Volunteer – feel less rubbish!

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Leo the wonder volunteerGiven that it’s Volunteers’ Week – and make sure you check out our fabulous new volunteer video – I feel compelled to mention that I volunteered recently. Oh yes. For two whole hours, I stood outside a London train station shaking a bucket forlornly (or fundraising, as it’s also known) while random commuters threw coins in my general direction. It was exhausting.

Thankfully, there are those in the world who have a little more zip and voluntary zeal than myself. Take Finnish wonder-boy Leo Kaipianen, for example, who has just won a Platinum Youth Achievement Award (think the voluntary equivalent of an Olympic gold, Oscar, Nobel Prize etc) for his breath-taking efforts.

Despite English being only his third language, Leo spent a full year trawling all across the North West of our fair country teaching first aid to lots of other younglings – including those with disabilities – at schools and social centres.

On reflection, I really don’t like Leo. He’s one of those annoying over-achievers whose very existence tends to make many of us – who may lead slightly more sedentary lives – feel useless and rubbish. But, if you want to start feeling a bit better, now would be an ideal time to get involved.

Fintastic logistics training

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Another week, another country, another training course. This time I was in Finland, in a place called Tampere, which is Finland’s second biggest city. The Finns are quite keen on ranking things by size I discovered. It was here on the banks of the Tammerkoski Rapids in south-western Finland where the Nokia company was first set up. This was before it relocated to the town of Nokia and took on the name. Lucky really as “Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä connecting people” isn’t quite so snappy a slogan!

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How will you celebrate Refugee Week?

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Liz & Teil with Emmanual Jal, refugee week 2008

What will you do to celebrate Refugee Week this June?
Last year I met Sudanese rap singer Emmanuel Jal at the Celebrating Sanctuary Fun Day in Bristol. I’ve never listened to rap before but I was very impressed with his music as he draws on his experience of being a child soldier. I learned something that day through listening to him. What a star.
If you read my first blog (Two interns for the price of one) you will know that we have James and Lilly working with us this year to co-ordinate our refugee week activities in Bristol, Swindon and Gloucester – they are doing a fantastic job and we have a very busy and exciting week planned.

The perfect eco-friendly bag

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If you’re anything like me, you’ll have plastic carrier bags coming out of your ears. Or, at least, stuffed into all your cupboards and kitchen drawers.

I occasionally remember to take a bag or two with me to the shops to use again, but not very often. So I’m endlessly asking for new ones and telling myself “next time…”.

Eco-friendly bags have been around for a while now, but they’re often a bit slogan-y (or brown) for my taste, so I’ve resisted – until now.

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Monday Movement update #9

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Here’s your weekly update on what different members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement* are doing.

Swine flu: More than one week after the peak of the H1N1 crisis, terraces, squares and public places in Mexico City are once again packed to capacity.

Wounded civilians in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka conflict: As the ICRC stands ready to carry out its humanitarian work hundreds of seriously wounded patients blocked in the conflict area have been waiting in vain for desperately needed medical care.

Pakistan: The latest fighting in Pakistan’s North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) has caused civilian casualties and massive displacement. The head of ICRC delegation in Pakistan comments on their response. More

Water way to see Austria

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Sometimes I look at my life and wonder how I end up in the situations I find myself in. Karma? Kismet? Serendipity? These days it’s often down to this amazing Movement that I work for which has some magical ability to make me sign up to do things I would ordinarily find myself running away from and so this is how I ended up in Austria purifying water from a duck pond and only dreaming of eating Sachertorte.

The team at the raw water tank

As an Aquarian and a spa bunny, I’m quite a fan of H2O but this is the first time I got to understand how much time and effort (and money) go into producing clear, clean drinkable water. It is thanks to the Austrian Red Cross (ARC) that I now have an appreciation of this. I also have to thank the ARC and particularly the Austrian water and sanitation specialised water emergency response unit for showing me the alternative delights of Austria many of which are not featured in the Lonely Planet guidebook and through the fortunes of serendipity or a good search engine I am now able to share with you. So in no particularly order here is my list of the top five alternative Austrian must dos. More

Could you write about neglected crises?

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If you think you could write about neglected crises then what’s stopping you? There’s still time to enter this year’s Guardian International Development Journalism competition. And if you’re good enough to make it to the top 16, you’ll be flown to a developing country and given a new assignment.

Displaced woman in Congo

Top of my list would be the Congo – you may remember the media attention it received last year following renewed fighting between government troops and the armed opposition in North Kivu. Over 250,000 people fled their homes and the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal.

Yet despite this attention and celebrity support from Ben Affleck, who made a film called Gimme Shelter to raise awareness about the situation, the media spotlight quickly moved on, suffering as it does from ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

In today’s Metro, there was a sneeze and you’ll miss it article quoting Oxfam on the ‘untold death and suffering’ among civilians that is currently taking place. And if you want to find out more about the sort of wounds being inflicted on people, read Ken Barrand’s delegate diary.

So your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to write about an issue affecting the developing world which isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Ok, don’t tell anyone but here’s a few ideas… More