Friday 11 May 2012

Tangkahan Education Centre

This is my new baby!

When I travelled to Tangkahan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, in summer 2011, we were introduced to the English School; a bunch of children on a pebbly beach. During the past year I supported them to rent a house, and to get some furniture and books and now we want to take it to the next level. 

I visited again in April 2012 and it was decided to include the 'Tangkahan Education Centre', as it now will be called, into a MOU with the local authorities. This is keeping me busy now. We will need money to pay for a part time teacher and to get good material for the school. 

Creating a charity is a bit of a scary thing, and all that legal stuff is only penetrating my brain slowly. In the meantime the office piggy has started to collect pennies and the new poster created a lot of interest and I found a lot of help and inspiration already. 

So, please stay tuned! I am hoping to be back with loads of good news soon!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Compassion VS Sentiment

I just read the very personal account of a lady who just started her blog about Orangutan charity work and it made me think about my own views, and how much they have changed over time. 

I feel that as I get older I toughen up. I  used to drive 40 miles with a little bird to the vet clinic in the hope that they could save it - what they couldn't - and I was devastated, mainly about the fact that the little one died alone in a scary car, rather then being surrounded by familiar bird voices, in a place it knew. These days I see death in an amazingly cool way. I have seen it a few times now, and on quite some of those occasions I was the cause of it.  It brings things into perspective. I killed mice to be able to feed them to an injured owl, I killed birds and mice with injuries from cat bites, I strangled a rabbit once, I called the vets to put down two of my cats when they were starting to suffer, and once I didn't and stayed with the little fella till the end. And the bothersome thing about it is not death, but the decision that I have to take. This is the hardest choice which life is throwing at us, this one split second when a decision is to be made for or against life, suffering, or death.

And do not believe that you can chicken out. I don't know a single person who didn't come across death during a lifetime, and not taking a decision can be the worst of all choices: On our way to a family visit my husband and I passed a run over cat and although this is about a quarter of a century ago I am still blaming myself that we didn't stop to see if there was hope.

Those are decisions to be taken on behalf of another creature, and one only can hope that all the facts needed to take this decision are in place. For this fraction of time one has to have a christal clear mind, and for that one cannot allow sentiment, but only compassion. Love for the creature? Yes!... Pity? Certainly not! ... Pity for oneself of having to perform the sad task of deciding? Even worse!

So why am I telling you this in the Charity section? If you would translate the word 'charity' back and forth in a German dictionary you would end up with the word 'compassion', while 'sentiment' very easily brings you to 'mawkishness', but never to 'charity'.

The suffering that one is hoping to soothe through charitable work often is a bit further away from home,  at least for me it is, and the more I feel it necessary to pursue the quest to keep a clear mind, or to get one in the first place. Charity work by it's very nature has a huge emotional stake, but I am no good to any charity if I am breaking into tears when strength is needed. 

So you will not see me forward all too gruesome pictures and articles, and I do not look at them even. Firstly, I know how cruel the world is, and I do not need to have it visualised to become involved. The more that I don't believe that having seen pictures will help prepare me, should I ever get into the real life situation.  Secondly, they trigger an emotional response that I don't find helpful. To be able to strike back, one needs to understand the opposition, and that requires an open and clear mind.

Hence I decided to treat charity like a business. I could just do my bit, scrape the few pennies I own and donate them. Feel good factor achieved, and off the hook.  I could easily donate the money for my eco-tourism Sumatra trip to charity and would even lower my carbon footprint. Or I could do the trip, add a bit of income to this village community that I am going to visit, admittedly would have a good time, and I could learn, I could take pictures, I could write stories, I could create art, and I could use all that to spread the word and hopefully  create more money, and most importantly more awareness for the charity.

Do I sometimes sound harsh in voicing those business point of views in regard to charity? Probably, and I am not saying that this approach is suitable for everybody. It is my way, and when it is my time to kick the bucket I am hoping that the judgement will be gentle, and that there will be somebody taking the right decisions for me.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Orangutan Land Trust

OLT - Orangutan Land Trust is the new charity kid on the block. In a previous post I said: '... nursing Orangutans back to health until they can go back into the wild again.' Problem being: There is not a lot of 'wild' left over where they could go. And the bit that is still there is destroyed at the speed of light.

So Michelle Desilets who a good 10 years ago founded BOS-UK just recently set out to tackle this problem and founded Orangutan Land Trust. Her aim is to raise money to secure the land for the charity and to make it untouchable. Just $5 one hectar of forest can be preserved for 20 years.

One has to remember that palm oil is big money, and big money can buy everything. Governments might declare a plot as safe, but if cash is needed, they only care little about Orangutans or whether or not global warming will kick our bums. So far the places Lone Droscher-Nielsen, Michelle's partner in Borneo running the Nyaru Menteng sanctuary, managed to release Orangutans into, are almost inaccessible so not very interesting for the logging companies. It however costs immense effort and money to reach these places with boxed up Orangutans.

Nevertheless, in September 2009 46 Orangutans went back into the wild - 46 of 600 that is: Just to give you an idea about the dimensions we are talking about. Those 600 are living in Nyaru Menteng, which is the biggest rescue operation in the world, but there are many more living in other projects.

So history repeats itself a bit: While Lone is keeping things together in Nyary Menteng, Michelle is doing the fundraising, just this time with a bit of a different focus.

But not just that: Additionally OLT is to provide a platform for Orangutan organisations around the world to work together towards a common cause.

For me all of the above is a good reason to put Orangutan Land Trust up on our menu board, and of course I met her on Twitter (@orangutans)

PS: In October 2009 I decided to make OLT Incredible Ladies main charity. On occasion and on request we will take action on behalf of other charities as well, but my personal focus will stay on OLT.

Leap Spiral - The holistic approach

LEAP Spiral: I met Cynthia Ong the founder of LEAP on Twitter (@gaiksuan) and was fascinated by her energy. On reading through the LEAP website I just liked all the stuff they are doing. She has been tweeting pictures of the sun bear enclosure and reporting about the meetings she had with high ranking people to raise funds and ensure the future of the projects. Her pragmatic but persistent approach is quite to my liking. Like the others listed above: A truly incredible Lady!