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telling it like I think it is: sunili’s blog


Blog Action Day 08: let’s talk about poverty, baby

with 3 comments

Today, 15 October, is Blog Action Day: where nearly 10 000 sites around the great web of the internets will write, design, speak, or whatever on one topic to get the word out and keep it there.

The topic this year is POVERTY.

Yesterday I wrote rather flippantly about wanting an iPod and going oh, look at me, I’m a 20-something in Australia with no responsibilities and a highly disposable income.   And that was just after I’d read a news story about how millions of people are at risk of dying of starvation in Zimbabwe.

When I did my Arts Honours thesis, I spent a year with my head stuck in textbooks on “international development” (as in from the Millennium Development Goals) and talking to people who were trying to “fix” poverty.  At some points it all got a little disenchanting — particularly when I realised that the concept of “development” was invented/thought up after World War II, as in sixty years ago, and we’re still trying to “fix” it.

It’s a big issue. There’s no denying that.  And yeah, sometimes it seems like there’s too much to do, and that no matter how many concerts Bono organises, or how much coffee Colin Firth drenches himself in (hello), nothing much is going to change anything.

But you know what? I still make the effort to do what I can.

I’ve been a UNICEF Global Parent for several years, donating money to that program every month even when I was a student.  When I have to give people gifts, I get them chickens or seeds or goats or small business grants from Oxfam Unwrapped (my friends get a card; people who could do with a goat get a goat).  I try to only buy coffee from cafés that use fair trade beans and I try to only buy fair trade tea and chocolate, too (sometimes, but, I really feel like a Snickers; I do then try to offset that somehow…).

I also joined the Make Poverty History campaign, and when they send me emails about lobbying projects that asks me to take 2 minutes to click through and sign a petition the government about the travesty of the maternal and child mortality in developing countries, I do it. Oh, and I am hosting The World’s Largest Fondue Party (or at least, a part of it) at my place in November (SAVE THE DATE!!), which is part of the Stop The Traffick campaign to end child trafficking labour in the manufacture of our chocolate.

Yes, I know those are only little things.

Like the way I also take all my recyclables home from the office because our building doesn’t do recycling, some people might think I am an idiot because just little me doing those little things probably isn’t going to make a big impact.  But you know what?  I don’t care what people think about the things I do.

I have a choice.  I have a choice between:

  1. doing those little things that might-possiblymaybe have some positive impact (no matter how small) but don’t require me to go very far out of my way at all; or
  2. not doing anything at all because, psh, that’s what most people are doing anyway, even if that will totally-definitely not have any impact,

My choice is, CLRLY, the first one.

And if people want to think I’m a little odd for my choice, all I want them to know is that I don’t give a shit about what they think.

And until I have time to set up a Kiva fund, or the guts to quit my job and go work somewhere like Cambodia like Laine, or the inspiration to set up a program for indigenous people in the Kimberly like Dan, I will keep doing those little things.  Actually, I’ll keep doing those little things even when (that’s right, not if, when) I get around to taking the bigger steps.

There’s a list on the Blog Action Day site about the Things One Person Can Do, but if you can’t be bothered to read that, they’ve got a video too.

Watch it, yo:

I hope this post encourages people to think about the little things they can do that will be part of a bigger effort to deal with the issue of world poverty.

Look, I know that with all these talks about recession and credit crunches a lot of people have issues to deal with that are even closer to home. But that’s exactly why, right now, it is just as important to talk about poverty which has been affecting entire countries, heck continents, for decades and decades.  Think about it. I guess that’s all I’m asking for. If you want to take it any further, and kinda maybe talk to me about it, my email is sunilisblog via that google internet communication thing.



Written by Sunili

15 October 2008 at 8:25 pm

stop the traffick

with one comment

Matt and I visited Cambodia early this year. We were there just a week, and we wish we had more time to get to know the people there a bit better. Visiting the ancient temples in Angkor was an amazing experience (hello, Angelina had been there!), but what impacted us the most on that part of our trip was the people there. Or, more accurately, the striking determination of people who were recovering from fresh wounds of the Khmer Rouge period and still dealing with getting their families and their country back on its feet… but still manage to smile and get on with it.

On one of the nights, we had dinner at the home of the guide took us through Phnom Penh’s infamous S 21 prison, which is now converted into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. His wife cooked us the most amazing meal (plus we tried fried tarantulas), and he told us his family’s story. His parents died in the KR years. More shockingly — he’d been in the work camps himself.

This guy doesn’t have much, but we were amazed by what he gave back to his local community. He taught himself English while driving a tuk-tuk around the city, and now hires a local teacher to teach neighbourhood kids in the space underneath his humble stilt home. Before the meal, we had the chance to practice English conversation and play games with the kids, and it was a highlight of my entire trip.

Laine, a lovely lassie I know though Young Labor (WA), gave up lawyering and moved to Cambodia last year to work for an NGO called Healthcare Centre for Children. Yeah. I know. Inspiring.

The HCC’s current project is called stop.traffick — a campaign which aims to deal with the massive problem of human trafficking in Cambodia with a very proactive yet grass roots approach:

Essentially, the objective of the project is “to tangibly improve the lives of former-slaves in Cambodia by creating sustainable income generating opportunities, contemporaneously raising awareness of the human trafficking endemic globally”.

HCC will do this by empowering and skilling former-slaves to become economically self-sufficient and act as global change-makers advocating against human trafficking and fighting injustice by launching stop.traffick product range.

I did my Arts (Politics) honours on the impact that small income-generating programs can have on the lives of really poor communities in Sri Lanka. Trafficking isn’t as big a problem over there, so I didn’t deal with that aspect of the HCC’s campaign, but I know for sure that this project has lots of potential in terms of economic empowerment.

The high incidence of trafficking in Cambodia does nothing to support its people’s struggle to heal their country’s wounds, and I believe that the HCC’s innovative approach is a fantastic proposal aimed at reducing and preventing the abuse and exploitation that results from the horrible and selfish trade in humanity.

I saw some of the worst aspects of that trade on the streets of Phnom Penh and Siam Reap. Some people may only be trying to earn a living, but small children should not be selling trinkets (or themselves) to tourists — they should be in school. The training programs offered by this project are a valuable means of supporting survivors of trafficking to get their lives back on track in a country that is so heartbreakingly beautiful.

While Laine’s project focuses on the issue of trafficking on a more local scale, there’s a global campaign called STOP THE TRAFFIC that aims to unlock freedom and prevent fellow human beings from being treated as commodities to be bought, sold, and enslaved. There’s a Facebook app which I encourage all of you to join — or sign the declaration online. The STT blog includes news about the campaign, too.


It would be awesome to see the power of the interwebs make a real impact with this big project, and I hope some of you might even consider joining me in offering Laine whatever assistance we can provide for her’s.

Written by Sunili

17 June 2008 at 2:26 pm