Abbie Wells


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

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Posts by Abbie

  • Toilet trouble in the slums of Odisha

    July 21st, 2017

    Last week I travelled to Choudwar in the state of Odisha, India to visit a project being funded by H&M Foundation.  We took along with us two influential fashion and beauty vloggers Dress Like a Mum and Ms Rosie Bea to show them the realities of a life without adequate sanitation.

    The women and children that we met in the community are forced to relieve themselves in an open field, exposed to prying eyes.  They risk sexual assault as well as snake bites and contracting malaria from mosquitoes. If this wasn’t bad enough, women who are on their periods have absolutely no privacy.

    But all that is about to change. With funding from the H&M Foundation, we will be building toilets, a faecal sludge treatment plant and rainwater harvesting systems to change the lives of the women and children that we met (and the men too!).

    I spoke to a few people today about my recent trip to India (including a woman who stopped me in the street to say she enjoyed my photos (thank you again) It was such an honour to be invited to work with @practical_action & @hmfoundation – to actually see direct results and to meet the wonderful people who will benefit from the life changing projects they are working on. The things I saw, people I meet and places we visited will stay with me for life, at times I felt like I was inside a TV program – it was unreal, humbling and inspiring. Thanks for all your kind words, support and for following my trip – videos to follow next week x And big thanks to @practical_action for all that you do for the world ❤️ #dresslikeamuminindia #india #practicalactionindia #practicalaction #hm #hmfoundation

    A post shared by Zoë de Pass (@dresslikeamum) on

    It was fantastic to open Zoe and Rosie’s eyes to these issues, to help them understand the problems that people are facing and how we are going to work together to fix them.

    We were given such a warm welcome, particularly when we arrived laden with make-up for the teenagers in the community. We lost count of the number of fingernails that were painted and blue eye shadow that was applied!

    Working with ‘social influencers’ like Zoe and Rosie is a new thing for us but is really helping us to reach new audiences with our work. We’ll be back in November once the toilets are under construction – watch this space!

    Watch Rosie’s video about the visit

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  • The Great Bangladeshi Bake Off!

    September 2nd, 2016

    On Wednesday night one of our brilliant projects in Bangladesh was featured on BBC One in the much anticipated ‘Chronicles of Nadiya’ a two-part series featuring Great British Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussein.

    Nadiya travelled to Islampur village, Sirajganj in the north west of Bangladesh and met two of our beneficiaries – Zohurul and Hamida who have benefitted from our project helping people to adapt to the effects of climate change. Sirajganj is a highly flood-prone part of the country.The Chronicles of Nadiya

    In the area Nadiya visited, people are often left without an income if one area of their livelihood is disrupted. Zohurul and Hamida were trained by Practical Action to produce and sell chanachur (bombay mix to you and me!) at their local market.

    Nadiya helped them to make a batch and proclaimed it the ‘best chanachur I have ever tasted’ – praise indeed!

    Previously, Zohurul was working in a local loom factory for 1000 taka per month, now he earns 6000 taka per month which has completely changed the lives of his family and given them stability. His eldest children have now joined the family business and his youngest daughter is in school full-time.

    The project has helped hundreds of people like Zohurul and Hamida to turn their lives around through training in food processing and support in establishing a small business. Their success is a shining example of the long term benefits that knowledge and training can have on the lives of poor families.

    The programme was fantastic from beginning to end.  It brilliantly portrayed both the beauty of Bangladesh and the devastating problems that affect so many of its people.

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  • 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 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 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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