The Irony of Ramadan in Dubai…

I’m not much of an Islamic scholar (understatement) but my thinking was that a component of Ramadan (the Islamic discipline of fasting during daylight hours for a lunar month) was to give you thoughts, perspectives and raise empathy towards the poor. If that is one of its aims then how do people feel when they are hungry surrounded in complete opulence and greed that is Dubai?

I had feared my transition from South Sudan to Dubai would be a little bumpy and it is proving that. One square kilometre anywhere in this city represents the end of polio or the budget to provide critical humanitarian aid to South Sudan for the coming starvation season and it shows the choice that someone would rather prosper for a few than help many. I don’t put all the blame on the UAE as it is servicing a demand that should not exist.20150617_095307 pana

I’m joining the first day of Ramadan and fasting and I know that when I fast or do Live Below the Line or whatever associated with not filling my stomach on a wants basis it takes off a few layers of lenses and opens me to more life, humanity and equality.

That is why I’ve always admired Ramadan and the sacrifice Muslims make for a full lunar calendar that nothing shall pass their lips during daylight hours. There is a lovely charity aspect and social justice integrated into Islam that I have connected with Muslims though in many places but not knowing the religion well enough I don’t see how the extreme wealth in Dubai is permitted on the basis of what Ramadan and ultimately Islam is trying to achieve (as is the case with Christianity and other similar ‘businesses’).

I know all religions have parts (or the whole) of hypocrisy, and personally I do too since I am writing this post from the air-conditioned environment of a luxury hotel to use their free wifi! But I know an hour before the sunsets in around 3 hours from now the deep hunger in my stomach and the sense of privilege that resonates and translates into aspiring for equality will be blunted when I look around me and see development based on greed, not based on need. How do the locals and foreigner live here in wealth when the poor still remain and anything/everything they do is directly related to the environmental degradation of the planet – with no exceptions?20150618_140117

My transition from the developing world into the developed world is always much rougher than the opposite. I find understanding, resilience, humanity and life when I interact with extreme poverty and only feel anger, disbelief and absolute shame in extreme wealth. Luckily my reason for being in Dubai is speak on behalf of the world’s poor and not necessarily ask for help but to work towards preventing wants beyond needs. I do this not with finger pointing, moral bashing or guilt trips but offering a positive alternative that we can be ‘richer’ when giving, sharing and interacting as an effective global citizen to create Teaspoons of Change.

To put it politely I totally despise Dubai and everything it represents and that is a reflection in more of the west than the local culture who is supplying the demand. I feel that if the people I met in Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in South Sudan who offered me their only cup of tea and biscuits for the day recently, knew this existed they would simply ask – why? why so much when others have nothing? To me it makes me feel completely and deeply ashamed, desperate and embarrassed knowing both of these worlds and what humans are capable of without any compassion for others.20150618_065835

So whether it be Ramadan, Sunday church service or your next online purchase of an unnecessary want (as I also do from time to time), I beg you to consider others and how you might feel you had been born in rural South Sudan and knew at the same time there was a fucking indoor ski hill in a shopping mall in the desert with daily temperatures of  40°C.

I think ends my session on the psychiatrist’s couch via this blog for today – thank you.

On top of my begging I do invite people to want to make positive change and the wonderful connection and fulfilment it brings. I won’t label you a cold-hearted bastard for going snowboarding in Dubai (since I already did that 7 years ago here!) instead what I will do if offer small Teaspoons of Change in your personal choices, decisions and actions that will have a positive impact on people and the planet!

Kareem Ramadan! (happy Ramadama-ding-dong!)20150617_151840 (1024x768)

Posted in 2015 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Far Edge of Humanity

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Today I stood on the far edge of humanity and it was beyond what 90% of us in the world would think is possible let alone acceptable (inside or outside of war).

The reason I knew I was still within the realms of humanity was because of the beautiful people. The line for acceptable conditions for humans I had stepped over long before getting here to the Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in Bentiu, Unity State and feel like I stepped over that line the day I arrived in South Sudan.

As Gabriel, my UNICEF national colleague, and I walked around the PoC camps today we encountered scene after scene of people living in conditions with serious threat to health, security and certainly happiness. Some people exhausted, others hungry, others eating, bathing, drinking and existing in the most unhygienic disease-riddled conditions possible. If it was just one family as I have seen in similar conditions in impoverished rural areas of the globe the weight if the experience is life-lasting but to see 70,000 people living in such conditions could be life-lasting for anyone just reading this.20150602_155621

But I am not here to give people a sob story or guilt trip because that does no favours to the fellow humans I am representing from today, instead just think of it as the reality for these people. I will get onto what we might be able to do about it later.

From PoC to PoC camp I walked with Gabriel wading through knee high muck that would be too flattering to call mud. I had been in the PoC each day this week but this was the first time since a big rain yesterday which had delayed my flight back to Juba by two days. The place that was beyond my previous experiences of extreme poverty in the previous days was now amplified to a place I’d never imagined.20150604_115928

The hardest moment came when Gabriel and I stood near the registration tent where people were waiting to get registered so they could then receive food rations, temporary shelter, immunisation and water. I saw people sitting in the middle of the mud barely knowing they were in mud because they were exhausted and starving. The babies and small children were too upset and deprived of energy to keep the flies off their faces. Their mothers clutched onto tiny strips of paper that had a scribbled number so they would enter into the system which was only just a tiny step beyond what they had now which looked like less than nothing. The volume of people made it obvious that not everyone would be registered today and many probably not tomorrow.20150604_115121

I’ve never felt more white and more hopeless in my life. The only thing separating me from any one of these people was my birthplace and there was little I could do immediately to all of my human sisters and brothers sitting in the mud.

These are people who did not choose to be in this situation like everyone else I’ve ever met living in extreme poverty. They are caught in an ongoing civil war on top of extreme poverty that existed before any conflict. They walked extremely long distances in the slim chance to get a little peace and survival. These are the people we should do anything for regardless of what country we are from, how poor we think we are or how critical we are of those we don’t know and maybe don’t want to understand.20150602_165614

So to move on to the rays of hope that I always try to find in any situation and that I am clinging onto now to make this experience not one of sadness and helplessness but one of resolve, learning and inspiration…

Here are the people, ideas, situations and cooperation that I have seen in the past few days that is making a difference and will hopefully win out overall in this situation:

  • Every person entering the camps is offered a free cholera vaccine (including me) to keep cholera away during the rainy season as they did last year (but only half the number of people in the camp this time last year)20150603_090425
  • We visited the new site for the entire camp which is drained, has latrines, shelters with basic wooden structure and sites set up for schools and clinics20150604_122010
  • A local NGO I met and unfortunately one of very few local NGOs in South Sudan was hosting trainings and talks on child health, gender based violence, sanitation, etc20150604_113125
  • Ingenuity, resourcefulness and resilience hit me in every corner – someone using parts of radios to connect to batteries, others selling what I think was bread when I didn’t see a single sack of flour anywhere and people ignoring the conditions around them as much as possible to be with friends, chat, share and laugh20150604_115918
  • Enthusiastic, willing and dedicated trainers who were being trained to then train community volunteers20150602_154511
  • Community volunteers committed to serve their community on a tiny volunteer salary of just over $2 a day (depending on the depreciation of the currency on that day)20150603_084824
  • The entire group of trainers who offered me their tea and biscuits which is the major highlight of going to these trainings. This show of hospitality is well beyond anything we might do in the west (basically it would be like me giving all of my money to someone without even thinking even though I have no idea when the next time I will have money in my pocket or in their case food in their stomachs)20150604_163731
  • Receiving raptures of applause and thanks after small speeches telling them that I would do what I can to represent them in my culture (western society) while travelling around the world as I know they are not in the position to do – I used to find this uncomfortable and patronising kind of playing the white saviour but I have now been in enough countries and with enough people that I and they know it is genuine, the reality and I am the expert in my community as I know I am not the expert in their community (hence this blog!)IMG_20140106_212400
  • The smiles of people, unbelievable respect and restraint where I can’t believe they are not rolling the dice for their last chance to survive and not robbing me or others but also not even asking me for money when they know I have access to anything and everything in the worldIMG_20140106_200423
  • A major relief to my emotions was knowing I have $500 USD to give in the name of Bromsgrove International School Thailand for the Polio Points they have earned and have been matched by the school’s board of directors
    • I talked with Gabriel my local colleague from UNICEF and he suggested it go into a drama group (they are common in South Sudan) which would then be used to create and perform dramas on polio eradication, sanitation, gender equality and more! this will motivate the youth in the camps and educate the community – wow eh…

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So on this emotional roller-coaster ride of a day which I am thankful to have laid on the couch and got off my chest with this blog. I still believe there is more good than bad out there and humans are resilient, tough, collaborative and inspiring in essence. We just have to make sure we actively think, feel and act on the side of good for it to prevail.

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If you do want to think, feel and act on the side of good here are a couple of tips:

  • Get your school, office or any group of people together to start up Polio Points in your community – http://makingthepoint.org/
  • To address these kind of humanitarian crisis funds can be given to the UN agencies (UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNDP, FAO, IOM, WFP – find your favourite acronym and give), INGOs (MSF [Doctors Without Borders], Care, Save the Children, Mercy Relief, etc)
  • Check out my concept of Teaspoons of Change – personal choices, decisions and actions that have a positive impact on people and the planet creating teaspoons of change and don’t just give to others but also have a positive impact in as much as you can with your daily choices, decisions and actions http://teaspoonsofchange.wordpress.com/ and facebook.com/teaspoonsofchange
  • Get your fingers punching on the keyboard or phone and write or call your local MP to not cut foreign aid and check out RESULTS to help you do that: results.org/
  • To make sure you are giving enough of your personal wealth and that it will be effective then check out an organisation who can do that legwork for you – Giving What We Can givingwhatwecan.org/
  • Take on the ideals and benefits of simplicity and happy simple living and have a look at another one of my projects – Happy, simply – a sustainable lifestyle model and education project http://happysimply.wordpress.com
  • And if advocacy and using your voice to help end extreme poverty floats your boat then always refer to the Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen http://www.globalcitizen.org
  • If none of them do it for you then get in touch with a specific question or request and I know so many wonderful people with wonderful ideas doing wonderful things I can put you in touch with…
Posted in 2015 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, South Sudan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Teaspoons of Change Global Citizen Presentation Tour: Jun – Dec 2015

TeaspoonsOfChange1_wText world bannerTeaspoons of Change for Global Citizenship – Tour: Jun – Dec 2015

South Sudan | Middle East | Europe | Central & SE Asia | Australia

Make good choices. Be a global citizen

Yr9s listening hardd’Arcy Lunn’s dreams and daily life are dedicated to see a world without extreme poverty for everyone, everywhere and forever!

For the past 15 years d’Arcy has experienced more than 65 countries, given over 400 presentations to more than 40,000 people and worked with leading aid, development and global education organisations and people.

His self-initiated project and presentation, Teaspoons of Change, focusses on the personal choices, decisions and actions that have a positive impact on people and the planet.

In 2014 d’Arcy built a self-sufficient Happy, simply tiny home and started his Teaspoons of Change project with a 1000km walk in Japan. This year till mid-June he worked in South Sudan with UNICEF on polio eradication and in the second half of 2015 d’Arcy will combine his Teaspoons of Change presentation tour while sharing Polio Points, a school award system to promote global citizenship locally and globally, that he helped initiate.

WHAT THE TEASPOONS OF CHANGE TOUR AIMS TO DO AND ACHIEVE:

  • Promote and support the ideas and practices of global citizenship
  • Engage, inspire and equip people with the tools to be effective global citizens
  • Network and connect with people and institutes across the globe along the way
  • Increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action to create positive change

HOW YOU CAN UTILISE THIS OPPORTUNITY:

d’Arcy will be travelling from South Sudan to Australia from June to December via the Middle East, Europe, Central and SE Asia. You can empower your community with this visit by:

  • Hosting presentations, workshops and/or discussions with groups, schools, institutes, businesses, etc. on global citizenship and Teaspoons of Change
  • Utilizing d’Arcy as a creative support for key champions working on global citizenship → helping the keen ones with the challenges they are facing
  • Collecting, compiling and sharing global citizenship resources, best practices and challenges from around the world → network good people doing good things
  • Engaging in a myriad of topics, issues, expertise and experiences d’Arcy has to offer related to global citizenship → simplicity, tiny houses, social media, polio eradication

WHEN & WHERE: (Map of route & itinerary – Teaspoons of Change Route MapToCh tour map

Date Place   Date Place
Now – 16 Jun South Sudan 6 – 9 Sep Hong Kong
17, 18 Jun Dubai 10 – 16 Sep Bangkok
19 – 24 Jun Istanbul 17 – 18 Sep Singapore
25 Jun – 12 Jul Balkans / Europe 21 – 23 Sep Brunei
13 Jul – 6 Aug; 7-10 Aug London; Ireland 24 – 25 Sep Kuala Lumpur
10 – 15 Aug Berlin Oct – Dec Australia
17 Aug – 5 Sep Kyrgyz / Uzbek / Tajik Jan 2016 New Zealand

COST:

Global Citizend’Arcy works on a passion basis – he aims only to be self-sufficient and subsistent. We would appreciate a suggested donation of $300 to help cover his personal costs for transport and food plus, if possible, find a host for him to stay with (he prefers host’s than hotels). Any extra donations above d’Arcy’s costs will go towards Polio Points for the global eradication of polio.

WHO: 

d’Arcy graduated as a primary school Japanese teacher in Australia and has never taught primary school Japanese. Instead d’Arcy has travelled, interacted and learnt from the world.

More details about the Teaspoons of Change project and d’Arcy can be found here:

  • Teaspoons of Change – personal choices, decisions and actions that have a positive impact on people & the planet creating teaspoons of change Facebook | Blog | Twitter
  • d’Arcy’s biography & portfolio for knowledge, experience and inspiration offered

CONTACT:

To book an hour, half-day, day or two days of d’Arcy in your school, institute or business please get in touch with him via email on: teaspoonsofchange@gmail.com

d’Arcy is an ambassador, advocate and enthusiast with the following organisations: JUMP! Foundation, Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen, UNICEF, RESULTS, Live Below the Line and his own ventures: Teaspoons of Change, Happy, simply and Polio Points.

He will also be connecting with members of International Young Professionals Foundation

TeaspoonsOfChange1_wText world banner

Posted in 2015 Life, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nothing Special But Always Special – 37th Year Ahead

You guys know the drill by now…

20150529_080625I’m so happy… I’m living my dreams… People are wonderful… I’m so privileged and humbled… We can end extreme poverty… Things are not the best thing in life… Simplicity of less is more…I receive so much hospitality, generosity and kindness… on and on I usually go!

Today is my 37th birthday and I have continued to ride this epic wave of living my dreams each and every day for the past 15 years. I have no idea where I will write my morning journal from on my 38th birthday and I don’t care.

20150522_140917But this time last week I had just been beaten by a group of 4-5 soldiers for unknowingly walking into the wrong street that lead to the president’s palace. I was lucky. I got away with a few scratches, a sore head and some still slow healing bruises to my ribs but I am here to write this one week later on my birthday.

As for all the things I wrote in the first paragraph about being happy etc. well here’s the thing, it’s all fucking true and continue to be true.

Before being beaten I had just thought that I have always been lucky and nothing bad has happened and it is just freakish nature that I’ve come out of 68 countries still in one piece but what my little incident told me is that even if I am unlucky and get robbed or bashed or otherwise I still have an unequal balance of wonderful people and wonderful experiences that outweigh anything bad that may have or maybe will happen to me. I have too much love for the world to let it worry me and I send those soldiers that love so they can have the opportunity to love the world as well. Life doesn’t need to be this never ending exponential growth of happiness and good times it is always going to have ups and downs but for myself personally I have learnt how to maximise the ups to new heights each year and now acknowledge but dissolve the downs.

I’m sitting up on the rooftop of the UNICEF building in Juba, South Sudan looking over a country of chaos but also deeply human. I still have to pinch myself daily and say thank you to the world. I’ve come to realised my passion and daily life is to be the best servant I can to humanity and will always find the most effective ways of doing this.20150529_080659

I personally believe it is not more noble than anyone else as I think there is no lifestyle better than another and what I gain in daily / monthly / yearly freedom of doing exactly what I want to do all the time I loose in the deep connection with a partner or raising my own children. But I don’t care because there isn’t a right way or a wrong way in life (in general) and rarely better or worse and the missed experiences I’ve had so far without having my own family I’ve gained in other experiences of living and learning across the world and meeting thousands of new people in new places. I never pretend my life is more important or significant than anyone else’s nor do have sorrow in a different life I could have or could live in a more conventional way.

The fact that I am sitting on the rooftop of UNICEF in South Sudan (where I should go down now and go to work on polio eradication and better access to health services for all), puts a wonderful smile. I didn’t ever intend to be here on my 37th birthday but I’m also not here by accident.20150529_080654

On my 36th year on this planet and in this universe I had the beautiful experiences of building my second tiny home (https://www.facebook.com/groups/happysimplysa/); a month working with a wonderful organisation JUMP! Foundation in Bangkok, walked 1000km in Japan for Teaspoons of Change, cycled 1000km in Japan and South Korea, gave over 80 presentations in SE Asia, spent a brilliant Christmas with my family in Australia, fought dengue fever and have lived in the most challenging but rewarding environment in South Sudan on the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program.

It is with no surprise that I look forward to my 37th year like never before and for the first time in a long time I know where I will be most days till Jan 2016. If you want to see where I will be take a look and I hope to see you in this next exciting and fulfilling year in my life: http://link.globalpovertyproject.com/2015tochtourinfo and http://link.globalpovertyproject.com/2015ToChMap

Love to all in peace, humility and enthusiasm!

The best breakfast there is - the rolex: chapati with fried egg rolled up and enough oil to power me for the next fortnight!

The best breakfast there is – the rolex: chapati with fried egg rolled up and enough oil to power me for the next fortnight!

Posted in 2015 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, South Sudan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A very tricky role and game of development in South Sudan

Whenever I work in aid and development and particularly in Africa I am always conscious and cautious of my role in the development of another country where I wasn’t born, don’t speak the language and most likely won’t be living there for the rest of my life.

100_1870 (1024x720)I am always a guest outside my own country and often the best role I have found as an ‘expert’ in other countries is to listen, learn and find the best ways to empower others and the system so they can empower themselves.

Early in my assignment in South Sudan I was struggling with this a lot. Why am I here? What is my role? What benefit can I bring to the local people that couldn’t come from their own people (and should)? The aid effort in South Sudan is huge – bigger than I have seen anywhere in the world and I am not about to label all of it good or bad aid because with the aid here I don’t know what would happen but could only guess and expect a significant increase in armed conflict, child mortality, etc…

In most of my recent roles in development I have thoroughly enjoyed the role of supporting the local government and connecting them with civil service organisations (CSOs). This is where a clear pathway can be made between people who are on the ground in the communities (CSOs) and those who make the big decisions for them at the highest level (government).

In South Sudan I seem to be not so much supporting the government but being the government. I’ve been asked to make decisions that affect the people on the ground in the communities – hopefully for better but I should not be the influencer on government decisions the government should be listening to the people, not me and then from there maybe I can help out a bit.

There are no easy solutions and I don’t want people to make easy assumptions to blame anyone in this picture – aid agencies, the local government, the people as they are usually the easy targets and stereotypes that are slammed. What I do like is the challenge. My usual role is to look at how do I support the creation and recognition of local CSOs? How does do I clear a pathway for CSOs, local governments, community leaders to access and influence their own government (especially when it is a brittle as this one).

As much as I might complain about the situation here of lack of governance and infrastructure I must overcome it with energy, strategy, thinking and most of learning to face those complaints and turn them into solutions. I love the challenge, the people, the country, the work and if it was all easy (as it feels like sometimes it is on other projects in other countries) then the short-term small gains here will feel like some of the biggest past victories.

I know I don’t have the answers but I know I can try to learn more, share a bit and give access and opportunity to others in my time here in South Sudan. 100_1732

As I now only have 6 weeks left in South Sudan it really is a matter of trying to put anything and everything I have been involved with onto a sustainable pathway so any of my efforts don’t die with my departure but are a platform or opportunity for others to gain benefits from. I don’t pretend that my contributions are going to be significant but any efforts need to be translated into attainable ideas and prolonged action.

Posted in 2015 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, South Sudan, The End of Polio | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Unnatural Disaster

(Note. I wrote this two weeks ago and I don’t have any picture to accompany as too dangerous if I get spotted…)

It is with a heavy heart I go to sleep tonight thinking about the multitude of people who have no roof over their head and with a forecast of a downpour.

In the two months I have been in South Sudan and Juba I have walked through and around a shanty town near where I live and work in the heart of the city. The settlement is made up of very simple dwellings constructed from canvas, tarpaulins, sticks, mud, corrugated iron, plastic or anything that might be sourced around the place and put to use.

Something like this, but this photo is taken in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp on the outskirts of Juba

Something like this, but this photo is taken in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp on the outskirts of Juba

The settlement could be depressing for some as there is no electricity, running water, sanitation, etc but the people were full of resilience and resourcefulness which I admire but don’t wish upon them or anyone. I found it an inspiring contrast to the big government buildings, corporate businesses and other faceless institutes surrounding it.

It was also the place I did the majority of my shopping contributing directly to their pockets and not the pockets of investors and business managers of the expensive foreign supermarket nearby. I ate here for lunch, I got my take away beans and chapatti (known as commando dinner – simple, filling and cheap) and most of all it was where I had conversations with the people of South Sudan and those who had come from difficult circumstances in Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. I learn more about South Sudan from this settlement than anywhere else in the country and certainly more than in the halls of Ministry buildings and UN institutes – not saying the UN is not doing a great job here (I would hate to think what would happen if we weren’t here) but that it is a life very different to the average citizen of this country.

I would walk through the settlement waving to familiar faces, shaking hands with those I had spoken to before, get smiles and waves from excited but polite children. It was not the kind of place most kawaja (foreigner) would walk let alone get to know.

Today as walked around the edge of the settlement I noticed a house that seemed to have been destroyed by a storm or an earthquake or some strange event or act. Then the next house was flattened, and the next. I looked over the settlement and I could see the other side for the first time from this point because EVERY dwelling, shop, restaurant, anything previously standing was completely destroyed. It was like looking over a natural disaster but completely planned and carried out by man (or in this case government).

As I then took my usual path through the settlement just as a few drops of rain were falling with big dark clouds above promising a heavy downpour sooner than later. It was an armageddon-like scene and feeling of sorrow and darkness.

As I saw familiar faces and greeted them I had to hold back emotions knowing what they were facing that night and beyond. But they were unbelievable practical and pragmatic about what they had faced and now had to endure ahead. The lady from the tin shed (restaurant) who fed me many beans and greens for lunch put on a smile and said ‘this is South Sudan’. The young man who I buy my bread from said ‘we’ll see what happens tomorrow’.

For me I will need to find a new place to do my shopping, for them they will have to start life over again with nothing.

Yes, it is an illegal settlement and when I first saw it I thought it was the strangest thing I’d seen next door to the government heart of the city but I can’t believe someone can inflict such immediate purposeful destruction on people who has so little to begin with and now have nothing.

There are no actions we can take, there is nothing a petition, donations or goodwill can do. I feel I have to be as matter-of-fact about it as the people are but I just can’t wipe the incredible sadness in my heart as I sit and write this in a safe and comfortable room while so many have no home or previous their life tonight.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow…

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Posted in 2015 Life, South Sudan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments