician, he became a refugee in Canada, who is doing wonderfully well.”

The social media effect

Miller says he hopes sharing these stories can help raise awareness about refugees’ situations.

“One of the biggest predictors about whether the refugees become severely depressed or adapt successfully is the extent to which they’re either made to feel welcome, given language and the material resources to get a new start, or whether they encounter a lot of discrimination. The more people feel marginalized and discriminated, of course, the harder it is for them to integrate, and the harder it is for them to heal,” he said.

One point Miller raises is the effect of social media. He says these tools can be helpful in raising awareness about the plight of refugees, but they also can be harmful if they’re used to spread misconceptions.

He points to images shared on social media of Syrian refugees on Lesbos, Greece. “When you see this father holding his two children and weeping and just arriving safely after crossing the sea, it mobilizes people and brings them to want to help, do something to counter this. Now, on the other hand, you also see social media being used to spread rumors and lies about refugees. Social media can spread tremendous fear, and that has serious consequences. It gets people turned back. It causes great harm.”

Miller says he also hopes these stories can inspire refugees and help them discover the inner strength they need to survive and start anew.

Second Immune Cell Found to Harbor HIV During Treatment

The challenge of finding a cure for AIDS may have gotten harder. Scientists have discovered another cell in the body where HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — hides from therapy designed to suppress it to undetectable levels in the blood.

The cells — called macrophages — are part of the immune system and are found throughout the body, including in the liver, lungs, bone marrow and brain. After other immune cells have done their job of destroying foreign invaders, these large white blood cells act as the cleanup crew. They surround and clean up cellular debris, foreign substances, cancer cells and anything else that is not essential to the functioning of healthy cells. In addition, they apparently can harbor HIV.

A new target

While antiretroviral drugs can drive the AIDS virus down to virtually undetectable levels, scientists know if therapy is interrupted, an HIV infection can come roaring back. That’s because of a viral reservoir that until now has been thought only to inhabit immune system T-cells — the cells that are attacked and destroyed by the AIDS virus. Much research is dedicated to trying to find ways to eradicate the T-cell reservoir.

This may mean researchers must find ways to eliminate HIV from macrophages, as well.

The finding was published in Nature Medicine by researchers in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. 

Investigators demonstrated in a mouse model that in the absence of humanized T-cells, antiretroviral drugs could strongly suppress HIV in macrophages. However, when the therapy was interrupted, the virus rebounded in one-third of the mice. This, say researchers, is consistent with persistent infection in the face of drug therapy.

Researchers say their work demonstrates that any possible therapies must address macrophages in addition to T-cells to eradicate viral reservoirs. Investigators say they now have more information pointing to the complexity of the virus, and that targeting the viral reservoir in T-cells in the blood will not necessarily work with tackling HIV persistence in macrophages, which reside in tissues and are harder to observe. 

Senior author Victor Garcia said it’s possible there are other HIV reservoirs still to be discovered.

The lead author of the study, Jenna Honeycutt, called the discovery “paradigm changing” in the way scientists must now try to eliminate persistent infection in HIV-positive individuals. 

Investigators say their next step is to figure out what regulates HIV persistence in infected macrophages. They are also interested in finding HIV interventions that completely eradicate the AIDS virus from the body.

У Запоріжжі на Хортиці зібрали великодній кошик для українських бійців

Запорізькі волонтери 16 квітня під час святкування Великодня на території Національного заповідника «Хортиця» провели акцію «Великодній кошик на передову». Усі зібрані продукти активісти передадуть бійцям двох дивізіонів 55-ї окремої артилерійської бригади, що базується в Запоріжжі.

«Торік було півтори тонни. Сьогодні не менше вже зібрали. Наш офіс завалений під стелю практично. Ми сьогодні їдемо (до бійців) – будемо якось ущільнювати, щоб все влізло в машину. Зараз на Хортиці атмосфера радості, якогось єднання. Я бачу, як ці люди відкриті, як вони хочуть дати гривню на пальне або паску», – розповіла волонтерка Надія Мороз.

Запорізькі волонтери вже другий рік поспіль збирають великодній кошик для бійців АТО на Хортиці під час святкування Великодня.

Усього в святкових заходах на території національного заповідника взяли участь близько тисячі запоріжців.

На Хортиці єпископ Запорізький і Мелітопольський Української православної церкви Київського патріархату Фотій провів молебень та освячення пасок. Також відбулися виступи народних колективів, виставка козацької зброї та робіт майстрів, функціонувала фотозона з перевдяганням у традиційний український одяг тощо. Такі святкові заходи відбуваються в Запоріжжі сьомий рік поспіль.

Християни всього світу відзначають Великдень

Християни відзначають Великдень, свято на честь воскресіння Ісуса Христа. У цьому році дата свята збігається у християн західного і східного обрядів.

До великодніх богослужінь до християнських храмів із Єрусалима доправили Благодатний вогонь, який зійшов у суботу в храмі Гробу Господнього в Єрусалимі. У ніч на неділю християни східного обряду проводили хресні ходи.

У Ватикані, в базиліці святого Петра, папа Римський Франциск відправляє урочисту месу, а опівдні звернеться з традиційним посланням Urbi et Orbi ( «Місту і світу»).

Scientists Research the Brain in an Effort to Stop Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease was first identified 200 years ago, but so far, there is no cure. Most people have the disease for many years before it’s diagnosed, making it too late for effective treatment. So scientists are focusing on research in an effort to stop the disease before symptoms appear. VOA’s Deborah Block has more during Parkinson’s awareness month in the United States.

Between the U.S. and Mexico: What Migrants Left Behind

An art exhibition in New York highlights undocumented immigrants and the items they left behind while crossing hostile desert territory from Mexico into the United States. The show, called State of Exception, stems from the University of Michigan’s Undocumented Migration Project, and it uses only discarded objects. Celia Mendoza reports on these traces of human migration from the New School’s Parsons School of Design.

Померла найстарша у світі жінка, яка народилася ще в 19 столітті

В Італії, у віці 117 років померла найстарша у світі із відомих нині людей Емма Морано. ЗМІ цитують її лікаря Карло Бава, який повідомив Associated Press, що Емма Морано померла 15 квітня в своєму будинку в північній Італії. За наявними даними, вона остання з тих, хто народився у 19-му столітті.

Емма Морано народилася 29 листопада 1899 року, тож за своє життя застала три століття.

За даними американської дослідницької групи з геронтології, найстаріша людина після Морано – жителька Ямайки на ім’я Вайолет Браун, якій виповнилося 117 років 10 березня.