80,000 refugees in the desert just got their own solar power plant.

For the nearly 80,000 refugees living at the Zaatari camp in Jordan, electricity was a precious commodity.

Workers set up a permanent energy grid in 2016, but because of its prohibitively high cost, electricity had to be carefully rationed. Residents could only use electricity for six to eight hours a day after sunset. Want to wash a load of laundry or use the refrigerator during the afternoon? Not an option.

But a new solar power plant is going to help change that.

Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.


The plant covers an area the size of 33 soccer fields, making it the largest solar plant ever built in a refugee camp. It was powered up Nov. 13, and the plant is set to generate enough electricity to increase the ration to a more robust 12-14 hours a day.

Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.

Residents are understandably happy about this.

Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.

Ilham, a 41-year-old mother of three from southern Syria, told the U.N. Refugee Agency: "Now I will be able to do the laundry during the day, rather than at night when it doesn’t dry and we get sick from wearing wet clothes."

"It’s also safer for my children," she added. "It means they can stay indoors and do their homework or watch some TV, rather than playing outside on the streets until after dark." Her son also added the extra light at night will help him study more.

The Zaatari camp is home to about 80,000 refugees fleeing from the Syrian war. The camp is so large it could technically count as the fourth largest city in Jordan, and more than half of the refugees are children.

Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.

The construction of the plant was funded by the German government at a cost of about $17.5 million. Running it will save the United Nations about $5.5 million a year, money which can then be reinvested back into humanitarian efforts. The plant will also help reduce carbon emissions from the camp.

This is not the first time solar power has been deployed to help during a humanitarian crisis. In May, the Azraq camp became the first refugee camp in the world to run on solar power, and in October, Tesla brought a solar array to Puerto Rico to help restore power to a children's hospital after Hurricane Maria.

The refugee crisis is still ongoing, but efforts like these can improve the lives of those who have to live through them, and hopefully provide a model for future endeavors.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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