Circular

Clean water creates big smiles in Bangladesh | Four days in Sri Lanka | Empowering local artisans in India | Q+A with Anders McDonald Clean water creates big smiles in Bangladesh For many people in Bangladesh, yearly flooding is a fact of life. As Mosammat Hamida Begum from Baishpara puts it, “We have got habituated […]

Clean water creates big smiles in Bangladesh

For many people in Bangladesh, yearly flooding is a fact of life. As Mosammat Hamida Begum from Baishpara puts it, “We have got habituated to it. It will be coming, staying and going back again. But no worry, we are ready, we will be fighting to the death.”

Flooding can be dangerous in many ways, but mostly because it can cut off access to clean water. Many of Bangladesh’s poorest citizens don’t have access to safe drinking water during the flood season, which puts their health at risk.

Oxfam is experienced in making sure people have access to clean water so we’ve worked with communities to install raised tubewells that make it possible to get safe water all year round.

The well has two platforms: one at normal height and the other at the highest historical flood level. When the lower well becomes flooded, a trained caretaker from the community sets the tubewell on the higher platform, making it easy for people to collect clean water during a flood.

It might be simple, but the outcome is amazing. Mosammat says the tubewell has dramatically improved lives in his community. “The tubewell has been blessing for us all. If it were not functioning this way during this flood, you would see number of people suffering from diarrhoea and other water borne diseases rather than meeting these smiling faces.”

Watch the well in action and see how your support is changing lives!

Empowering local artisans in India

Sushan has been working with Brindaban Prints, a rural-based modern hand dyeing and printing unit, since 2005. He washes and prepares fabric to make it ready for block and screen printing. Sushan attended school up to eighth standard and now works to support his mother, brother and wife.

“Whatever I earn goes to my family,” he says. “I learnt the skills I have by working with this group, I enjoy my work.”

Brindaban Prints has been working with Sasha, an Oxfam Shop Producer Partner, for over 12 years. Sasha’s mission is to empower disadvantaged artisans, craftspeople and primary producers at the grassroots through capacity building, technical, financial and management inputs, and fair trading of their products and services.

Photo: Atul Loke/Panos/OxfamAUS

Four days in Sri Lanka

Its teardrop geographical shape, lush green foliage, warm and hospitable people make Sri Lanka a beautiful country. But due to a harrowing 30-year civil war, natural disasters and lack of resources, many parts of the country have been left in poverty. Oxfam has been working in Sri Lanka for over 35 years and is currently supporting vulnerable communities in the areas of economic justice, gender justice, active citizenship, disaster preparedness and humanitarian aid.

Oxfam’s Claire Beynon recently spent four days seeing some of our inspiring projects in Sri Lanka and meeting the people we work with who are seeing positive changes in their lives. Oxfam would also like to express our gratitude to you, our Key Supporters, who offer such kindness and generosity in helping others.

Photo: Nipuna Kumbalathara/Oxfam

I’m travelling with Oxfam in Sri Lanka staff and my trip begins on a bumpy dirt road leading to the countryside on the outskirts of Batticaloa, which is located on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Bordering the road are fields of green rice paddy and we glimpse women herding goats and men on machinery, working their fields.

Our first stop is a small, peach-coloured community hall in the village of Poolankadu. A committee of female and male farmers, many in colourful Saris and Sarongs, shake our hands as we enter. The committee members speak to us about their farming and how Oxfam has provided them with equipment to help improve their income, such as mills for rice and chilies.

We then take a short drive to the home of Kasinathan Santhirathevi (pictured), who received parboiling equipment from Oxfam last year. Under the shade of banana trees she demonstrates how to parboil rice – soaking, steaming and drying paddy (rice in its husk). The process results in a higher quality product with greater nutritional value and sale price. Thanks to the equipment, Kasinathan now earns an additional LKR 25,000 per month (approximately AU$250). With her additional income, she has bought her own acre of land and some cattle.

Kasinathan is an example of the positive outcomes that occur when women become leaders. The Oxfam staff I’m travelling with explain that Kasinathan and other women in the committee are taking on leadership roles within their communities, and are mentoring other women to do the same.

We drive to the village of Villavedduwan, where we meet with members of the local Disaster Management Committee (DMC). Thayaruby Shanmukamoorty (pictured), the committee leader, tells us that the DMC built a large channel behind the local school, ensuring the village children can continue their education in times of flooding.

The second leader of the committee, Vadivel Thilipan, explains how Oxfam trained the DMC in disaster preparedness, risk mapping, search and rescue, and first aid. He says that thanks to Oxfam’s training, the DMC better understand risks and how to prevent and mitigate them.

Thayaruby then takes us down the road and she shows us a large dam, which is full of water after recent rainfall. This dam was constructed with funds from Oxfam to capture water during heavy rain, and to protect low lying houses and farms from getting flooded.

Thankfully for the residents of these homes, they no longer get displaced in the monsoon season. Tanks next to the dam catch any overflow, and even though a drought took place in late 2016, the supply of water from the tanks meant farmers in the area were still able to cultivate rice and other crops.

The woman beckons me over, inviting me to see inside her small temporary home. It is constructed with thin corrugated iron walls and roof made from woven coconut palms. She and around 20 other families have only recently returned to this fertile and beautiful land near Paanama, on the east coast of Sri Lanka. They have been displaced since 2010 when they, and 330 other families, were forcibly evicted from the land by the military.

With Oxfam’s assistance these families have been fighting for their land rights. And although this has led to a Cabinet and Court decision to allow people to return to their land, ownership is still to be legally recognised. This means those who have returned are living here temporarily, with a fear they will once again be forced to leave.

I’m overcome by the warmth and generosity shared by the families we meet. The villagers walk with us and invite us into their homes, offering us fresh watermelon, boiled corn and peanuts – all grown on the land they have finally returned to.

Unfortunately many other families have still not returned. More work needs to be done to allow displaced people to claim legal ownership of the land.The visit is a stark reminder both of the importance of Oxfam’s advocacy work and how long these battles can take.

In May 2016, Sri Lanka was hit by a tropical storm that caused widespread flooding and landslides. We visit Kegalle, one of the affected regions.

We walk in single file along a tiny path, climbing over rocks until we come to an area hit by a landslide. All that remains is a pile of rubble and two squashed red plastic bowls as an indication of the home that once stood here. The site is shocking and I can’t imagine the terror that people must have been felt when the landslide came crashing down.

During the disaster, Oxfam supported thousands of people who were affected, building toilets at displacement camps, and supplying clean water, hygiene kits and cash for work vouchers. Oxfam also ran awareness programs on public health and protection.

Many families who fled from the landslide remain at displacement camps because it isn’t safe for them to return home. We visit a small camp, which houses 50 families who have been displaced now for 9 months. In the midday heat the camp is scorching. The sun beats down on the white tents, which would be unbearable to sit in. Families take shelter in the shade of trees that border the camp and speak to us about their situation. Parents continue to travel each day for work and their children go to school. But they miss their land and independence. One man says living at the camp is like “living in hell”. We see the temporary shower areas and toilets that have been built by Oxfam, at least giving families the opportunity to maintain their health and sanitation.

My experience in Sri Lanka showed me the incredible impact that Oxfam’s projects have. But many communities still face challenges. Above all, we need to help people become change-makers so they are empowered to create the transformation they want to see in their lives.

– Claire Beynon, Key Supporter Coordinator VIC & TAS, Oxfam Australia

Q&A with Anders McDonald

Anders McDonald is a long-time Oxfam supporter. He is the principal consultant at a management consultancy firm, as well as a dedicated parent, professional photographer, SCUBA diver and avid reader. We spoke with Anders about why he has made the important decision of leaving a gift for Oxfam in his Will.

Photo: Vanuatu. Simon Bradshaw/OxfamAUS

You’ve been a passionate supporter of Oxfam. Can you tell us why you’ve chosen to support us?

My entry to Oxfam was through reading a book by Peter Singer called The Life You Can Save. He proposes that there is an ethical obligation that people living in developed countries have towards people in the developing world. I was interested in the different ways I could do this because his message really struck a chord with me.

Oxfam stands out for me because they are non-denominational and seem to be a really trustworthy organisation. Both of these things made me feel that supporting Oxfam would be the best choice.

In January this year you had the opportunity to visit some of Oxfam’s projects in the field. Can you tell us what your most memorable experiences were?

I had the opportunity to head over to Vanuatu to see some Oxfam projects focusing on water security, hygiene and income generating projects to build sustainable livelihoods.

The highlight was definitely seeing the high-impact work that is being done around providing water security, supply tanks and effective drainage. It was amazing to see how this was improving people’s lives. Basic hygiene like hand washing facilities are also making a huge difference to people’s health and in particular kids’ attendance rates at school.

Coming from Australia, being able to drink from the tap is something that we take for granted so seeing the vital importance of clean water first-hand blew me away.

What prompted you to consider leaving a gift to Oxfam in your Will?

I read that book by Peter Singer, then I researched Oxfam’s work and I felt really motivated. This made me want to ensure that whatever might be left over after I’m gone will do the greatest amount of good that it can. To make the biggest impact possible supporting Oxfam seemed like the best way I could do this.

How did it make you feel when you included Oxfam in your Will?

I felt very good. Oxfam has been able to bring to reality something that I deeply believe in.
Oxfam and I share very similar values. Fairness is my number one core value, and that extends to equality of opportunity. I believe that people like us who were lucky to be born in a privileged part of the world have an obligation to support others in parts of the world that aren’t doing so well. Some describe this as “paying it forward”.

What sort of impact would you like to make on people’s lives through your gift?

I’d like whatever I do to help people fulfil their potential and get the opportunity to achieve what they are truly capable of in life.

If you’re feeling inspired and thinking about leaving a gift in your Will to Oxfam, please get in touch with our Bequest Coordinator Kern Mangan-Walker on 03 9289 9334 or at kernmw@oxfam.org.au.

If you have further questions about the content in this issue of Circular or would like to find out more about Oxfam’s major donor program The Oxfam Circle, please email oxfamcircle@oxfam.org.au or visit our website.