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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 16
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
08 Nov 2014

Boys spend their days climbing trees and playing in the street in Dine Su, one of Yangon's countless shanty towns. Many families are too poor to send their young to school past second or third grade, preferring them to contribute to the family income when work is available. Myanmar Army brokers prey on this desire for work, using fake jobs as drivers or mechanics to lure the boys towards nearby army bases.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 07
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
08 Nov 2014

Win Myint stores his son'€™s few possessions, ready for his return from the Myanmar Army. Like many other boys Aung Than Zaw was forcibly recruited from their village at the age of fifteen, and sent to the Shan State front line. His father has been working with the International Labour Organization to secure his release for two years.

"Sometimes I think he'€™ll never come home, that the army will continue to delay, or that they'€™ll sell him to someone else on the way,"€ he says.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 09
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
08 Nov 2014

Alongside the Myanmar Army's partial release of it's child soldiers, and regardless of it's continued forced recruitment of minors, billboards can be seen around Yangon displaying various messages of military innocence.

"After I turn 18 and become a man, I'll get into the military, but now I am still young. The military does not accept people under 18."

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 11
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
08 Nov 2014

Dine Su balances between an army base, a shipping port, and industrial factories, teetering on the slippery banks of the Yangon River. A shanty town of bamboo, mud, and dusty football pitches. It is typical of countless other communities. Most people come here from out of town, victims of government land grabs for condos or luxury golf courses in the Delta region. As an illegal settlement, Dine Su is susceptible to exploitation by authorities.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 14
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
04 Nov 2014

Yangon Train Station as night falls. The Myanmar Army make regular patrols of transport hubs, approaching young boys aged between 11 and 15 who are trying to get home late at night. Officers apply escalating pressure to each in the hope of forcing recruitment.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 03
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
04 Nov 2014

Yangon Train Station. The Myanmar Army and it's civilian brokers use the city's dark bus stations, train stations, and ferry ports as recruiting grounds for young conscripts. Boys who are traveling home late at night, are approached by the army and threatened with false charges. They are offered an ultimatum:€“ a long prison term, or recruitment.

"This is human trafficking, it's the same as prostitution," says Win Myint, 52, as he waits for the return of his young son from the military.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 17
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
30 Oct 2014

Tun Tun Win remembers playing football at the edge of his village. A patch of dusty ground, squeezed between an army base and a shipping port was used as a pitch, worn flat by dozens of bare feet. Leafy trees provided some shade for spectators, and a fringe of tall bamboo offered a little privacy. It was here that he was lured into the Army by a civilian broker at 14 years old. “If the military released all of the child soldiers, there’d be no one left,” he said.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 18
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
30 Oct 2014

Win Myint and his wife, appealed to the International Labour Organization for the release of their son from underage enrollment into the Myanmar Army. Now they're waiting for his official release under the 2012 Joint Action Plan.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 05
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
30 Oct 2014

Tun Tun Win shows both his Army ID card, proving that he's been discharged legally. Usually the Army doesn't begin awarding pensions until 60 years old, Tun Tun Win is drawing his now at the age of 30, $27 per month. He served a 14 year stretch with the Myanmar army, beginning when he was 14 years old.

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 06
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
24 Oct 2014

Kyaw Thura on his fifth day at his new welding job. He's been out of military prison just over one week, after defecting to the enemy, and over the Thai border when he was 17.

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Of the Same Life: Releasing Myanmar's...
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
21 Oct 2014

Thein Myint's bamboo hut is filled with villagers looking for help.Their boys are being kidnapped by the Myanmar Army for active service. In the 20 ft square shack in the shanty town of Dine Su, on edge of the Yangon River, people fill all available space. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters overlap on the hard floor. The men spit betel juice though the cracks in the worn boards, and the women fan each other to keep cool. Younger children peek in from outside, their fingers clawing through the steel mesh in the glassless window.

“Times have changed. There is international pressure now regarding forced labor, child labor,” says Thien Myint, “they can't keep doing it.”

Since the violent crushing of pro-democracy protests in 1988, the Myanmar Army's need for rapid expansion, has encouraged the forced recruitment of boys as young as 11 to fulfill impossible quotas. Kidnap, beatings, and drugging are tactics that deliver boys to the front lines of Myanmar's far flung civil wars, to sweep for mines, attack and execute villagers, or man live offensives. In December the Myanmar Army released 80 child soldiers from active service, bringing the total freed children to 845 since 2007. There has been steady pressure on the Myanmar Army and non-state armies to fall in line with ASEAN human rights recommendations, and International Labour Organization conventions. The armies are making small acts of compromise in appeasement, and during the final few months of 2014 have been increasing their releases. However although Myanmar is a member of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the use and recruitment of child soldiers is still commonplace. Slowly though soldiers that were forcibly recruited as children are returning to their villages, to their families who have long thought them dead.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 02
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
21 Oct 2014

Kyaw Thura, aged 15, after finishing his four month training in Mon State, in Eastern Myanmar.

"There were rocks in the soup, and sand in the rice,"€ he said, "€œand I missed home terribly."

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Myanmar's Child Soldiers 04
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
21 Oct 2014

Kyaw Thura is reunited with his four year old son, after spending a year and a half in military prison. He’d been fighting front line battles with the Myanmar Army in the jungles of Karen State for over two years, and eventually defected when he was seventeen, hiding at the Thai border for four years. Now twenty three, he is a free man.

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Ulaanbaatar's tent slum
Ulaanbaatar
By David Tacon
10 Aug 2014

Although 40% of Mongolians still live as nomadic herders, democracy, market capitalism and a resources boom catapulted the Mongolian economy to achieve the world’s fastest growth in 2011 with GDP growth of 17.3%. Trillions of dollars of natural resources lie beneath the steppes, grasslands and deserts of Mongolia. It possesses enough coal, copper, gold, uranium, silver, fluorite and other minerals to make every Mongolian wealthy.

In this decade of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders have abandoned their traditional way of life and moved into the Ger District: a tent slum in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The impoverished area has no running water, little waste collection and an unemployment rate around 30%. However, it was not the country's economic growth that has lured former nomads to the city. These former nomads are climate refugees.

During the cruel winter of 2009-10, nomadic herders fell victim to the dreaded "zud," a weather phenomenon in which snow is frozen solid by temperatures as low as -48C. Eight and a half million cows, horses, goats, sheep and camels starved and froze to death during an extreme 55 day cold spell.

Climate change scientists have noted more frequent "zuds" and some of the most extreme weather conditions seen in Mongolia in a thousand years. Nomadic herding traditions that are integral to Mongolian life and culture are facing their greatest challenge. In the mean time, life in the Ger District is a struggle just to get by.

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Abandoned Children 32
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A girl at the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution's playground. Like this little girl, many children, disabled or not, wait for adoption.

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Abandoned Children 33
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A little boy stands in the playground of Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution.

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Abandoned Children 35
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

Feeding bottles for babies in the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution that houses around a dozen babies.

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Abandoned Children 01
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse watching over disabled children as they nap at Shumen Institution, the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 05
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl plays in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl rests in her sister's arms. Roma children have the highest rates of abandoned children in Bulgaria.

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Abandoned Children 08
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse plays with a little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 09
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 14
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 16
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 17
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 21
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor walking in the courtyard of Shumen's oldest institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 23
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little boy playing in the Shumen Institution garden. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. It was built in 1935. In the past there were hundreds of children lived here. Because of de-institutionalization, they're now less than a dozen, all with disabilities. During the day, children with light disabilities come to spend the day and then go back to their home at night.

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Abandoned Children 24
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 26
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Children playing in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 03
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. Here, she shows painted hand-prints of all the children she has hosted.

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Abandoned Children 15
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 18
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 19
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 20
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted.

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Abandoned Children 22
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 25
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. On her computer, she shows an older child who was adopted last year.

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Living Off the Lagoon
By Eniola Ilesanmi
26 Mar 2014

There is a palpable fear in Makoko-------the stilted settlement on the Lagos Lagoon. The fear is real and will not depart, at least not now!
For more than thirty years, local fishermen from around neighbouring villages, towns and countries such as Benin republic and Togo had converged to recreate and live in this settlement that is feared to be the biggest slum in Nigeria!

Makoko has attracted the attention of the Lagos metropolitan government in recent years and it is set to pull it down, burn its photogenic wooden structures built at the tip of the Lagoon, stretching from Oworonsoki district to the West of Ebutte-meta and rebuild it (not for the present residents)as part of the mega-city urban renewal dvelopment project.

From the beginning of 2005, Makoko had been on my list for documentation and i began exploring that opportunity with the coverage of the National census in 2006.

Makoko is a beautiful, photogenic place with a rough estimate of about thirty-thousand people residing. The culture of this small community is entirely on fishing and its commerce, education and social ceremonies are done on the surface of the polluted Lagoon.

Though makoko assumed an ugly picture of pollution and collapsable structures, it is a reminder of our surprising world where a committed, strong and creative people can thrive regardless of the deadliest barriers!.

Though not far from Lagos city skylines where Nigeria had her first glittering central business district, Makoko has never experienced electricity, has no clean drinking water and education is a figurative chioce!

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Rumah Singgah: A Home for Jakarta's A...
Depok, Greater Jakarta, Indonesia
By Elisabetta Zavoli
01 Mar 2014

Photo essay and video Video length - 7:01 "Rumah Singgah" literally means “shelter house." A project developed by Mami Yulie (aka Yulianus Rettoblaut), the 53 year-old leader of the Indonesian waria (transgender) community, the shelter hosts elderly transgender with no means of living on their own for free. 'Waria' is literally a combination of the words wanita meaning woman and pria, man. At Rumah Singgah, they create a sort of microcosm, a small community ruled by tight family-like bonds. Rumah Singgah is also Mami Yulie's home, where she lives with her own family: her foster children, her husband and sometimes her relatives.

Almost all waria in Indonesia are chased away from their families of origin when relatives find out they are transgender people. When they are young they can survive thanks to prostitution, but when they become old and sick, many are left without others to help care for them. Rummah Singgah is a space where elderly waria care for each other and are looked after by Mami Yulie and the shelter's caretaker.

“When I was at school, I used to play with the girls. I used to draw flowers, houses, weird stuff…. When I grew up and become an adult, my parents understood that I was a transgender so I was chased from home," said Mumun, the 68-year-old caretaker of Rumah Singgah. "I was ordered to go away. They didn’t want their son to be a transgender. My parents disowned me asking me to leave the house. I was beaten up with wood and bamboo sticks and fell down in the rice field. I was beaten up there, so I ran away. I left. I took a train to Bogor. When I arrived I didn’t have relatives to go to nor did I know anybody”, she said.

This is a common situation among many “waria” in Indonesia. Most of their stories starts like that of Mumun: they experienced exclusion and abandonment by their families when they came out as transgender. Their new life, the choice of becoming who they feel themselves to be, always starts on the street. Waria people consider themselves women trapped in men’s bodies. They say that their soul and heart are that of a woman, so a waria is a man with a woman’s soul. Becoming transgender is not a choice for them. It comes from the heart. Many people in Indonesia think if someone hangs out with a group of transgender, he/she can become a transgender. This only furthers the stigmatization of the waria, many of whom already live under precarious circumstances.

“The problem in the waria community is that people forget there are many old transgender," said Mami Yulie. "This is a problem because when they get sick or die, they don’t have a proper place for burial. The community rejects them. They are taken to the police, who take them to hospital and bury them in a mass grave. This happens again and again, and it prompts me to think that I have the responsibility to help them."

When transgender become old, making a living becomes very hard for them. “I am sixty eight year old now. I am too old to make a living in the evening. I am not sellable anymore,” Mumun said.

In Rumah Singgah, a lot of elderly waria have been helped to become independent, to improve their skills and to be able to create a home industry. However, the shelter’s capacity is limited. Only about ten to fifteen people can be accommodated according to a rotation system. If there are five or ten people coming in, five or ten people must leave. The great challenge of this project is to find enough financial support to pay for food, medicine, electricity and water for them all: and the transgender community in Jakarta has eight hundred and thirty one elderly waria who need to be taken care of. Residents also pray and practice their own religion at the shelter house. This vital time helps them prepare for the day when they will die. They can share their thoughts: at the shelter house, their main job is to provide peer support to each other. This process helps to create new strong family-like bonds between them, and the tiny community becomes a new big family for people who often have no one left in their life.

Mami Yulie, originally born in Merauke, Papua, moved to Jakarta when she was chased from her family home. She began her life in Jakarta working on the street as a prostitute, where she met her partner fifteen years ago. Since then they have been inseparable. Mami Yulie was the first Indonesian transgender to graduate at University. Leaving the street life behind, her biological family welcomes her again. They come to visit her and stay in Rumah Singgah from time to time.

“At this age, I have been given a long life," Mami Yulie said. "I was able to study, to appear on TV, to go in and out of government offices. This wouldn’t be possible without the will of God. He is the only one to help, me because I believe there is nothing impossible in God’s name."