Penny Godfrey on the frontline

Today I am bringing you the amazing story of the “forgotten people” as written by Penny Godfrey who accompanied me to the frontline.

For those of who don’t know, and I suspect many of you do, I take business leaders to the frontline not only to experience what life is really like for people in third world countries post disaster, but to also help us to find sustainable solutions for these communities.

These solutions ultimately lift people out of poverty, despair, desperation and hopelessness and back into a life that is independent and self-sufficient again.

I’ve found that business leaders who come with me to the frontline experience the journey of a lifetime…and in return they give a lifetime of experience to those they help.

You see, my Be The Change: Business Leaders on the frontline program takes the best, most inspiring and visionary business leaders and uses the skills they’ve honed in business to solve challenging real-life problems in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in third world locations.

If you’d like to find out more about my Be The Change: Business Leaders on the frontline program, simply click here

And now…

Penny Godfrey: “The forgotten families.”

The child, around two years old, naked from the waist down, his filthy, ragged vest hanging off one shoulder, ambled alone, in and out of the traffic. My driver gasped. Vehicles slowed down to avoid the tiny figure until he made it safely back to his home on the central reservation. Welcome to India.

“The purpose of our life needs to be positive”, the Dalai Lama said, and with that in mind, I caught my onward flight from Delhi to Nepal. In just a few hours, I would join international humanitarian Linda Cruse for an insight into her world of compassion and service, helping victims of the 2015 earthquake.

A hastily-erected camp, set amidst the rubble, dust and noise of Kathmandu, is where I first see Linda in action. With her striking blonde hair and loud, infectious laugh, she’s a beacon of hope to people who have suffered so much. “How can we help you to earn money?” she asks, family by family, starting with the most vulnerable. It’s intense, time-consuming work, moving from one humid shack to the next, carefully documenting each story, while figuring out how to provide ‘A hand up, not a hand out’.

“You’re a business-woman” she tells Pubitra, a frail 42-year widow, who physically clings to Linda like the life-line she is. A mother of six, she’s now selling enough masala tea to feed her family and send her children to school.

We head to the mountains, to Devpur, which enjoys breath-taking views of the Himalayas. Living conditions are tough, with 95% of homes destroyed, and most livelihoods lost. But there is so much joy here. The plastic Kerplunk game I take to the local school is met with gasps of fascination. Snap is played over and over to howls of delight. The local shop-keeper’s shy daughter, in her frayed, pink tutu is so happy to see me each day to practise her reading. One young chap, with excellent English, gives me a Nepalese rupee, and is over the moon with the English penny I offer in return. What this village has in abundance is community spirit and camaraderie. “Poverty doesn’t equal unhappiness” Linda had told me, and I see it for myself, first-hand.

Just before leaving I meet Laxmi, an 18-year old primary school teacher who lives in a small shed with her parents. Her father slowly, methodically carries enormous tree trunks up the hill, to generate fires hot enough to make bricks, so he can painstakingly rebuild their family home. He wears white, in mourning for his parents, killed during the earthquake. Their hospitality, warmth and dignity, in the face of such suffering, makes me cry. “Please come and see us again” they ask softly. “I will. I promise.” I say

I’m reluctant to leave. There’s so much work to be done. But I depart with great energy and purpose. I went to give but all I did was gain. What a trip. “Was it life-changing?” People ask. Quite possibly.

Thank you Penny! I hope you enjoyed her personal account of her trip to the frontline.

Lots of love

Linda x

P.S. I’ve got such an exciting announcement coming up in the next week. Be sure to keep an eye on your inbox! It includes a link to watch a short video recorded in front of an inspiring and live audience last week…YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS IT!!

18 months on and no help post Nepal earthquake…

I have been a humanitarian aid worker for 17 years but still on every frontline mission I feel the same sense of pure joy as we are able to give a ‘hand up’ to the forgotten families and positively change the lives of the people who have faced unbelievable devastation and huge challenges.

I have just returned to Kathmandu after an extraordinary journey. The village we have been in is high up in the Himalayas on the border of Tibet and Nepal.

For the past 18 months the village has been cut off by a massive landslide triggered by the earthquake. They have received no aid. After the earthquake it took 10 days for even the next village to reach them with basic survival supplies.

To reach the village, after a long off roading jeep journey we had to climb down a steep mountain side, across a stream and up another mountain face that was strewn with loose stones and boulders following the landslide.

The last half an hour trek in we faced strong winds and a freezing hail storm.

As my Nepali guide pointed out our final destination and I could see our red tents on the horizon the sky cleared and a double rainbow appeared. It was as if the Universe was cheering us on.

Local men and women stood with beaming smiles in the hail storm to welcome us as we walked through a make shift triumphant arch made of bamboo and leaves. They placed a sacred scarf, a kata, around our necks and with hands placed in prayer they led us the last few steps to their homes.

The village of just 150 dwellings hangs on the side of a steep hillside with no easy way to move around.

They had never seen a foreigner before, none had ever made it to their village, it was fun for all as they looked us up and down and touched our hair and marvelled at our footwear and clothes.

Exhausted after our journey we snuggled into our mountain home. A small red tent perched on a ledge. January in the Himalayas is pretty cold. Even with a Himalayan sleeping bag – I kept on my eight thermal layers and added an extra pair of socks and very warm hat with ear muffs. Waking up in the morning and unzipping the tent to a snow covered mountain was surreal and awe inspiring.

One by one we started to meet some of the most vulnerable families. So hard to know where to start – as all seemed desperately in need of help. Many of the villagers as well as losing their livelihoods and homes are severely psychologically traumatised. The landslide triggered by the earthquake killed many loved ones. One father lost both his wife and 15 year old son under the landslide and he cannot accept that they have gone. He still wanders the village stunned in a daze.

Pore Kamsya, a 30 year old woman had just given birth to her last child when her 29 year old husband was killed by the landslide, buried in the rubble. She has four children Prasad 12 years, Sunil 8 years, Maya 5 years and Sapana now nearly 2 years old. Everytime we met her she would hang her head as the tears fell holding Sapana tightly close to her.

The picture below is one of my meetings with her and her children.

Her husband was highly respected by the community, a great husband and father. Pore just could not recover from her loss. Her family were worried about her and her 4 young children. Pore seemed to have no will to live. Nothing could rouse her out of her depression and deep sadness.

Bit by bit through getting to know her, gaining her trust and through various of her friends and relatives sharing her story we began to understand that her living condition – a small dwelling with 10 other relatives – was adding to her stress and inability to recover and start again. She felt useless, dependent and numb.

The ‘Be The Change’ team bit by bit distilled a possible solution. We build her a small dwelling to give her space and independence with her small family and we also help to provide her with a sustainable income with her own buffalo. She could sell the milk for regular money enabling her to buy the staples for the family. A local man kindly said that he would donate the land.

I will always remember how Pores’ face lit up when our idea was suggested to her. She physically and emotionally changed, she lifted her head, straightened her back as a smile crept across her face. In her wildest dreams she never thought this could be a possibility. She was radiant. We had hit the jackpot.

Rebuilding shattered lives, facilitating mothers like Pore to regain their self -esteem and dignity makes me dance for joy! Feeling blessed and on cloud nine as we transform devastated lives here one family at a time.

The level of strength and resilience of the village people is almost unbelievable – and to hear them sing as they perform their daily tasks despite all of their hardship – I wish – just for one day everyone could witness and feel in their hearts such grace and courage.

Thank you to those who joined me on the frontline, made the long hard journey high up into the Himalayas and stepped out of their comfort zones to help those in desperate need with a much needed hand-up.

They have helped people in a way they have never before and those people will treasure it for a long time come.

I will be back in touch again soon with more stories of the amazing people we are meeting on the frontline.

With much love

Linda x

One year on – Harka – the boy with no arms

As you probably know, I have so many stories to tell you about my trips to the front line and the many people we’ve been able to help over the last 16+ years and here is an update on the amazing progress this amazing young man has been making since we met him in early 2016.

Just before I get to that, I know many of you have a huge desire to help and I am aware that I am perhaps not so forthcoming with letting you know how you can do that, so let me share just a couple of ideas with you.

You could donate some money, either on an on-going basis, every now and again, or even just a once off. The money we receive from our kind and generous followers enables us to help people on the front line to rebuild their lives and become independent again. Every cent and every dollar helps.

Click here to find out how to donate and how much to donate

You could join me for a trip of a lifetime to the frontline. I have just taken a group to Nepal, am taking another group in February to the frontline and will be doing more trips throughout the year.

Click here to find out more about joining me on the frontline

You could also help by sponsoring someone that we’re working with on the frontline, in the same that Robert does with Harka (you’ll find out about that in the story below).

Click here to go on the waiting list and we’ll be in touch

 

Now let’s get on with updating you with Harka’s progress (the boy with no arms in the picture below)!

Feb 2016 – Post earthquake in Kathmandu Nepal I was taking a base assessment and visited a disabled school to see if there had been any casualties there. It was the middle of the day and term time, and I found just one boy aimlessly kicking a ball against the wall, head down. I asked the administrator what the situation was.

Harka, 11 years old, had been brought to the disabled school two years previously, both of his arms burnt off to the socket after falling down a hill and grabbing onto a live electricity wire to save himself.

Once Harka was at the school there was no further contact from his family. Abandoned, Harka adapted to life with no arms and learned to write with his toes. But no school would take him. Hence he was alone at the disabled hostel that day. Having no arms he was unable to use the bathroom on his own. Each day he had to watch the school bus collect the other children and he was left behind.

I was determined to solve this for Harka but every idea was stopped by the school until we came up with the idea of paying a caregiver to sit at the back of the class so that when Harka needed to use the bathroom – he could.

The school agreed and a most generous sponsor has committed to funding Harka’s caregiver.

One year on – Jan 2017 Nepal

An excited administrator greeted me at Harka’s hostel and beckoned me to follow her. Harka was standing on the table using his feet to play Bagh Chal, a traditional and very popular game in Nepal.

It’s a fast action hunting board game, two sides taking part: 4 tigers trying to capture the 20 goats who defend themselves by blocking the tigers. It was quite obvious that he was having a lot of fun.

He nodded and smiled and me then returned his focus to his game. I followed the administrator to her office.

She proudly handed me Harkas school report

English, Nepali, Maths, Social Studies, Science & Environment, GK + Moral Science, and English Grammar. Final grade on each subject A+ .Remarks: Outstanding.

I could have cried with joy!

Harka had missed nearly 2 years of formal education after his accident, had been given a second chance at education and he was maximising every minute. The school was delighted. No issues and the carer was doing her job well of managing Harka and his use of the bathroom.

The school also noted that he was talented in extracurricular activities, he was a budding artist and a good footballer.

Harka, his board game over, joined us in the office. He wanted to show me his love of sketching and asked if he could draw my portrait. Paper and pencils appeared and I sat back and gazed out of the window as he worked. The finished product was excellent – he even included my sun glasses perched on my head.

When asked how much he enjoyed school – he beamed  – he loved it. ‘Maths’, he said is his favourite subject. Mingma, the lead for Be The Change in Nepal, jumped in and said, ‘ ‘when until you have finished your education, you will be great in my accounts department’. Harka’s smile got even broader.

About to leave the administrator then put the icing on the cake, someone from Harka’s families village had, by chance come to the hostel to visit another student. The administrator had asked the man to pass on to Harkas family the great news of Harkas sponsor and his incredible success at school.

One month later Harka’s father and brother took the long journey from their countryside village to see Harka. There was not a dry eye in the hostel as the family was finally reunited.

From a boy abandoned with no hope to a top student reunited with his family. So many many thanks to Harka’s kind and generous sponsor Robert, who is supporting Harka every step of the way.

Harka’s smile says it all.

Much love from the frontline – Linda x

P.S. Oh, and just before you go…

If you’d like to help like Robert does and become a personal sponsor, then please join this waiting list

If you’d like to donate and help our frontline projects to be successful, then click here to find out more

And finally, if you’d like to find out about joining me on the frontline, click this link for more information

Help Eriopaguita rebuild herself with a hand-up.

I would like to introduce you to Eriopaguita.

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She’s 40 years old. A mother of 4 – Josselin 13, twins Luis David 11 & Luis Moises 11 and Escarleth 5yrs.

They live in Perdanales, a small beach resort that sits on Ecuador’s long Pacific coast…one of the cities closest to the epicenter of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit on April 16th 2016.

I first visited Pedernales 3 months after the quake hit to assess the progress of recovery. It still looks like you are entering a warzone. The quake lasted less than a minute but nearly every single house came down.

People are scared and struggle to know what the future holds.

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Can you even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose everything and 6 months on still living in such a desperate way?

‘Once-private spaces are open for everyone to see. Shower rooms with no walls. An empty pink high chair teetering on the edge of a room that is at an angle. A set of medals pinned to the wall of a family home’.

Eriopaguitas’ home was also destroyed during the quake, they are now living in a makeshift tent, some plastic thrown over bamboo. Their living condition is poor, their water comes from the river and they still have, 6 months on, neither light nor electricity.

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They are obviously traumatized, her children look sad, picking up on the anxiousness of their mothers daily struggle to find, borrow or beg for their food.

She doesn’t want to live like this. She wants to work!

Her neighbor told me, “She cries a lot every day but tries to be strong in front of her children”

Eriopaguitas’ small business, her pots, pans and food stock was also destroyed during the earthquake.

She used to sell ‘salchipapa’ (thinly sliced beef sausages and potatoes) to the local community; its a favorite street food snack of the local people.

She is a good cook, wants to start her business again and she knows this popular snack food has a good solid long term market. She would love to expand her business and make her profits even higher.

“The addition of a small push cart would enable me to sell to an even wider community.”

>> CAN YOU HELP? CLICK HERE <<

 

Her greatest fear is that someone in her family will become ill, and they won’t have enough money to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Her greatest dream is that her children can study and have a future – something she could never have.

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At 8 years old Eriopaguita, her father dead and mother sick, was already working. Married at 18 years old and after 4 children she finally ran away as she could no longer tolerate the beatings from her husband.

Can you help her to help herself?

‘A hand up not a hand out’

 

>> YES? CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW! <<

 

To set her family back on the road to recovery, to save a little each week to build a small home and have money ready for medical emergencies as well as keep her children fed and in school her needs are:

  1. A ‘Salchipapa’ push cart
  2. A gas cylinder, an aluminum tray
  3. An aluminum sieve
  4. 5 sacks of potatoes
  5. 1 gallon of oil
  6. 5 kilos of sausages
  7. 100 bowls and 100 small forks.

Total cost $500

Per month she estimates her income will be $350.
Each month she spends a minimum of $150 per month on her family. It’s a good sustainable business.

$500 will change her families life generationally – so little can do so much.

Can you help her to help herself?

 

>> CLICK HERE TO DONATE <<

 

Please click on the donate button and put in the amount you can help – or chose an item you would like to give?

Every dollar counts

Media defines disaster and when the cameras move on thousands and thousands of displaced, traumatized families who have survived the disaster are then … forgotten. They have survived but have no means of re-building their lives again. No social security, no financial security.

Can you help and give her back hope for her children’s future?

 

Thank you so very much. Love Linda from on the Frontline x

The nepalese happy bachelor and his goats!

Do you really know the impact that your daily routine has on you? Do you commute hours to work each day, leaving home early, arriving home late? Do you know some of the people in your street or apartment block? Do you know any of their names? Do you feel part of your community or can home feel a lonely place?

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the deep sense of community in all of the developing countries I have lived and worked in. A respectful, compassionate interdependence. It doesn’t need to be taught. Its just there.

In the village of Devpur, where we are currently working post the two big Nepal earthquakes of 2015, it’s just the same. I spotted an elderly man, blind, hunched over, his spine crumbled, carefully edging himself down a steep mountain path, the constant tapping of his white stick guiding him safely over the pot holes and around the boulders. The sight of him made me anxious.

‘How does he manage?’ I asked, ‘and how can we help?’ One of our local leaders Rupak answered quickly, ‘No need to worry Linda, we all take care of him, he has breakfast with Raja, lunch with Humica and supper with Manu. Week by week we swap around and others invite him for food. He has his own tiny dwelling to sleep in but he knows that he is always welcome in anyone’s home. We are all family’.

‘Nice’ I thought as I watched him crouch down to take a rest. There was nothing we needed to do for him. The community had it all under control.

In fact, I thought, any interference from us could negatively impact the effective group support system the villagers had in place. Best left well alone.

We have a set process of selecting the most vulnerable families to prioritize with a ’hand up’ and as we do this, group empathy and compassion is always evident. However bad their own situation is the people are eager to introduce others that they feel are even more in need.

This was how we got to meet Bawanath Sanker Godasaini, fondly known by the locals as the ‘The Happy Bachelor’.
‘Please visit him Linda’ I was asked by an elderly lady, ‘he has no family, he lost his home and his livelihood. He is living in a goat shed – with the goats!’

Bawanath, a slight, bony man, who stands no more than 4’11” wore a traditional wrap around skirt (tied like an oversized cotton nappy) the white cloth had seen better days, now grey and threadbare with raggedy edges. He leant on his crooked walking stick, his head tilted to one side, unable to hide his curiosity. A traditional peaked Newari cap he had placed on his head at a jaunty angle. Our eyes met momentarily and he gave me a broad smile revealing perfect brilliant white teeth.

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In the Nepali culture it’s unusual for a man not to marry so I had to ask why. ‘What happened?’ I said teasingly,’ Why did you never marry, there are lots of beautiful women in the mountains?’

‘No wife, no headache,’ he replied his broad grin getting broader. ‘I was born and raised in these mountains. My Mum died when I was two years old. Its just my sister and me, I get to see her every month. I have a good simple life here with good friends’.

‘So what happened to you the day of the earthquake?’ I asked. Post traumatic stress is very much present in the village, across all generations, most severely with the children and the elderly. With constant reminders of how fragile their lives are, aftershocks as big as 5.2 on the Richter scale are still happening.

‘I was nearly buried alive,’ he said his smile disappearing, ‘I was cooking inside my house when there was a loud rumbling noise, then lots of screaming. Bricks were falling down all around me. I tried to run outside but I was hit by a sharp heavy stone right in the middle of my back. The pain was excruciating. I must have passed out because the next thing I knew my neighbours were shouting and clawing at the rubble to get me out.’

‘We were stunned, petrified, the aftershocks kept coming every few minutes for the first 24 hours. We huddled together outside our destroyed homes. I was badly injured, but had no means or money to go to hospital. We did what we could for food. So many animals crushed to death including mine. We didn’t see a soul for four days. No one came’.
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Bawanath tells his story to Be The Change Ambassadors

‘What job did you do before the earthquake?’ I asked seeing very little evidence of food in his dwelling. It was as his friends told me he lived in a goat shed. With his own home gone he had moved into a friend’s goat shed to sleep and earn a little money by caring for the goats.

‘Before the earthquake I had five goats and that plus occasional daily laboring for 400 rupees, enabled me to eat and live with no problem – but during the huge landslides that were triggered by the earthquake, all were badly injured but one. I had to sell them for meat. I just have one left.’ he replied.

‘What was your daily life like before the earthquake?’ I was curious to understand the rhythm of his life.

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‘Very simple, I get up at 5.30am, make a fire, clean the house and make tea. I walk into the jungle to get food for the goats. At 10am I cook chapati and dahl baht and spend time talking to my friends. The afternoon is spent tending my vegetable patch, helping others or doing maintenance on the goat shed. I have never owned a TV or a radio, I just sit and chat with my friends. I love to cook and whatever we have we share. By 10pm I am asleep. A simple, happy life’, he said as he gazed at the majestic Langtang Himalayan range across the valley.

‘How can we help you to regain this peace and happiness and for you to be again self sufficient?’ I asked.

‘Three goats’ he said, his signature twinkle radiating all over his face. ‘They have multiple births, easy to feed, I can sell for meat at festival times when the price of goat meat is high and they are actually great company’.

‘Just three goats’ I said

‘Yes, one pregnant and two kid goats would be a perfect mix’.

Through the kindness and compassion of two great ladies Belinda and Vicki, Be The Change Ambassadors, who came with me to the frontline in February, this is just what we did. Through a three day process of getting to know Bawanath, understanding his way of life, taking into consideration his physical capabilities, ensuring that replacing his goats was a viable sustainable income generating business for him and that we were honouring his dream, this is what we did.

The smiles on the photos say it all.

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Be the Change Ambassadors delivering the goats to Bawanath

Rupak, a fellow villager and member of our Be The Change Community volunteered and was delighted to pay it forward and help Bawanath build his own goat shed.

Community at it’s best.

Bawanath’s smile will stay with me forever as he sits in front of his home gazing at the Himalayas, a cup of chai in his hand and a friend by his side.

Every individual, family, community I work with on the frontline teaches me and reminds me of what is really important.

In nearly all of the developing countries in which I have lived and worked, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the deep rooted sense of community. A respectful interdependence. It’s not taught or encouraged. It’s just there. Part of the DNA.

How does your daily routine impact on your quality of life?

Do you feel part of your community or can home feel a lonely place?

I urge you to shake your routine up, challenge yourself, get off the hamster wheel. Help to build a strong community. Hold a coffee morning and invite people from your street. Look out for the single parent or elderly widow and make a point of reaching out to them. Our lives seem to become increasingly complicated each year – carve out time for the simple pleasures – the best things in life are free.

And as my nursing matron always used to say to me as a junior nurse, ‘ It’s not about you.’ Contribution is the greatest human need. The more we give the more we receive.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

Much love

Linda x

‘a hand up’ project that is bringing her family out of darkness.

‘I will do anything to educate my children,’ Niru Kumasi Bisunke said during the first minute of our conversation high up in the mountain village of Deupur, Nepal. Her eyes tired, anxiety etched all over her face.

This is the story of Niru and how “a hand up” from us (not a hand out!) has changed her prospects.

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What is our raison d’etre?

A hand up not a hand out’, giving back self – esteem, dignity and independence through livelihood recovery and income generating projects.

Recovery takes time and each vulnerable family we help is carefully selected and taken through a careful process to identify the type of livelihood that is most suitable for them, taking into consideration their education level, skill set, physical strength as well as the market opportunity and possibility of a long term sustainable income.

Like many of the people we have assisted with livelihood recovery in the past 6 weeks we were encouraged to meet this lady by one of the trusted leaders in the community, the Vice Principal of Deb Bal Bad Ra Primary School, Mr Chiran-Jivi.

Who is Niru and what happened to her?

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Niru is a tall, slender 26 year old, her husband Sajan 27yrs old works ad hoc as a daily labourer repairing homes and assisting in road construction whenever the opportunity arises. They have a 6yr old boy Simon and a 5 yr old girl Sandhya. They are from the Sarki caste.
The day the first big earthquake hit Niru was with her two children in Bhaktapur, an ancient medieval town 90 minutes by bus from her home in Deuper. She had gone just for the day to look for work.
But Bhaktapur was not the place to be on April 25 th 2015 – situated at only 30 miles from the epicenter of 7.9 magnitude earthquake – it was badly hit.

‘My children and I were inside the house when the walls started to sway, shelves and cupboards came crashing down around us. Screaming we ran outside into the heavy rain and really strong winds, the tall trees were moving as easily as blades of grass being blown backwards and forwards. It was chaos, people screaming and crying, buildings crumpled like matchboxes burying people alive’, Niru face held a haunted stare.
That fateful night Niru slept outside in the freezing cold, too scared to take shelter anywhere. The aftershocks kept coming. For 4 days she remained like this, with no communication, no way to find out if her husband was dead or alive, the only food for her children, a handful of biscuits.

After 4 days she was able to return to Deupur. She found her village destroyed, 95% of the homes had completely collapsed, including hers. Her husband had survived he had been outside on the road working when the quake hit, not all had been so lucky, 25 residents of Deupur died, trapped in their homes and 50 were seriously injured.

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Using whatever they could find Niru and her husband constructed a temporary shelter in front of their damaged home, – some wood, bamboo, zinc sheets, plastic and tarpaulin. ‘We only built the house seven years ago. We lived in a two-storey house,” explained Niru, “but shared on the ground floor with our cattle, so when the building fell down in the earthquake they were buried alive. Just one of our young goats and one buffalo survived’.

It was here that we met this brave resilient woman and started the process of finding out how best we could give her and her family have a sustainable ‘hand up’.

A day in the life of Niru

Niru has very busy days. She gets up at 5am and cleans the house. She makes breakfast, which consists of a simple cup of chai (tea with boiled milk and sugar). She then goes to the jungle to collect food for the buffalo. Twice a day, morning and evening she milks the buffalo and sells the milk at the collecting point in the village. By 9am she takes the children to school. Her next task is off to wash the families’ clothes at the spring, then takes care of her vegetable patch and rice paddy before she prepares the lunch, the countries staple, dal bhat (rice and lentil soup).

Niru then seeks work as either a porter carrying bricks or stones using a strap, or namlo, placed over the front of her head. Her income depends on the weight she carries, for a weight of 30 kg she could earn up to 400 rupees per day or as a labourer in the fields approx 350 rupees a day for 6 hours.

Her husband also seeks work each day in construction – he can earn 600 rupees if he is lucky enough to get work.

For Niru to be able to cover all of her monthly costs – basic daily food, rice, oil, school fees and to save some money for the doctor in case of sickness – the total she requires is 10,000 rupees the equivalent of $94.

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So what was her new business idea and is there a long term market?

Yes. A chronic problem in Nepal is power cuts, for almost 16 hours a day there is no electricity. This problem was there 16 years ago when I first visited Nepal in the year 2000 and it is still the same. The government hopes that in 5 years time or so the situation will be different – but no-one is holding their breath.

Niru’s shrewd and brilliant new business idea was to make candles – a secure, in demand product. She had done her research and identified the most popular size to make and the profit she could turnover.

Could she fit this activity into her already packed day?

Candle-making only needed her attention for a few hours at the beginning and end of each day. A simple process of boiling the wax, putting into moulds with the wick then leaving it to cool.

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What is the investment, how much would the equipment cost?

We helped Niru to do the calculations. The total cost of the equipment, moulds, wick and wax was only $114 and she could collect the firewood to boil the wax for free from the jungle.
The return on investment was good Niru could make a 10” candle for 6 rupees and sell to the local town for 10 rupees. A 4 rupee profit per candle.

‘A hand up’ project that is bringing her family out of darkness.

Our local Nepali team went straight to the nearby town to buy all of the necessary equipment and Niru’s candle-making business was started. Within 10 days Niru had made 450 candles.

When I asked her if she liked her new business the answer was reflected in her broad smile. ‘What will you do with the profit?’, I asked. ‘Plough it back into the business’, she said, ‘and pay for the school fees’.

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‘And what is your dream for your family?’, I asked, ‘That my son will become a doctor and my daughter a nurse’ she said with a mothers look that said it all, that dreams do come true.

Recovery takes time and your donations are carefully allocated into livelihood recovery projects to the most vulnerable families that gives independence through a sustainable return.

‘A hand up not a hand out’.

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(Thanks to Adam Gerrard of the Mirror for this picture!)

Linda Cruse.

“After weeks on the road listening to a language you don’t understand using a currency whose value you don’t comprehend, walking down streets you have never walked down before, your old ‘I’, your old story, your old habits – along with everything you ever learned is absolutely no use at all in face of these new challenges and you begin to realise that buried deep in your unconscious mind there is someone more interesting and adventurous and more open to the world and new experiences.”

excerpt from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

Do the above words resonate with you?

Have you ever found yourself returning from a holiday or an overseas business trip with a fresh take on life…?

Perhaps also a feeling of being more invigorated, more grateful, pleased that you discovered something new about yourself…?

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discover-something-new-blog2When familiarity is stripped away from us, our habits and routines along with our expectations get shaken up and can deliver fresh insights and new perspectives.

Very often I am in communities where I don’t understand a single word that is being said. And I have grown to love it. All my other senses are given a chance to take over. I observe gestures, listen to voice tone and pace and even seem to have a heightened sense of smell and taste. Try it, notice it and grab any opportunity to be in this space of unfamiliarity and watch what happens.

For many years I have been encouraging people to buy experiences and not things. Instead of saving up to buy multiple presents at Christmas, spend the same amount of money and take a family boat trip, go to a theme park, or go camping.

Make memories that you will still be talking and reminiscing about for years to come.

I was delighted when a friend shared with me that now there is science to back up my passion of experiences over things.

Recent psychological research from Cornell University in New York has confirmed that the key to happiness is through experiences rather than things. The two decade study is led by Dr Thomas Gilovich, who says that one of the key underlying differences between our value of experiences and objects is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

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Basically, we get used to the things we own, and over time the happiness we derive from items dwindles. On the flip side, happiness that stems from things we’ve done actually goes up as time passes because those experiences become a part of us and shape our identity. It’s why the leather coat you relentlessly requested for your 21st birthday now sits buried and forgotten somewhere beneath your bed, whereas your two-month adventure through South East Asia is still recalled often and fondly, years later. It’s also why I feel exhilarated when I remind myself of this amazing jet boat ride I had in Sydney Harbour last Christmas…see if you can spot me…

Gilovich suggests that instead of saving for the latest home movie theatre, a much sounder path to happiness is through spending your money on experiences like travel, or even outdoor activities, new skills or visiting exhibitions.

“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you,” says Gilovich. “In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

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I love it! So go on, invest in experiences, a cooking class, dance lessons, surfing lessons, volunteer.

Everyday adventures are so easy to have – eat something on the menu you have never heard of or eaten before, take a different route to work. What new things have you experienced today? This week? Shake it up. Say Yes! when you usually say No. And let the magic unfold.

Thank you so much! Love, Linda x

How can I be happy if my friends are not? Where poverty & paying it forward are synonymous.

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There are two common denominators I have observed in the people I have met and worked with in developing communities that have been traumatized by natural disasters or war.

The first is generosity. During the first few years of my humanitarian career this came as quite a shock.

Just imagine, you have lost everything, your home, your belongings and your means of earning a living. You have no financial security, no food security and no expectation that someone will come and help you. You have four young children to feed, dependent elderly relatives and a spouse.

Would you share your last bowl of rice with a hungry neighbour? Or would you keep some for tomorrow, just in case. Would you divide a meal cooked for four into 8 so that all could eat a little, without any hesitation? Would you open your home to a complete stranger?

happy_blog2Post Nepal earthquake April 2015 I have been working closely with a blind community, one of the more vulnerable segments of society. Unable to even see the new dangers created by the earthquake, moving around has gone from difficult to a nightmare. The earthquake has cut the tourist industry drastically and so their core business of massaging tired hikers and climbers has disappeared. Many of them with dependent families, none have security nets.

But everything they have is shared with joy. If only one hiker is massaged that day the masseur splits the proceeds between them all. Only enough money for two cups of chai, the mugs are passed around accompanied by grateful chatter. Collective happiness is the goal not personal happiness. ‘How can I be happy if my friends are not?, Prakash, the leader of the group explains.

happy_blog3.jpg Kindness is the second common denominator. A warm empathetic smile, a hand outstretched to help a young girl carry a heavy water bucket up the hill. Letting a tired stranger break his long journey through the mountains and shelter for the night in their home. Survival and happiness depends on looking out for each other.

I have been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers with great regularity whilst on the frontline. Whilst engrossed in my village assessments I will feel a hand on my back, followed by a gentle massage, a cool wet cloth is wiped over my sweaty brow or I am eagerly beckoned to share a communal plate of lentils and rice. The observation of a human followed by direct need is humbling.

Everybody and everything is so deeply interconnected. Kindness glues people together. Kindness breeds more kindness in every way. You can be kind to your body, and your health will improve. You can be kind to your colleagues and your relationships with them will improve. You can be kind to your spouse, and your marriage will grow stronger. You can be kind to a stranger, and your self-esteem will increase.

In Africa there is the concept of Ubuntu – the understanding that no human exists in isolation. Translated as ‘I am only a person through other people’. Ubuntu recognises that everything one does affects others and the welfare of each is dependent on the welfare of all.

As you go about your day observe just how much we are all connected and if you get the chance to make someone’s day just that little bit better

– jump at it.

Making Magic on the Frontline

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…feeding hearts and souls.

I would like to bring you our video of magic on the frontline, showing you why we brought magic to the Philippines. The positive impact it had was profound as we aimed to heal hearts, minds and souls. Click the image below to watch it!

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Magic has been with me my whole life. I come from a family of amateur magicians; my grandfather was, my father is a magician and I am a magician. So when I leapt into the frontline as a humanitarian worker 15 years ago I automatically slipped a few magic tricks into a corner of my suitcase…just in case!

But it wasn’t until I was in Thailand in 2004 post the Asian tsunami that I started to really understand the transformation that magic delivers.

When a disaster happens the great and the good arrive with speed The Red Cross, the UN, Save the Children, but as fast as they reach so do the ‘nasties’ the sex traffickers and child kidnappers. The adults who have survived the disaster are distracted, searching for loved ones and any remaining remnants of their lives and homes. The children are often left alone or with an older brother or sister in charge. In the Thai survivors camp the volunteers had set up an enclosed area for the children, caring for them, consoling them and giving them activities to do.

Here is an excerpt from my book “Marmalade and Machine Guns” about magic on the frontline from my…

‘As the children tsunami survivors poured their pain out through art, black horrifying images, I realized in a flash that what we needed was magicians. My first request for such volunteers brought stunned silence or an outpouring of ‘ are you crazy!’

Within a few weeks, my first volunteer magician had left London for Phuket. Attired in the uniform of his profession – brightly-coloured waistcoat and dickie bow – Michael the Magician took the camps by storm. Dripping with sweat, melting daily in the unforgiving swelter, he performed at least three shows a day for three weeks. He performed to crowds of children and adults – on the beach, in schools or in the survivor’s camps.

In no time, Michael was being followed about everywhere he went, greeted with shouts of ‘Abracadabra’, like a pied piper weaving his spell. The show needed no words, he made his own magical stories with his actions: producing rabbits, making silk scarves disappear, twisting balloons into animals. He was like a bright butterfly flying around the blackened stumps of a devastated forest.

When he performed his magic show to the children of Ban Nam Khem School, the parents came early and squeezed in the back of the room .The magic seemed to take the tension out of their shoulders, smoothing away the lines of worry…for a while at least. The school had taken a particularly severe blow: out of a total of 450 students, 150 had been washed away by the wave. Michael’s audience was blindsided with grief, having lost so many friends and siblings.

‘Michael, please come back soon,’ I heard the head teacher say .‘Your magic is helping the children to find joy in life again. It is the first time I have seen them smile in months. Your magic wand is really working.’ News of the magician’s success must have travelled.

One morning, I found an email in my inbox:

Dear Linda,

Would a circus be of any use to you and your recovery work? We have a small children’s travelling circus, based in UK, and would love to help?

Love Arabella

In no time at all we had jugglers, stilt walkers, fire-eaters and Giggles the Clown roaming up and down the survivor camps, spreading a bit of happiness as they went. The circus stayed for six weeks and in that time they brought a ray of magical sunshine everywhere they set up. They also gave circus skills workshops and trained camp volunteers to perform tricks so that their legacy could be continued after they had left’.

…excerpt from my book Marmalade and Machine Guns
 

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The great thing with magic it has its own universal language, there is no need for translation. Magic unites people in fascination and wonder and brings joy, laughter and entertainment. I have used my little bag of magic tricks in so many ways; to build bridges, dissolve conflict and bring psychological recovery to devastated communities worldwide and …. I continue to do so.

In May 2015 I took a local Nepali magician to a village high in the Himalayas that has been completely flattened by the earthquake. As he performed his routine standing on top of a pile of rubble, his makeshift stage, he fed the hearts and souls of the children, of the people and for a moment they could forget their pain, relax and smile. I even spotted some passing American volunteers pause and smile and enjoy a rare moment of calm.

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What do you currently do to lift your heart and soul in moments of stress?

What tools do you have in your emotional first aid kit for those times of need?

For me laughter is the best medicine, and it’s scientifically proven to help. So if you are feeling a bit blue instead of switching on a soap opera, intentionally seek out laughter, put on your favourite comedy show, reminisce over a silly moment with a friend, visit a relative with a toddler…or…

…you can start smiling right now by reading the below:

“Dear Mum and Dad,

Apologies for taking so long to write, but my writing utensils were destroyed in the fire at my apartment. I am out of hospital and my doctor says that I should be able to lead a normal healthy life. A handsome young man named Pete saved me from the fire and kindly offered to share his apartment with me. He is very kind and polite and from a good family so I think you will approve when I tell you that we got married last week. I know that you will be even more excited when I tell you that you are going to be grandparents very soon. Actually there wasn’t a fire, I haven’t been in hospital, I’m not married and I’m not pregnant but I did fail my biology exam and I just wanted to make sure that when I told you, you put it in a proper perspective.

Love your daughter xxx”

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As the daughter of a magician I feel certain that a grand magic master not a midwife was waiting to greet me, a magic wand was part of my birthright.

I was raised from day one to believe in the magic of life, to expect the unexpected, to embrace the mystery and believe the impossible. And this has stayed with me all my life. I urge you to follow your bliss.

Life is not a business to be managed but a mystery to be lived!

NB: Magic is everywhere….

HRH The Prince of Wales, who I first met when he visited an aid project of mine in Delhi, is a great humanitarian and also a magician and member of The Magic Circle after passing his audition in 1975 by performing the “cups and balls” effect. The set of cups and balls he used is in The Magic Circle club in London.
 

Together we create a ‘magic circle’ of change.

I also have some other really exciting news to bring you today!

I’ve been working on something for weeks now that I personally wanted to bring to you…and finally it’s here!!!!

My passion is all about helping people on the frontline with a “Hand Up not Hand Out” approach and in my 15 years as a front line humanitarian worker I have learned so much from the people I have met, the places I’ve been to and the situations I have faced.

I owe those people, those places and those experiences a debt of gratitude!

…today is the day I bring the lessons I’ve learned to you!

 

Linda’s FREE Challenge

 

FREEDOM: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

5 Days, 5 Emails, 5 Challenges
September 7th – 11th 2015

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Intrigued? Want to know more?

>> CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE DETAILS + TO SIGN UP! <<

It’s a powerful combination of insights gleaned from my international corporate, humanitarian and humanistic adventures – from life threatening to life changing experiences that in the most extreme will either change your world forever, or encourage you to think, feel and act very differently to get different, better and more profound results.
It’s only for those who have a sense of curiosity, daring and adventure in their souls and an irritating niggle that there is something missing.

I feel passionate about sharing what I have learnt – I want to help.

>>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE! <<<<

Thank you so much!