276 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. A year later, where are they now?

They were about to take an exam. That night turned into the biggest test of their lives.

A year ago, they were ordinary students preparing for their final exams.

Then men from Boko Haram broke into their school and took them captive. They set the school on fire and shoved the girls into trucks and cars.

They were terrified. They didn't know what to do.


It's impossible not to wonder:

What would I do?

Some of them — a tiny number of the 276 who were captured — escaped that night.

They ran, for days, without shoes. They just wanted to get home.

Even when they reached their homes and families, they were haunted by the memory of what had happened to them, and by worry for their classmates.

And those other girls... It's been a year now. What happened to them?

Many are still in captivity. Fifty-seven have escaped. Over 200 are still missing.

Women who escaped report forced marriages and sexual violence. Some of them are forced to work for the terrorists. From time to time, one of them finds an opportunity to escape, but the majority of them are essentially enslaved.

People in Nigeria are legitimately pissed off about the government's failure to rescue the girls. And they definitely blame the government for inaction. Over the winter, voters ousted President Goodluck Jonathan in part because of his inaction. It was the first time in Nigeria's history that an incumbent lost to a newcomer.

In frustration with their own government, the families have appealed to the United Nations for help. Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai is also calling on the international community to come to their aid. Writing on her blog, she astutely points out: "If these girls were the children of politically or financially powerful parents, much more would be done to free them. But they come from an impoverished area of northeast Nigeria and sadly little has changed since they were kidnapped."

Communities all over the world are planning the Global School Girl March on April 14, 2015, to raise awareness and bring international attention back to the missing girls — and the many who have been captured since.

To find an event near you, check out their Facebook page.

If there's no event near you, you still can help by writing to your elected officials and your country's embassy in Nigeria, and by sharing articles that remind people that this situation is not resolved. Together, surely, we can move the international community to take more action than a hashtag.

To hear about their escapes in their own words, check out this video with amazing animation.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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