Tag Archives: news


We all have them. Sometimes this means we hope to finish reading the book on the bedside table (or that stupid assignment that was distributed 4 weeks ago); or to get the dishes put away; or to pick up the kids at 3:15, get over to soccer by 3:45, drop-off the dry cleaning, prepare a nutritious and delicious meal that all family members will eat, and get the sheets put back onto the beds.

Sometimes this means finally meeting with the major partner that we are hoping to work with on a new program.

And sometimes this means convincing the majority of humanity that your belief system is the only way to see the world, to understand the world, to organize the information we receive, and the only way to define your behaviors and actions.

Right or wrong, we all have them. Humans operate on self-interest, and are socialized (hopefully learn?) to act on the good of the majority. This blog’s agenda is to show how people work towards and hopefully achieve peace. As has been previously discussed, this achievement will never be through self-protection. Someone has to literally drop their own agenda and imagine the reasons for the other side’s actions.

Pointing fingers will always, always, always put the other side on the defensive. So releasing a statement that blames a specific person for something will always end with a fight. And releasing a movie that blames an entire religion for (what even, being boorish?) will only result in defensive feelings and a need to prove that video wrong.

But let us escalate tensions even further shall we? One tiny, crazy group of people offends another tiny, crazy group of people somewhere else. The offended group responds with murder of a bystander that probably had no idea the offensive video was even produced. (http://world.time.com/2012/09/11/cairos-u-s-embassy-incident-two-sets-of-fundamentalisms-unleash-havoc/?cid=nlc-dailybrief-daily_news_brief-link6-20120912 )

Now more people are involved. But rather than responding to what was originally ignited (the film in this case), top leaders begin to accuse one another of improperly responding (so as to garner more votes in an upcoming election). (http://tinyurl.com/9yzz56w)

There are now four major agendas in play here, none of which are actually communicating with the other, but all of them are taking offense at the others. Give it time and more players will start taking sides, but in reality only pushing their own agenda. Pretty soon there are so many agendas at play that no one is communicating anything. We choose what we want to hear and respond with what our personal agenda is.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if somewhere in that mess, even just one player, decided to stop communicating with the agenda and actually respond to the reality of the events? That could lead to some true break through in communication. Who knows, maybe even eventual peace. That might be cool.

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Stop Kony 2012? Stop Trending and Educate Yourself…

Stop Kony 2012? Stop Trending and Educate Yourself….

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The Belfast Connection

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

I recently interviewed the Northern Irish filmmaker Phil Harrison (credit: “Even Gods“), who is crowd-funding his first feature, “The Good Man,” set in Ireland and South Africa.  The film tells the stories “of a young banker in Belfast and a teenager living in a Cape Town township. When their lives unexpectedly collide, their impact on one another is far greater, and more surprising, than either could have imagined.” Phil, writes: “In terms of the stage we are at we have almost reached our corwdsourcing target–there’s less than 50 shares left of the 400 total.” If you want to support the film, by becoming a shareholder, click here. Some production notes: The actor Aiden Gillen (credits: The Wire–he played Baltimore’s Mayor Carcetti– and Game of Thrones) has signed on to play the lead. Here’s our email interview:

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10 June 2011 Last updated at 01:05 GMT


What’s it like to be a sponsored child?

By Emily Buchanan BBC News, in Ghana

Children who receive sponsorship from the charity Compassion

Sponsoring a child in the developing world is a popular form of charitable giving. But what do the children themselves make of the system?

When Priscilla was a child, a donor many thousands of miles from her Ghanaian village helped pay for her schooling.

For years she exchanged letters with her British benefactor. Now she is 20, the charity has stopped the sponsorship and the relationship.

“Last year I wrote to them saying goodbye and thanked them for taking care of me up to this day,” says Priscilla, an accountancy student. “When I was writing, I was full of tears. Tears were coming from my eyes.”

Sponsor-a-child arrangements throw up emotional highs and lows for the children, something many donors are unaware of.

World Vision One Life exhibition Charities like World Vision and Plan International use sponsor-a-child models to raise funds

Priscilla’s sponsorship was arranged through World Vision. The charity has boosted the fortunes of Dangme West, which used to be one of the most deprived areas in greater Accra, the capital of Ghana.

Youngsters such as Priscilla are sponsored for up to 15 years. They often receive letters and gifts, so many feel a close bond with their sponsor.

Augustina, 14, who hopes to become a doctor, says her sponsor has sent her many things – shoes, bags, crayons, books. She hopes her sponsor loves her, and wants to visit her in England.

Some even want their sponsors’ e-mail addresses, so they can carry on their correspondence into adulthood. But charities do not encourage this, for fear of dependency.

Continue reading the main story

Find out more

  • Emily Buchanan’s A Child to Sponsor was on BBC Radio 4 at 1100 BST on 10 June 2011

It’s an arrangement that can bring disappointment, as well as money. Abraham tells me he hasn’t heard from his sponsor for eight years, and he doesn’t know why.

More than eight million children around the world are sponsored by Western benefactors. This takes the form of regular donations to a charity, which links the sponsor with a deprived child. The charity also oversees the exchange of letters, and also provides updates on the child’s progress.

It is a form of aid that’s popular with donors, being high on the feel-good factor, and lucrative for charities as a source of long-term funding. About $3bn (£1.8bn) is channelled towards the poorest children in this way every year.

“Unmet expectations and disappointment for children poses a serious ethical concern” Sussex University report on some sponsor-a-child schemes

There are two approaches to child sponsorship. The oldest is still used by the evangelical Christian organisation, Compassion.

In the run-down industrial area of Kpone-on-Sea near Accra, sponsors’ regular donations help more than 200 children with free schooling, healthcare and extra Saturday classes in life skills such as basic sanitation and computers.

Sponsors are encouraged to write, and often have a very personal link with their child, even to the degree of being their spiritual mentor.

“I think of them as close relatives,” says Mary, 12. She thinks it’s great that someone in another country has seen her picture and chosen to be her friend.

When she feels lonely, she looks through the letters and pictures from the family that sponsors her.

Compassion is proud of its Christian ethos. The sponsored children are chosen by local churches, but the charity says families of any faith can benefit.

We visit a Muslim family living in a dark, cramped, one-room house. They hope sponsorship will help their 11-year old son eventually get a good job so they can escape poverty.

Does he mind that this means he is getting a Christian education?

“I feel that Allah and God are the same, and the Bible and the Koran, too, are the same,” he says. His mother agrees.

But is it fair?

Some donors make financial gifts in addition to their sponsorship payments.

A new home for Jennifer's family, thanks to generous cheques from her US donor Jennifer, in pink, and family outside their new home

Another family we visit has recently moved to a new settlement thanks to generous extra cheques from a donor in the US.

Twelve-year-old Jennifer shows off her new concrete house. “I am surprised that somebody so far away that I don’t even know loves me this way,” she says.

While Compassion’s sponsored children have effectively won the lottery, some aid experts argue that this approach is unfair and divisive.

So many big charities now allocate sponsors’ money to community development projects instead of focusing it on individual children.

This is the kind of scheme World Vision operates for Priscilla and others in Dangme West.

Plan International also uses the community development approach. A few years ago they commissioned a study from Sussex University into the impact of their operations.

Its 2008 report found there was “anxiety, jealousy and disappointment among those children and families who receive no letters or gifts”.

And, notwithstanding the success stories, “the much larger scale of unmet expectations and emotional disappointment for children poses a serious ethical concern and challenge”.

Classroom A classroom in Odumase

Plan has since tried to manage children’s expectations. It is abolishing gifts, and no longer requires children to write unless the sponsor writes to them.

When Plan arrived in the village of Odumase, west of Accra, 17 years ago, there was no school building, no clean drinking water nor sanitation. The village has benefited hugely from sponsorship funds. And aside from letters, there is no difference between what sponsored and unsponsored children receive.

We watch as a big brown envelope is delivered to one of the sponsored children, 13-year-old Ebenezer. It is the third piece of correspondence he has received in seven years, and contains a postcard and a few words of greeting.

Ebenezer appears crestfallen. Although happy to get the postcard, Ebenezer feels the lack of gifts means his sponsor doesn’t care about him, and that makes him sad.

But Eric and Naomi, the teenage helpers, enthusiastically begin to help him draft a reply. He wants to ask for a football and a skipping rope, but that, he is told, is not allowed.

This raises the question – without the direct financial link and the gifts, and if donors aren’t frequent writers, what is left of the sponsorship relationship? And should it be abandoned altogether?

Naomi, Eric and Ebenezer Naomi and Eric help Ebenezer write to his sponsor

Plan UK’s chief executive, Marie Staunton, argues that sponsorship is still an intrinsic part of the development process, helping with education and the necessary reporting back to head office on how children are faring. It also gives leadership experience to the teenagers who help with the process.

“I don’t think the sponsorship we do is diluted at all. What sponsors want is long-term changes in children’s lives. Because of sponsorship, we are focused on children, children have a say. People like Eric and Naomi have had years of communicating to people outside their village.”

The charities argue it’s a way to raise money that would not otherwise be there for development. Ultimately, though, it will be for donors to decide the future of child sponsorship.

A Child to Sponsor is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 1100 BST on Friday, 10 June 2011.


Rwanda FDLR rebels Murwanashyaka and Musoni go on trial

Ignace Murwanashyaka, file pic from 2005 Mr Murwanashyaka, 47, has lived in Germany for 20 years, having studied in the western city of Bonn

The trial of two Rwandan Hutu leaders accused of masterminding atrocities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has started in Stuttgart in Germany.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and his deputy Straton Musoni, both live there.

They face 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 of war crimes.

The trial comes under a new law which allows the prosecution of foreigners for crimes committed outside Germany.

They are accused of ordering militias to commit mass murder and rape between January 2008 and the date of their arrest in Germany in November 2009.

A third suspect, Callixte Mbarushimana, who had been living in France, has been extradited to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

‘Fight against impunity’

The United Nations has hailed the trial as a breakthrough after repeated calls by the UN Security Council to bring FDLR commanders living abroad to justice.

“This co-operative burden-sharing in prosecuting individuals for serious international crimes will greatly advance the fight against impunity,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January.

Troublesome neighbours


Rwanda map


  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame’s Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutus flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda’s army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila’s AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa


“Legal action against FDLR leaders also reinforces efforts to demobilise and repatriate FDLR fighters, which would significantly contribute to stabilising the eastern DRC.”

Mr Murwanashyaka, 47, has lived in Germany for 20 years, having studied in the western city of Bonn before being offered asylum and settling in Mannheim in the southwest. He is married to a German woman.

Mr Musoni, 49, has lived in Germany since 1994, and has been Mr Murwanashyaka’s deputy since 2004.

The FDLR was established by men accused of taking part in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 who later set up in DR Congo.

It is now one of the most powerful rebel forces operating in eastern DR Congo, where it is believed to make millions of dollars a year by controlling mines rich in gold and other minerals and extorting money from local people.

An unusual group, the stated aim of the ethnic Hutu rebels is to overthrow the ethnic Tutsi-dominated government in the Rwandan capital Kigali, says the BBC’s international development correspondent, Mark Doyle.

But in practice the rebels have only rarely infiltrated Rwanda since the Hutu army that organised the 1994 genocide of Tutsis was defeated and chased into DR Congo.

Callixte Mbarushimana Callixte Mbarushimana is accused of ordering atrocities from exile in Paris

The Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front came to power in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, when many FDLR members fled across the border, sparking years of unrest in the region.

The FDLR’s top leadership was based in Germany and France but maintained control in DR Congo through an organised hierarchy of military officers and men.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said earlier this year that the prosecution of FDLR leaders “will provide the opportunity to demobilise this armed group”.

A 1998-2003 conflict in DR Congo is estimated to have caused the deaths of five million people.

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