Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
Back in the day, women were not treated as equals (Ha! As if they are now.) If you found yourself unmarried, widowed, single parenting, well, you didn't have a great future ahead. Times were going to be tough for you.
But of course women are a resourceful lot and they never just sat down and did nothing. They used the resources they had to provide products and services where there were gaps in the community. What does this mean? It means that they took in washing and ironing and sat at home with their babies at their feet and cleaned other peoples dirty undies. It means they cooked meals, looked after kids, and those that had a spare room would rent that room out. Often they provided cheap rooms for travellers or single people looking for work.
After WW2, it was more common for apartments and flats to be built so the boarding house was not needed so much. Women soon started to get a little bit of money until they could support themselves, both the supply and demand went down and it was rare when I grew up to know any women renting rooms out to travellers.
But here we are 60 years later.
And my Mum takes me to a function hosted by AirBnB. Mum has a house that's too big for just her and it needs people to share it's history. She listed it on AirBnB and was first to reply to an invitation to go and meet other hosts and speak with the AirBnB team. While I was there I chatted with a stack of people who were just so generous in nature. It's a whole new community of people who want to meet people from all over the world. People who want to share their homes and their lives and then shout out the benefits of what they are doing and encourage everyone else to join in too.
They had great ideas, they provided encouragement and so many of them were single women. Not particularly those in tough times, but women who had a home that had space to be shared. They talked about what they did to ensure they felt safe, they laughed about the oddities of some guests and the things that all guests were really looking for. Do you know what it was, the thing that guests from all over the world want...it's a good mattress and good linen. They don't care so much about the size of the room or the size of the TV. It's all about a comfy bed, a place they can get a good sleep to ensure they are rested for whatever they want to do the next day.
Thousands of people are now using 'boarding houses' again. We just use them differently. We use them when we are the tourists and those that run them treat them like a micro business that provides them with more than just a little extra income, but also connections, community, fun and to learn about other cultures.
Last year we took a holiday to Singapore and made a great friend when we used AirBnb and now I see my Mum already meeting a whole new community of people too.
Yet, really, while we all think the whole AirBnb concept is so new, it's really not, it's just been made easier for us to go online, find a place that's perfect for us, and to book in.
Once again online technology is bringing people closer in real life.
I like it.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
It's been six months since the disaster in Nepal when the earthquakes hit. The team at Care Australia were already working in Nepal but had to provide substantial emergency assistance to care for the hundreds of thousands of people who were all of a sudden without a home. Or a school, or a workplace. Or shops to buy food...
But what is it that makes someone pack up their comfortable Australian lifestyle to go and live in an area where disease and harm could come their way? These are one of the things I think of when I see the helpers on the news stories. How does one find themselves there?
Lucky for me I was able to just ask one of the CARE Team, which is exactly what I did.
Dee works for CARE and was in Nepal to help, so I sent her a few questions.
How is it that you find yourself in Nepal?
As an international NGO, CARE has a presence in many countries around the world so during an emergency the CARE family really works together to support each other to make sure that we’re reaching people affected by the disaster as quickly as possible. There are people with different sets of skills throughout the global CARE network and in an emergency such as the Nepal earthquake, we bring those people together to provide some additional support. We have a great emergency HR coordinator who sits with CARE International who has been working closely with CARE Nepal since the earthquake to bring these people together. So depending on who is needed, she’ll go out to the wider CARE network to ask whether they can be seconded for the emergency response. It really is a global response – we might come from CARE Australia, CARE Myanmar, CARE Afghanistan, CARE Canada, CARE Philippines, CARE USA (and that’s just to name a few).
Can you explain what a typical day in Nepal is like for you at the moment, what activities occupy your time?
Haha! I wouldn’t say there has been a typical day. Every day is new and different. I guess most recently, I was able to go out with our WASH team in Sindupalchowk (a district in Nepal) where we’ve been working with local partners to provide water, sanitation and hygiene and also emergency shelter. When I went out with the WASH team, we were able to talk to people in the community to see how they were feeling about the emergency toilets that were recently built and how people were going with that construction. It was a really interesting day and you know the Nepalese people are a really resilient people so I was just really inspired to see their smiles and their strength. We met with one older lady who was at home while her family were out farming and she said that if her family weren’t out at work, she would have loved to have offered us lunch. That was a great day because people are still so generous and thoughtful.
Is it difficult to leave at the end of your scheduled time there?
Yea definitely! Of course!
What is your favourite thing about working with CARE
Well many things, I think I work with a really great team both in CARE Australia but also the team in Nepal and these guys are really passionate about what we do, you know? I love that! I guess one of my favourite things is our commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. A disaster really impacts men, women, girls and boys very differently – this brings about different needs. So when we go in to an emergency response, we work with communities and local partners and local NGOs to address those different needs and we try to bring all those different voices to the table.
Would you recommend others volunteering to go and help out a country in crisis, what tips would you give those who want to be involved?
There are some really great organisations out there that provide training and opportunities to prep people who are interested in development work.
Especially for people who have a certain skill set, I would recommend getting that training and taking time out to think about how you can contribute effectively and also why you want to do it. You know, if you’re an engineer you might want to work with Engineers without Borders. If you’re a medical professional you might think about MSF (Medecin Sans Frontieres), Red R that take people from many different specialities, they also give you training about working in humanitarian emergency response and also provide safety and security training as well. CARE also has an emergency roster that you can apply for as do other NGOs because when you send someone into an emergency situation you want to make sure that you’re doing good by them as well and that they’re prepared and as experienced as they can be.
Working in a disaster response can be draining and it’s high intensity. Right now in Nepal there are people there who have had years of experience in emergency. When you get there, you hit the ground running. It might mean that in your first day you’re out looking at emergency shelter options because you’re a shelter advisor (and in your previous life experience you’re an architect or an engineer). You’re also working with people who have had to deal with a lot and it’s really important that we can be supporting them instead of being additional burdens.
I think if you want to volunteer think about organisations that provide those opportunities and also provide opportunities for professional growth as well in a non-disaster zone. Think about programs like AVID or AVI if you’ve never ever done development or emergency work before because it’s a good platform to for lack of a better phrase “test out the waters” and see if it’s for you.
I think it’s so great that people are passionate and want to contribute – I mean that’s why I work for CARE but I think we always just need to be mindful about how we contribute. I would never recommend that someone packs a first aid kit and a blanket and books a flight over to any disaster response, I think you need to back up passion and experience with the right support. That’s what I had, I work with an amazing team in CARE Australia who supported me and prepped me so that I could be an effective team member in country. There’s always so much going on and it’s just as much about looking after yourself as it is about being part of a response because if you don’t have the right tools to look after yourself then you can’t be of any assistance to anybody else.
I think any natural response for many people is to want to help. We’re humans, we’re relational beings and we care about other people and that is such an important trait to have through life but I think when we do it we need to be mindful about how we go about it. And you need people to support that process as well – people who are more experienced and can be there to say “hey, are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Six months down the track there is still so much work to do to rebuild communities in Nepal, but progress is being made, monsoon season will mean people have to work in muddy wet conditions and this is sure to slow things down. Life for people in the remote villages will remain very difficult for some time yet. Plastic sheets can be the only shelter people have from the weather.
We can't all be like Dee and catch a flight to go and help, but a couple of dollars to CARE, from all that can throw some their way, does make a difference.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
You've noticed haven't you? You've seen that I just barely make it back here to blog so much these days.
It kind of annoys me because I LOVE looking back on my posts and remembering our lives and the things the girls have said and done, the stuff we've done and places we've gone.
But the thing is, I just have so many books to read. This month I am doing something that I never usually do. As soon as I finished my book, I started reading it again, in the same night!
To be brutally honest, I never cry in books. Movies - all the time, I can even cry in advertising, but books not so much. Not this time.
My Grandma Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman.
Order it, from the shop, the library or your family for Christmas, because this is one that I won't be lending to my friends.
The story is based around seven year old Elsa and her wonderful Grandma. Grandma has lived a life that most of us can only dream of, a doctor who has travelled the world by going to disasters and helping people when no one else did/could. But in her older years, Elsa, her only grandchild, becomes her everything. How Grandma makes a world far away from the bullies and the annoying adults in Elsa's life is intertwined with a story of mystery, history, sadness and laughter.
This is the second book by Fredrik Backman, a swedish author, the first is also a best seller and currently on my list of 'want to read'.
For Big Kids
These are not new, but Miss 9 has enjoyed getting stuck into a book with a bit more depth than her usual favourites (Weirdo, 65th Storey Treehouse, Roald Dahl).
Written by Lauren Child, if your young reader has been through Charlie and Lola, then onto Clarice Bean and is now looking for something a little more gritty, grab Ruby and try and solve the mystery as you go.
For younger school kids
An Aussie Year
Miss 6 spent last term studying all about culture, family trees and where people arrive in Australia from. We even went to the Immigration Museum and learnt about how and why people move to different countries.
At the same time, I noticed the book 'An Aussie Year' by Tania McCartney. It's a busy book following the year of a few Australian kids. The images are colourful and each page has lots of things for young readers to scan through, to read the bits they know and guess the rest. These are the types of books that I always tell Miss 9 to read too, because I really don't like it when people leave picture books behind too early.
There is also A Scottish Year and An English Year. These books also take you through lots of the things that happen in these countries, from the eyes of a few different kids.
For all kids
The Boy who Loved the Moon
The last book that has been added to the book shelf is, The Boy who Loved the Moon, by Rino Alaimo.
This is more art than story. My kids didn't really fully understand the story line. They read it a few times and loved looking at the images. The author is an award winning artist and it's clear why this is the case. The images reflect a time of darkness (night) but it feels as though the images are lit with a real flame. This is a quality book, it would be a beautiful gift for new babies, or small kids who you want to give a lovely book to. If it was bigger and I wasn't filled with book ripping quilt, I would be pulling out the pages and framing them, adding them to the walls and shelves of our home.
There are always new books we want on our book shelves, what have you added to yours lately?