We should spend more on Education!!

Harisen’s mail and pics from Mzuzu today had an added bonus pic.
From this distance I feel so sad, although when I get out there on Oct 24, I know we can motivate the community to inprove things.
Harisen writes:
On my way back from Mzgola, I came across this school.
The name of the school is Luvuwu Primary School.
It has 251 pupils; class one up to class seven only.
Two qualified teachers, Ison Ntambo on the picture who is also a head teacher, and Penjani Kaira.
They also have two volunteers who come at their own wish as said by the head teacher.
Names of volunteers are Lodrick Mlungu and Maria Chipeta.

At this moment I am listening to one of my favourite singer/songwriters Karine Polwart, an answer maybe
http://www.myspace.com/karinepolwart : Click on Better Things.

Maybe it’s an evening for a Rant, but Karine does it so well that I’ll let her tell you about the song Better Things

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Imagine you have your own country to run with a surplus budget of around £25 billion to spend on making it a better, safer, happier place for its people. What could you do with it? Well, in Scotland you could train and employ 120,000 new nurses every year for ten years or 60,000 teachers every year for twenty years. You could create vast new areas of employment for scientists, engineers, construction workers and planners to create free low environmental impact public transport networks or ingenious high-tech sustainable alternative power sources that drastically reduce our contribution to global warming.

What would you do?

Well, the current British Government and the main Westminster opposition parties appear determined to sanction the use of no less than £25 billion over the next two decades to develop and build a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines and missiles in the alleged interests of our national security. The current Trident fleet of four submarines, based at Faslane on the River Clyde, holds sufficient missile warheads, each ten times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, to obliterate the whole of Europe. But it’s all going to stop working around twenty years or so from now, the Government warns us, so we need to start the job of replacing it with something better.

What does “better” mean here?

The point, after all, we’re told, is not to actually use these weapons, but to possess them in order to prevent their possible future use by others. At least, that used to be the logic. In reality, our Government’s policy now, by the back door, contemplates for the first time the possible first strike use of nuclear weapons as tactical instruments of war. We’re not just talking about deterrent here. And in any case, as far as deterrence goes, deter whom precisely? Even the Government’s own defence strategists predict that the major threat to the national security of Western Europe and North America (apart from our own collective impact on the environment) in coming years is likely to come not from stable but hostile nation states, but from independent cross border networks with their own agendas and methods. I’m not sure why exactly such fluid and self-contained organisations or cells, populated by those for whom, it seems, death is no deterrent, should be worried by our own nuclear weapons. Except, of course, that the likelihood of them obtaining their own is increased.

But this is all pragmatic talk, of course, these questions of funding priorities and the effectiveness of military strategies. Bottom line, how can it be wrong to use WMDs but okay to own them and threaten to use them? Notwithstanding that many of the weapons we own that don’t even count as official WMDs, are destructive enough as it is on the ground if you’re on the receiving end …

The progress of Iran’s nuclear programme brings a tiny sliver of this issue to the top our international news this weekend. But when I hear someone talking about that elite wee club called “the recognised nuclear powers” it makes me ask: “Recognised by whom?” All that recognition means is, “We’re the ones who got there first” and “We don’t want you in our club”. It doesn’t seem to me like a defensible ethical or tactical position.

The core problem of all technological development, of course, is that almost every beneficial advance to human understanding or medical science gives birth to its own nemesis. But that’s not a technological problem. It’s a problem of ethics, politics, human psychology and imagination. How about more money, time and energy spent on that too?

On Thursday night I performed at a Bin The Bomb Roadshow event in the lovely St John’s Episcopal Church on Princes Street in Edinburgh. It was part of a week-long series of events campaigning against the commissioning of a new nuclear weapons programme by the UK Government, which culminated in a mass rally in George Square in Glasgow yesterday. For a writer who’s supposed to be engaging in social and political issues I confess it’s been some time since I’ve felt involved or engaged in an active campaign for or against anything. That whole business of the Iraq war that went ahead anyway kinda knocked the wind out of me, and many others too, I guess. And it’s so easy to view peace protests as endearingly na..ve but pointless; somehow too simple and non-pragmatic.

Yep, too easy.

Whatever your views on this, please find out all you can so that in twenty years time, if we haven’t gone too far already, you can at least be sure that you decided something and didn’t just let it happen, out of sightlines. And if you live in Scotland give some thought to the elections coming in May. Although defence and military spending is a reserved Westminster matter, the transportation of weapons and other essential logistical matters are Scottish Executive responsibilities and there are some cheeky and creative legal moves afoot to scupper London plans … Meantime, the Scottish National Party, Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity Party are all opposed to the new Trident programme.

Anyway, rant over. It’s all a preamble to this song, which I wrote on Thursday for the event that took place that night. And this from me who says, “songs should speak for themselves”, eh? It’s still a work in progress (I’m not too sure about particles and articles as a rhyming couplet) but there’s something there I hope. It came from somewhere real and it came quickly.

Who Cares. Does anyone care. Have we lost our way. Who can do anything.?
I can do something about the school, What about the rest of you?

Help our friends in Burma

Dear friends,

Clicking below will add your name to this petition to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:
“We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed.”

Find this link to sign:


The Burmese protests are widening, the international response is building–and the Burmese generals are panicking. Today the Burmese junta banned gatherings of more than 5, and sent thousands of troops to take control of the street — but still the monks and protesters march. Desperate officers have beaten, tear-gassed and fired on their own people, reportedly shooting five monks in Rangoon.

The next 36 hours are crucial. Leaders have called an emergency session of the UN Security Council–but only a decisive initiative will prevent a massacre like the one from 1988. Already 85,000 people from 192 countries have signed our emergency global petition.Please click the link below to sign (a single click will add your name), then send this email to others so they can too–we’ll send the updated petition to the Chinese government and the UN Security Council members every day:


We’re calling for UN powers–above all China, which holds the economic strings of the Burmese regime–to apply decisive pressure now to stop the violence, and to broker a peaceful transition. If they fail to do this, the massacres will be sudden.

The protesters have declared they will not back down. The Burmese have showed their courage. The scenes fill our television screens–now the world must act.


In hope,

Paul, Ricken, Graziela, Ben, Galit and the whole Avaaz team
Avaaz.org is staffed by a global team of campaigners operating on 3 continents.

An Interim Report


Dear friends, Donors and Supporters in general,

Since the beginning of the year a lot has happened, we have met amazing people, in and outside Malawi, got phenomenal support, partnered with excellent groups, and in general made significant progress.

From the beginning we have realized that the greatest need in remote rural villages is clean drinking water as a first priority. We have found

• that they will and can work hard to achieve this,
• that the Chiefs make land available to us when required,
• that the women of Malawi are the most positive people you could meet despite the ravages of hunger, ill health, aids, poverty and lack of education,
• that small help can utterly change their lives for the good,
• that they can build dams, store water, irrigate, grow food and become self sufficient with a little help and affirmation, seeds and support, and zero interest micro credit,
• that they want to be independent and make their own decisions,
• that they want the dignity of ownership,
• that they want to succeed and with a little help from all of us we know that they can.


Wells for Zoë is a small, Irish, sustainable development organisation, formed in 2005.
Founded by ourselves, John and Mary Coyne, Lucan, Co. Dublin, it was initially funded and driven by ourselves and the family. We came up with a concept, investigated its viability and got it up and running.

Since the beginning of 2007 we have a charitable status, Ref 17275, people have been generous, funding has come from everywhere, and we continue to pay all expenses, So 100% of all donations gets all the way to the projects, no expenses or deductions.

Our Mission
Our objective is to benefit small communities in Northern Malawi by improving sustainable access to adequate quantities of safe domestic water, using hand pumps, and by enhancing access to dry season water for productive purposes, using appropriate rainwater harvesting techniques and irrigation technologies.

Our Philosophy
Because we believe in the dignity of ownership, we operate on the principal of a “Hand up without Handouts”.
We believe in encouraging people to rediscover their visionary dreams and support them in achieving them.

We believe that Malawi’s problems will not be solved with more and more money, but by a good neighbour syndrome supported by appropriate seeds and simple technology.

We believe that clean water is the first step on the development ladder, and when supported by simple irrigation and organic farming, people can become self sufficient.

We believe in a holistic, cooperative, village, step-by-step approach.

We also believe that storing water and planting trees can impact on local microclimates.

An approach to Development which we aspire to comes from Lao Tsu, China , 700 B.C.

Go with the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Love them.
Start with what they know
Build on what they have
But as with the best leaders:
When the job is done, the task accomplished’
The people will say
“We have done this by ourselves”

Where we work
We work in remote, rural villages around Mzuzu in Northern Malawi and initially where St John of God Mental Health Services have their outreach clinics.

We are now expanding to villages who have seen our projects and want the same.

At present we work with, in excess of, 40 villages.

How we work
Villagers now know that we are focused on clean water so they tell us or write a proposal. What we need is a list of villages, family numbers, existing wells and their status, other water sources, depths and distances.

We evaluate, prioritise and meet their committees, where we fully explain our philosophy.

We find working through the traditional authorities, the chiefs, gets the best results. But as with everything, villages vary and we try and find the best fit. The plan for each village or area is fluid so that it fits the particular situations and can be altered as required. We want a plan to fit the people, not the other way round, as seems to happen.
We survey the wells and decide a starting point.

We then get agreement from the chief to donate a portion of land for the village garden.
Profits from the garden makes a substantial contribution towards the cost of the pumps and dams and inputs over time, and helps to set up their micro credit schemes.


Clean Water
Our primary focus is on providing clean drinking water to remote rural villagers, using a unique plastic pump, which will be manufactured in Mzuzu from (When we get Planning Permission) 2007 at a cost of €1 per person for life.

All the machines, tools, pipe and equipment are assembled in a container in Newcastle, UK, awaiting the green light

Water is rarely stored in Malawi, where they grow one rain fed crop per year, mainly maize.

We are continuing to develop simple methods of dam construction, using concrete, bricks or soil to store water and simple channels to distribute it in the dry season, enabling three harvests a year.

Organic Farming
The cost of fertilizer is beyond the poor farmer.
All our work in villages is based on the premise that everyone digs-in and composts. No compost no help. We also use planting to control pests.

Micro Credit
Because I feel hand outs are intrinsically wrong, we have started a programme of a zero interest credit scheme, with loans for chickens and vegetables, for market, in a co-op, formed 3 years ago, in seven adjoining villages. The area is Ekaiweni area about 15 km from Mzuzu, with a co-op who are working together for the past three years, without any external resources

The group consists of 22 women and 8 men, who were given some lands by the chiefs in order to avert starvation. They come together daily and, half of their produce is for themselves and the rest helps to feed the aged and the orphans.

The maximum loan is about 20€ and they cooperate to borrow more. Our first venture was to get 50 day old chicks for a group of four villagers. They got a two day on the job training course with Harisen, and these chickens are being looked after like prize racehorses!

Other villagers are learning the process now with a view to expansion. The deal is that you borrow the exact amount needed for the time allowed to go to market (7 weeks for chickens), you pay back and borrow again, if you want. One woman has borrowed €2 to grow Irish potatoes! There is a group responsibility for loan repayment.

To get into the scheme you must be producing compost and farming organically. If you want to get chickens you must be growing soya.

We are building links with the Forestry Department, in Mzuzu University to help promote tree planting. We have planted about 20,000 to date and hope to reach 100,000 this year. Mainly Acacia for firewood and poles, but we are researching Moringa and Jatropha for oil and medicines.

Trying to get academics involved in practical work is always difficult, but progress is being made.

New Director of Operations
Since June 1st we have a new man in Malawi. His name is Harisen Amin and he looks after the day to day business on the ground. He is a 29 year old Malawian and is married to Charity with a five fear old daughter Fatima. And he is truly amazing.

He can drive, takes excellent pictures, is an expert on chickens and has now fitted his first pump. He is a quick learner and an excellent teacher. Everyone likes him which is assisted by the constant smile on his face. He has a great attitude to and relationship with the village women and children, which is an absolutely vital part of the Wells for Zoë system. Attitude to women in Malawi needs serious improvement and since we see women as the future hope for the country, Harisen is the ideal man.

In our absence he has introduced the Micro Credit scheme and Fish farming and learns something new every day. He has a great and developing business brain, which he is using for the greater good. He has the respect and admiration of the chiefs and very importantly he is not seen as a soft touch.

Those of you who have been following our daily news slot on the photographic website, http://www.blipfoto.com/wellsforzoe will be aware of his achievements and of course his pictures.

Fish Farming
Like everything Wells for Zoë do, this again is a one step at a time progression. The villagers in Sonda have a dam for their irrigation program. So Harisen decided to get 400 small Chambo from the Fisheries, and install them in the dam. These fish, found only in Malawi are doing fine on waste maize husks and should be ready to eat in six months. Others are waiting anxiously to see how things go.

If the fish project is a success, we will add it to our micro credit scheme as an option.

Pump Factory
The site is acquired, the plans are drawn, and we are ready to go. We hope it will be ready before the end of the year.

Richard Cansdale and his crew have loaded all the tools and equipment into a container outside Newcastle, UK and we are filling the 7 cubic metres remaining with other donated items.

The Rotary Club of Clonmel have agreed to fund the building and equipping of the factory and the necessary start up training. They are amazing people and we are so thankful to them for their generosity in raising the €40,000 needed.

The Jeeps
The story began, when Irish times Journalist and Author, John Waters, took a trip to Malawi, in April last, to report on a water project in some of the most remote and poorest areas on the globe.

The project funded and driven by fellow Rossies (well on from Mayo by 100 yards) had intrigued him, and he wanted to see if two people could made any perceptible difference in a place with such obvious need. His Irish Times article relates what he found in this almost forgotten backwoods of our global community.

On his return he got in touch with the Irish Army and within a flash they had agreed, with the consent of the Department of Defence to donate 3 Army Jeeps to the project, granted 1997 models with zillions of miles on the clock. If we had got them from the Air Corps, maybe the transport issue may be solved (!!), but now we have to get them to Malawi, where they will be given a whole new lease of life. So, now, the real fun begins. It looks like we will drive to Southampton, get a ferry to Durban and do a little toddle through, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and then just another little run of 1000Km up by lake Malawi to Mzuzu.

The project is at the planning stage, and any ideas, offers of help (be they physical, intellectual, monetary, logistic or other) would be greatly appreciated.

Drip Irrigation
Chapin Living Waters have agreed to support us with our research programme in drip irrigation.

Richard Chapin writes:
Dear John
Thank you for your email, we are partnering with over 2,000 organizations in more than 150 countries, by helping the poorest of the poor to be able to grow vegetables when there is no rain.
I understand the conditions in Mzuzu, as I have been there.
If a lady can get 10 gallons of water daily, she can grow enough vegetables for a small family (she may have to walk 2 miles to get the water).
Thank you for all you are doing for the people of Malawi.
In His service,
Richard D. Chapin

David A. Bender, Ph. D. (Horticulture) Vice President and General Manager Seeds writes:
Hello John,
Thank you for checking out the Seed Programs Inc. website.
With each seed shipment we include a gardening booklet that has step-by-step instructions on how to develop a vegetable garden. The booklet includes a page of instructions for each topic, and a simple picture that can be used by instructors in teaching gardening classes. We can also provide some additional materials and advice if requested. One of our volunteer experts who advises us on international programs is a native of Malawi, and spent 30 years in the vegetable seed industry in Africa and other international locations. He has a wealth of knowledge about vegetable gardening, and a particularly keen interest in Malawi. He also could be of great help in setting up a seed bank, as he managed vegetable seed production in Africa. If you are interested, we could put you in contact with him as a resource for your project.
We are very interested in your project. Your water pumps and systems are making a great contribution to the people of Malawi. Obviously, water is essential for food production, especially vegetables. As you expand your agricultural programs, we would be happy to work with you in any way we can. Let us know how we can partner in improving the lives and nutrition of those in need.

Hi John,
We usually have tomato seeds and a few odds and ends we can donate–send a request on letterhead from your organization to 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO, 65704 attention: Myrna. That way you can save your money for the nitrogen-fixing plants and shrubs.

Caitríona and Mark
Our next door neighbour, Caitríona married Mark on Friday last. The guests had such a wonderful time at the reception that they donated a large heap of money to Wells for Zoë. I’m not allowed to say how much but if this is used for clean drinking water, up to 2000 people will be drinking the cleanest water they ever tasted in the New Year.

Harisen Amin Meets the Government Irrigation people
Harisen Amin, our man in Malawi, gave a presentation to a group of 70 farmers, on the work of Wells for Zoë in the Mzuzu area. The conference was hosted by a Japanese delegation and attended by 4 government irrigation people.

Harisen writes:
We had a good day in Enyezini. The presentation was nice about 70 farmers from different areas came and it was agreed by all that Sonda was the example of best irrigation system as well as compost making.
Their teaching was about canal irrigation , how to make canals with local materials, and composting that’s why we were an example to others. I was given a chance to address the farmers , and I introduced Wells For Zoe to the farmers, and explained how we approach our work. I brought 4 guys from Sonda with me.
They organisers, from the Goverment, have promised to visit Sonda regularly.


Every time I get a new message I feel I’m missing all the fun!!

I often worry about the value of some volunteering work where people collect money to go on a holiday, more or less. But I have no worries if people spend their own money to do anything they want. I have great hope for the idea of Volunteerisms, where people go to Malawi under their own steam, have their holiday and spend a few days helping out. In fact we are positively promoting the idea. At the moment we are seeking Planning permission to build accommodation for Volunteers.

If someone wishes to try out what we do, we can bring them to real villages with real projects and offer them a chance to get their hands dirty. If they can cope and would like to do more, there is endless work to be dome and everyone can make a contribution.

We can also put together a type of franchise, where we will help anyone to copy our system and run with it. In fact we would hope to expand in this way, in order to serve more and more villages. No big organization, just many little ones working together, in a structured and sensible manner and thus avoiding the headless chicken syndrome.

This year we had four amazing real volunteers:

Ian Sutton is a post grad student from Waterford who is doing a Master’s in Cranfield University, Bedford, UK. His thesis among other things concerns well drilling using a selection of techniques. He has become a legend in Mzuzu, not only because of his knowledge on a whole range of matters, but his strength and ability to work. He has brought our water project to a whole new level. Everyone is delighted that he came but very sad to see him go home. The pictures suggest that all the women loved him, and no wonder.

Caitríona Coyne took up where her mother left off, with the special school and the Street children for the Month of June. It took her about two minutes to settle in. Then it was fun and games and work, more work, even homework and they all loved it. She visited villages, did some hoeing, got relieved of her digging duties!!, brought seeds and goodies and generally did the tour of duty and was constantly amazed at how hard the people worked. Official Malawian title: Kart

Caitríona O’Connor who also teaches in Our Lady’s in Templeogue, is a Kerry woman, who took on a fulltime job as soon as she arrived, filling in a maternity leave duty. She worked in the Home Ec. department teaching an amazing array of skills to the group of challenged youngsters in the catering section. The likes of the cooking was never seen before and in the process she has become an expert on nsima, the staple diet of Malawi. She also did the tour of duty in the villages. Official Malawian title: Katie

Kevin Brennan is a Mayo man and teaches engineering in Castleknock Community College. He had a wide range of positions, including; teaching computer skills in the school and the prison! and working with the woodwork trainees in the SJOG workshops. Of course sport got a great boost on his arrival, and the local soccer team is flying ever since. Gaelic football is progressing, but they’re not ready for the championship yet (well maybe in Connacht). He did much of his work in the villages, working with Harisen on dams, fish farming, irrigation and the likes. Officially known as Kelvin, he has become a legend in his time.

All four intend to return, for longer, next year, plus a few additional members. What they have done to lift spirits and affirm the village women is immeasurable. Thank you all on our own behalf and on behalf of the poorest of the poor.

Can Malawi feed itself?. Of Course it can.

Yes, Malawi can feed itself—through a
sustainable agriculture revolution

From an article By Amadou Makhtar Diop

Saw a piece on the RTE News last night, about a Conference on Malawi where Michael Kitt TD spoke,and felt I had to respond, to myself at least, on a lot of big words I heard uttered: like Millenium Goals, ahead of the curve, expanding envelopes.
The Millenium Goals for the developing world are long since set in train so why now?. What have all these words to do with “my” poor, starving farmers in Northern Malawi. What will an expensive Conference in Malawi achieve? Why can’t we just go and do things for a change?

Over many thousands of years, Africans farmers have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge about their environment. Will any of them be asked what they think or what they will take on board?
Organic agriculture is considered a sustainable option in developing countries because it offers a unique combination of low external-input technology, environmental conservation and input/output efficiency. In Malawi, only isolated organic farming techniques are practiced. There is a general lack of an integrated approach to soil regeneration and crop protection which would otherwise optimize the benefits of locally available natural resources.
The Green Revolution in its time boosted yields in Asia’s rice-based systems through hybrid varieties and applied crop-protection materials, but is not sustainable
Does Malawi need another yield-focused, high-external input Green Revolution?: the answer is “No!”
What Malawi needs is a sustainable agriculture revolution that focuses on food security, fair trade with local markets and ecological standards that make sense to farmers. Successful integration of plants and animals can result in positive interactions and optimize biological processes, such as the regulation of harmful organisms, recycling of nutrients, biomass production and the build-up of soil organic matter.
Declining soil fertility is the greatest problem affecting Malawian farmers’ ability to produce enough food for their families. Farmers of the developing world tend to prefer more resilient systems that build on traditional management techniques over costly high-tech production systems. Ordinary farmers can’t afford expensive fertilizer and the Country can’t afford to continue subsidizing a failed and unbalanced system, which causes progressive depletion of the soil. Nature will always prevail.
Soil regeneration is key to sustainable development, where the loss of soil organic matter contributes to a rapid decline of soil fertility, degradation of soil structure and increased risk of erosion. In developing countries, food production could be doubled or tripled through the use of organic methods by intensifying biological activity through increasing diversification.
The role of women is crucial in agricultural production and for improved livelihood. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, 31 percent of rural households are headed by women, despite the fact that women have less access to land than men. When women own land, their holdings tend to be smaller and located in more marginal areas. In most of the countries surveyed by the FAO, there has been some growth in the number of non-governmental organizations and women’s associations involving or working with rural women.
What is needed are community-based systems of cooperative family farms, organized to market for local and regional distribution and re-integrating livestock wherever feasible term rehabilitative approach
Malawi needs a systemic approach to both restore its ecosystems and to produce enough food sustainably for its people.
Yes,it can feed itself and at the same time preserve its natural resources and the environment. To make this happen, the following steps must take place:
• Give up on a failed top down approach and involve the farmers.
• Establish sustainable agriculture programs in co operation with farmers.
• Adopt farming systems with a focus on preserving biodiversity, natural resource management and soil fertility improvement based on sound ecological principles.
• Set up local open fertilized seed banks and subsidise seed production
• Intensify crop and animal production without the use of industrially produced chemical fertilizers.
• Offer farmer-centered technical training in sustainable farming techniques.
• Identify, improve and expand the best traditional agricultural practices.
• Optimize irrigation and management of water resources.
• Support women in agriculture.
• Protect African nations from foreign dumping of food commodities and cheap food imports that destabilize regional farm communities.
• Create access to practical information, land, infrastructure, credit and markets.
• Use practical farmer to farmer training methods, thereby reducing an external, alien, top down and academic approach

WE know all this already: but why are so few Government Agencies or Aid Agencies promoting this?

The Letter Home: A possible Formula?

The Letter home: A possible Formula

In many nations across Africa, the institutions we in the West take for granted are entirely absent. The people of these places are not incompetent. They are the same as us. Without the rule of law, private property rights and an infrastructure for basic transportation, water, electricity and phones, we too would be a broken, diseased and starving people.
Africa’s horrors are not solved by sending aid. The word ‘aid’ sounds kindly, even generous. It is pernicious. It often props up the dodgy regimes. At best, aid breeds a dependency culture; at worst it funds barbarism, but never brings out the best in us.

For some time now I have been watching the progress of an extra ordinary man, Jean Béliveau.
On August 18th, 2000, at 9:00 am, he left Montreal, Canada. His goal is to walk around the planet to promote “Peace and non-violence to the profit of the children of the world”. He is travelling alone with a three wheeled stroller to carry a bit of food, his clothing, a First Aid kit, a small tent and a sleeping bag. Jean plans to walk across all the continents, from North America to South America, then across to South Africa, up to Europe, then the Middle East, South and Eastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand and finally back to Canada.
This journey will take 12 years to complete which is in accordance with the United Nations proclamation: 2001-2010 – International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.
I find the following piece very interesting especially in terms of my quest to discover how the people of the West of Ireland developed out of the direst poverty in the aftermath of the Famine and how the money in the letter home affected this development.
It comes from the Charity Intelligent Giving a small, not-for-profit company in London with backgrounds in journalism and research. They are independently financed and run, not linked to any charity or government TREKKER EXTRAORDINAIRE JEAN BELIVEAU is on the sixth year of his travels and, having just passed through London, he’s halfway round the world. He’s seen many things and spoken to many people on his travels through the Americas and Africa – and he has clear opinions about giving.

“I am often asked if I am doing the walk for charity and it annoys me,” he says. He’s clear about his status: “I am walking as a pilgrim walks, in my case to make the world aware of the UN’s International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for Children.”
“They are smart people and they don’t need foreigners to tell them what’s best.”
He explains: “The condition of children affects me a lot, and in difficult situations – natural disasters or human conflict – it is imperative that their basic needs are fulfilled. Which makes it very important to support the right charity.”
But he believes deeply that old-fashioned aid is bad news for the developing world. “We have encouraged a dependency culture in Africa that takes away peoples’ dignity,” he says. “From my many conversations with ordinary Africans, I believe that their countries would be better off if we stopped giving them handouts. They are smart people and they don’t need foreigners to tell them what’s best.”

He concedes that in these days of globalisation and climate change, it’s difficult to be pure about this concept, and in emergency situations, there may be no alternative. But, in general, “there has to be a better way,” he insists.
“The money is honestly earned and it is sent straight to where the need is.”
His suggestion is simple, but unusual. Instead of giving to charities, he wants you to give direct to people in need – through their relatives in Britain.

“In most cases these people work very hard and live very humbly so they can save up and send the money back home,” he says. “The money is honestly earned and it is sent straight to where the need is. It is spent with pride because it has more value: it is earned by a member of the family.”

He has witnessed the recipient effect in Africa. The money is used at village level. It helps pay for food, education, healthcare, job creation – just like money from international aid agencies.

He insists, “If you buy from workers from immigrant communities – believe me, you will make a difference. And it won’t be charity. It will be reward for jobs well done: an exchange between equals.”

He shrugs: “In a perfect humanity, there would be no need for charity… Dignity would be sufficient! Until then…”
http://www.wwwalk.org/, http://www.intelligentgiving.com,
I see this type of a hand up, outside the immediate family, as a possible way forward. At Wells for Zoe we are promoting this personal contact approach, where there is traceability and accountability for every euro, without any deductions. We are seeing this, small scale, hardly noticed, intrusion making a real difference, restoring dignity and promoting self sufficiency.