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  • Supporter Services – Charity Staff & Volunteer Awards Finalist 2015

    The Supporter Services department at Practical Action are dedicated to providing excellent care and service to our supporters.  As a team we work tirelessly “behind the scenes” and in all our communications with supporters to ensure we meet our high expectations.  We were extremely thrilled this week to learn that one of our team has been recognised for her hard work and dedication and has been selected as a finalist under the category ‘Charity Support Function Hero’ for this years Charity Staff and Volunteers Awards.

    charity staff and volunteers award finalist 2015

     

    Gerry Corkhill has worked in the Supporter Services Team for over 10 years and diligently processes an ever-increasing stream of donation functions from our fantastic supporters and keeps up with the fast-paced digital world of fundraising.  She, like all the team, is always eager to assist our supporters with any enquiry they have, no matter how small, and aims to provide the highest level of care possible so we are delighted to share the news that one of our unsung heroes has been shortlisted from hundreds of nominations from across the UK.

    We are really proud of Gerry and our Supporter Services Team and hope you are too; as normal if you require any assistance from us regarding your donations or have any enquiries about our work or how you can support Practical Action please do get in touch, you can contact us on Email  Supporter Services or Tel +44 (0)1926 634506

     

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  • Potentials of ICTs for Empowering Rural Women in Bangladesh

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    January 24th, 2015

    Food for programme development thoughts

    ICTs (Information Communications Technologies) particularly mobile phone and internet penetration shows a gradual increase in Bangladesh. In the table below, it indicates, during August 2013-14, in the case of mobile phone services 8.228 million people added to the connectivity, and 458.369 thousand people to the internet connectivity. During August 2012-13, an additional 13.821 million people were connected with mobile phone services and 6833.325 thousand people to the internet. This illustrates that following the global trend, in Bangladesh, new uses and expansion of ICTs- are fast becoming an essential part of everyday life, irrespective of location, sex, class, education and profession.

              Table: ICT Subscription Status in Bangladesh

    Period

    Mobile

    Internet
    August 2014 117.577 Million 40832.387 Thousand
    August 2013 109.349 Million 36249.018 Thousand
    August 2012 95.528 Million 29415.693 Thousand (as July 2012)

    Source: BTRC, 2014; ( www.btrc.gov.bd; accessed on Octtober 7, 2014)

    However, relevant literature suggests that ICTs expansion and usage are not equally dispersed. Until the recent past, there was more growth in urban areas than rural. However, after 2010, the phenomenon has begun to change. As a result of that, in both computer and mobile phone, we see growth in rural areas is more than 4 times for mobile phones and 6 times for computers compared with urban areas.

    Potential Impact of ICTs
    As I understand women empowerment is a process (rather than end) towards gender equality; thus in this piece, I will be focusing on some of the issues I found contributing towards this process for rural women in Bangladesh. The points I am going to share below have been pulled out from different research findings, observation reports and diary notes that I was part of during 2009-14.

    1) Decision Making: Regarding the ability to take decisions, it has been found that to some extent women have the ability to decide what things they what to buy, particularly to make small and large purchases. More specifically, they use ICTs (mobile phones in particular) to get information on certain things before they buy. They use mobile phones to consult with doctors about what medicine to take when they fall sick. It helps to feel them that they are connected with loved ones. Husbands or father s(or other heads of the household) appreciate this activity since it minimizes their expenditure and helps to retain savings.

    4th Blog

    2) Position within family: Having the opportunity to communicate with others through mobile phones, people are very much influenced by the behaviour of other people. Through easy interaction with the wider community, men’s dominating attitude towards women is gradually changing. Research findings demonstrate that women have more freedom from male domination. Whether a wife and husband live in same home or either live outside for livelihood or any other reason, in most cases they talk to each other before taking any important decision. This is now possible because of the mobile phone. To them, women’s involvement in major family decisions has been seen as important since women no longer are dependent on men for their livelihood, now they have opportunity to earn from outside if they wish.

    3) Mobility: In this area, a very interesting change is been found. The need for women’s physical visits to their parent’s home has been taken away by mobile communication. Now they visit, when they have a special purpose. In addition, the duration of  their visit is also decreased. On the other hand, visiting doctors’ surgery and market place for buying/selling things, visiting UP or other government service provider offices has increased significantly. This pattern of mobility clearly indicates that people have better aware of their rights and wellbeing.

    4) Economic health: When women are connected by any communication device, it encourages them to know about others. For example, while they communicate with each other, they ask about others’ lives, about their cultivated crops, the price of the salable crops, sickness of any livestock, or family members- what happened, how he or she was cured etc. Evidences indicate that these communications promote women to be owners of assets to face any unwanted situation if occurred. It is also found that rural women now prefer to have assets (a piece of land, cattle, goat etc) in their name. They see it as their fall back support. Additionally, many women shared that they got job information over a mobile phone (although the job itself is gendered), and their partners are very positive about it. In contrast with income, women save very little. The reasons are; firstly, they earn very little so hardly can save from it. Secondly, men stop providing many essential items for women such as cosmetics and toiletries when women start earning. Besides this, sometimes they need to spend for socialization and children’s demands. The fact is that men do not directly tell women not to save but do not encourage them to do so.

    5) Political awareness: ICTs have great contribution in building political awareness among grassroots women. Talking over a mobile phone, most village women are to some extent informed about what Union Parishad is supposed to do and what services are available there. Even though most of the time these are unavailable or distributed considering political or other social belonging. It is noteworthy to mention that during elections women do use mobile phones to consult with their friends, relatives and like-minded people for whom to vote and information about the contestants. In few cases women also do use to network building or motivating voters if they contest in election.

    6) Legal awareness: Grassroots women are not found to be well informed about legal rights. But they do have some basic information regarding criminal activities and gender issues. It is found in discussions with different local communities that all women know violence against women is a punishable crime. They do have the right to get legal support in case of dowry or marital rights violation. Furthermore, they also stated that they know from where they may get support or whom to communicate– which justify their basic legal awareness.

    The above six points are few of many such impacts that ICTs can make in uplifting women’s situation in a context like Bangladesh. I understand and have evidence of concerns associated with ICTs use (which I will cover in another write up). However, the above points may help us developing programmes around the above issues.

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  • Just one foot in front of the other

    Hayley Lloyd

    November 21st, 2014

    Walking, a simple task most of us take for granted, you just put one foot in front of the other. It’s easy for most of us, something we don’t really think about, but for me it’s different. I think about walking every day and have done since my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and I was told he would lose the ability to walk.

    I’m lucky my son has access to services in the UK and I’m hopeful he will lead a happy and fulfilled life but the families I met in Ghyachock in Nepal last week aren’t so lucky.  Their lives are hard, so very hard.  I spent a lot of time walking with them and I will never forget the walk to school I took with the children. It took about an hour, and was steep. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. I had never seen scenery so beautiful. It was quiet and tranquil and was only interrupted by the children’s chatter and constant coughing. Two little girls held my hand the whole way.  

    school

    The walk to school

     

    schoolgirl

    Families living in remote mountainous areas struggle to survive. Food security, access to health care and education are all priorities and in many cases families just can’t afford all of them. Practical Action has been working with these communities to help save lives. Families rely on indoor fires to cook and keep warm in the bitter cold, but these fires are toxic and make families so ill. The thick smoke in their homes hit you like a stone wall when you enter, your eyes immediately stream and its so difficult to catch your breath. Prolonged exposure to this smoke causes pneumonia, bronchitis, heart disease and cancer but families have no choice. They need the fires to survive day by day.  It is the women and children who are most vulnerable.

    There is a simple solution though.

    Practical Action is working with these communities to install smoke hoods. They draw smoke from the fire through a chimney reducing the amount of smoke emitted in the home by up to 80%. A life saver. Community members are trained to make and fit these. They cost just £50.

    smokehood

     

    The emotions I felt on that walk will always stay with me. I was so angry the children were ill, that their illnesses could have been prevented but I knew this would change. I knew the smoke hoods would make a difference.  Their health would improve. I also felt relief that my son didn’t live in Ghyachock. He wouldn’t have been able to make the walk to school.

     

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  • Building HOPE for women farmers in Chikwawa

    Martha Munyoro Katsi

    November 14th, 2014

    In September, I spent a few days in Chikwawa, in Malawi’s lower Shire region. My mission was to collect case studies on the current situation facing farmers before the implementation of the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project.

    Esnath WillisonDuring this process, I got to hear and witness some of the difficult situations women in the area face. Indeed women can do anything to ensure that there is food on the table to sustain their families.

    Thats the story of Edith Willison, a smallholder farmer in Chikwawa. She is a single mother and she is responsible for fending for her family. Life has not been easy for her and her children. She wakes up very early every day and walks up to four kilometres to fetch water for her family’s domestic use before she goes to the fields. She grows maize, cassava and vegetables which she sells to get money to buy food and to pay for her children’s school fees and upkeep.

    For the crops to grow well she uses a treadle pump to irrigate the crops. This is no easy job especially on an empty stomach given there are times when there will be nothing to eat in her house. She spends about five to six hours pedalling the treadle pump in order to water her plot.

    Edith is now suffering from back pains because of all this hard work. When she gets tired from using the treadle pump, her 11 year old son Musani takes over this task.

    Chikwawa-2This system of pumping water which Edith and other farmers in the area are using is not reliable. As a result, Edith had low harvests and is struggling to provide food for her children. During these hard times, she resorts to borrowing from colleagues who also do not have enough so at the end of the day the family can retire to bed with empty stomachs.

    Practical Action will be introducing solar powered irrigation to farming areas in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The areas which the project will be implemented from are so poor and remote. They are not connected from the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected because of their remoteness. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be exorbitant. However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump. Instead of spending up to six to seven hours incessant pumping to irrigate their farms per day, Edith and other women can be using this valuable time to do other things like household chores, start small businesses, and attend to their children. Furthermore children can also attend school. With this technology the farmers can be sure of a viable and consistent supply of water for their crops.

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  • Pound a poo, penny a pee

    Liz Frost

    October 8th, 2014

    I know it’s probably not grown up to talk about poo and pee, but the alliteration was just too tempting.   It’s interesting though that we do use these coy words like ‘poo’, ‘pee’ and ‘no. 2s’ to talk about a function which is so fundamental.   Sex, politics, religion and even what money you’ve got these days are no longer taboo subjects but to ask someone how often they defecate is completely off limits, unless of course, you’re talking to your doctor.  But everyone does it, even the Queen, and Elvis famously died while on the toilet.  Here in the developing world, designers and manufacturers have become rich creating wondrous bathrooms – quiet, private, beautifully decorated rooms, with toilets that keep your bottom warm while seated, ensure you are fresh and clean afterwards with carefully directed sprays, that the toilet is completely sanitised once the automatically closing seat comes down and a sweet smelling aroma is sprayed afterwards to ensure no-one knows what you’ve been doing.

    Clearing out faecal sludgeVisit somewhere like an informal urban settlement in Bangladesh and your experience will be the complete opposite.   If you’re lucky, there may be a room which you share with all the other families around you, young, old and the sick, with a hole in the ground that you have to perch over and hope that your aim is good.  If you’re elderly or a child, this can be challenging, and for very small children extremely dangerous, with the risk of falling into the toilet pit.  There’s also the threat of disease with no flushing with water to carry away the faeces and so it piles up, attracting flies, creating the ideal conditions for cholera, dengue fever, etc.   After a while the toilet needs to be emptied and this is where people like Fadhiya come in, a young woman of 29, abandoned by her husband, with a child to take care.  Desperate for work, Fadhiya visits these toilets, usually after, dark, climbing down into the pits to clear them with her bare hands into a bucket which she then heaves out of the pit, walking many miles to find somewhere that she can hopefully dispose of the poo and pee.  She comes home to her family, smeared with excrement, dangerous to be near for her small child, and outcast by her community.

     

    Practical Action can’t bring flushing toilets to all the people living in informal urban settlements, but we can begin to make a difference by protecting people like Fadhiya with equipment such as a manual ‘gulper’ (a hand driven pump) so that she doesn’t have to climb down into toilet pits.   We can provide a tricycle rickshaw so that she doesn’t have to carry so many buckets of excrement, and we can find somewhere for all that poo to be deposited that isn’t going to contaminate a water supply.

    So, next time you have a ‘poo’ or a ‘pee’, maybe think about putting a £1 or 1p aside each time just for a month and send the money to Practical Action. Just nine people doing that for one month and donating £38.50 each could provide one gulper, and ensure that one less toilet cleaner has to climb into a pit of poo and pee to make a living.

     

     

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  • Handwashing, Bangla Style

    Kate Mulkern

    September 8th, 2014

    In a country where diarrhoea is the number one killer, it’s good to meet a community which takes the hygiene message so seriously that they wrote a Bangla song about it. And a children’s play. And a cartoon strip. And paintings galore. And assembled 200 men, women, and children to see the results at their community arts show.

    The place is a small district on the outskirts of Khulna City, in southern Bangladesh. The people are desperately poor, and they live in bleak, rotting, concrete slum tenements, but their community spirit is amazingly strong. Practical Action has been helping them spread the word about handwashing and hygiene, by developing messages to reach all of the men, women and children who live here. It seems such a small action, but it will save lives.

    My colleague Dawn and I were lucky enough to see the show, and the range of media they are using was astonishing. For example, a sketch written and acted by the slum’s children is sure to launch its 7-year old lead ‘baddy’ actor as a star, such was the enthusiasm with which he portrayed faecal bacteria killing children who fail to wash their hands after using the toilet. Another highlight for Dawn and myself was a Bangla song, with a ‘call and response section’ which demonstrated beyond doubt that the 200-strong audience knew all about using soap, helping children wash their hands, and cleaning the loo.

    The beat was so catchy that I’m still humming it, and at the risk of a poor pun, I think they may even have a Number One on their hands.

     

    dawn and members of the sanitation committeeBangla Drummer

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  • Urgent message for Student Adventurers

    Matt Wenham

    August 28th, 2014

    Practical Action has just received the shocking news that Student Adventures t/a GBCE Ltd has ceased to trade today. We understand that you, your families and friends will have lots of questions. Whilst details are unclear, we understand that students currently overseas with Student Adventures will continue their trips as scheduled, with no changes to their planned itinerary. We have requested that this is confirmed in writing.

    If you are concerned about someone who is currently overseas on a fundraising trip with Student Adventures, please call a member of our Practical Action team directly on +44  07880 671 315 If you are expecting to fly out on a challenge tonight, or in the next few days, we have been informed that outbound flights have not been cancelled, however there will be no one to meet you at the airport, no accommodation bookings have been made and your Kilimanjaro Trek has not been arranged. Any travel would be undertaken at your own risk, therefore Practical Action strongly advises that you do not travel.

    We have this evening received this information via Student Adventures’ Accountants, Smith Cooper, who advised Practical Action that they are making attempts to contact all participants. We have been informed that if you have any questions you can contact Louis Good at Smith Cooper on his direct line; +44 (0) 115 945 4300. Our staff are currently telephoning all students due to travel tonight, Thursday 28th August and tomorrow, Friday 29th August. Practical Action will endeavour to speak with all of our student fundraisers in the next 24 hours but if you want to talk to us please get in touch on 07880 671 315.

    We are extremely sorry about this, but have been as shocked as all our students about this news.  We also appreciate all of the hard work put into fundraising over the past year, and that many of those who have worked so hard will be desperate to travel, but our primary concern is your safety. We promise to be in touch with an update as soon as we have any further details.

    Please continue to check Practical Action’s social media sites and our website over the next few days for further updates.

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  • Do what you love and love what you do

    Hayley Lloyd

    August 28th, 2014

    I love talking about Practical Action and telling people about the simple, amazing solutions that make a huge difference to poor people’s lives.

    Good job I’m an extrovert and I like talking as I have to inspire fundraisers who recruit new donors for Practical Action on the streets across the UK. I love meeting the fundraisers, training them on how we are different to other international development charities and telling them about the people I’ve met whose lives have been transformed. This is one of the best parts of my job.

    waste pickers

     

    I trained a team last week in London and I talked about the waste picker families I met in Nepal last year. It’s a project that’s reached thousands of people who live and work in dire conditions and one that is very dear to my heart. Families struggle to survive on £1 a day they earn from sorting through piles of rotting rubbish. Practical Action has provided them with safety equipment so they don’t get cut and injured when they work, helped their children go to school and trained them to set up their own businesses so they can earn more money. The project has made a huge difference. I met people who were now healthier, could send their children to school and were hopeful for their future.

    To read more about this project please click here

     

     

     

    When I train fundraisers I always make sure they realise they are the start of the chain of good. Without their hard work and dedication we couldn’t reach the people we do. They are amazing!

    MegMeg, a Practical Action fundraiser, talked about her passion for Practical Action.

    “Practical Action are an amazing charity. To assess situations/disasters/extreme poverty and to come up with a very simple small scale technological solution is something the public can see logic in – and get excited about the ingenuity of. They are leading the way in sustainable development and are my favourite charity by far”

    Fundraising for international development is hard, people are sceptical but with fundraisers like Meg I believe we can engage members of public with our cause. Supporters can help a waste picker in Nepal or a farmer in Zimbabwe or a child desperate for water in Northern Kenya. They can play their part in the chain of good and truly make a difference.

     

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  • The media mechanics behind a record-breaking fundraising campaign

    Andy Heath

    August 18th, 2014

    It is now seven months since we finished fundraising for our successful Department for International Development (DFID) backed ‘Safer Cities’ campaign for our urban work Southern Asia.

    Buckingham5

    Some time ago I promised to give an overview of what we did, what went well and tips for a happy future appeal and (because I’m someone who always keeps his promises), below is an outline of last December’s somewhat breathless efforts.

    The fundraising campaign was match funded by DFID and had a number of communications requirements which we were expected to fulfil:

    • We should identify a media partner who could enable us to reach a guaranteed minimum of 400,000 UK residents with the appeal messages, and (most importantly for DFID) the message that DFID were matching every pound we raised.
    • We ensure the voices of the people who would benefit from the projects would be heard directly by our supporters
    • There would be feedback to those who did donate about how much they raised and where the money would be spent.
    • All the campaign material should contain the DFID logo and messaging.In addition, we also made some pledges to DFID ourselves – promising the appeal would be complemented by a media stunt, to increase the reach of the appeal and also to promote in the local media in Warwickshire.

    It was a stressful time, not just because we had a (much appreciated) Christmas appeal with the Guardian awarded to us at short notice, which ran alongside the DFID appeal, but because neither we, nor Premier Christian Radio, our media partner, had ever done anything like this before.

    As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. DFID’s communications department were helpful and gave advice on what the Secretary of State would and wouldn’t say, and, where possible, what they were looking for.

    IMG_9998The build-up to the appeal also coincided with a trip with a Guardian journalist to Nepal which allowed me and my colleague Hayley Lloyd to visit Nepal, promote a BBC Radio 4 appeal we were doing for the same project and collect lots of material and stories for the Safer Cities appeal. This gave us the opportunity to engage the local BBC radio stations and local press by suggesting they talk to me & Hayley about our experiences at the project.

    Perhaps most importantly, it also allowed us to catch up with our colleagues in Kathmandu and explain to them fully what the appeal was about and the extent to which there would be demands placed upon them for pictures, interviews and case studies. From that point of view alone, the trip was worth every penny, because the communications and project team in Kathmandu rose to the challenge brilliantly, producing a succession of fantastic pictures and case studies, often at horribly short notice for use on social media around Christmas and New Year. The fact the appeal was a success was largely down to the hard work and flexibility of my colleagues Prabin and Swarnima.

    20130718_091902

    Finally, we worked with a creative agency to develop some images of slums laid out on top of well-known British landmarks – Brighton Pier, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh Castle and the Bullring in Birmingham to try and localise the idea of how slums would affect the UK.

     

    The results were beyond our expectations, with coverage in British and Scottish national newspapers, leading regional papers and a range of websites, which brought our opportunities to view to well over the 40 million mark.

    Of course, most importantly, the fundraising was an overwhelming success. The appeal brought in more than £900,000, of which more than £800,000 was matched by DFID, meaning we smashed all previous Practical Action fundraising appeal records and have now been able to start work in slums in Bangladesh and Nepal to help tens of thousands of people living in slums get themselves out of poverty, for good.

    3 tips for a positive DFID match funding appeal experience:

    1. Get your local teams on board in a big way and set their expectations. Offer them plenty of support and make sure everyone is aware of just how much of a transformational impact the appeal can have on the organisation.
    2. Talk to DFID regularly. Like most of us in the communications game, they need to report successes to their bosses so keep them up-to-date with all your successes. Our relationship with DFID was so positive that after the appeal ended, Minister Lynne Featherstone visited our headquarters to celebrate the success.
    3. Make sure both you and the communications partner are on the same page (some sort of written agreement may be a good idea in which both parties state what they are committed to). They need to be aware of the minimum expectations that DFID has in terms of both reach and their messaging and that not living up to them could have a seriously negative impact on the organisation. Equally, it is important to identify interesting stories and editorial opportunities to ensure that the media partner fully benefits from the relationship as well.
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  • Can a seed pot really do that…….

    Hayley Lloyd

    August 12th, 2014

    Appropriate, simple, technological solutions to help people out of poverty. That’s what our work is about. cressA bit of kit or an improved way of doing something. This is the practical side of our work, what we passionately believe can provide a sustainable difference, but our work always starts and ends with people.  We work hand in hand with poor communities so the project is theirs.

    They dig trenches for irrigation channels that enable them to grow more food, they are trained to repair micro hydro systems that provide vital electricity or they are shown how to run their own businesses so they can earn a better living.

    I am constantly amazed by the difference our work makes to very poor communities and as a fundraiser it is my job to keep donors ‘amazed’ too so they continue supporting our work. They are doing an incredible thing and I want them to know that.

    PA_COG_Welcome_Booklet-1

     

    Every new donor is sent a booklet showcasing some of our ‘technologies’ and the differences these have made to people’s lives. Examples of how their support will help families across the world. Included with the booklet is a ‘make your own practical seed pot’.  A practical and fun way for supporters to be reminded of the type of work we do. If they make it, grow some seeds in it and keep it on the kitchen window ledge at home they can be reminded of how important their support is.  A short ‘how to’ video (below) has also been produced to help them make the pot.

     

     

    I’m hopeful that small seed pot can do wonders, can reaffirm why they support Practical Action, encourage them to continue giving and to make them think ‘that’s the type of charity I want to support’

     

     

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