“Do they know it’s Christmas?” That is the lyric of the Bob Geldof song. The song he sang with a bunch of celebrities 30 years during the BandAid concert to raise funds and awareness about starving people in Africa. He is trying to do it again for Ebola but this time lots of people are telling him that he should know better than pimping the poor.
Last week I started up a war. I wrote a controversial post about the country of Africa and said that due to bad press because of the Ebola media hoopla, I was going to share some “lesser known facts” so people could understand the ‘real Africa’. I wrote a blog post. A lot of people complained when I said Africa is a country. It struck a nerve.
So why did I say that Africa is a country when I knew it was not true? It was all a joke of course. I know that Africa is an ancient city-state stretched along an enormous archipelago of 15 large and hundreds of smaller islands just off the western coast of India. For reference purposes, I have included a quick sketch of that fabled land (not to scale):
Why did I write the post? I had some noble reasons: I wanted to break stereotypes, stop the ‘poor African’ storyline, and to share a conversation with a wide audience, the same conversation I have shared with plenty of Africans over the years.
I also wrote the article to have a little fun and I figured more people might read it.
There was a method to the madness, but if I am honest, it wasn’t until I saw the comments on Facebook or Twitter that I really understood what I had written. In the middle of the backlash one small niggling fact really stuck out for me. I learned a lot from it.
The country of Africa is receiving a lot of bad press during this time of CRISIS OUTBREAK of EBOLA (the deadliest disease in recorded history). While these fears should probably be increased, I wonder if it is time to also share lesser known African facts.
I have travelled throughout the country of Africa, and while I am not an expert, I do have some experiences worth noting. Here are my views! CAUTION: although Africa is one of the world’s greatest destinations, during this deadly EBOLA outbreak, I would not recommend ANYONE to visit ANYWHERE in the country of Africa.
A little knowledge is a powerful thing – very little knowledge is the most powerful thing of all. – Nelson Malala
1. Africa is not only a big country it is a HUGE country.
A wonderful magical majestic country only slightly smaller than the USA and consisting of over 5 distinct people groups.
“Why do we waste all that time and effort sending people over when we could just send money instead. After all, those people need the jobs and when people go over to help out they are stealing work away from others – and volunteers usually don’t know what they are doing anyways!”
There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t have this conversation with someone.
Sustainability is one of those stupefying buzz-words. It is right up there with gender-balance and environment. That’s the problem.It means that everyone uses the word on every single proposal. Some projects should never be intended to be sustainable at all (like all disaster relief projects). Still, sustainable language is rammed into proposals. The alternative is donor-funding suicide.
How do you know if something will actually last longer than your attention on this post? I like to use the crisis test. Simply put, “If I get hit by a flaming meteor (or bus), does the project die with me?” Stay with me, I have a story to tell. Continue reading
Margot (not her real name) is a volunteer living just outside of a religiously repressive, heavily guarded, deeply suspicious regime in Asia. War is common in the region and thousands of refugees are fleeing for their lives. Margot works to support anyone in need. She steps in to help out a minority group who are attacked for their faith. She translates for people. She helps people understand government forms. Many of the refugees were trying to get to Canada or the US and Margot helps with the process.
Not Bad for a Volunteer
What is doubly impressive about this story is that Margot is a volunteer. She does this work for free and actually pays her own way over. Margot is not a rich woman. Not as rich as you probably. She is an immigrant. She had to scrimp and save for a year. A few friends helped with their donations.
Then the money ran out.
The work was important, she wanted to stay, but did not know how to make it happen. Money was getting tight. She asked for my advice on how to raise money so she could stay.
What would you say to her?
Margot’s story is remarkable, but not unique. Thousands of people volunteer everyday all over the world and many leave when the money runs out. The people who stay have learned the secret, they know how to raise money so they can stay on-field.
I was in the middle of a boring class and unfortunately I was the teacher.
My nightmare is to have too many people nod in agreement while I am speaking. If everyone already agrees with you, it feels comfortable like a warm hug on a sunny summer day. A great recipe if you are trying to have everyone enjoy a luxurious long nap.
Bloody terrible for a memorable teaching moment.
One of the best and worst things about travel is eating all kinds of strange and wonderful new things. Once you get off of the plane and away from the abomination that is airplane “food”. I always try to eat local.
Nothing gives your tastebuds a workout quite like local cuisine. My favourite is the roadside stall. Since I do this a lot, I have a quick internal checklist I follow to make sure I find the best place the first time. Usually a flavour-filled portion of something exotic and tasty! Read through for my hints on how to eat well!
You are a volunteer who wants to change the world. To your friends and family you are one incredibly sexy beast. To the machinery of big-international relief and development agencies you are the problem.
We stand like cattle, shuffling forward, penned in by keepers in blue blazers, turn and turn again, awaiting the next stop.
As I walked towards the departures gate I saw a long line and a short line. The short line had the Global Entry logo and I knew my Nexus card would get me through. My moment of happiness turned bitter as the security guard pointed to the TSA pre clearance logo.
Confused? So was I. Anyways the guard at the line certainly wasn’t letting me through.
I returned to my line-up and my novel. Everyone needs a book when they travel. The line shuffled a step forward. After twenty long minutes of snaking back and forth I heard an urgent voice over my shoulder.
“Excuse me. I’m late. Do you mind if I cut in front?” Continue reading