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Alyssa Lindsay

News and Updates from our Chapter

18 Jan

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My Malawian Home

January 18, 2011 | By |

Video Tour of Alyssa’s Home in Malawi

Hi EWB Grand River ~
As EWB African Program Staff we are strongly encouraged to take some time to experience rural life and better understand the realities of the people we are working for.  I’ve spent the last two months living in Andrea Jere Village, just outside of Mzimba Malawi.   Here’s a brief tour of my family’s home, to hopefully share a little window into my experience. 

My favourite parts of this video are the obvious improvement in commentary as my brother Andrew takes over from my bumbled attempt, and Amama’s slightly prompted, but genuinely friendly, wave at the very end of the clip.  Enjoy warming up from the Canadian winter with some warm Malawian hospitality!  Just click this wmv video link:  My Malawian Home .

11 Oct

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Are you a Planner or a Searcher?

October 11, 2010 | By |

Update From The Field

Hello Grand River !

Reporting in from Mzimba, Malawi where I’ve been working for the past month and half as part of EWB’s Water and Sanitation Team with the Mzimba District Water Development Office (DWDO). 

The DWDO is responsible for providing sustainable water access to rural communities across the district.   This goal doesn’t just mean installing boreholes and water points, but perhaps even more importantly, it involves making sure that the water points stay functional, that communities are aware of proper sanitation and hygiene practices, and that those areas with the most need are being addressed, in order to provide reliable and safe water access to everyone.    It’s not an easy job, but it’s an important one. 

As the Grand River Chapter’s African Partner, it is my job to keep you updated with the work that EWB is doing on the ground in Malawi that everyone’s hard work and financial contributions are helping to support.  I’m excited to still be closely connected with the Grand River Chapter, despite being geographically quite far away. 

I’d like to introduce you to my blog: www.lyssintomalawi.wordpress.com, where I’m keeping track of thoughts, feelings and experiences to share with others.  We’ll also make sure that at least a monthly update appears on the Grand River Website, so you can follow along as my work progresses.  This week’s entry ‘Are you a Planner or a Searcher?’ looks at questions I’m asking as I examine my role within the DWDO.

If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas about our African programs, and/or how they can be shared with individuals in the Grand River Area, I would be happy to talk to you more.  Please use the contact form on this website to get in touch with me.  I look forward to speaking with you!

Mwenda makola (may the journey be good),

Alyssa

30 Apr

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African Film Focus

April 30, 2010 | By |

At first thought, it’s an unlikely connection: one’s mind generally does not go immediately to films or the film industry when the word Africa is mentioned – unless perhaps it’s to recollect what you saw in ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ or ‘The Air Up There’.  Now, not to take anything away from those films, but in my humble opinion, there are a lot more interesting film projects coming out of and about Africa at the moment.

The African film industry is stronger than ever.   ‘Nollywood’, the nick name given to the Nigerian film industry, has become the world’s third largest (behind Hollywood and Bollywood).  Check out Franco Sacchi’s Ted Talk on Nollywoodto get an idea of what the industry is all about and why it’s bringing about transformative change.

Having watched my fair share of Nigerian movies during my four month stay in Ghana, I must say that they took some getting used to.   Just as Bollywood has a distinctly different feel then Hollywood, so does its African cousin.  I remember being initially amazed by the way vast crowds of people were drawn in by these seemingly simple films, then, similarly amazed the first time I found myself being taken away by the story in one.  After a few months I couldn’t understand why no one back in Canada had even heard of these films.

Luckily though, African films aren’t just staying in Africa anymore.  The Hot Docs Festival that kicks off this weekend in Toronto includes no shortage of films with African connections on the menu.  Four of the 25 films selected for the Hot Docs Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF) have African links.  These four films, Africa10, Sembene!, We Own TV, and Connected, will be pitched to industry insiders from around the world as well as accredited observers.  The TDF is internationally considered as the most effective international documentary markets in North America.

For your every day film viewers like you and me, Hot Docs offers the following films with African flavours, playing from April 29-May 9.  Tickets are still available to the public for most of these films.

A Small Act

Babies

Congo In Four Acts

Darwin’s Nightmare

Grace, Milly, Lucy…Child Soldiers

I’m Dangerous With Love

Sisters In Law

With all this film focus on and in Africa it’s not that hard to believe that movies are playing an important and ever increasing role in African culture.  I’ll never forget my surprise and subsequent delight, when one evening sitting in the rural village of Naglogu in Northern Ghana, my host asked if I wanted to go to the picture show that evening.  Without electricity in the village, I really had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the kids seemed excited, so I said sure.    That night I sat out under the stars, with about 100 of my closest villagers and watched scratchy video on a 27” TV screen, powered by a small electric generator.   First part of a Nigerian film, then when it broke down, we switched to an “American” film (that indeed had white people in it, but was in a language I’d never heard before) and finally wrapped the evening up with a local Ghanaian movie, filmed in the streets of nearby Tamale.  I didn’t understand anything that was being said, and with the exception of the last film, neither did those around me, but it didn’t really seem to matter.  Through film we were able to laugh, and enjoy and share in the stories together.

Now that experience may be hard to replicate exactly here in Canada, but there are several great opportunities to share in African film, this website being one of them.  I encourage you to take in one of the Hot Docs films, or find a Nollywood movie, and share what you think!

15 Apr

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EWB African Program Staff Applications Open

April 15, 2010 | By |

EWB’s African Program Staff (APS) are a group of exceptional people who have both a passion for creating change with the rural poor in Africa and incredible talent for thinking about development and determining how to make progress on some of the globe’s most intractable problems. Does this describe you? If it does EWB Canada is currently recruiting candidates to join the APS team for departure in Fall 2010 and Winter 2011.

Applications, which are due April 30, 2010, can be found here.

EWB Canada currently works in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Malawi and Zambia to help the rural poor improve their livelihoods and climb out of poverty. Our areas of focus are:

  1. Agricultural value chains;
  2. Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; and
  3. Planning and rural infrastructure for good governance (only in Ghana).

We work with local partner organizations to help them do what they do better, adding value in a variety of ways:

  • executing on project specific work;
  • building management capacity;
  • improving learning and accountability systems;
  • increasing skills of field staff; and
  • creating stronger connections between different stakeholders.

An APS position with EWB offers professionals and new graduates of any educational background a unique opportunity to contribute to development in rural Africa.  You will use your skills to help change the way human development is approached, both as an individual and as a part of a movement committed to making poverty history.

On a personal note, I found my 4 month, EWB Junior Fellow placement in Ghana in 2005 to be a life changing experience.  I was pushed on both emotional and intellectual dimensions and built connections that will stay with me for a lifetime. Based on this experience, and with a great desire  to once again seek out opportunity for challenge and impact, I recently applied for an APS position with EWB and will be returning to Africa in this role starting in August, 2010.  I encourage you to join me on this adventure by applying to become an APS as well.  You will grow in leaps and bounds as you discover, with EWB’s help, your potential and build skills that will stay with you for your life time. Most importantly, you will work with purpose and contribute to a better world, alongside your African partners.

APS terms run for 12 or 20+ months, with many APS staying on for over 2 years.  All costs for training, travel, and living are provided by EWB. However, if you are an interested recent graduate with outstanding student loan concerns, contact us to explore alternative arrangments before you apply.

Applications are due April 30th, 2010 at midnight. This is the final application round for Fall 2010 and the first of two application rounds for Winter 2011.  For more information on EWB projects in Africa and desired qualities of APS staff, please visit this link.

If you have any further questions,  or would like to discuss this opportunity further, you can:

  • Post a comment below;
  • Contact me, Alyssa Lindsay, here; or
  • Contact Robin Farnworth, EWB’s Director of Overseas Sending

28 Feb

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2010 Olympics: A Canadian rallying point for social change

February 28, 2010 | By |

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical leading up to these Olympics.   It’s not that I was set against them, more that I just didn’t really care.  Surely there were more important things to devote time and energy to, than to watch people from (the rich) half of the world pushing themselves to their physical limits.  What difference could really be made by these Games?  It pretty much all boiled down to a big party, political fanfare and corporate sponsorship, right?  And don’t get me started on nationalism – stereotyping at its finest – it fosters prejudice, creates division, and alienates others, doesn’t it?

Now, before I start getting hate mail – the past 17 days have actually drawn me in more than I ever imagined.  I cheered, I cried, I held my breath with the best of them, and as I sit watching the closing ceremonies, it’s with a sense of optimism instead of indifference.

It’s true that a majority of the world is severely under-represented in the Winter Olympics.  But unknown to most, there were actually athletes from seven African nations who participated.  The athletes were predominantly self-funded, most had lived and trained outside of the continent at some point, and none of them won a medal, but their presence does make this a global event in every sense of the word.

Kwame Nkrumah-AcheampongMost well known of these athletes by far, was Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, “The Snow Leopard,” from Ghana who found his way into the hearts of many, and was supported by the entire communities of Comox and Mount Washington on Vancouver Island.    Although not as big of a headline as the 14 gold medals, I think it’s something to be equally, if not more, proud of.  These communities directly contributed to this skier achieving his goals.  It was one of the many reminders that the Games are about more than partying, politics and purchasing power.  This story was about what people can do to support one another to create opportunity and achieve their best. Sounds suspiciously similar to human development, doesn’t it?

My optimism is rooted not directly in this story per se; supporting one lone skier is a far cry from solving the challenges of the world.   What I am most excited about is the taste that Canadians have had experiencing how powerful it is to be part of a common goal. This is the secret ingredient I had forgotten about regarding national pride: people pulling together, uniting and taking action for a common objective.

In a timely manner, the Canada’s World Initiative, a three year project of intense cross-country dialogue and debate focused on Canada’s role in the World, is currently coming to a conclusion.  Through this dialogue Canadians from all backgrounds and locations have identified that we want to see our country lead by example in five areas:

  1. Fostering innovation
  2. Advancing a green economy
  3. Championing good governance
  4. Promoting human development and gender equality
  5. Embracing diversity

With Canadian pride running at an all time high, many would read that list and suggest those are the things that for which Canadians are renowned. As illustrated in this Canada’s World video, the reality is we have a strong history in these areas but are not currently living up to our reputation. In fact, we have a long way to go in order to meet our expectations.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade here.  Despite the fact that we’ve fallen short of a number of goals in recent years and we’re not actually living up to the perception that many Canadians have of our current role in the world, the Canada’s World dialogue has shown that the will and desire for change is there.

More importantly, Canada’s World has also identified that coherence, collaboration and community are what it will take to make these goals a reality, and I feel that all three of those received a huge vote of support throughout the 2010 Olympics.  Whether it’s celebrating in the streets after the gold medal hockey game or the vast gathering of people at torch ceremonies across the nation, our communities have come together in ways I have not seen in the past.  The media is saying that the coherence of our nation has never been stronger.  Without collaboration, the games would not have attained the level of success being attributed to them.

Based on this experience, my hope is that the spirit of the Games witnessed over the past 17 days doesn’t end with the closing ceremonies.  Let’s not just unite in being Canadian, but in the role Canada can play in the World.   I hope this new sense of collectivism and collaboration ignites action to make the changes we, as Canadians, want to see for our country and our global community.   Now’s the time Canada!  Let’s not make the 2010 Winter Games just our legacy, but the starting point for things to come.