5 Aug 2011

Various Reflections


Recently arrived to Ghana we have noticed the number of buildings that are in the middle of construction.  We’ve noticed the same in other African countries before.  Many of these buildings were started by organisations that ‘sold’ the project but then left it with only a few bricks and cement in place.  We don’t know what explanations they gave their investors.  Africa, a continent full of half finished buildings that are oxidising and deteriorating, with many finished buildings headed the same way as there’s no money or intention to maintain them.

European and African Standards: clichés

I was wondering what is the real meaning of standards, since everyone gives them their own meaning according to their own needs.  Orphanages that keep their children in a lamentable state, because it’s Africa and they like it like that – semi naked, eating whatever – while offering food and lodging to ‘posh’ visitors in air conditioned bungalows in the very same complex!  Sorry schools constructed with the cheapest materials and with no facilities ‘because this is Africa and they like it like this’.  Tea to substitute milk because ‘this is Africa’ and the milk makes them feel ‘bad’.  So many stupidities in the name of African clichés.

Our experience tells us and shows us that everyone wants to live in the best way possible.  That people are not happy when they are hungry.  That they cannot develop their intelligence when they are hungry.  That there’s no point in children going to school if they are hungry.  AIDS doesn’t kill, what kills is hunger and a lack of access to medical help.  That people who have nothing or very little are not happy, it’s only that they don’t know what it is to have something.

We know that some people believe that the image of a hungry child in rags ‘sells’ more than one of a happy child.  That happy children ‘sell’ little.  In Mediterranea we ‘sell’ happiness, because we believe that all the children of the world, wherever they are, deserve the same and because this happiness is real, any of our members can go and check that this is true.

For this reason Abugida has very ‘European’ standards.  Luckily (but deservedly as we have worked hard for it) the local authorities have given us free reign to manage the school as we wish.  We are not colonisers; everyone who works for us in Abugida is Ethiopian.  We supply the material means, within reason, so that Abugida can be what it is, a paradise.  We depend also on the efforts of our volunteers (the best volunteers in the world, we are very proud of them all, those who’ve supported Abugida and Sebeta) that pass on their knowledge, build, repair and do everything they can.  They work like the rest.  We don’t have volunteers who lord it around.  We offer volunteer trips of genuine support.

For the rest of our projects in Ethiopia we provide food (in total we feed more than 650 children), we improve infrastructures, we donate materials and we also employ Ethiopians.  We undoubtedly improve the living conditions of these children but we cannot do more.  There isn’t another Abugida; it’s a shame because to be in charge of the standards gives good results.

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