In Britain, If we pay our stamps then most of us will receive a state pension. For Mercy, living in a high density housing area in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare life is not like that. Her husband died many years ago and she bought up their three children on her own, whilst still working full time. There was never any money left over to save, so now she has no money on which to live in her retirement. Getting a job might be an answer as she speaks Shona, English and Ndebele but that is not easy in a country where unemployment is over ninety percent. So today she keeps herself active with Church administration and work with the local community. Other people sell what little they can at crossroads and in markets to make a few dollars.
To live, Mercy relies on money from her children. However, last month they did not approve of how she spent this money and so they stopped it. Mercy laughed as she explained that she often uses the money they give her to buy presents for her grandchildren and children. Imagine being so beholden to your offspring that you don’t know when they will decide to start the payments again. She seemed to take it in her stride; The Lord will provide for me,” she said
She is now behind with the rent and water bills. Her electricity is free because one of her sons works for the company. “You can come and bake as many cakes as you like in my oven, she said, “Just bring all the ingredients and take home the washing up.”
Happily this state of affairs has now ended and Mercy is again receiving money. She is typical of many elderly people who find themselves without work and therefore no income. It is only with the help of family that they can survive. With no care homes families usually care for parents at home. However this often means leaving them on their own all day and lacking basic hygiene. This contributes to the low life expectancy of 34 years for women and 36 years for men. With a whole middle generation lost to violence, poverty and AIDS one wonders how communities will cope in the future.
But Mercy continues to get the most out of life, changing from a recent present of a new of tights into an old pair, she heads for a ‘Kitchen Party.’ She and a friend are off to give marriage advice to a bride to be, a week before her wedding. Now that is an interesting idea!!!
Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis in the impoverished southeast of the country are facing serious food insecurity due to an infestation of rats which are eating up food stocks, crops and seeds, the European Union’s aid department said on Friday.
Around 130,000 people in the rugged Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are grappling to feed themselves due to a three-year-long rat plague, brought on by the flowering of bamboo plants – a rare phenomenon which occurs in south and southeast Asia.
According to the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), every 50 years the bamboo plants produce flowers which, when consumed, cause the rats to reproduce at an accelerated rate.
“Even in normal years, when harvests are good and bamboo available for collection, food insecurity is especially acute in remote areas of CHT,” said Abigail Masefield, ECHO’s food assistance coordinator for South Asia.
“Discussions with communities have confirmed a significant reduction in the 2009 harvest compared to the normal harvest, with only around 30 to 50 percent of normal production level reported by all the communities visited.”
LOST CROPS AND INCOME
The region of the Chittagong Hill Tracts is one of the most disadvantaged regions of Bangladesh, where more than 60 percent of the 1.3 million population are living below the poverty line, according to the U.N. Development Programme.
Thousands of landless Bengalis were settled in the 5,500-sq-miles region under a government plan in the 1980s to ease population pressure in the plains, and also to defuse a 25-year tribal separatist insurgency which ended in 1997.
But relations between the largely Muslim settlers and the Buddhist tribes have been tense over land ownership in an area where cultivatable land is scarce.
Aid workers say affected populations have lost rice paddy, bananas and chilli crops. Other crops such as turmeric and ginger — which are sold for cash — have also been lost.
To further compound matters, the bamboo dies after flowering and takes five years to regenerate, impacting the income of populations who make a meagre but important income by selling bamboo to a local paper mill.
To make matters worse, while the number of rats has decreased in recent months, wild pigs and monkeys in the forests are now destroying the remaining crops.
“This means that the traditional lean season — March/April to August — is set to be particularly acute and early during 2010.
ECHO as well as the U.N. World Food Programme, have been providing food and income-generating activities to help affected populations. © Reuters AlertNet
The Mission Statement of Children First, who receive a grant from Christian Aid is:-
‘To work with street and potential street children to improve their life chance enabling them to make positive contributions to society. ‘
Children First is a newly transformed independent non-governmental agency. The original project began in 1989 with the support of Save the Children Fund (UK), with 50 street children. Children First presently serves approximately 620 children aged 3 – 18 years. It is the largest of its kind in Jamaica. The focus of the project is to work with and for children using the child participation technique, empowering them to become actively involved in decision making.
The project operates five days per week from 8:30 am. – 4:30 p.m. The first three
days account for remedial education and basic skills training, while the fourth day caters for
recreational and group activities. The fifth day is reserved for home and school visits and also staff development.
‘Children First’ have an interesting web page that can be found at http://www.jamaica-kidz.com/childrenfirst/
CAMPAIGNS AND ACTION
Try to get a chance to see your MP in these last few days before the election. ‘Ask the climate and poverty Question.’ Whatever the political make-up of the next government, we need to ensure tackling global poverty is one of its key priorities. As part of the Poverty Over mission, please press your candidates on climate change and tax.
Why not email your local candidate now http://act.christianaid.org.uk
‘I Stories’ – from the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe
Poverty is so bad in Zimbabwe that students sometimes resort to prostitution to survive, says a new booklet by Christian Aid partner the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe. SCMZ is publishing the booklet in a move to speak openly and freely about what Zimbabwe’s young people have experienced during the last decade of the country’s decline.
It contains stories of students struggling through their studies on a meagre budget. Stories from the SCMZ will be available in later editions of Stories for Change.
Big Church Day Out – 29th May at Stanford Hall near Loughborough and 30th and 31st May at Wiston House, West Sussex. For more info visit: http://www.bigchurchdayout.co.uk/
By Cloud and Fire: Spiritual Journeys to Climate Safety Saturday 22nd May11am – 5pm. Friends’ House, Euston Road, London. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place now! http://www.operationnoah.org/node/238
Christian Aid Week
Sunday 9th May – Saturday 15th May. Christian Aid Week is seven amazing days of fundraising, action and prayer. It’s a time when communities get together to raise funds to make real and lasting changes in the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. For more info visit: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/
Linda Mead – Commitment for Life Programme Co-ordinator,
Mission Team, United Reformed Church
Commitment for Life is here to help United Reformed Churches and LEPs work for a fairer world and for peace with justice, recognising that change and response starts with each one of us. www.cforl.org.uk