Category Archives: In the name of…

An update, and some thoughts on staying focused.

It’s hard to write these days. What to say? Nothing exciting keeping me from my words. It’s partly that those moments of clarity that used to come quite regularly to me seem few, far between and nowhere near developed enough to formulate into essay format. I’ve hit a plateau on my journey of self-realisation. These days I’m just trying to remember all the lessons that sounded good when I wrote them down at the time. Not that I read myself. So cringe-inducing…like listening to a recording of your own voice. Give me nails on a chalkboard any day over reading something I wrote more than half an hour ago.

And of course not writing means slowly forgetting how to formulate a coherent post worth reading, and then the whole process of keeping this blog up-to-date seems silly. On the other hand, I know it’s good for me. And this is a day off during which I’ve decided to hole up in my flat doing things I know to be good for me because I’ve been neglecting those things a bit of late.

So if you’ll note and forgive the selfish motivation of this post, I’ll endeavour to write something worth reading.

This is such a very strange time in the world, isn’t it? Surely it isn’t just me feeling it’s all going to pot rather quickly, that the reigns are slipping from our sweaty, anxious palms, that the horses are mad and the carriage is falling to pieces and we’ve left our glasses on the night table and our near-sightedness is proving just one more debilitating factor in this journey gone awry, now seemingly destined for catastrophe.

The news seems bad all the damn time. I have to keep reading it: it’s partly my nature and partly my professional responsibility to try to understand what the hell is happening in the world. As previously mentioned, I’m limited in what I can discuss regarding the goings-on within the geopolitical boundaries in which I currently reside. And no matter how much I read, listen to podcasts, and read some more, I just can’t wrap my head around what’s happening in places beyond those boundaries I thought I understood a little better…Duterte in the Philippines…Brexit…this “election” in the United States. Like one of my Sociology professors used to say, “You can’t make this shit up.” Indeed.

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With a little help from our friends…

For 30 years, Nancy Calle worked in adoption with some of the most vulnerable children in Ecuador. At the age of 63, when most people are preparing for retirement, she applied to register her family home as a “Casa Hogar” for children in transition. Some of the children now living here will be adopted, some will be reunited with their families once the court’s orders have been met, and a few will continue to live here, because their circumstances – or age – render them “unadoptable”.

But this is not a house of sadness.

Hermanas

The children at Hogar Para Todos are thriving with the support of an incredible staff, including a Clinical Psychologist working with a team of 5 interns, an Early Childhood Intervention Specialist, an Educational Psychologist, a team of specialist support workers, a Social Worker, and the “tias” of the house, who prepare meals, clean the house, ensure school uniforms are ready in the morning and much more.

At the age of 76, Nancy generally rises at 6:30 and weaves her way in and out of meetings and children and staff support until well after dinner is served. All of the children are engaged in education and both group and individualized therapy, as well as numerous other activities every week.

This is not a house of sadness.

But it is a house that has fallen on hard times. While the staff’s salaries and the food for the children are paid by social services and the provincial government, all other costs must be covered by donations: electricity, water, gas, general maintenance, toys, clothes, activities and more. The cost of this part of operations was $82,068 in 2013, $72,841 in 2014, and is projected at $63,558 for 2015.

Until this year a large percentage of the funds to cover those costs came from a Belgian partner organization that sponsored the Casa with donations from many individuals. This year, the director has retired and following the closure of this organization, the Casa has effectively lost 23,000€. For the past two years, costs have exceeded donations, and so there is currently a deficit of nearly $30,000, and it will worsen next year.

There are so many reasons to support this Casa – we have seen with our own eyes how differently it functions, how immediately one gets the sense of “home” here. But the biggest reason to support HpT is because it is invaluable to this community, where there are significant socio-economic problems leading to substance misuse, neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Whatever the future holds, in debt or with healthy finances, the existence of this place is absolutely imperative.

Our formidable leader

Our formidable leader

Nancy Calle is an extraordinary woman. But she is human, and will eventually need to pass the torch on to the next generation, who will continue the life-changing – and literally life-saving work – she began. But before she goes, she wants this house in order.

For many, $30K doesn’t sound like much, and with a little support from a lot of folks, it really isn’t. But is the world to the future of this organization. And this organization has, is, and will continue to improve the world for countless children.

If you can donate absolutely any amount at all, please go to Ammado, where with a couple of clicks you can donate any amount you wish.

And rest assured that this drive for funds is not an end-all effort. At the moment, several players are working together to ensure that in the years to come HpT’s finances are stronger than ever. The organization’s website will be launched in July, and volunteers from Holland, France, and the US are working together to fundraise in a variety of ways. One of these is developing a network of sponsors who can commit to giving a small sum every month. If this is something that might interest you, please let us know.

Group Photo

Further information is available via email in Spanish, French or English at ann.halsig.hpt@gmail.com, or in German and Dutch at w.croes@planet.nl.

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A day in the life at Hogar Para Todos

There are at present 29 children living at Hogar Para Todos.  The house belonged to the director’s parents, who from what I understand left it to her when they died.  Nancy is 76 years old and usually is woken by a staff member or a young person whose problem can only be resolved by her at around 6:30 in the morning.  From there she starts her day, never seeming to rush, but always making progress.  By 8:00 or thereabouts she is fully dressed and has had her breakfast and is getting to the day’s to-dos.  She has no office, and her only device is a Blackberry from which she occasionally checks her Facebook page.  Throughout the day she floats between the accounting office (which has become my temporary home, as there is a computer I can generally use if no one else needs it), the “Director’s office,” which is a funny misnomer because of course Nancy is the director, but there are 3 desks in there and none of them are hers, and the various other parts of the house where care and support are the order of the day: the kitchen, the babies’ room, the playground, the dining room.

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Turn and face the strange.

Some time ago, in the midst of one of my many (many) existential crises, I happened upon a series of books called The School of Life.  The premise of all these books is that sometimes the things we aren’t overtly taught via the many institutions to which we belong by choice, default or force, could really use some basic instruction.  Some titles include How To Connect with Nature, and How To Be Alone, as well as News: A User’s Manual.   One of the books proffered is How To Find Fulfilling Work, and whilst I have been engaged throughout much of my adult life in fulfilling work, at the time I found that book, I very much was not fulfillingly employed.

This, unfortunately, remains the case.

You see, whilst I do love language, and I do love teaching, I do not so much love teaching language.  I never envisaged teaching English; teaching English was something I never foresaw falling back on, and that happened to save my arse when I did indeed fall.

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Weight loss hygiene part I: Fat talking

In management jargon, as I’m sure lots of you know, there are outputs (i.e., you make money, or don’t; you get the contract signed, or don’t) and then there are hygiene issues.  Hygiene issues are essentially things that don’t directly affect your outputs, but it’s a really good idea to pay attention to them nevertheless.  An example of a hygiene issue is salary.  I’m pretty sure everybody alive wants a job they enjoy that pays well.  It turns out that pay, however, becomes a “hygiene issue” when job satisfaction is in place.  That is, if you enjoy your job, you prefer to be well-paid, but if you aren’t, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for you.  Just because something’s a hygiene issue doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect your bottom line:  start paying good people bunk wages and see how fast they fly out the door.

And so we have the evil that is fat talking.  I’m gonna get a little confessional on your asses.  I went through my fair share of bullying as a too-tall, overweight and extremely awkward kid in a Catholic school.  Even that three-letter word makes me cringe a little.  Absolutely sucked to be a teenager in the 90s when people started spelling it with a ph and using it as a synonym for awesome.  Still, I can’t think of a better term for the terrible habit about which I speak than fat-talking, because it renders all the nasty, ugly associations I have when I hear the word “fat”.  Incidentally, the ugliness of which I speak is the hurtful bullying children (and even sometimes adults, albeit in covert ways) are capable of unloading on one one another.

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59 children have been brutally murdered in one go…and this isn’t breaking news.

I am outraged.

I am sick to my stomach.

This morning, scrolling through the news on the Guardian, waaaaay down at the bottom, nestled between a story about an NHS scandal and an IRA bombing suspect, was the story of 59 adolescent Nigerian students who were shot and burned to death by members of the extremist group Boko Haram on Tuesday.

At first they thought there were only 29 dead.  Apparently many of them ran for their lives, only to die along the way from their gunshot wounds.

Some of them were “burned to ashes,” according to the police commissioner.

This is horrible…terrible…I am no journalist, so I have no shame in admitting that it leaves me absolutely speechless.

But it is news.  It is very, very important news.

Appalled by the very unimportant placement of the article on the Guardian’s front page, I began formulating a letter of complaint to the editor.  Out of curiosity, and perhaps for some moral amunition, I headed over to Al Jazeera, hoping to say, “Hey, Guardian!  Look how this newspaper valued the lives of these children enough to place it at the top of the page!”  Alas, there isn’t even a mention of the event on their home page.

New York Times:  Nothing on their home page.

Los Angeles Times:  Nothing on their home page.

The Washington Post:  Nothing on their home page.

Le Monde: One of 16 lead stories at the bottom of their homepage

The Telegraph:  Nothing on their home page.

I’m going to ask you to do something terrible.

I’m going to ask you to imagine your own child, 16 years old, having just seen his or her classmates shot and burned alive, running through the bush, bleeding from gunshot wounds, until he or she finally cannot go any further, and collapses, to bleed to death, alone.

I don’t think I have a single reader out there who would contest that Africa is where it all began.  Where humans took their first steps; where farmers planted their first seeds; where civilisations were first built.  More recently, so-called “developed” countries have spent the past several hundred years endeavouring by any means necessary to systematically under-develop this massive, culture-, history-, and (perhaps most importantly to those “developed” nations) resource-rich continent to what often feels like the point of no return.

Humanity’s treatment of Africa and Africans is a microcosm – albeit a very large one – of  humanity’s treatment to the Earth and nature itself:  as somehow seperate.  Not part of us.

Listen:  Africa is us.  Those are our children. 

Consider Columbine.  Sandy Hook.  The Norway Massacre.

Why do the deaths of these children headline for days – weeks, even?  Why are their lives worthy of breaking news reports that start at the moment they happen and don’t end until we almost can’t stand to hear about it any more?

Why are the children of Buni Yadi College in Yobe, Nigeria, not headlining the news?

Please:  remember Biafra.

I should have been writing to thank the editors of the GuardianAt least they covered the story.

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