The Billionaire, The Rock Star and Us

On Monday evening I had the chance to go along to Living Proof, which was hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates, and attended by many of the international development world including DFID Ministers, heads of all major NGO’s and lets not forget ONE co founder Bono. I bumped into my fellow campaigner Jen Crago (Outreach Campaign Coordinator, London for OXFAM). Here is her take on the night:

Occasionally, and I am sure that any seasoned campaigner will sympathise, you feel like all of your efforts have been wasted. This week has been different; notably fantastic re-affirmation from George Osbourne that Britain is on track to deliver its promised 0.7% of GNI as ODA by 2013, and also the launch of ONE’s ‘Living Proof’ with Bill and Melinda Gates at London’s Science Museum on Monday night. The two of us were fortunate enough to be invited to attend.

Bill and Melinda presented a story, full of the charts and graphs that you would naturally expect from the mind behind Microsoft, that we don’t hear often enough; 99% reduction in Polio, 98 million less people going hungry in 2010 than there were last year, 500 million anti-malarial bed nets which are saving 200,000 lives per year. Proof that over the past decade smart aid has achieved real, demonstratable results. They also offered a sincere expression of appreciation to Britain (naming some of our largest NGO’s, including Oxfam) for all of our efforts to end extreme poverty and our leadership on the world stage.

Following the presentation we attended a reception where Jen had the pleasure to chat with Oxfam’s own Duncan Greene, personally thank Andrew Mitchell, our Secretary of State for International Development, for his reassurance of the governments promise to deliver and not make cut backs to spending on aid and development, and also chat with numerous fellow development sector professionals, journalists and economists. Adizah took the opportunity to speak with Bill Gates, shake his hand, and tell him how impressed she is with the work that he and his wife, Melinda, are doing, especially in the eyes of a 21 year old.

Me, Bono and Jen

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The way we look at …

The way we look at international development is changing and it needs to change! Last week I went to a talk run by Business Fights Poverty and Care International called ‘The changing face of development : the role of the private sector’. The ideas of companies getting involved in doing good things in other countries is not new. A question that really got me thinking was ‘What does it take in practice for companies to really contribute to development beyond fulfilling their corporate social responsibility agendas?

I believe in practice, if perceptions of development are to change,  the way countries are portrayed and the stories that need to emerge from them are so important. I highlighted the great work of the Guardian Newspaper regarding the Katine Project in Uganda. Having the media lens on Katine helped the public get a better understanding of development issues. The way in which ‘developing’ countries and how people of such vibrant nations are viewed, needs to change. Positive stories enable this to happen. Not everything happening is positive, but the successes of development need to be shown and celebrated if the perceptions/views are to change in order to see the potential for the counties, people, communities and businesses.

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Building My Platform For Yaarah Schools

Adizah Tejani, a former volunteer on overseas programme Platform2, reflects upon a busy month (and year) working for global development; from P2 to her contribution for Yaarah Schools…

As September drew to a close I took a step back to reflect upon a busy month and year. One thing that has tied together all my experiences is education…

Raising £900 to help provide a learning lifeline to children in village schools through Yaarah Schools, helping raise awareness of the MDG goals through a video that ended up having world-wide coverage and finally meeting Nick Clegg and Andrew Mitchell, to prove that there are young people who do care about development issues!

Firstly let’s start with Yaarah Schools. Yaarah Schools is a project that was set up in order to help improve the educational prospects of children in villages, by providing them with a learning lifeline. We have started in Adaklu Aziedukope Ghana.

The inability of government to provide all schools with adequate buildings led to the pursuit for a sustainable solution. A year ago I was in Kasapin, Ghana due to P2. Even though I was not at the Yaarah Schools project, my P2 experience allowed me to have a better understanding of the education system. I taught in the government school, and I split my teaching of current affairs between two classes of 14 to 18 year olds. There were about 60 students in one class and 40 in another. This was by no means an easy task to handle, but I embraced the challenge even though the teaching resources were minimal.

These children were lucky enough to have a classroom. Imagine trying to teach 60 14-16 year olds with minimal resources. The resources I had brought with me were a copy of the DFID mag, The Economist and some chalk. This experience made me understand how well resourced the education system in the UK actually is. In this day and age where education is viewed as fundamental in shaping one’s mind, and being an MDG goal, it is a shame that due to the context of a person’s situation they may not be able to have knowledge due to having inadequate classroom facilities.

So last October (2009), I arrived back home to finish my degree in International Development. I was further inspired to have a positive impact and Yaraah Schools was a way in which I felt I could do this. In the past year the team have raised over £5000 in a range of ways; from cake sales in Norwich, jewellery sales in Manchester and a fantastic cultural event called Fusionite in the heart of London.

Fusionite took place a few weeks ago, on September 6 at Avalon in Shoreditch. We had spent the whole summer bringing together musicians, designers, models and poets in preparation for a great night. However, in true London style the week before the event, it was announced that there would be a tube strike on the same day of the show… Yes, this made me really angry and annoyed; yet I knew that we had to push ahead with the show. In the end it was a great night and the Yaarah Schools team rose £900!

All the organising of rehearsals, calling acts, finding a venue and sorting out great food all worked out. And just a week ago two team members went out to build the next classrooms – check them out here.

Without my Platform2 experience I would not have been able to gain a deeper understanding of how the education system in Ghana works. So volunteering and fundraising for Yaarah Schools has led me to have a stronger belief that change is possible.

As posted on Ctrl Alt Shift