Friday, June 22, 2007

A Letter of Inspiration from Mozambique

I don't normally feature works by religious organizations on the Blog, but this is a story of cooperation and innovation that I would like to pass along. I received it from AfricaFiles , and I believe that they got it from the London Conference of the United Church of Canada. Below is an excerpt from a letter sent from Mozambique by Karen and Bill Butt.

At the bottom of a mountain in the village of Molumbo, 49 teen-age school-girls are living in a lar, or residence. They're girls from isolated areas who've passed the last grade of their rural schools and want to continue their education. The lar began and is run by a group of local women who call themselves AMER (Portuguese acronym for Women's Association for Rural Education), each contributing whatever small amount each personally can. Three years ago they started with 12 girls sleeping in a hut on a dirt floor. Without the lar, the girls would have nowhere to live, and would leave school, to return to the life of subsistence farmers.

When PEDRA first came to work in Molumbo, the girls were hungry. AMER couldn't afford enough food, and hungry girls were leaving school, going back home. PEDRA called in the their parents, who rallied, and formed a Board with president, secretary and treasurer, who decided what each girls' parents could contribute to keep the lar going.

Now, after harvest, the parents give corn which the girls bring to the lar in sacks.

The governmento donated land and an abandoned army barrack where the girls now sleep. PEDRA put in doors and windows.

The parents banded together to fix the roof when it blew loose in a windstorm.

They built a dining room / study room with their handmade bricks, an open-walled kitchen, a store-room for food and bicycles, and a reed-and-bamboo fence around the compound to give the girls privacy - all with their volunteer labour and local materials.

With some help from PEDRA they hired a dedicated, diligent guard who said, If I had seeds the girls and I could put in a garden. They cleared the tall grass and planted, and now they grow a steady supply of sweet potato, cabbage, lettuce, beans and tomatoes, as you see in the web-site photo. [ photo attached to the letter posted at]

They sell surplus in Molumbo market, to buy salt and oil for cooking.

The girls planted trees-banana, citrus, eucalyptus. A rainstorm washed out some but others have grown much taller already than these growing girls.

PEDRA gave 4 guinea-fowl. Now they have 8, and keep on hatching more.

IBIS, a local Danish organization, visited the lar, admired, and donated a well and a pair of goats, and lessons in their care. Now the lar has bred 4 goats, with more on the way as they keep on reproducing.

Newly united, organized, articulate, the parents with help from CCM lobbied the district ministry of education, who has come to see the lar as a magnet for girls' education in the district. They lobbied the local Catholic priests, and now in a formerly empty Catholic schoolroom the government offers classes to Grade 9. In 2008, they'll add Grade 10.

Two half-days a week, with volunteer instructors and advisers, the girls take part in the PEDRA program of arts, crafts, educational enrichment and lessons about HIV-AIDS.

Here is a community of school-girls and their allies putting into practice what Jeremiah envisions. They continue to have ideas for the future. They would love a solar energy source so the girls can study at night, and bunk beds to get them off the cold floor. AMER and the parent committee continue to envision, and that is what is so important. It's truly a success, a solid community initiative that took root, and looks as if it'll keep on thriving.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I doubt if I need to tell any of my readers who Bono is. In fact, I don't think I even need to use his last name.

The great force in the fight against poverty and AIDS in the developing world has a lot going on this month. But I would like to draw attention to one of the things that he is doing, (and that will help to bring to light some of the other things that he is doing).

Bono has edited this month's (July - 207) edition of Vanity Fair Magazine. You may wonder why in the world is he doing that, and I think that it is best for him to explain what he is doing in his own words - that appear in the July 2007 edition of Vanity Fair.

Message 2U
From Bono
Vanity Fair Guest Editor
July 2007

Let me explain what I'm doing here, and there. By "there," I don't mean my day job as singer with Irish postpunk combo U2.

By "there," I mean DATA--the organization which campaigns on debt, aids, and trade in Africa.

By "there," I mean the ONE Campaign--which is becoming like the National Rifle Association in its firepower, but acts in the interests of the world's poor.

By "there," I mean (PRODUCT) RED--which piggybacks the excitement and energy of the commercial world to buy lifesaving AIDS drugs for Africans who cannot afford them.

And by "there," I mean Edun--the missus's clothing line that wants to inject some dignity through doing business with the continent where every street corner boasts an entrepreneur.

These all relate to the same place and the same idea: that Africa is the proving ground for whether or not we really believe in equality.

For example, we are witnessing a general desire and drift toward action on climate change, a very positive thing. But imagine for a moment that 10 million children were going to lose their lives next year due to the earth's overheating. A state of emergency would be declared, and you would be reading about little else. Well, next year, more than 10 million children's lives will be lost unnecessarily to extreme poverty, and you'll hear very little about it. Nearly half will be on the continent of Africa, where HIV/AIDS is killing teachers faster than you can train them and where you can witness entire villages in which the children are the parents. All over the world, countless children will die as a result of mosquito bites, dirty water, and diarrhea. It's not a natural catastrophe--it's a completely avoidable one. Diarrhea may be inconvenient in our house, but it's not a death sentence.

This is happening at a time of great geopolitical unrest. The majority of people in the world no longer idolize Western ideals of justice, freedom, and equality. They don't believe we believe in them. As a student and fan of this great country, America, and the ideas at the heart of it, I think the wider world needs to see a demonstration of those "American" values, through pharmacology, agro-ecology, and technological help for those in extreme circumstances, in their hour of need. These are dangerous times--it's cheaper and smarter to make friends of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them later. Ask the four-star general James L. Jones, former NATO commander and one link in the American chain of command who back in 2002 foresaw difficulties ahead in Iraq.

That's the context for what you could call a "swarm-of-bees strategy": ganging up on these problems from every side.

DATA is an advocacy and policy operation based in Washington, D.C., London, and Berlin and targeting the G-8 capitals.

The ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History is an umbrella group of different NGOs and grassroots activists from across the political spectrum who believe these issues are about justice, not charity. Nearly three million Americans so far have signed up for the ONE Campaign, pledging to help the world's poor. Soccer stars, soccer moms, NGOs and CEOs, punk-rockers and churchgoers--the only places that haven't been active are Main Street, the shopping malls.

So Bobby Shriver--chairman of DATA and a hero on the issue of debt cancellation, who sold an arcane economic issue to congressional members on both sides of the aisle--and I started (PRODUCT) RED, so called because red is the color of emergencies, and that is the only way to describe the aids pandemic. We believed that to ignore the neon and creative force afforded by corporate America would be to ignore the truth about where most Americans live and work. A few years ago I was with the great Robert Rubin, former U.S. Treasury secretary under President Clinton. He said if we are serious about our stuff we will have to improve on two fronts: (1) communicating to America the scale of the problem, and (2) convincing America that the problem can be solved. He added the challenge that we would need the kinds of marketing budgets Nike and Gap have at their disposal.

He was right. Without our corporate partners--American Express, Apple, Emporio Armani, Converse, Gap, and Motorola--we could never afford such bright neon, or the acres of bold billboarding. These companies are heroic (and--shock, horror--we want them to make money for their shareholders because that will make (RED) sustainable). In the project's first nine months, $25 million has gone directly from (RED) partners to the Global Fund, which grants money to health-care organizations around the world to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. That is more than Australia, Switzerland, and China contributed last year.

As you read this--historic--issue of Vanity Fair, the Global Fund is benefiting, but that's not the main reason we kidnapped this publication's extraordinary photographers and storytellers. We needed help in describing the continent of Africa as an opportunity, as an adventure, not a burden. Our habit--and we have to kick it--is to reduce this mesmerizing, entrepreneurial, dynamic continent of 53 diverse countries to a hopeless deathbed of war, disease, and corruption. Binyavanga Wainaina's piece on Kenya is an eye- and mind-opener. From here, what's needed is a leg up, not a handout. Targeted debt cancellation and aid mean 20 million more African kids are in school, 1.3 million Africans are on lifesaving drugs. Amazing.

So now I hope you better understand the "here," i.e., my signing up as guest editor.

Lastly, I've always imagined that if I hadn't been a singer I would have been a journalist. But, in truth, my bandmates saved me from disappointment, as I'm no natural editor. The fact that we have 20 covers for one issue bears testament to that. I am flat out of hyperbole to describe Annie Leibovitz--a devoted mother who set out on a world tour to photograph these cover stars--and inchoate in the company of such a team of wordsmiths and image-makers. And then there's Graydon, a true rock star. (Checklist: mad hair, natty dresser, de rigueur unrepentant smoking, etc. I looked like his manager.) He is the dramatist that we've been looking for. By the way, he tried to change the name of our band to 2U--it was his last defense against my challenge to call this issue Fair Vanity.


You can find this statement by Bono online as well as more information about (RED) and ONE at this (RED) SITE .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


WaterAid is an international charity whose mission is to overcome poverty by enabling the world's poorest people to gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.

WaterAid's envisions a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation and they aim to help one million people gain access to water and one million gain access to sanitation every year.

As a part of their mission, WaterAid has been working in Zambia since 1992. Below is their description of their work there.

WaterAid in Zambia

WaterAid first received requests for assistance during the severe 1992-4 drought. A country office was set up in Monze District in 1994 and WaterAid began work in the Southern Province.

This semi-arid region, with an average annual rainfall of just 70cm, suffers from water shortages and droughts. With few reliable water points, women and children have no choice but to walk miles every day to collect water which is usually dirty and unsafe.

This, coupled with the fact that only a small fraction of people in the province have access to latrines, means that water and sanitation related diseases are prevalent.

WaterAid first began work with the Department of Health in 1995 in a programme of hand-dug well and latrine construction, community mobilisation, education and training.

In 1996 the Government established a new water policy calling for urban water services to be privatised and rural projects to be community owned and managed.

It also stated that sanitation and hygiene promotion should be integrated with water projects.

This policy, known as WASHE (water, sanitation, hygiene education), is put into practice by district committees called DWASHE made up of district departments, including those responsible for health, water and community development, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and donor agencies based in the district.

WaterAid supports the WASHE concept and had been working to develop the skills and capacity of D-WASHE committees to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene education.

To increase its role nationally and promote more coordination with others involved in water and sanitation WaterAid moved its head office to the capital Lusaka in 2000.

WaterAid has since expanded its operations to seven districts, five of which are in the Southern Province (Monze, Siavonga, Namwala, Itezhitezhi and Kazungula) while the other two are Kafue in Lusaka Province and Kaoma in Western Province.

Until April 2005, WaterAid was working in partnership with D-WASHE committees in five of these districts while in the two others (Monze and Kazungula) WaterAid signed agreements with partners from the Department of Health.

In 2004 the Zambian government reaffirmed that local authorities are responsible for rural water supply with non governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector involved in implementing projects.

To support this change WaterAid now works with both local authorities and a range of partners including NGOs and small scale private contractors such as well technicians, latrine builders and pump mechanics who work directly with communities.

WaterAid and its partners have recently changed from the model village approach to the 'focus area' approach. In the first partners worked to ensure everyone in one village gained access to safe water, sanitation and good hygiene and this 'model village' was then used as a showcase, in the hope that other communities would emulate the scheme.

In the 'focus area' a wider area in a district is covered. This approach reaches a large number of villages making it easier to plan and monitor activities and provide support so that all villages gain equal benefits from the projects.

The most appropriate and affordable water technology has been hand-dug wells; however, this is changing as falling water tables have meant that WaterAid is also drilling boreholes too. We are now exploring the rope pump as another suitable technology option.

WaterAid is also working with partners to introduce composting latrines as one of a range of latrine options in Zambia. These latrines safely use human waste to benefit local agriculture by creating a renewable source of fertile compost.


Friday, June 01, 2007

How to Choose the Right Online Volunteering Assignment

Many people have asked me about choosing an online volunteer project. Here are some notes from the UN's Online Volunteering web site that may help you choose a project if you are looking for one. These guidelines are specific to the U.N.'s program, but they hold true for online volunteering in general. There is more at the U.N.'s site than I have prented here, and to find out more, use the link found at the end of this article.

A key to success in Online Volunteering is in choosing the assignments that are appropriate to your skills, interests and availability.

Use your answers to these questions to guide you in choosing organizations and assignments:

Why do you want to volunteer, in general?
What do you hope to gain and give by volunteering?
What kind of organization(s) or programs do you want to help?

What sort of services and assistance would you like to provide -- building a web site for an organization, doing online research, mentoring a young person via the Internet, visiting virtually with someone who is home bound?
Do you want to volunteer for something that uses the skills you apply in your paid work or at school, or do you want to do something completely different?
What types of things are you good at (and like to do)?
These can be professional skills or even hobbies and recreational talents. Almost every type of skill is needed somewhere.
What DON'T you want to do as a volunteer?
What organizations have you volunteered with before, on or offline? What did you like and dislike about those experiences?
What is your availability for assignments? (do you want to work during a set time of day? for a certain amount of days, weeks, or months?
On our service, you can search for Online Volunteering activities in two ways -- by the kinds of Online Volunteering Assignments available and by the kind of work the organization engages in. Whichever way you choose, keep your answers to the above questions in mind when looking for an assignment.

You may need to do many different kinds of searches, narrowing or expanding your search many times so that you can find a range of opportunities to apply for. There are thousands of organizations on our Online Volunteering service, representing many, many different geographic areas and types of assignments. New organizations and opportunities are added daily.

When you choose an organization and an assignment that interests you, you will go through a registration process to capture information about your skills, interests and availability. Your information is then sent directly to the organization that posted the volunteering opportunity. UNV does not review applications by volunteers. Also, please note that submission of your information does not guarantee you will be considered or placed as an online volunteer.

If the organization would like you to take on the assignment, a staff person from that agency will contact you. However, please note that online volunteering is very, very new to most NGOs, and many are still getting used to working with online volunteers. In your member page within our service, the assignments you applied for are automatically listed

U.N. Online Volunteering