Sunday, August 05, 2007


I am sitting watching 'Equator' - a BBC documentary about travel across the equator.

I can't help but feeling the pull on my heartstrings every time I see anything about the plight of folks in Africa. For all the poverty, corruption and sadness, there's an astonishing wealth of culture. I'm saddened I won't be back in Swaziland this November, but I'm anxious to get there next year. Before I went to Swaziland, I was hardened to the images of stereotypical Africa - kids surrounded by flies, staring miserably at a handful of rice. That image is based on ignorance and the bigger picture of Africa is much more complex and more difficult to solve than shipping out bags of food. I don't even pretend to know the surface of the problems, but I'm not daft enough to ignore the difficulties in the small part of the world I saw.

I've such a respect an admiration for the everyday folks of the folks in places like Swaziland, Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique and the Congo. We talk about postcode lotteries with hospital provision here in the UK. What about the worldwide lottery? Every 15 seconds someone dies from AIDS yet we worry about how in fashion our mobile phone is. It really does put things in perspective, particularly when you see and meet Africans who put up with abject poverty yet retain an air of dignity, enjoy a rich culture and know family respect.

I cannot help but think that the forty years I've had here in the UK should really be balanced by trying to help......but how? I wish more than anything I could leave to help in some practical way, particularly in Swaziland, but I'm not that practical. I keep saying to Sue that she needs to get ready for when we move there, and I'm half serious, no, I'm actually three quarters serious. It would be incredible to think that I could re qualify as a Swazi lawyer and help with the corruption that is rife in the court system. Maybe that is something I should consider long term? I would love to live on the farm amongst the kids and see Sue help with the teaching in the nursery. In reality that's a pipe dream, but it's not something I'm giving up on. Then again, tempering that view, why do I and many others feel we have the ability to don a cloak and rush to the rescue? Perhaps many who do that do so naively and cause more problems in the long run?

I can honestly say that I would rather my children learn the respect and culture of many Africans than the selfish material West that we live in. That sounds really harsh, but it's only when you see how little others have you understand that we actually have too much. Coming back from Swaziland, I remember the vivid image of kids without parents, living in huts without basic essentials and switching the tv on to see some bimbo mouthing "because I'm worth it" on a Loreal advert. It's a salutary lesson to know the stark differences when we think we have problems, they usually are so shallow and skin deep.

So how can we help, really? This is where the aid agencies come in. Projects like Swaziland TC are wonderful - but they rely on financial support. That's the best support any of us can give.

It's a good thing to always remember the fact that however little we think we have, we have so much material more than many others.

The fitting end to this post is the tv programme Mike has just switched on - 'American Idol' with David Hasselhoff. That just about sums it up.....

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