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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sudan - Escaping the violence is no guarantee of survival

When violence erupted in Abyei, Sudan, as armed forces from the north clashed with forces from the south, families had only moments to escape. Most fled with just the clothes on their backs and whatever meager possessions they could carry.

Right now, 2,500 families are living in makeshift encampments near the neighboring towns of Turalei, Mayen Abun, and Wunrok – that’s 28,000 people!

Escaping the violence is no guarantee of survival in the weeks to come. In fact, the well-being and survival of these families is very much in question.

Reports from the encampments are heartbreaking. One individual, having just witnessed the conditions families are living in, sent us an urgent email stating that the “humanitarian crisis is profound”, and that with each passing day the situation becomes even more critical for the families of Abyei who have lost everything.

While some emergency aid, such as water and emergency food rations, has been provided, we still need to do more in order to ensure the survival of these families.

Learn how you can help by visiting today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cambodia: Luis Vuitton and the Question of Core Values

Readers of high-gloss magazines will soon be treated to the sight of the comely Ms. Angelina Jolie, sans makeup, dressed in olive-drab, ‘in a swamp with a £7,000 bag,’ as the Guardian puts it. The photograph, featured in Luis Vuitton’s so-called ‘Core Values’ Campaign, was taken in — for us — familiar environs. The lush landscape setting off Jolie’s moody blue eyes belongs, in fact, to Cambodia, specifically to Siem Reap, the well-touristed area north of Pursat, where we work with some of the poorest families in the world.

Vuitton’s ‘Core Values’ campaign is, as far as one can gather, somehow about promoting extremely expensive handbags while assuring consumers that said bags are naturally associated with the brand of ethos evoked by celebrities like Jolie and Bono. Which are — philanthropy? Advocacy? A not entirely cursory read of the ‘Core Values’ website leads us to believe that the advertising campaign is basically just…an advertising campaign, presumably so that people will buy more bags. There were allusions to Al Gore’s Climate project, so perhaps Gore’s environmental advocacy organization will see a few bucks come its way?

As groundbreaking as Angelina Jolie without mascara may seem, we’d like to gently suggest that a demonstration of your ‘core values’ might not cost as much as a Louis Vuitton bag. Or perhaps it might.

In Cambodia, where the ad was shot, we can provide a clean water well that would serve a few families for around $1,000. So for the cost of this $11,000 bag, you could basically provide a small village with water for life.

In a corporate milieu where brands are constantly trying to humanize themselves by associating with ideas, cultures, and personalities that fit only very marginally and awkwardly with the actual, raw products they are hawking, it’s not a bad idea to keep your wits about you. Any sane person will tell you that a village without dysentery, cholera, and the preventable death of children is more valuable—to its core—than a monogram spangled piece of leather.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Across Canada: Running for Water, Saving Lives Here and Abroad

This past month was a busy one for athletes intent on saving lives - across the world, in the rural villages of Ethiopia, and in one instance, right in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

We have to give our thanks and kudos to the volunteer organizers of Abbotsford’s Run for Water and Halton, Ontario’s Run for Wells.

Both events were smashing successes, with the former raising over $200,000 and the latter over $45,000.

All proceeds will go to helping families in Ethiopia to construct and manage clean water systems, learn basic health and sanitation practices, and begin a steady ascent out of the worst poverty imaginable. It is no exaggeration to say that the runners and walkers who participated saved and transformed thousands of lives. By all accounts, they had fun doing it too.

Fortunately, thanks to the “the quick actions of local schoolteacher and Run for Water board member Claire Apostolopolous”, who performed immediate CPR on a volunteer who collapsed before the races, the Abbotsford event was not marred by what could have been a major tragedy. You can read the whole story at the Abbotsford Times.

We should mention that runners in Calgary are training for their own Run for Water, scheduled for September 10th. Again, proceeds will go to clean water in Ethiopia. For more information, go to

So there is a lot to be thankful for, to put it mildly. Families in Ethiopia are celebrating along with all the organizers, volunteers, and runners who made these events such successful ones for the cause of universal clean water.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Clean water - the beginning of the end of poverty for families in rural Ethiopia and southern Sudan

Water, something we often take for granted here at home, is claiming lives in Ethiopia and southern Sudan.

It would be a relatively rare event for someone here to worry about the quality of the water that flows from their taps. But in rural Ethiopia and southern Sudan there are few taps, and water – especially clean water – is even scarcer.

Right now, families in Ethiopia and southern Sudan are drinking water teeming with parasites and disease. The seriousness of the situation is illustrated by the heartbreaking fact that one in five children in Ethiopia and southern Sudan dies before the age of five because of unsafe drinking water.

Imagine gathering your drinking water from stagnant ponds and muddy stream beds, both of which are used by animals for drinking and bathing. This troubling situation is reality for thousands of families throughout rural Ethiopia and southern Sudan.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With your help, lives can be saved and the suffering can be stopped.

Learn about how you can help bring clean water to families today by visiting