Friday, November 21, 2008

New Office in Malawi

When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.
-Betty Bender

Our ASAP Malawi staff have created a new home for their work in the Chikwawa district. The small sea-foam green building with a satellite protruding from the roof (picture below) might not be similar to high-rise office buildings that carry suits from floor to floor in boxes rising and falling on ropes that are strong enough until they aren’t (picture not included), but this office indeed has heart, excitement, compassion, and running water. Why should we not rejoice? This office will be the point where many will begin their journey to independence, to better education and health, and to a world where progression is valued equally with cultural preservation. Our staff is thrilled to report the recent construction of their desks and that they will imminently enjoy the internet (the IT worker should arrive between tomorrow and the next business month).

However, the Chikwawa office is not only a place of business. It is an assembly point for the community where residents will acquire the skills necessary to grow and increase their productivity. The building is beautiful in its own right, and the staff in each ASAP location is more than ecstatic to have a solid foundation for our work, but the work they are completing in the structure has a value of much more than any building the world has to offer.

The Chikwawa office

Victor enjoying the new sink

Jeanette (top) and Owen use their desks to their full potential

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Elders Set to Visit Zimbabwe

The Elders, a group of twelve global peace activists, is sending three prominent members to Zimbabwe in hopes of fostering some sort of moderation in the increasingly precarious political and economic situation. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Gra├ža Machel, an international activist for women’s and children’s rights and wife of Nelson Mandela, are set to arrive in the country on the 22nd of November and begin a purely humanitarian mission.

The Elders are hoping to raise awareness of the factors causing Zimbabwe’s decline as international attention has drifted elsewhere while Zimbabweans continue to suffer. The belief is that with more attention on the experiences of the people, the developed world will be more inclined to demand action. Some impart that even these experts are underestimating the state of Zimbabwe at the moment where disease such as cholera is rampant, and poverty coupled with powerful nation sanctions are distressing the common man more than the ruling parties. Although the group has emphasized that their trip is only to look at the humanitarian aspects, there is no feasible way the world-renowned figures can exit the nation without suggesting the political deadlock be resolved. It is their duty as resolution architects to insist on aiding the afflicted who have endured crisis after crisis. However, with leaders such as these tending to their aid in the nation, the situation gains a hope it did not possess before.

More information can be found in this SW Radio Africa article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Uncertain Future for Power Sharing

Zimbabwe power sharing talks seem to have taken a downturn in the past days. While external international influences have applauded the idea of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai to take the post of Prime Minister and let long time president Robert Mugabe keep his seat, the two parties could not agree on cabinet positions and the break down of power. Zimbabwean citizens needed these deals to succeed as they are making their way through inflation rates of over 200,000,000% and a labor market where only 20% of adults are formally employed. Private donors claim they will not send aid until the opposition MDC has a significant say in government doings. As it stands, Robert Mugabe may be able to form a new government within the week after election and political strife that has lasted since March of 2008. However, some are calling on the United Nations or other international bodies to oversee negotiations, as food rations as well as other aid forms are being cut and the Zimbabwean people are feeling the effects of a government whose limitless power has ruled for almost 30 years.

To read more about the situation in Zimbabwe visit the BBC article referenced in this post.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Good News When It's Lacking

Let’s briefly paraphrase recently covered news headlines

Global Economy Left for Dead, Can’t Afford to See a Doctor

Earthquakes Rattle from Pakistan to Texas

And for you tabloid enthusiasts:

Angelina Admits Love Affair, All of Celebrity Population Follows

It’s not outrageous to claim that “good news” is hard to find and that can be especially true in the international development field. Perhaps we are only exposed to the dismal news to elevate network news ratings, increase the price and sales of our beloved newspapers, or even to keep anti-depressant drug manufacturers in business. No matter what the reason, we can all agree that the unhappy stories are keeping us away from the truly important reports; the ones that we read and help us decide to keep on keepin’ on. At ASAP, one achievement will always outweigh 100,000 losses (although we occasionally thank our stars we have more achievements than losses), and this is why we report our news, free of charge. Donations always welcome.

Our work in cultivating self-reliance is not complimented by all, but when one hears a story like that of Queen’s, the disagreement felt by many quickly turns on its head.

Queen was not lazy, unintelligent, or any negative adjective to be filled in. She was young, widowed, trying to feed her daughter, and a victim of circumstance. When her husband died, she found herself out on the streets but had a clear vision of what she wanted for her and her little one, independence. She was only given $100 from a micro-financing program, an amount most of us consider practically unhelpful, but through selling simple products like popsicles to her local community, she harbored enough profit to move on to selling electronics and other supplies vastly unavailable in her home of Zimbabwe. Today Queen and her daughter happily call Canada home. She is obtaining a graduate degree focusing in Development Studies, and her daughter is now able to study at a university as well. All of these possibilities were made available to Queen because of a simple $100 loan from an organization not unlike ours. We heard from Queen through the glories of cyberspace, in an email she sent commending our work. We not only appreciate her encouraging words, we appreciate knowing that the work we do is life-changing.

Surely, our business isn’t perfect and we all come across pitfalls, but in a world where bad news sells, one can always find words of kindness.