From Small Things, Mama, Big Things someday come
Thanks for taking the time to visit my page...
I need to tell you a story ... quite a long one so get a cup of tea and bear with me ... it explains the how's, why's and wherefore's of what I'm about to do... If you're in a hurry just read the red bits and click on the donate button (and I made it out to Madagascar on 16th May 2010 ... read to the end of the story for trip update!)
In January 2010, I took my Mother (83 and amazing) to see John Humphrys journalist extraordinaire and presenter of the Today Programme on BBC radio 4 and MasterMind. He was talking at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. During the 'show' he talked about a charity which he had set up called the Kitchen Table Charities Trust no flashy offices, no fast cars, infact no paid staff at all. He puts much of the proceeds of speaking slots, book sales & rent from the house he built in Greece into the charity.
In his words;
I have spent many years working in third world countries – mostly in Africa – and have been hugely impressed by what some very small charities do. I have also noticed over the years that many people would like to help these “kitchen table” charities but they’re not sure how to go about it.
We are not interested in charity as a big business. We believe that charity is about individuals helping other individuals with the minimum of bureaucracy and needless expense. That is why Kitchen Table Charities Trust exist
Read more about KTCT http://www.KitchenTableCharities.org
Back to the story, after the 'show' Mummy queued up to get Mr Humphrys paw print on a book.
I was just out of hospital & very wobbily on two crutches, in my Dad's old overcoat looking like a vagrant, miscreant and was standing to one side watching the academic autograph hunters jostling for position. When it was Mother's turn for book signing, she asked if the charity was on the Internet, John said yes and gave her the website address, and carried on signing - then she pulled a very unexpected blinder, "Is it on Twitter?" John looked more than a little surprised to have such an aged fossil ask about social media; he put his pen down, sighed, and said, "no but I suppose it should be" at which point dear mother said, "my daughter does Twitter" ... Having recovered from his shock at her question and then the realisation that the tramp in the corner on crutches was her daughter the Twitterer he laughed, we spoke and the long and the short is that I am now doing the social media for KTCT.
(For Twitter follow @KitchenTableCT and for Facebook click for the link and become a fan / friend)
Things trundled along for a little while and then I started getting demanding, I needed more information on the tiny charities supported ... John broke under the strain of my perpetual emails and turned me over to Brian Donaldson the charming Chairman of the Grants Committee for KTCT who sent various pictures which I used on Facebook .
Several of the photos were of projects KTCT had supported in Madagascar, I posted them up and observed that I'd always planned someday to go there - Brian replied by return saying that he was going over and I should come over to look at & help review some of the projects supported by KTCT and some that were looking for support.
I told him I'd have to think about going away with another man & ran down to discuss with mother; she told me off for flirting with someone I'd met on the internet! We Googled Brian ... he turns out to be the former British Ambassador to Madagascar, so mother, being a fan of Ambassadors and Empire, relented on the promise that I'd behave and enjoy myself. I booked flights and off I go - and I am SO proud, happy and excited. Brian also runs the Madagascar Development Fund who support and fund KTCT projects over there so I couldn't have a better or more perfect guide.
Now then, Madagascar as you may know is the most biodiverse of all nations ... lemurs, incredible plantlife and 740 species of spider. Apparently blue ones, green ones, spiders that hang between lamp-posts and are the size of your head, to say nothing of jumping rats, scorpions and snakes (not that I mind the latter). While the avid naturalists out there may see all this as a reason to go, I am slightly different. The lemurs will be wonderful, the plant life incredible and the spectacular scenery will I'm sure knock my socks off.
However, spiders and me don't get on ... just last week I had to knock on my neighbours door late at night to ask to be rescued from what I thought was the biggest spider in the world (I hadn't googled Madagascan Spiders by then) and I was reduced to hysterical sobs - not good when you've given up alcohol for Lent.
I was meant to be off on 17th April (having participated in the Clean Up at Stourbridge Common in Cambridge that morning) for a couple of weeks of intensive KTCT support and adventure but the Icelandic volcano put paid to that - so I'm now on my way on 15th May instead.
That's it .. my story ... while I'm there I will film, record, photograph, blog, tweet (wifi permitting) for all I'm worth to try to raise the profile of this wonderful charity, the beautiful country and the very great need of so many people there and elsewhere in Africa.
To place all this in a little context - and set aside the triviality of the spider issue, please reflect on these very stark facts (taken from the Madascar Development Fund website):
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on earth. Around 12 million of its 20 million population have no access to safe, clean water; 14 million live on less than US$1 (60 pence) a day; and 60,000 children under 5 die each year from water borne diseases and generally poor health - caused mainly by malnutrition.
I have travelled all over the place before but not like this ... I am fully prepared to be inspired by work done, heartbroken sights of extreme poverty, blown away by the passion people have to change their own lives, and constantly on the look out for scurrying, scuttling beasties.
UPDATE on 22 May 6 days in Madagascar so far - appalled by the absolute and utter poverty, bought to tears on numerous occaisions but opened a primary school with no running water but the happiest proudest children imaginable, been on national TV(!!!!), seen crab spiders, and the most enormous evil looking spikey spiders, had a lemur sitting on my head, wept watching a child with polio begging in bare feet in torrential rain from other street dwellers, and today had to have a leech removed from the back of my right hand - truly revolting - but more determined than ever to reach my target - please please do click donate.
UPDATE on 3rd June 2010 ... I'm back from this incredible trip - lots of blog posts to upload as no internet access out in Madagascar so do please read on and check my blog on http://mymadagascarblog.wordpress.com - the money you donate is so so so appreciated, needed, well used - and I shall post the spider photos to testify that I did face them!!!
Someone asked me 'why now?' the other day ... I think it is just a perfect time, crappy few years after my father died, work ups and downs, and 3 hugely long spells in hospital on top various other traumas (oh and getting married!).
It seems that now I am fit again, my immune system is behaving and life is really good it is the right time for me to do something so constructive and positive ... goodness knows how long my joints will last! So the whole 'sieze the day' philosophy has gripped me ... it's not often that a trip to the theatre leads to something quite so exiting.
I am lucky enough to fulfil an amibiton and confront (and hopefully conquer) a few fears, and I hope that in doing so I can help raise much much much more than the amount it will cost me to get out there, and raise lots of awareness of KTCT.
So - I'm not asking for sponsorship - just for donations for a wonderful volunteer run charity that helps other people make a difference to their own lives. The charity motto is 'changing lives by thinking small' - any donation you care to give of any size would be hugely appreciated.
Thank you so much - and well done for reading this far!
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
How does your support help in practical terms?In many poor countries children cannot go to school unless they have uniforms. It costs just £4 in Tanzania to provide two uniforms and a few exercise books and pens for a child - but when you are dirt poor that's a huge sum.
Four pounds can change a lifeThere are millions of people who are blind from cataracts and, therefore, utterly destitute. A charity hospital in Dar es Salaam will perform a cataract operation for £10 - not that they turn anyone away.
Ten pounds to see again.Tens of millions of people contract the worst form of malaria because they have no protection against mosquitoes. It costs less than £1 to supply someone with a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide.
One pound to protect someone from a deadly disease.It costs as little as £25 to help a woman buy a reconditioned sewing machine so that she can run a little business and feed her family.
Twenty-five pounds to give a family a futureIt costs approximately £500 to build two water points that will provide a decent water supply for a village of a few hundred people. This means the women and children no longer have to walk many miles every day to collect water that is often rank and disease-ridden.
Five hundred pounds to transform a villageIt costs £35 to cover all school costs for a child in primary school for a year.
A child who can read is a child with a future.For £100 a year a teenage boy or girl can be taught a skill - carpentry or dressmaking or even computer skills. They become self-sufficient and the whole community benefits. The future looks brighter.
£100 for a real chance in life.
Pretty good value for money eh?
KTCT website http://www.KitchenTableCharities.org
Twitter follow @KitchenTableCT
Facebook click and become a fan or friend