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Photos: See the dramatic change in these before-and-after images of the refugee crisis.

Seven startling image pairs show life before and after the refugee crisis.

Photos: See the dramatic change in these before-and-after images of the refugee crisis.

In March 2016, the route many refugees were using to flee to safety closed for good.

"I want to get out from here," Lazmiya, a Syrian refugee stuck in the Greek town of Idomeni told Al Jazeera. "I have not had a shower since I arrived. There is little assistance. All my clothes are soaked... We are dying here."

The Balkan route stretched from Greece to Northern Europe. Several hundred thousand asylum-seekers used the route, many hoping to make it to Germany. Until this spring, the countries along the way, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria had "wave-through policies" that made it easy for people to walk across the borders under little to no control.


But European Union leaders committed to shutting down the route and ending the border control loopholes, leaving thousands stranded or looking for new routes.

Meanwhile, life in many of the towns along the Balkan route has returned to normal or, at the very least, a new normal.

These photographs show what key locations along the route looked like last year and what they look like now. The differences are startling.

See the dramatic changes a year can make in the seven image pairs below.

1. Stemming the tide in Rigonce, Slovenia

In the top photo, from October 2015, people were escorted by police to a refugee camp in Slovenia. The bottom photo, from July 2016, shows the region's now empty fields.

Top photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

2. Refugees making their way on foot to the Austrian border

In 2015, many refugees arrived in Hungary by train and due to wave-through policies were able to walk over two miles into Austria. Now, this stretch of road is mostly quiet.

Top photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

3. Ready to leave and no way to do it

Hundreds protested outside of the Budapest Keleti railway station in Hungary after it was closed to refugees and migrants on Sept. 1, 2015.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

4. Faces of fear and uncertainty in Budapest

As refugees waited and protested at Keleti station in 2015, one little girl approached the police officers guarding the doors. Today, the same spot is a popular waiting area for travelers.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

5. After much delay, a bus stop unlike any other

After waiting and protesting at the train station, thousands of migrants started the long march toward Austria, but the Hungarian government decided to provide buses for anyone still in the capital city. With border closures, gestures like this are no more.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

6. Waiting for word in Dobova, Slovenia

In 2015, refugees wait in Dobova for police to escort them to temporary holding camps. Now, the road in this border town is much less crowded.

Top photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

7. Pushing and running toward a new opportunity

Refugees forced their way past police at Tovarnik station in an attempt to board a westbound train to Zagreb, Croatia.

Top photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The danger in Syria, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries is still very real.

If refugees cannot flee along the Balkan route, where will they go?

Photo by Louai Beshara/Getty Images.

Some search for new routes to Northern Europe; others wait, stuck in makeshift camps in Greece, unable to cross the border.

A port in Athens, where 1,500 refugees and migrants live at a makeshift camp. Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images.

While limiting the number of refugees and closing down borders may solve the problem for countries running low on resources, housing, and patience with the crisis, it doesn't stop the violence and destruction that made escape the only option for these people in the first place.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together and work toward solutions to ensure the safety of security of displaced people. They need our help and support, and together, we can be a voice for good.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

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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