Stories For Change 61

Wishing you all a justice filled New Year
every blessing from Commitment for Life

Elevated concrete storm shelters, built along Bangladesh’s coast, have over the decades dramatically reduced the once catastrophic number of people killed by cyclones in the low-lying country.

But population growth, poor maintenance of some of the existing shelters and a lack of funding means the country today has inadequate shelters to protect all 7.8 million Bangladeshis most at risk during cyclones, officials say.

“People are at high risk, especially those who live close to the sea. Until and unless adequate numbers of shelter centres are built, they will remain at risk,” said Mokhlesur Rahman, the nation’s disaster management secretary.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Disaster Management, the country’s 16 coastal districts have 2,853 storm shelter centres, 262 of which are now unusable. To adequately protect the coastal population, the country needs another 2,500 shelters.

Storm shelter centres – large, elevated concrete structures built near the coast and often used day to day as schools or other public spaces – are an essential part of Bangladesh’s disaster preparedness, along with early warning systems.


In a region where many people, particularly the poorest, live in flimsy one-story structures, the shelters offer the only real chance of surviving serious cyclones, tsunamis and other disasters.

Bangladesh’s worst-ever cyclone, in 1991, killed 138,000 people and left as many as 10 million homeless. But the death toll was far less than from a smaller storm in 1970 that killed 300,000 people before the storm shelter network was built.

Since that time, the shelters have dramatically reduced Bangladesh’s loss of life from cyclones. Cyclone Sidr in 2007 officially killed 3,447 people. Cyclone Aila, which hit southern Bangladesh in 2009, killed 300 people, destroyed the homes of about 87,000 people and wiped out 4,000 kilometres of roads and embankments, many of which are still being rebuilt. Residents of the coastal areas most in need of shelters say that failure is putting large numbers of lives at risk. Syful Islam  (AlertNet)


Eighteen years and counting. This is the proud declaration from Stacy-Ann Jarrett, executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL), as the pioneering institution celebrates another anniversary of providing a myriad of services to persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

JASL has been a haven for many, but, like many other organisations around the world, has been rocked by the tempestuous waves of the global economic crisis.

Jarrett, who started at JASL as manager of finance and administration last January, moved up the ranks to executive director in November. She now has several accomplishments under her belt, including a peer influence programme where gay men are identified and trained to do intervention within their own group.

Better opportunities

Classes in mathematics, English and computing were instituted in September to increase literacy, and Jarrett said sex workers leave the streets at nights to attend classes, hoping for better opportunities. JASL also has three clinics in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Kingston – and a library.

The executive director said that though employees were sometimes called out to work in the wee hours of the morning, they always showed willingness.

Somebody to call

“That’s when our clients call and need people to be there. When they are having side effects from their drugs and they just want somebody to call and cry to, we have to be there,” she added.

© The Jamaican Gleaner, permission sought


Lovemore House

For a few boys, Lovemore House in Harare, Zimbabwe is an answer to prayer. Financed and run by the Uniting Church in South Africa, Presbytery of Zimbabwe, it provides a ‘home’ for fourteen young boys who would otherwise be living on the street.

When they have a space, the social welfare usually let them know of someone who is in need. The boys are looked after by seven staff with Helen (Social Welfare) and Loveness (administrator) working five days and a gentleman, training to be a minister, is there overnight and the weekend. Monday is his day off. The gardener and the cook are married and live on site. All realise that this situation is not ideal but is much better than what they had before.

Many of the boys originally came from Mozambique and ended up living on the streets because they were orphaned through AIDS, run away from home or abandoned because the family just couldn’t cope. Small children are often trained to beg at traffic lights or tourist destinations and that is how they would have lived day to day. Over half of the boys are HIV+ and come into the home with both mental and physical scars as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Helen described them as “bleeding inside with trauma.”

The boys attend a local school with the opportunity to go on to boarding school and university. When they move to boarding school this opens up places for new boys. Two boys, Truest and Quinton, are now at the David Livingstone Memorial School and doing extremely well. The boys have a breakfast of porridge and then go to the local school which is situated in the nearby army camp. They come home for a morning break of tea and bread and return for lunch. This works well as there has been problems of the boys taking other children’s lunches. The teachers understand the children’s trauma and work closely with the home when there are problems. However, the boys also support each other, with the oldest looking after the younger ones. Tynashe is six years old and the youngest at the home. He goes to Cadets and wants to go into the army but he has ill health and this may stop him achieving his dream. However, for now, Cadets is teaching him many useful new skills. The boys love football and one lad is particularly fond of reading. They all appeared happy and eager to show visitors their rooms and the house.

Each bedroom has four beds with its own cupboard and shelf space. They have an upstairs room for television and reading. Gardening is encouraged and each of the boys has their own plot .The rest of the land is worked to supplement the kitchen. There was great excitement when a new freezer/fridge arrived donated by UNICEF. As they cook for the boys with electricity, the regular electricity cuts cause a real problem, so UNICEF are also helping the home by providing a generator and barbeque. Until this happens the cook has to prepare meals outside in the garage with an open fire during the cuts. A new chicken run, made by the boys, is ready for new chickens, both broilers and egg layers that are expected very soon.

The home relies mainly on donations from the churches in the Presbytery. With the monthly cost for each child at approximately US$350 it is obvious how much of a struggle this is for congregations, especially since the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar.

And when one hears that the two boys at David Livingstone Memorial School came first in their year, it is evident that all the effort and sacrifice has been worth it. The UPCSA is ain partnership with eastern Synod through the Belonging to the World church Programme

Prayer Support in 2011.

Please do pray for the countries of Jamaica, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe as we enter another year. May this be the year that progress is made in giving those who struggle, a chance of a future through their own work. Commitment for Life produce a leaflet called ‘Prayer Partners’ on justice and poverty. Find it at

Linda Mead – Commitment for Life Programme Co-ordinator,
Mission Team, United Reformed Church
01702 315981
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.

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