Jambo to Action Aid Tanzania

Over the years I’ve  been conscious that much of the information we get about Africa is mediated by Western voices.  But here is an initiative that let’s us hear voices from on the ground.  In this case it is the folks from Action Aid in Tanzania, who’ve started a new blog called Jambo Tanzania.

It’s always nice to check out a blog whose first post starts:

To all peace loving people we welcome you to our blog in pursuit of a better world.

Rose Mushi, Albert Jimwaga & Abdul Kajumulo have bravely stepped out & are sharing ideas and experiences on their new blog.

Another thing that Action Aid are fund raising for is their new blog outreach program. The program started in Tanzania last week and this is a great initiative by an Australian NGO using social media to reach out.

Check out the details here & support this innovative initiative that will give a voice to real people who are working to solve real problems.

Bushfire evacuation madness

I have been watching the Victorian Royal Commission into the tragic bushfires earlier in 2009 with great interest.  Probably with more interest than the average observer since I live in a wooden house in a very small suburb surrounded by bushland national parks.

A recent article notes the potential role for social networking like Facebook, Twitter in new bushfire policy. This is an interesting move. It would definitely enable ordinary people to obtain up-to-date & relevant information more easily.

But the real thrust of this article is that the government wants people to leave early. This is a very hard thing to know.

One of the most prominent things in my memory of living through a large and dangerous bushfire is how little information is available. Nobody can tell you where the fire is coming from or where is likely to go. Once during the bushfires of 2002 we even had a Sydney suburban fire truck pull up at our house to ask where the fire was. Up until now even the fire fighting authorities have not had access to good information.

When do you go & how do you know when to leave? Example, a few years ago on a very hot summer day four friends visited my house for a BBQ . As our lunch progressed the temperature soared to about 40 degrees C. At about 3pm our friends decided to leave and jumped into the their cars for the 40 minute trip back to Sydney.

Just after we had tidied up we received a phone call from one of our friends – they were stuck in a major traffic jam on the F3 (the major road from the north into Sydney) due to a bushfire a few suburbs away. We had not even known that there was a large bushfire burning only 10 minutes drive away from our house.

That traffic jam lasted for about four hours until the fire was controlled sufficiently for our friends and the other motorists to drive through.

The other experience we had was during the 2002 fires when our town was cut off by bushfires for three days without power (so no radio, phone, etc.) and by the time we found out about the fire it had already cut off the roads and we could not leave.

Based on my experience bushfire evacuations have the following issues that need to be overcome:

1) it is hard to know when it is time to evacuate
2) it is hard to know if it is safe to evacuate in a particular direction
3) it is hard to know if there is a fire threatening your area
4) nobody knows what is going on & there is no single authoritative and up-to-date source of information
5) once the power goes out all the other issues are multiplied significantly

Based on the Victorian experience it looks to me like some kind of community refuge is imperative for our town. I will definitely be discussing it with our neighbours.

Here is a real school in need

In real contrast to my old high school (as discussed in yesterday’s post) here is a school that really needs donations.

Kilimani village secretary Juma Hassan lila Kalibu shows off the new computer room at their school
Kilimani village secretary Juma Hassan lila Kalibu shows off the new computer room at their school

As my friend Stilgherrian describes: “This is Juma Hassan lila Kalibu, secretary of Kilimani village in Zanzibar, showing off the village school’s new computer room. As you can see, it has no computers. Or electricity. Or desks. Or chairs. Or anything, really.”

Unlike my old school (which has excellent computer facilities, swimming pool, etc.) here is a school that does not even have the basics.

One of the big drivers in improving living conditions across an entire society is education.  Basic literacy is one of the foundations of a civil society, and technology is a key enabler of innovation.

It would be great to see all schools with access to technology together with basic literacy tools.

Check out the Action Aid website for ways to help.

Charity, donations and community

Just got the annual letter from my old high school. As an ex-student they reach out annually to ask me for money. That’s pretty much all I hear from them. There’s no attempt to stay in touch or to create a sense of community.

They might be doing more, but I’m on their mailing list for donation requests and I don’t get any other correspondence from them!  They don’t even write back to say what the money was used for or enumerate the results of the programs it funds.

It appears that on the basis of a few years acquaintance a long time ago they think it’s alright to just ask me for money without any preliminaries or attempts at conversation. And that is really quite presumptuous of them!

Sure it’s an admirable thing to give a tax deductible donation to the College Scholarship & Bursary Fund so a young woman can have an Australian private school education. But why would I bother giving money to them when they don’t even bother with foreplay?

On the other hand the WSPA stay in touch with me often, ask me to get involved, find out what I think about issues as well as asking for donations.

I feel like I have a stronger relationship, or a deeper level of engagement, with the WSPA than with my old school. And, when making the decision on where to allocate my charity dollar, the organisation with which I feel an affinity is going to win.

Also, since I suspect that children living on the lower north shore of Sydney* could probably survive an education in one of the local state schools, it looks that some of my money is going to the animals instead.

* For those not from round here, Sydney’s lower north shore is a relatively wealthy region with a median house price of $1.03M post GFC.