Know before you go

Know before you go

One day during the first of my trips to Goa last year, I found myself improvising a map of the world with a balloon and then drawing a map of India in the sand with a stick; I was trying to show some of the children at Rainbow House where Goa is in relation to other parts of India and also in relation to the rest of the world.

Renuka was both puzzled and fascinated as to how England could be so far away AND in a different time zone,  so we used a second balloon to show the sun, and how it moves around the world, making it dark in England when it’s sunny in India and so on.  By the time of my second trip,  I was far better prepared and arrived with a case full of far more useful things for the children: underwear, hairbands, hairbrushes – and an atlas and an inflatable globe.  
Here’s Jyoti, the sixteen year old girl sponsored by my friend Diane, pointing to California.

I’m already planning my return trip for later this year and am far more wised up as to what to take Renuka (anything red) and what she does and doesn’t like (for the latter: anything “girly”, pink or that requires her to sit still) and also what the El Shaddai team would find useful to have as donations.

So the arrival of TV presenter Kate Humble’s new venture,  a website called Stuff Your Rucksack , struck a definite chord with me.  Her mantra,  based on her travels in the developing world is “if only I’d known before I came away” and she says:

“I’ve done a lot of travelling in the developing world through my job and I’d get to a school or an orphanage and they wouldn’t have something very simple like maps or exercise books. I used to kick myself because invariably these were things lying around at home that I could easily have stuffed in my own rucksack.”

Kate has hit on the fact that many people,  like me,  visit places around the developing world and want to do, or bring, the right thing, but are hamstrung by their lack of local knowledge and wary of, as she puts it,  “dumping unwanted gifts on local communities”.  So she has developed a website with a map where,  if you click on a specific country,  you can link to local projects and find a list of what the people who work on the ground would find most useful.

Here,  for a great and very personal example,  is a link to one of El Shaddai’s shelters, where we can see  that they’d find it useful to be gifted toiletries, books and educational DVDs.

Fabulous work, Kate – pack a bag,  change a life.

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