Blog

The Fulcrum Aid team share their thoughts

Privileged

on Thursday, 02 November 2017. Posted in Bangladesh

By Belinda Uppill

Privilege

As a woman and mother living in Australia, I am privileged. I have the privilege of a healthcare system that is accessible to all. I have the privilege of being supported to maintain health during pregnancy by midwives and doctors. I have the privilege of safe birthing tools and practices for a healthy baby and healthy Mummy.

This year I have journeyed through another pregnancy and recently our family welcomed a new addition into our home and world. A little baby girl, a daughter, a sister for us all to love!

Over the course of my pregnancy it became clearer that due to the size of our baby there were potential risks to consider around the birth and that intervention would be necessary. During this decision making process I was supported to make an informed, empowered choice with access to an incredible healthcare system to support us. I had the privilege of Choice. I was Empowered. I had the privilege of access to Health care.

Investing for Social Impact

Written by Steve Blacket on Friday, 04 August 2017. Posted in About Fulcrum Aid

How can supporters of community development be confident their time and money is being used effectively?

Investing for Social Impact

It’s a confusing time for donors. An explosion of small not-for-profit organisations compete with mega-charities in a rapidly changing industry called international development.

At a recent Fulcrum Aid event I asked people what questions they ask when considering whether to give their time or money to a project or an organisation. Their responses addressed concerns such as:

  • How much of the money actually gets there? How much is lost on administration, publicity and travel?
  • How can we be confident the project is actually helping to address the root causes of poverty, and not just providing a short-term “band-aid”?
  • Will it cause communities to become increasingly dependent on foreign support and undermine local leaders and systems?
  • Will the introduction of western ideas and systems damage the local culture and established community leadership?
  • Does the organisation use children as a commodity to generate donations?
  • Is the dignity of the poor and vulnerable respected?

Stolen

on Thursday, 03 August 2017. Posted in Uganda

Naomi was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army when she was eight years old. Now she is a Lioness.

Stolen

My name is Naomi.

I am 25 years old.

In 2003, when Joseph Kony’s militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), first came to invade Amuria district in Northern Uganda, I was kidnapped within two days of their arrival. I was eight years old. Nine other girls including my sister-in-law were captured too.

All the other girls were left to go free but I was taken hostage even though I was the youngest. I was handed over to a young armed fighter who took care of me making sure that I couldn’t escape.

We had just started walking when the military helicopter came. I didn’t know how to hide and so the boy I had been handed over to started to train me how to dodge the bombs being dropped by the helicopter. When the helicopter turned its back on us we would run to hide. We had to keep on running to hide every time the helicopter came to pelt us with bombs.

Inspired by a Lioness

Written by Bridget Chambers on Friday, 30 June 2017. Posted in Uganda

“Bless me to bless the lives of orphaned children and girls who are going through what I went through.”

Inspired by a Lioness

Carol Akello lost both her parents to HIV/AIDS and then escaped a forced marriage when she was 16. Later, with her determination and the support of her brother, she finished her schooling and went on to university. She says she prayed for one thing: “Bless me to bless the lives of orphaned children and girls who are going through what I went through”. Now that prayer is being answered through her role as Director of Angatunyo Girls: The Lioness Project in Uganda.

Carol and I have had conversations over messenger and email, and she has sent me some photos. This particular one has sat at my desk for the last couple of weeks. I frequently delight in the opportunity to peek into the moment of joy, chaos, care and celebration of these beautiful, bold and determined young women.

Indigo: The young busker with a huge heart.

Written by Steve Blacket on Friday, 19 May 2017. Posted in Uganda

Indigo: The young busker with a huge heart.

A few months ago one of our Directors was discussing the Angatunyo Girls project with their young family, explaining how something as simple as purchasing a sewing machine can be enough to protect a teenage girl in Uganda from a forced marriage. 

Indigo is a bit shy by nature, but her strong convictions compelled her to action. Hearing her mum’s story, she found a prominent position in the main street and started singing songs she composes herself, determined to raise enough money for one sewing machine to help girls on the other side of the world only a few years older than herself who are being bullied into unwanted marriages for the sake of a dowry.

Even at 9 years of age Indigo realises how fortunate she is to enjoy the freedom and opportunity of life in Australia and has a sense of responsibility to stand with those not so fortunate.

A few days ago Indigo’s parents transferred $208 AUD that Indigo has raised to purchase a sewing machine for the Angatunyo Girls Project in Uganda 

Thanks Indigo!

When I told Carol, the Director of the Angatunyo Project, what Indigo had done, she was very excited. But she also told me that what the program really needs most is an overlocker machine. It costs $740 AUD. The Angatunyo girls will use it to make school uniforms and dresses for sale.

So now Indigo is aiming to raise enough to purchase an overlocker. She needs an extra $530.

Will you help?

What would you pay for a safe birth?

Written by Steve Blacket on Wednesday, 12 October 2016. Posted in Bangladesh

What would you pay for a safe birth?

I took this photo a couple of years ago at a little café near an intersection in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. When I say “café”, I mean a bamboo shelter where you could get a cup of tea, some bananas and rice before heading on the next section of the journey. And when I say “intersection”, I mean the place where the track meets the walking trail that is the main route to Boga Lake, Mount Keokradong, Sunsawng Para and numerous other villages.

Boga Lake is set into a crater. There is no river flowing in or out, but it holds a consistent water level throughout the year. We fished from the bank using the most simple of equipment - a hook on about two metres of line attached to a reed. The fish we caught were small, but the size of the fish scales on the grass indicated there were some monsters out deeper. It didn’t matter. The natural beauty and peaceful sounds of birds and frogs were reward enough.

The small town on the edge of the lake was similar to other villages in the hill districts in the south east of Bangladesh. Buildings made of wood and bamboo, some with iron roofs, informally scattered around a network of dirt paths. A collection of chooks and dogs, a few pigs. The sounds of children laughing. At the end of town was a corrugated iron building – they were fortunate to have a primary school. A row of guest houses facing the lake catered for tourists coming from Dhaka. Some of them had generators, and a few of the houses had solar panels attached to the grass roofs, but mostly the community managed without electricity as they had done for generations.

The Re-Opening of My Primary School

Written by Shila Yukuli Phopo on Friday, 01 April 2016. Posted in Papua New Guinea

a community working together to provide basic education for their children.

The Re-Opening of My Primary School

When I divorced in 2008 my people disowned me. I made it my business to raise awareness on gender based violence, human rights, education, health and poverty, both in my village and within settlements of Port Moresby. This talk was my last in my village before I came to Australia in January 2011. My people have learnt so much and are mobilised to make a positive change. This has been one of the milestone achievements of my career.

 

Rich in Heart

Written by Steve Blacket on Friday, 04 March 2016. Posted in About Fulcrum Aid, Bangladesh

"We are rich in heart, but poor in pocket."

Vana and daughter, Chittagong Hill Tracts

"We are rich in heart, but poor in pocket." These words were spoken by our friend Vana as we were walking in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh a few years ago.

A common assumption undergirding international development is that rich countries should help poor countries. The lingering heritage of colonisation means that, often with very little awareness, developed countries impose their culture, ethos and values upon the recipients of their charity.

Fulcrum Aid seeks to work at both extremities of the inequality spectrum, and recognises that traditional societies have much to teach us about community, spirituality, environmental sustainability and cultural identity.

Rather than creating an artificial social hierarchy of rich and poor, we recognise the intrinsic equality between us that allows the abundance of one to meet the deficiency of another.

Give Me A Lever

Written by Steve Blacket on Tuesday, 05 January 2016. Posted in About Fulcrum Aid

"What is a fulcrum?"

Give Me A Lever

At an early meeting of the small group that later became the founding Directors of Fulcrum Aid we were discussing our name, mission statement and core values. They asked me what was unique about our work that defined our identity. I fumbled with my words: “In every project the poverty is caused by imbalance – one part of the world has an abundance while others suffer because they don’t have even the basics.” We discussed concepts and images related to addressing extreme inequality such as balance, tipping points and leverage.

One of the group commented “It sounds like we are the fulcrum.” To which I replied “What is a fulcrum?”.

They explained a fulcrum is the tipping point on which a lever is placed, enabling a relatively small effort to move great obstacles. We reflected on the famous quote by Archimedes: “Give me a long enough lever and a fulcrum on which to place it and I will move the world.”

We had found our name.

Like a Lioness

Written by Steve Blacket on Tuesday, 15 December 2015. Posted in Uganda

The commencement of "Angatunyo Girls" project in Uganda

Carol Akello, Angatunyo Girls Project Manager

A few weeks ago I was chatting online with my friend Carol in Uganda and she told me about her niece being in a very desperate situation. She had been raised by her uncle since the death of her parents, but when she was 16 the uncle announced he couldn’t care for her any longer and had arranged her marriage. The girl just wanted to stay in school. Carol asked if I could help.

I met Carol while I was working in South Sudan. She had set up a nice little restaurant near the markets in Aweil. It’s a tough place to do business and I was impressed with how she ran the restaurant, and also the way she developed a community amongst her customers. Since returning to Uganda Carol continued to explore various business models to support herself. In her own way she is an entrepreneur. We began to explore how we might use Carol’s business skills to help her niece stand on her own feet.

Why Another Development Organisation?

Written by Steve Blacket on Friday, 06 November 2015. Posted in About Fulcrum Aid, Bangladesh, South Sudan

Why Another Development Organisation?

From memory, my first thought of establishing a new development organisation came to me on a beach in Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is said to be the world’s longest beach. It could also be the most crowded. It was November 2012 and I had just completed a very demanding six-month work assignment in South Sudan and was seeking some of the peace and tranquillity normally associated with a two week beach stay. But tranquillity wasn’t so easy to find. Each day I would try to escape the crowds and cameras by taking a long walk. If it really is the world’s longest beach, my emotionally fatigued mind felt in need of the world’s longest beach walk. Past the crowds and cameras and jet-skis and persistent micro-entrepreneurs, beyond the small fishing villages, until the only curious eyes were the cows resting on the beach. Then I would stop, take a long swim in the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, and sit down with my books.

Women and Poverty in Rural Papua New Guinea

Written by Shila Yukuli Phopo on Friday, 21 August 2015. Posted in Papua New Guinea

"Poverty can never be defined and addressed unless the voices of the poor are heard."

Women and Poverty in Rural Papua New Guinea

In a dark, cold cave, a lonely young woman gives birth to her first child. The world outside waits to share the joy of her first born child who has to be a boy. But not just yet. She can’t show off her baby boy for at least three months after this dirty process, this disgusting process of giving birth. After three days of hard, long excruciating labour, her baby is finally born. She looks over at her newborn with tears of joy, only to realise her baby is a girl. She is overwhelmed, frightened, anxious, confused, lost at the thought of disgrace and shame for giving birth to a female first-born child. The girl grows up mostly with her grandmother who is fearless of what society believes. As elegant and intelligent as she was, her grandmother taught her the skills of hunting, gardening and laws and customs about death and dying, marriages and social relations. All basic needs were available through hard work. Hard work was everything. Sweet potatoes for every meal, grass-skirts for clothes, bush hut for shelter, fresh creek water from miles away, lots of wood for fuel, bush herbs for healing. There were no schools, no roads, no airstrips, no health clinics. But one thing her grandmother instilled in her changed the perceptions of the entire village to this day: "Go to school when you can and work very hard because you will see a bright light beyond this sacred mountain".

Images of South Sudan

Written by Steve Blacket on Wednesday, 12 August 2015. Posted in South Sudan

A resilient community

Images of South Sudan

Prior to my first visit to South Sudan in 2008, the perceptions I had formed were based primarily on what I had seen on the news and the stories told by my South Sudanese friends. I pictured a land devastated by war, disease, famine and poverty.

It goes without saying that this is a land that has seen too much suffering, but what struck me immediately was the vibrancy of the community, the generous hospitality, the sounds of laughter and singing, vibrant colours and the chatter of diverse languages. This is a land of numerous cultures, and tribal traditions passed down through the centuries.

Within days I was adopted as one of the community, provided a home, offered a wife and given a new name. It is humbling to be offered so much from people who have struggled to survive.

Images of Bangladesh

Written by Angela Stewart on Thursday, 23 July 2015. Posted in Bangladesh

Images of Bangladesh

In September 2014 I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend 3 fabulous weeks traveling through Bangladesh.  It was my first overseas experience, and one I will never forget.  
Here in Australia we hear so much of the negative aspects of Bangladesh, and sadly so little of the wonderful traits…the lush, beautiful landscape, rich cultural heritage, and most of all the friendly, creative, hospitable people and their amazing resilience to overcome adversity. 
My time spent there was a life-altering adventure, and I hope that my photos will reflect at least some of the beauty and charm of this very special place.

Inequality Hurts!

Written by William Mude on Wednesday, 08 July 2015. Posted in South Sudan

a personal glimpse of inequality in the health sector.

Inequality Hurts!

Inequality hurts so much. While inequality can take different dimensions, one of the areas where inequality hurts so much is in the health sector.

I recently spoke with a friend from my childhood who is based in South Sudan. Their child became very sick and there was no health centre or health workers who could treat his child. The sick child did not make it. A few days before that, I spoke to another childhood friend whose wife was in labour with their first child. But her labour had complications. His wife was in labour for 36 hours but there was nothing he could do. His wife and the child too did not make it.

It made me to think “If only they had health care facilities like we have here in Australia…” - but there was nowhere they could go for help. If they did not have extreme poverty and inequality, they would have survived these tragedies. The problem with inequality is that it suffocates and renders people vulnerable.

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