This is Jonathan’s story. What’s yours?

Jonathan's family

Jonathan’s family

Life today is hard enough as it is without anyone in your family being seriously ill. Did you know that every time you sneeze your heart misses a bit?

Yes, that’s a fact If you think about it, every time you leave the house there are a million things that could go wrong, yet most of us prefer not to duel on that and live happily ever after in denial and things will probably never go terribly wrong.

Jonathan is a normal teenager; he goes to school like you and me did. He love sports, and in fact he is pretty good at Karate, one of his favorite activities. He is also quite genuinely interested in exotic animals. Nevertheless, his life now is quite different from that of an average teenager with no issues or limitations. Jonathan was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 16.

According to cancer research more than 1 in 3 people will develop some form of cancer through out their lifetime. I don’t want to overwhelm you with the odds, but its good to know that if anything happens to you or a member of your family help is available somewhere.

For Jonathan’s mum, Karen and her four children, Rainbow Trust was their knight in shinning armour.

“Without Rainbow Trust’s support, our story would have been very different, when I reached out for help I was told that both Pippa and Jonathan would have to leave college and that if I was struggling with the younger two, foster care was an option for them.”

Their family had to face the fact that they might not be able to stay together. However, Rainbow trust was able to deliver a personalised program that assists the whole family.

The Sibling support program provides support workers to help the remaining siblings as well as offer counselling and whatever is needed to the rest of the family.

“It as a bolt out of the blue when we found out he had cancer and I wasn’t sure how I would cope as a single mum. I’ve got Jonathan’s older sister, Pippa, 18, who is a massive help but has her own life as well as the two younger ones, Holly, 14 and Marcus, 11,” She says.

Without Rainbow Trust there lives could have been torn apart. What about you? What can you do to help change lives?

Donate at Rainbowtrust.org.uk and help change other families lives today.

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Africa: Over five Decades of Aid

By Nayara F Chaves

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

In an office teeming with books and covered in a thin layer of dust at the Society of African Studies, Dr Zoe Marriage starts to describe the wondrous route of Africa’s troubled past. Dr Marriage has travelled extensively throughout Africa; she has carefully examined the consequences of civil wars and internal conflicts that plague the continent.

“Amongst the evils that Africa suffered throughout the years there is three that tell the history of the continent: first, powerful nations decided to take the people from the continent and take them somewhere else, and that was slavery. But then they thought: oh, that’s not fair, let the people stay here but we will take the continent, and that was colonialism. Fair enough, we cannot do that either so we must find a way to exert some other form of power: and then development was born,” she says.

By the end of the nineteenth century Europeans had discovered the magnificence of the African continent, hazarding claims throughout its territories. In cities all around Europe the powerful and privileged argued hotly over divisions and all that could be gained from the vast, newly found terra incognita. Yet Europeans had a very poor knowledge of the vastness of the continent and the different people that inhabited it.

Some might say that the problems colonialism triggered can still be seen in the myriad of futile wars that still plague some countries to this day.

“When countries are doing dealings with each other they do not just go and do as they please in another country. That’s about sovereign territory and the right of the sovereign over their population. From the start there has been a substantial violation of that and that’s a key reason why countries in Africa today are not able to operate on an equal footing, everything was destabilized by foreign intervention,” says Dr Marriage.

Even though Africa has many different aspects and great diversity, African countries have a lot more in common than just their colonial history. Their states suffered most of the same problems and difficulties – it is striking to see that most African countries faced more or less the same hardships across the continent.

According to Dr Marriage, if you look at the whole world you can see where development has worked, and the only place is Europe: that’s the only place where aid has been successfully used, through the Marshall Plan. However, she says this was politically motivated to maintain European opposition to Communism during the cold war.

“Development has its own agenda; if you look at other countries like Korea, China, India, those countries developed. The ones that have grown weren’t dependent on aid and the ones that didn’t grow received large sums, and that’s the case of Africa,” she says.

Hope for schools

Hope for schools

Why is Africa still struggling after 50 years of aid?

 In August 1999, two stowaway boys from West Africa were found dead in an Airbus in Brussels. According to reports, the boys sneaked into the undercarriage of the aircraft in Conakry, Guinea. The sight was a sad one, and it became even gloomier when a note was discovered in one of the dead boy’s cold little hands. The note was a plea for help; it complained of the inequities of public schools in Africa. It was addressed:

 Your Excellencies, the citizens and officials of Europe…

It is only in the private schools that people can enjoy good teaching and learning, but it requires quite a lot of money and our parents are poor… therefore, we African children and youth are asking you to set up an efficient organization to help with the development of Africa… if we are sacrificing ourselves and putting our lives in jeopardy it is because we need your help.”

What followed made the story worse than it already was – in the scramble to rid themselves of guilt, an EU ambassador said on TV that their fate was a sad one, but it only meant the African people wanted more aid and were eternal beggars. The mayor of Conakry, their hometown, ignored the message altogether and said that the airline’s security team was to blame for the incident, refusing to acknowledge the youths’ plea for a better educational system.

This single incident is only one amongst many in African history; these boys only wanted a better education – a simple human right – and the worst of it is that it could have been prevented. How many children die of preventable diseases in Africa? How many have to go without food, whilst in Europe we throw food away?

After fifty years of aid, money is still not being used in the right way or to its full extent. Worst of all, no one can say what the right way is.

As someone who has travelled extensively in the birthplace of humanity, Dr Marriage confesses that there are solutions, but the challenge is how to change perceptions in order to implement new practices.

“That’s how aid today works: there is a race at the bottom, who will have the most horrible visible disaster, how many children will die in the worst possible way to attract attention. People like emergency aid. Everyday problems become just that – everyday problems in a far away place with very few people interested in it,” says Dr Marriage.

Views vary from economist to economist, but those in power still hold tight to the old-fashioned ways. It has been more than four decades, and most African countries have failed to escape the poverty trap. Yet the blame still falls on the same outdated areas: slavery, colonialism, foreign intervention and manipulation during the cold war. Yes, these events have taken their toll, but how long will Africans hide behind the aftermath of things that happened long ago? According to Robert Calderisi, writer of The Trouble with Africa, Africans are partially to blame for their own misfortune.

In the chapter “Looking for Excuses” he discusses how some still blame the world economy for the problems encountered in Africa. It is clear that smaller farmers cannot compete or trade on equal terms with developed economies, yet Africa has not lost out to superpowers like the EU or the USA; in fact, according to Calderisi, African economies have offered their markets on a plate to other Third World countries in Asia and Latin America.

“Most African countries have let agriculture – their greatest wealth – decline steadily through over-taxation and other wrongheaded policies. African economies were certainly late starters, but instead of pumping them up with steroids, government has put shackles on their producers,” he says.

There are certainly differences between one place and the other, and Africa seems to have had more than its fair share of adversities, but if you compare it with other economies such as South Korea, India or Brazil, some of which started from a worse position than African countries, they still managed to grow and develop their economy instead of remaining shackled to their defective past.

The future of development

 Most charities agree that education, health and basic infrastructure are the key to progress in Africa. Identifying what needs to be done is the easiest part; the most difficult is to transform these facts into a reality. If young Africans choose to remain in poverty because they cannot be bothered to work, or because there is too much corruption, how can I help them up?

According to Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty, providential ineptitude is only a minor portion of the hard truth.

“I have noted repeatedly that in all corners of the world, the poor face structural challenges that keep them from getting even their first foot on the ladder of development… The world’s remaining challenge is not mainly to overcome laziness and corruption, but rather to take on geographic isolation, disease, vulnerability to climate shocks, and so on, with new systems of political responsibility that can get the job done,” he says.

In order for aid to work the way it should be working, both poor and rich countries have to make compromises. Africa must start dedicating its resources to helping the poor instead of funding internal conflicts and corruption. The developed world has to take its promise to help developing countries more seriously. For aid to start working, rich countries need to stop making development a business that requires payment in return.

According to Sachs, poor countries today only pretend aid is helping, and the nations of the developed world pretend they believe it and pretend to continue helping. NGOs do what they can, but even their projects can only help a small number of people, enough to give them publicity. Maybe it’s time to start being more ambitious if their goal is to end poverty.

For how much longer will relief be treated with exaggerated sensationalism? People should know better than that, or is it just easier to believe that things are working?

How to help?

Georgie Fienberg, the founder of AfriKids, thinks it’s time for people to start thinking differently. Pity donations belong to the eighties; in this day and age poor countries need more than short-term solutions.

“Guilt, shock and pity are the motivating impulses. But you have been donating to images like this since the 1980s. So why has nothing changed? And where did all the money go? These big questions demand answers. If good money follows bad, nothing will change. This type of fundraising is antiquated, delivers the wrong message and is actually a net negative for society at large – both for Western societies and those in developing countries,” Fienberg told the BBC.

Sally Vivyan, the director of Afrikids, agreed to talk to us and explain why their method of thinking should be the new way to donate.

“When someone thinks about donations all they see is horrible images of starving kids in appalling situations. Afrikids provide a different sort of approach, we want to provide businesses that help their economy and create independency.

“I know the concept of empowering the people we help is not a new one, but some charities claim they do the same when in truth they only stick to the short-term help, a much easier and ineffective sort of approach,” she says.

As mentioned before, Dambisa Moyo is not the biggest supporter of aid, but Afrikids have managed to put the two approaches together – aid directed at business enterprises to help economic growth and development.

The Blue Sky Lodge in Ghana is the latest ‘sustainability project’ started by Afrikids. The hotel, when completed, will provide not only jobs but also real economic growth. According to Vyvian, the Blue Sky Lodge will encourage tourism by providing affordable accommodation for people coming from other places, both within Ghana and internationally. It also has a community centre where people can develop skills in hostelry and tourism.

Projects like this are exactly what countries in Africa need – this way the money is accounted for, and the project respects and invests in local people, taking their experiences and local knowledge into account in order to develop their local economy. And we donors know that the money we provide is actually helping to change people lives forever.

However, according to Vyvian, perception and lack of knowledge of their programmes is still a problem.

“The challenge of fundraising for this business is that they are not traditional forms of aid, so it is a bit more difficult to get the money together. At the moment we are one third of the way there, and if funds continue to come in we will be able to start building in the next couple of months. The plans, the location, everything is already well ahead but we do need the money to continue,” she says.

Aid has changed over the years, as have other things around the world. Now is the time to start thinking differently and start spending wisely on projects like the Blue Sky Lodge that will make sure people in Africa will be independent of the bonds imposed by the wrong type of aid, and will be able to thrive for themselves.

Who is afraid of comics?

by Karolina Przeklas

Violent protests erupted last September when Charlie Hebdo’s French cartoon was published which “ridiculed” the prophet Mohammed. A talk this week investigated why comics and cartoons have been targeted by censorship and why they create moral panics worldwide.

London’s freelance journalist, Paul Gravett, curator and lecturer has been involved in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. His talk explained the unsurprising journey through the history of comics and the reasons why for these amazing works of art have been subjected to prosecution and in many cases destroyed.

Paul Gravett - Who is afraid of comics?

Who is afraid of comics?

“Who is Afraid of Comics”, held at the Central Library in Islington as part of a Word2013 Festival.

It’s not who is afraid

“It’s who uses that fear of comics, rather purposely because it’s a very good way to distant attention from other, probably much more serious things that are going on in the society, like unemployment or god knows what to have a focus on something like comics.” – said Gravett.

Check out children’s and young persons harmful publications act from 1955 – still in use today

Mohammed Cartoon

In September, French cartoon caused outrage in the Muslim community worldwide after Hebdo’s controversial intake on the life of the prophet Mohammed. Hebdo newspaper was calling itself a “defender of free speech and a denouncer of religious backwardness”.

 French magazine editor threatened over Mohammad cartoon

huff.to/Up8oYK

— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) September 22, 2012

1001 comics you must

read before you die

Check out Paul Gravett’s 1001 comics you must read before you die collection of comics from around the world.

1001 comics you must read before you die
Word2013 Festival takes place across the Islington borough for the whole month of May. With over 50 events to choose from you get a chance to celebrate reading, writing and freedom of expression. A range of events, exhibitions  and performances showcasing some of Islington writers, artists and organisation.
word2013

Word2013 Festival

The project has been developed in partnership with Islington Library and Heritage Service; Islington Arts Service; All Change and Free Word.

Islington Community Theatre – Word Festival – Flash Mob 2012 from Roman Sheppard Dawson on Vimeo.

Top 10 things to do in London with toddlers

by Karolina Przeklas

Parents are always on the lookout for a cheap day out, not only because keeping babies entertained  has a huge impact on their development, but also because boredom makes children naughty. Here are Roam’s top 10 cheap things to do with toddlers in London.

1. Go swimming

Babies spend the first nine months of their lives in water, so it’s a no-brainer that most toddlers love swimming. Many local pools run family sessions, which cost very little compared to special swimming classes. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, pack your costumes and head to your family fun sessions. With the “summer” upon us why not check out open-air swimming pools like London Fields Lido? It will be money well spent.

Londontown.com

2. Visit animal farms

Local animal farms are a great chance to introduce your little one to some “moos” and “baas”. Check out Freightliners Farm in central Islington – a wonderful place for the whole family.

3. Grab a bite to eat

Watching how kids experiment with flavours and textures can be mesmerizing. As one of the most multicultural capitals of the world, London offers different cuisines practically on every street corner.  Ignore the generic fast food joints that offer nothing apart from bad fats and high sugar content. There are plenty of other options like That place on the corner or Giraffe. Kids are very unforgiving when they don’t like something, so let your baby discover which places serve good food and which don’t.

4. Check out museums and galleries

Museums and galleries are a great source of entertainment and knowledge for everyone. For example, the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green provides a backpack designed by Montessori full of books and toys. It allows children to  lead their play, encouraging them to learn independently.

Virtual  tour of Childhood Museum 

Check out MUMSNET for honest and up-to-date reviews of events in your local museums.

5. Pop in to London Zoo

Zoos are so much fun for everyone. At London Zoo in Regent’s Park, check out what the penguins have been up to or simply hang out with the gorillas.

kumbuka, gorilla

6. Visit adventure playgrounds

From sandpits to hanging bridges, curled slides and pirate ships, playgrounds offer hours of joy – and most of them are free. We recommend the Princess Diana Memorial Playground,  with a Peter Pan-inspired design.

princess-diana-memorial-playground-pirate-ship

If you want to get more involved, why not join Londonplay and be part of a scheme design to make London streets safer for children?

7. Take part in special classes

Local libraries run special toddler classes. Islington’s Baby Bounce helps babies learn rhythm and rhyme through songs and stories. A great way to encourage children to socialise with others.

“I love coming here for an hour of singing with all the local mums” – say Kelly Davids, mum of David who offten takes part in the Baby Bounce Classes

8. Go to the park

London gets a lot of rain, but rain can be lots of fun. So if you don’t mind getting a bit grubby and wet, grab your wellies and head off to the your local park, or choose one of many dotted around London.

“Go to Westow Park in SE19, Crystal Palace. A Bug Hunt started again in March. Expect wonderful nature lovers teaching about seeds, planting trees, and story telling. All ages welcome, it’s free and quite wonderful. We had mulled apple juice to warm us up last time we went. The Park has excellent children play areas, and Crystal Palace is full of gorgeous cafes and restaurants which are all child friendly. There are Antique shops with kids toys, and independent trading shops of all varieties, and Crystal Palace Park is a five minute walk away. You have the leisure centre and pool, the petting zoo, a maze, and of course the giant stone life size dinosaurs” – says Roxana Aman, mum of Zayan and Dalia 

9. Visit an aquarium

Just like the zoo, this trip is worth every penny. The best time to visit this underwater world is during feeding times. London Aquarium has the world’s biggest collection of Caw Nosed Rays.

sea-life-london-aquarium

10. Join street parties and festivals

London’s best festivals are happening in the summer so have a look around. On the 25th of August Londoners will be dancing to the rhytms of calypso, Nothing Hill Carnival one of the world’s biggest street parties, with a special kids day opening the weekend of fun.

We also like the look of  the Lollibop Festival.

Lollibop Festival 2013

A bash for little people

And there are always smaller events that run though out the year, like Southbank’s Imagine Children Festival.

And if you want to travel further afield, take a trip outside London and visit the Butterfly World Project in Hertfordshire, the biggest butterfly experience in the world.

professor-david-bellamy