Abbie Wells

Abbie Wells

Abbie is Press & Media Officer for Practical Action in the UK.

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org.uk

Posts by Abbie

  • For sustainability, involve the community.

    Zimbabwe, East Africa
    March 25th, 2011

    On the final part of my whistle-stop tour of Zimbabwe and all things Practical Action we headed up to Mutare, a beautifully scenic city on the Mozambique border.

    We were here to visit Practical Action’s PEOPLE UP project which focuses on working with local communities to improve water and sanitation in urban areas. After another hot and bumpy three hour car journey we piled into the town clerk’s office to find out how the project was helping people in the area.

    A number of benefits were evident and the project was a real testament to Practical Action’s ethos – people were really and truly driving their own development. The committees that Practical Action had helped to create were engaging with local organisations and the government, demanding the resources and services they were entitled to, to change their lives.

    The success of the project is obvious when you look at the statistics. Firstly, Mutare is now the first city in the entire country to be successfully managing water and sanitation. Secondly, and most incredibly, in the most recent Cholera outbreak where 100,000 people in the country were infected and 4,500 people lost their lives to the disease, the city of Mutare only reported 2 cases. This clearly demonstrates how important the work of Practical Action is in this area and the huge impact it is having.

    One thing that Manex Mauya, one of the ward councillors said really resonated with me, particularly in such a politically tumultuous country: “Practical Action has brought unity regardless of political affiliations. People have learnt to work together and have become masters of their own destiny”.

    I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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  • iPods save lives. Fact.

    Zimbabwe, East Africa
    March 24th, 2011

    Today we visited Guruve in north-eastern Zimbabwe to see the work Practical Action is doing with podcasting in partnership with the Lower Guruve Development Association. After a quick introduction to the project we set off for a long hot drive down some seriously bumpy roads where we were welcomed by some of the beneficiaries of the project.

    Having heard a lot about the project and after personally writing a number of articles on how it is benefiting people in Zimbabwe, it was fantastic to see the project in the flesh and see with my own eyes the tangible difference it is making to people’s lives.

    First we listened to a podcasting ‘lesson’ on improving crop-growing techniques before visiting a chicken farmer who has used the podcasting lessons to grow his flock of chickens from 1 to 800 since the project started in 2009 – no mean feat I think you’ll agree!

    Finally we visited an agro-processing plant where local committees had been formed to process sunflower seeds into oil and the groundnuts that had been grown into peanut butter – we even bought a few jars before we left!

    It was a long, hot day and I left with a notepad bulging with stories and anecdotes from beneficiaries of the project which will be incredibly useful in my day-to-day work when I return to the UK. However, what left the most lasting impression was the pride that people had in what they were achieving. Seeing people so motivated and enthusiastic was not what I expected and made me feel very proud to be part of such a great organisation.

    One thing’s for sure – I’ll never look at my iPod in the same way again…

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  • A Woman’s Work

    A2, Zimbabwe,
    March 22nd, 2011

    I’m in Zimbabwe for the very first time visiting some of Practical Action’s projects in the country, gathering interviews, pictures and videos as I go. Over the next week or so I’ll be sharing my experiences with you via this blog and the impacts that our projects are having on poor communities.

    On our first field visit we travelled to Ntepe, Gwanda in southern Zimbabwe to visit Rhodes Moyo and his wife Gladys. Rhodes is a blacksmith who lives in a rural community who until recently was a farmer, that is until his livestock contracted blackleg, a fatal disease and sadly all died. Without an alternative income Rhodes couldn’t feed himself and his family and had to take his two eldest children out of school as he couldn’t afford the fees.

    Practical Action arranged for Rhodes to receive training in Bulawayo a town around 200km away to become a blacksmith. With Practical Action’s help he now makes tools and donkey ploughs which he sells to local farmers in the community.

    Although Rhodes has the skills, his wife Gladys is always busy in the background keeping the furnace alight, looking after the home and the children. My favourite part of this visit was right at the end when I asked whether I could see what their traditional rural Zimbabwean kitchen looked like. As I walked towards the door, Gladys ran ahead of me shouting and waving her arms in the air before promptly shutting the wooden door in my face. Panicked at the idea that I might have upset her I asked the giggling translator what was wrong. His response? “She hasn’t done the washing up and she said the kitchen’s a mess!” Brilliant. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter where in the world you may be or how much money you have or haven’t got, if you ask a woman whether you can see her kitchen you will always get the same response!

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  • Remember remember the 5th of November

    October 22nd, 2010

    Remember remember the 5th of November, but also remember the people around the world that are forced to cook on open fires every day thanks to a lack of modern energy.

    Cooking on open fires can sound romantic and fun but the reality is a daily drudgery where food takes hours to cook and homes are filled with toxic smoke which causes severe respiratory diseases and eye infections.

    Practical Action works to develop stoves for cooking which reduce all of these problems around the world and we have some exciting news to share this month which shows that this critical issue is finally being taken seriously.

    The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, headed up by Hilary Clinton has pledged to provide 100 million clean-burning stoves by 2020, and with half of the world’s population still cooking on open fires this news is very welcome.

    For people in developing countries, a simple clay stove means improved health and education and changes their lives for the better enabling them to at last challenge their poverty.

    Perhaps next year you will hold a ‘stove’ night instead of a bonfire night and celebrate the fact that open fires might just be on the way out in the developing world!

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  • Some shameless self-promotion

    October 6th, 2010

    Mashable (the top source for news in social and digital media) has just launched its 4th annual awards which ‘celebrate innovations and achievements in the digital and social landscape by companies, people and projects via an open, multilingual, international, community-nominated voting platform’ – phew.

    Basically, Practical Action would love to be the winner of the ‘Must-Follow Non-Profit’ category and so this blog post consists solely of a plea to nominate our twitter feed @practicalaction.

    By following this link http://mashable.com/awards you can log-in via your twitter or facebook account and make a nomination for your favourite charity (i.e. us!).

    Many thanks in advance and we’ll keep you posted on, ahem, development.

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  • The Final Countdown

    September 3rd, 2010

    The wait is almost over, it’s been a long time coming but ‘A Garden Party to Make a Difference’ will kick off next week at Marlborough House in London as part of HRH the Prince of Wales’ START initiative.

    With the final training session taking place yesterday and orange t-shirts at the ready, Practical Action’s UK staff are ready to head down to London and meet the anticipated 100,000 visitors that will visit the event.

    Now given that the event is all about sustainability and helping people in the UK to live more environmentally-friendly lives, it makes sense that we should be entirely paperless for the duration of the event however, hearing of this made me panic slightly.

    My problem is that I trained as a journalist, and as you might expect, don’t tend to go anywhere without a pen and a notepad. Added to this I have a truly terrible memory so most thoughts that pop into my head are instantly written down before they have chance to disappear into the ether.

    I’m not a wasteful person and I’ve certainly reduced the amount of paper etc. that I use and amount of recycling that I do since joining the team here and learning about the impacts of climate change but to be completely paper-FREE for two weeks sounded like an impossible task.

    However, it seems I am wrong. In actual fact our very clever fundraising team has managed to arrange for us all to have every scrap of information and all resources that we need to use at the event available electronically – a truly amazing feat I think you’ll agree.

    So I’m off to prepare for my very first press day without a single piece of paper, feeling still slightly panicky but also quite smug!

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  • Practical Action Invited to Set Up Camp in Prince Charles’ Garden

    August 25th, 2010

    The Practical Action team will be packing up and heading to Clarence House in a few weeks to set up camp in the royal estate’s otherwise private gardens as part of HRH the Prince of Wales’ ‘Start’ initiative.

     

    The Prince is opening his garden for the first time ever, and he has kindly invited the Practical Action team to join him. Running from 8th – 19th September, the event introduced as ‘A Garden Party to Make a Difference’ will bring together some of Britain’s best loved musicians, comedians, environmental experts and blue chip companies. All with the aim of providing adults and children with an entertaining, unique and educational experience surrounded by the beautiful gardens at Clarence House.

    However the importance of the day is to demonstrate the small steps that can and are being taken to build a more sustainable future. Practical Action will be showing how we are working with some of the world’s poorest women, men and children to achieve our vision of ‘modern energy for all’ by 2030.

    The 12-day garden party is set to be an intriguing blend of exhibitions, interactive displays, fun activities and live music performances, all with the support of top celebrities such as musical genius Jools Holland, political and current affairs presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, eco guru Kevin McCloud, green-fingered Alan Titchmarsh, and the wonderfully eccentric fashion-ista Vivienne Westwood; among other interesting personalities.

     This celebrity filled event looks set to be the garden party of the year, with so many educational and interesting areas, exhibits and experiences, the Practical Action team are extremely proud to be invited to be a part of it.

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  • Small is… Festival

    August 25th, 2010

    Promising to be bigger and better than last year’s first ever Small is… Festival, 2010’s event looks set to encompass something for everyone and we’re looking forward to welcoming even more visitors than previously. Like last year, the Festival will be held in the picturesque grounds of the Practical Action offices in Bourton-on-Dunsmore, featuring hands-on workshops, stalls and information sharing spaces, kids activities and world music.

    Taking place on the 4th and 5th September, the Small is… Festival is based around four themes; Economic, Political, Practical and Personal. This year’s festival aims to inspire visitors through questions and debate, as well as hands on workshops and technology displays.

     There will be an open mic session for any budding musicians to showcase their talent and to possibly provide a backdrop of music for the relaxing yoga sessions. For the foodies in attendance, they will find an array of stands proffering local organic food, fair trade teas and cakes and Magic Pan pancakes, which should keep the hungrier visitors happy for the weekend.

     Any campers fond of an early morning stroll can join in on the dawn guided walks before taking in the array of displays, listening to the inspiring speakers such as Andrew Simms and Adam Hart-Davis, or joining in on debates.

     With a programme packed full of entertaining and informative activities, tickets are selling at a rate of knots so get in quick to avoid missing out! Tickets cost £7.50 for the day and £5 for concessions, or £25 (£15 concessions) for full weekend camping tickets. 

     

    For a list of workshops, speakers and for registration and ticketing, please go to www.smallisfestival.org or call 0800 389 1624 to purchase a ticket or to find out more about costs for camping or volunteering over the weekend.

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  • 99 Mile Cycle Ride to Rugby Marks Launch of Schumacher’s Centenary Year

    August 25th, 2010

    Members of the Schumacher family kicked off E.F Schumacher’s centenary year earlier this month on what would have been his birthday, with a 99 mile bike ride from the family home in Shrewsbury to the beautiful Practical Action offices near Rugby.

     

    Travelling through Telford, Birmingham and Warwick, the team negotiated hills, rain and sore bottoms! With the aim of raising funds for Practical Action alongside creating awareness for their esteemed relative’s landmark year of celebrations, grandchildren James, Nicola and Christina led other family members and Practical Action staff to success as they triumphantly crossed the finish line just after 1pm, following their strenuous journey.

    Met by eager applause, the team of cyclists humbly received words of congratulations from the Mayor of Rugby, kitted out in his full glorious regalia, as well as other Schumacher children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and an excited crowd of Practical Action staff!

    The worn out cyclists were subsequently rewarded with a ’99’ themed lunch before planting a … tree to commemorate the 99th anniversary of E.F Schumacher’s birth. His centenary year runs until August 2011 and will be commemorated with a variety of initiatives as well as a centenary website to spread the word about Schumacher’s work and encourage those who were inspired by him to share their memories and stories.

    For more information please visit www.ef-schumacher.org or www.twitter.com/EFSchumacher

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  • Some very special visitors…

    Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
    August 16th, 2010

    The Practical Action offices are buzzing this morning as we finalise preparations for the launch of our founder E.F. Schumacher’s centenary year. Today would have been Schumacher’s 100th Birthday and we have lots of exciting things happening at Bourton Hall to mark the occasion…

     I can’t say too much yet but we have a number of very special visitors arriving at the offices throughout the day and some exciting activities taking place.

     Watch this space for more information and keep an eye on our twitter and facebook pages for pictures!

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