Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My first Blog post.

It just isn’t enough to say that I am on my way to Africa. Nope. I also have to give details (to all that care) about my ridiculous thoughts, experiences and hopes and post them on this lovely website. Maybe I don’t have to, maybe its just a place for me to vent and pretend that someone out there is interested. So far it hasn’t really set in that I’m leaving. I figure all I can do is soak up the good stuff for now.

Laure-Eloise in front of our house in Calgary.

Why am I committing a year of my life to this? Well, I’ve actually decide to commit the better part of my life to this…it just so happens I’ll be away from my family and girlfriend for the next year.

So why am I committed? First, I can’t stand the thought of me having more than I need while others don’t have enough to meet their basic needs. How is that fair? I don’t think giving is the answer, but helping makes sense and its sustainable. Second, I think it’s the key to our immediate security and the future level of peace we and our children will experience in the world. Maybe I’m wrong, but do rich nations fight rich nations? Not that I know of, because its too important to their own financial interests to pick a fight. I mean, I don’t picture America fighting with China or Canada anytime soon, because it would totally hurt the American economy. So now imagine if there were no poor countries, wouldn’t every country have to solve their disputes without conflict? On a micro level, think of the rule "the customer is always right".


So I have learned a few things from my most excellent Engineers Without Borders mentor/co-worker, Levi Goertz, in the past few days. First off >>> location! Everyone makes a big deal about where I am going, to me its what I’ll be doing that matters most. Either way, I was told I will be in Mwinilunga which is in the north-western province of Zambia. It has a wikipedia page, so it mustn’t be that small. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mwinilunga

More importantly, I know what I’ll be doing there. Well, maybe just a little snip-it of what the area I’ll be working on. The plan is that I will be working with a company called Forest Fruits Inc. Sure, you might ask what is the deal here, I give my money to a non-profit in Canada so they can help a company? The way it works is that this ‘company’ is a really a more sustainable non-profit. I mean, what is the most likely way that a non-profit ceases to exist…money. But not because it achieved its goal of solving world hunger or poverty or a disease, but more likely because it lost its funding. So here, Forest Fruits has created its own funding, yet it helps some 5000 small scale farmers in a country where 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. This ‘company’ is providing a means for these small-scale farmers to export their product. They have also achieved organic certification which increases the value of the honey and honey related products by 30%. Engineers Without Borders focuses on helping to improve these peoples lives rather than focusing on achieving any other goal, such as getting laptops to every child or bed nets in every household. Often these other goals can be a step in the right direction, but even more often the goal doesn’t achieve the purpose of improving lives but rather satisfies the donors so they want to give more funding to again miss the real target of improving lives.

Never really thought about bees and honey so much before, but now that I’m learning about it, I’m quite amazed. Of course bees are what makes the world go ‘round, but they also produce this totally healthy, totally versatile substance. Think about it, what else comes from nature that you can eat and it doesn’t require refrigeration to keep it from going bad without first processing it? They produce beeswax, honeycomb, royal jelly and honey, which can later be made into mead - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead - and the wax can be used to make cosmetics, lotions, lipstick and candles.

For the next few weeks

I will be in my homestead reading up on international development and visiting everyone before heading to Toronto in January for a month of pre-departure training (where I’ll be cutting meez natty dreadlocks off). I will also get to travel to Montreal for the Engineers Without Borders national conference and to spend a couple days with Laure-Eloise before leaving for Zambia in February to return March 2009. Today I think I got my last dose of outdoor hockey for a while.

Winter in Alberta

If you want to help me fundraise, let me know and I can get you a form or click here and donate directly. https://www.ewb.ca/en/whatyoucando/inthenameof/index.html

That’s all for now, thank you everyone who has helped support me socially and financially. Next post will come from Toronto before I depart. At that time I hope to have more clarity on what I’ll be doing day-to-day and hopefully have a sense of how I can contribute in the big (overly complex) picture of international development.

All my best and happy new year.



Anonymous said...

you can add comments now.

Chris Evans said...

Hey Mark! Awesome to hear that you will be heading out into the world with EWB. Looking forward to reading more about your travels--all the best man!

Ashley Raeside said...

just a note to let you know I was here....nice to read your thoughts mark.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your grandpa. :(

But happy to hear you are on your way to accomplishing your dreams.

good luck