Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Getting into Ethical Altruism

leave a comment »

With the EOFY rapidly approaching (that’s “End of Financial Year”, for those not into silly acronyms!), it is also a time when many people (in Australia, at least), look at making donations to charities they want to support with much needed (and appreciated!) funds.  For the last few years, we have embraced a concept which is known as “Ethical Altruism”.  This is a term coined by ethicist, philanthropist, animal rights activist, and other “ists”, Peter Singer.

Essentially, it is about making sure that the hard-earned money you donate does as much “good” as possible.  For simplicity, let’s just say this is all about helping the MOST people, who are in the MOST need.  Not a tough concept, and one that we subscribe to.

why not cartoon for giving

To help you along, there is a very cool online calculator which can assist you in determining how MUCH you should give (well, it’s a guideline, anyhow).   Don’t freak out – it’s not like some religious tithing system of 10%.   It works out to about 1 or 2 % of your gross income generally, depending on how much you earn.   Obviously, the more you earn, the greater “good” you are capable of doing, so the percentage goes up accordingly.   Seems fair to us!   Have a play with the calculator here.

Like many others, we want to know that the money we are donating is doing the “most good”.  So one tool that we found super helpful was this research / analysis on a number of different charities.   Saved us having to do the research!  (spoiler alert:  the Give Well website ranks the Against Malaria Foundation as one of the best (and it is tax deductible in Australia).   But there are many other wonderful organisations here, as well.  One consideration for us was to find charities that were Australian based, and many of the ones researched are based in America.   However, there is a handy link to the Effective Altruism Australia site, where you can make your Aussie donation tax deductible, and ear mark it against the approved charity of your choice.   What could be easier?  (you’re welcome!)

How do you make your donations each year?  What sort of criteria do you use?  Let us know in the comments section – would love to hear from you!

Happy giving.


Written by Mar(k)

June 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Celebrating Leadership in Social Accountability

leave a comment »

When we were volunteers in Ghana, we had the great pleasure and privilege to work with some amazing people.  One of those people was Ibrahim Tanko Amidu, or “Tanko”, as everyone calls him.  At the time, he was the Country Manager for VSO in Ghana.  We had various conversations with Tanko during the time that we were in our placements, including towards the end of our time in Ghana, at a Volunteers Conference (which is where this photo was taken, August 2010).

Tanko (second from left) celebrating a "significant" birthday with VSO colleagues and volunteers (August 2010)

Tanko (second from left) celebrating a “significant” birthday with VSO colleagues and volunteers (August 2010)

Right from our first meeting, Tanko always impressed us with his open door policy, his inclusive leadership style, and his utter commitment to work in the development sector.   So it was with much happiness that we recently found out that Tanko has been awarded the prestigious Leadership award in Social Accountability from the Global Partnership for Social Accountability – for the Africa region.  You can hear Tanko talk about what leadership means to him in this short video.

We are happy to celebrate this kind of success!   The world is a better place when people like Tanko are working hard for others.   Well done, Tanko!


Waste not, want not! Why I decided to dumpster dive

leave a comment »

This past weekend, Mark and I were helping to clean up after another successful Perth Relay for Life event (a fundraising event for the Cancer Council of WA).   It is an organisation that we have both been involved with for years.  It was interesting to help out as virtual strangers:   we had both been on the organising committee for this event for five years each (with some overlap).   Mar had been the Volunteer Coordinator, and Deputy Chairperson;  Mark had learnt the ropes while being on the committee, and then chaired the event itself over a number of years.  But now, time has marched on, and no longer do we get an invite to the “VIP” event!   Ha ha – this is actually really fine by us!   We are just happy to help out behind the scenes, and let the new guard take over.

Anyhow, while we were helping to clean up yesterday, I had noticed that in the rubbish bin were a whole lot of cut up fruit!   I am talking seriously good, nothing wrong with it, why are we throwing it away –  kind of fruit!   I asked why, and was told that (blank blank – I will not name the organisation here) was getting a donation of all the left over food, but they would not accept food that had already been cut up.  Well, I decided to do a wee bit of dumpster diving, and in I went…. and out came the ten bags of perfectly good fruit!

Perfectly good fruit!  Glad it is not going to waste....

Perfectly good fruit! Glad it is not going to waste….

Let me tell you – these fruit pieces were BIG.  There were juicy oranges, crispy apples, and ripe pears – all of them, that had just been halved.   Nothing wrong with them at all!   I hate seeing food go to waste, so I grabbed the lot of them (well, I didn’t grab the watermelon, because it DID look a bit sad, and knew it wouldn’t make it through the night).   So this morning I gave Oz Harvest a call – a great organisation that I am involved with.  They were more than happy to pick up our ten bags of fruit (see photo).   So less than two hours later, the delivery van had arrived, picked up our donation, and was then off to deliver it to a deserving organisation later today!   (NB:  You can also check out their facebook page here – give them a like!)   At the time of writing this post, they have helped rescue over 10,000 TONNES of food – helping to provide over 32 MILLION meals.   THAT is impressive!

I have passed on the contact details of Oz Harvest to the person who is responsible for donating the left over food at the Relay for Life event.  Who knows?  Maybe next year Oz Harvest will get ALL of the leftovers!

Written by Mar(k)

May 11, 2015 at 10:09 pm

The Spirit of Generosity – alive and well!

with 2 comments

Hello everyone!  I am just so thrilled to share a good news story with you all, to kick off 2015.  I am entering into my second year of minimalism, which is an ongoing, dedicated journey.   To simplify my life, and allow space for the things that really matter, slowly but surely, I am getting rid of clutter, and re-homing things where possible.  One way that I do that, is through the use of ‘The Freecycle Network”.   As their home page states:

“The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,194 groups with 8,555,524 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.”

I love it.   I have used it to both get things I need (uncommonly), as well as re-distribute things to others (commonly).  Today was such a day.  I had posted a number of items that I was getting rid of on their Facebook Page.  In very short order, I had a number of people interested in everything I had.  Great.  Then hubby came into the room, and asked if I could somehow use Freecycle to help out an asylum seeker who had recently been released from a detention centre, into the community.  This man has nothing, and one of his most pressing needs was to find a single bed to sleep on.  So I posted my request on the Facebook Freecycle Page, outlining pretty much what I have just said in this paragraph.  The response just made me so happy!   People who weren’t able to assist were “liking” my post.   And within 15 minutes, I had two offers of a bed for him, plus a kind soul who also offered a wardrobe and bedside table!   What amazingly generous people are out there!   And isn’t it great to be able to use the internet to help others!?  (NB:  Since then, there have been additional offers of beds and other goods.  Wow.)

This mattress has come to represent much more to me than just a place to rest your head at the end of the day

This mattress has come to represent much more to me than just a place to rest your head at the end of the day

Hubby had some concerns about me putting my request out there so “blatantly”  (read: honestly) as it was for an asylum seeker.   In Australia right now, the whole refugee and asylum seeker issue is such a hot topic, and has polarised many people in the community.  But I was so heartened that what I experienced was genuine concern for others, and particularly the most vulnerable people in our society.  People who have nothing, and are traumatised.   So I just had to share this good news story with you all!    Happy New Year, and may 2015 be a marvelous year for everyone.  And if you feel like you are in a position to somehow help asylum seekers and detainees in Perth, you can check out what CARAD does here.

Be an activist by being active!

with 4 comments

Challenge Yourself - Challenge Poverty

Challenge Yourself – Challenge Poverty

I just recently completed a 100 km walk in 36 hours, 44 minutes (ignore the clock behind us – it was a staggered start, and we had stuffed around a bit after we finished before we got our team photo done!).   What a crazy thing to do!   And it is not something that I would normally do.  I mean, I like to walk, and I would happily walk 100 km or more, but generally I would not punish my body such that I would complete the equivalent of 2 and a half marathons in less than two days!  So why do it?   Well, in this case, it is because it is an “event” (in this case, called the Trailwalker) which is organised by a worthy not-for-profit organisation (in this case, Oxfam).

You know the thing.   An event which brings people together (in this case, a team of four, who need to walk together the whole distance – it’s not a relay!), and at the same time, raises much needed funds for whatever “The Cause” is (in this case, promoting education, ensuring access to clean water, teaching skills to grow food and fighting for human rights).

When you walk 100 km, you get a fair bit of time to think about THINGS.   In fact, a few things that I wanted to share with you here.  One is this:  participating in events like this is so much more than just DOING whatever it is you are supposed to do.   It is a great opportunity to stretch yourself with a fitness goal, a fabulous way to spend time training with like minded souls, and a good test to see what you are made of!    I loved observing the team dynamics of our group, and was so impressed with one of our team members in particular, who really had to push himself to his limit to be able to finish the event.   But it is all part of it!  Throughout the couple of days, he stayed optimistic, kept his sense of humour, and achieved something that I am not sure many people in his position would have pushed themselves to do.  It is good to have challenges like this in our life.  It shows what we are made of.   Fewer than half of the teams that start this event, end up finishing with a full team of four.   But we did!

And then of course, there is the fundraising.   As one of our team members said, “Even though this is a tough event, and we are suffering, think of the people who live in poverty every day, and who suffer every day”.  It was a sobering reminder of a very real situation.   The fact that the lifestyle we often take for granted, is not within reach of so many people in the world.  Even a small improvement in people’s condition can make a huge difference to them.   So we were very proud of our efforts to fundraise over $5,500 for this cause.   It was our contribution to the over $1.1 million dollars that was raised this year at the Perth Oxfam Trailwalker.  There are lots of ways to be an “activist”, and one way that I particularly love is to get out there and be ACTIVE!

Written by Mar(k)

October 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Toilet Talk – why we think WASH issues are the key

leave a comment »

Having access to clean toilets is something we might just be taking for granted.

Having access to clean toilets is something we might just be taking for granted.

In the development work that we have done, we have come across a lot of different issues that have an impact on people’s livelihoods.  Education, health, sanitation, poverty, work.   It is all important.   But often times the task of helping others can seem quite daunting – where do you start?

We acknowledge the inherent difficulties with trying to figure out a complex “chicken and egg” situation.   But one thing that seems clear from the places we have visited, the projects we have seen, and the issues that are out there, is that having good outcomes in the WASH area (in the development world, this is usually regarded as WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is really the starting place for other key areas (like education) to be able to take place.

This video here shows briefly why WASH issues matter.

And for our Australian readers, we don’t usually plug any particular “thing to buy”, but we are big fans of Who Gives A Crap – who are saving lives from the bottom up!   Who knew buying toilet paper could be so cheap, easy AND socially responsible?!    Here is what their website has to say about their business model:


Flush Poverty Down the Loo
At present, 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet. This is a leading contributor to endemic poverty and is a major drag on economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. Diarrhoea related illnesses fill over half sub-Saharan African hospital beds and globally kill over 2,000 children under 5 every day. We think that’s pretty crap. That’s why we give 50% of our profits to WaterAid to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.
Make Every Wipe Count
We believe that the need to wipe shouldn’t mean we wipe out the planet. That’s why we only use 100% recycled post consumer waste fibres in our toilet paper. It saves on trees, water and landfill which means you’re doing your bit to help keep our planet great.
Be Good for Your Bum
We don’t use any chlorine, inks, dyes or weird perfumes in our toilet paper. We just pulp the clean fibres at super high temperatures to make WGAC biodegradable, safe in septic tanks and as strong as it is silky soft. And since it’s only tested on the finest human bottoms, our toilet paper is as good for your bum as it is for the planet.

Okay, everyone!   This is a product that we ALL use, and trust us!   It’s great quality, and a great idea.   Free shipping to most Australian cities, and they deliver every where else for a song and a dance.   Don’t flush this opportunity away!

Written by Mar(k)

September 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

What is a Good Life?

leave a comment »

Mar(k) are recently back from a six week trip that saw us immersed in life in Myanmar (Burma) and southern India.  Undoubtedly one of the trip highlights was a two week “study tour” which focused on visiting a number of development initiatives in the Karnataka and Kerala states in southern India.  This trip was facilitated by Community Aid Alliance, which was a forerunner to the Oxfam Australia we know today.  We were really impressed with the quality of projects that we saw;  all being run by locals through small NGO’s.  Also inspiring were the people who have dedicated literally decades of their lives helping others.  It was truly inspiring, and did give us food for thought about what it means to have a “good life”.

These fabulous women were pilgrims to a Hindu temple we visited.  Enjoying the good life!

These fabulous women were pilgrims to a Hindu temple we visited. Enjoying the good life!

So over the next number of posts, we will be focusing on highlighting some of the experiences and stories that we would like to share as a result of our “What is a Good Life” tour.

As we do that, and as many of you would already know – the issues of development are complex.  If there were easy answers, far greater minds than yours or mine, would have already solved the global issues of poverty, sanitation, health, education, etc.   So for today, we would just like to leave you with some food for thought about where our clothing comes from:   more likely than not, from a developing country.  There are no easy answers, and this short video highlights the complexities of the garment industry (particularly in Bangladesh).  Watch the one with Jasmine at the front – it is definitely worthwhile, and we would welcome your comments!

The short video also highlights some more of what we will be discussing this year on our blog;  the concept of minimalism.  The concept of enjoying experiences, rather than mindless consumption.  The joy of a human BEING, rather than a human DOING.  More conscious living, so that we can leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it.   Who knows?  Maybe this is the way we can find our own “good life”.   Stay tuned!

Written by Mar(k)

February 6, 2014 at 9:41 am