In the summer of 2009, I did short video interviews with dozens of people at a food distribution to five war-affected communities in Eastern Congo. I asked the question ‘what does war mean to you?’ The answers they gave me addressed broad issues of dislocation and hunger, but they described conflict at a very local, very human level, it was powerful.
There is no way for me to really understand what it would feel like to escape with my life, to run terrified with my family as another militia swept in to take what little I owned. I can’t understand it, but I have met people who have lived it. I wanted to share four of their stories here:
Is racism killing black people in the US? I hope not, and as a Canadian, it is easy to pat myself on the back about our lack of racism when we watch our American neighbours implode every weekend with news about cops shooting another black kid. It made me wonder how racism in Canada affects me?
I was visiting family in Newfoundland when I began chatting with my father’s uncle, Bruce. That’s when I found out I was an Indian. It was a surprise.
When I travel, I only carry travel-on luggage. I never lose my bag. It saves me a tonne of time when I get to skip the luggage carousel. And now that most airlines charge you to check a bag, it also saves me money. If you want to know how to save time and money, this is all you need to know for what to pack in a carry-on.
1. Size Matters:
Get the largest size carry-on luggage (that still fits in the sizing device!) Soft-sided with an expandable zipper is best so you can always cram another sweater in.
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.
“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 How Steve Sold a Stove That No One Needed→
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.