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Thursday Apr 22 2010
Tuesday Mar 16 2010
The New York Times reported
on March 5th that the U.S. is helping the Somali government prepare to take back Mogadishu. As part of a counterterrorism
strategy, this American support may make the country, steeped in anarchy
for 20 years, less hospitable for Al Quaeda and Al Shahab and its
allies. Young Somali men who have been training for the past few months
in neighboring Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan are now
reinforcing the 6,000 to 10,000 troops, freshly armed and equipped, that
will be led by General Gelle. What this means for the Somali people
waits to be seen, but in all probability, it will involve more forced
displacements and refugees seeking asylum.
forces in Somalia get ready to regain control in the capital, Djibouti
is steeling itself. According to Ann Encontre, UNHCR representative in
Djibouti, southern Somalia and Mogadishu have been relying on local food
supplies since WFP withdrew its food aid program in January this year.
Local UN staff in Somalia have been distributing non-food items, such
buckets, pots and pans, and UNICEF have been providing vaccinations.
Other agencies on the ground have been catering to people’s needs where
they have access outside of Mogadishu. But by April, Somali’s reserves
from its 2009 bumper crop might run out. It is expected that hundreds or
thousands more of its 1.5 million uprooted citizens will desperately
try to cross the 36-mile long border with Djibouti, avoiding Kenya’s
closed borders and Ethiopia’s numerous roadblocks, to find refuge and
Djibouti is supportive of the Somali government.
This tiny coastal nation, with its scant rainfall and rising
unemployment, already imports most of the food for its 600,000 citizens.
Considering Djibouti now shelters 13,000 registered refugees in Ali
Addeh camp and 1,000 Somali and non-Somali asylum seekers in urban areas
(many of whom have been here since civil war broke out two decades ago
in Somalia), the gap between what the government can provide and what
the people need will continue to grow larger. Currently, Djibouti
government staff and UNHCR staff screen incoming refugees at the border
at Loyada to verify they are legitimately coming from the troubled zones
of Somalia (and not peaceful areas like Somaliland) before granting
them prima facie status. Once they are registered, fingerprinted and
photographed, legitimate refugees are taken by truck to Ali Addeh, the
closest camp in the district of Ali Sabieh, which shelters 12,000
All refugees here face two possible solutions: local
integration or resettlement. Recently the U.S. government started a
resettlement plan for people at risk, taking in approximately 400 of the
most vulnerable women, household heads and some of the longest-staying
refugees in the camp. Meanwhile, brilliant university students, young
men who left Ethiopia in 2005 along with others who fled Mogadishu and
Eritrea, find life in the camp untenable: they have no future there.
Education facilities and resources only are available up to grade 8 for
2,000 of the 3,000 camp children. Resources are needed to build a
secondary school to accommodate the 1,000 adolescents who are receiving
no secondary or higher education, especially the young male adolescents
who, like the ex-Mogadishu university students, are all potential
targets for recruitment by Al Quaeda and Al Shahab. UNHCR is discussing
the possibility of establishing resettlement programs with Canada,
Australia and Nordic countries to ensure opportunities exist for those
who are willing and able to create a new life elsewhere.
those who remain in the camp—and that is the vast majority—life focuses
on the essentials: shelter, food, water, healthcare.
It is an
ongoing struggle to meet the needs of new arrivals. There are never
enough tents to provide shelter, and in the extreme heat and
strong winds of the region, families are left to fend for themselves.
Soon after arriving, many women, unable to make ends meet, are forced
into domestic service to feed themselves and their children. “Girls are
exposed to sexual violence at all times,” shares Ms. Encontre. “We see
them being forced to work as domestics as young as 8 years old, and very
often they come back to the camp pregnant after having been raped by
the men of the household.”
“We’ve been seeing an alarming
number of refugees coming into the camp from south and central Somalia
who are severely undernourished, anemic and sickly,” adds Ms. Encontre.
Last year, the UN started a nutrition project with donations from
a French company that provide robust proteins, vitamin A and iron in
the form of enriched peanut butter. UNHCR supplements this with liver,
sardines and vegetables. Currently, one medical doctor from the
Asian Medical Doctors Association bears responsibility for the health of
all 12,000 people in the camp. This one doctor cannot possibly meet the
growing needs of the camp’s population.
Cooking has its
challenges in terms of energy resources. The French Army brings in
20,000 litres of kerosene to the camp each month and every family
receives an allotment. However, without the benefit of energy-saving
stoves, the women must resort to scouring the desert for sticks,
trees and charcoal. Not only do they destroy the environment in doing
so, but they also put themselves at risk. Young girls and women now have
to travel 5 to 10 kms to find firewood and water: a number have been
assaulted and raped by men from the camp and the surrounding areas and
districts. Lighting some key areas around the camp with solar panels may
provide some limited protection, but cannot address the underlying
issues: lack of sufficient fuel and lack of respect for women.
is even more essential than food and energy in this very arid desert.
Providing 20 litres of safe drinking water per day to each refugee in
the camp poses enormous problems. The area has received its first rains
in 6 years, but the sheer number of refugees has pushed the area’s
natural supply to its limit. Each week, money goes to pay for a rented
truck that brings in water from the closest well, which adolescents
from the camp help distribute. The relatively inexperienced refugees
are responsible for chlorinating their own water with pellets, a
critical task with latrines still located downstream and upstream from
In January, the team of Djibouti’s French-speaking
water experts who were to be working on setting up a proper water
filtration and preservation system for the camp were sent to Haiti
to help with relief efforts there. Meanwhile, the camp, on standby for
another team to be identified, hopes to find assistance to buy their own
water truck. Discussions are being held between UNHCR, UNICEF, and the
Government focusing on the possibility of digging another bore hole in
the camp or of opening a second camp in an area where the water supply
is more plentiful. Wells in any location require permits and the help
of outside experts for at least a year to supervise the necessary
The cries for help are many.
empower the Somalis caught in this situation focus on providing them
with essential skills and opportunities to contribute to their refugee
community. Adults and young children alike clamor for lessons in
English. Every afternoon, parents sit in on their children’s lessons in
the camp school for an hour or two to learn what they can. The camp’s
university students and adolescents all speak English as their common
language, and crave to learn more. Local Catholic and Protestant
churches have housed volunteers teaching here in their accommodations,
which are a 45-minute drive away. UNHCR’s guest house is available near
the camp as well; however, volunteers tend to stay for only three to six
months before moving on. The need for volunteers to teach English
has not yet met the demand. At the same time, opportunities for French
language courses are also very welcome by refugees to help them
integrate locally into this Francophone country.
October, the UN began running several pilot projects to keep refugees
busy, provide additional food and give them some income. Those involved
in income-generating projects (involving activities like sewing,
baking bread, providing tea and cool drinks in cafes and selling goats,
meat and vegetables) receive a certain amount of money to run their own
small ‘business’. They must account for their expenses and report their
profits every week. Refugees use their earnings to buy clothes and
shoes. The initiative, funded by several thousand dollars saved through
restructuring done at UNHCR’s headquarters in Geneva, is a beginning.
you or your organization are interested in contributing time or
resources to the process of empowering the Somali refugees living in
Djibouti, please visit www.givethemshelter.org and join UNHCR’s campaign
to send them 2,600 much needed tents. To find out more about the living
conditions and the situation of Somali refugees, join a live Twitter
feed organized directly from Djibouti with Kathryn Mahoney, UNHCR public
information officer, on March 23.
12 am EST
© 2010 Shae
Hadden with Jim Selman. All rights reserved.
Friday Oct 16 2009
My habits of reducing and reusing come from a tradition I inherited from my family, a tradition that firmly believed in the value of sharing and stewardship. My father used to tell me of Depression days when his mother would wash the tea bags and dry them for reuse, and when he, being a ‘middle’ son in a family of 13, could always count on wearing ‘hand-me-downs’. Considering the environmental and economic crises we face, it’s no surprise that the principles of communal sharing, stewardship and ‘gifting’ are feeding the move to reduce, reuse and recycle. People of all ages are looking at ways to keep ‘stuff’ out of landfill sites.
In the 1960s the hippies of Haight-Ashbury opened ‘free shops’ to swap clothes, shoes and personal items. In the US today, ‘giveaway shops’ have evolved into ‘swap sheds’ in rural towns (where people leave things that are usable but unwanted for anyone to take) and ‘free stores’ or ‘free bins’ on college campuses (stocked with donations or items that students have sorted from trash). Official give-away stores with retail storefronts have existed in Amherst, Massachusetts and in several locations in the Detroit area. And The Free Store operated in NYC until March 2009.
An online version of this concept has emerged. There’s a free national website where you can search for items by zip code: Take Me I’m Free. The global player in this scene, the Freecycle Network™, comes out of Tucson, AZ. This online network of 4,836 groups with 6,601,000 members is moderated by volunteers. Of course, there’s always the FREE listings on Craigslist as well.
An ‘offline’ development is the Really Really Free Market (RRFM) movement. Collectives of people commit to creating community around sharing resources and caring for each other: they gather in community spaces to share goods and services, clean up afterwards and take home what they are unable to give away. The first RRFM was organized in protest of the G8 Summit during the anti-globalization protests of 2004 against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. RRFMs have emerged across the U.S., and the first Canadian one was started in Toronto earlier this year.
Next up… how ‘gifting’ influences our lives online.
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Friday Sep 18 2009
was in an interesting conversation recently about how we can interact
with people who hold different beliefs than ours. The question posed
was, “How can one be with someone whose beliefs are the antithesis of
our own?” An important inquiry to engage in, considering that a clash
of beliefs is at the heart of most conflict and strife between people.
Tuesday Oct 14 2008
By Shae Hadden | Bio
With elections today in Canada and next month in the U.S., this is a good time to remind all the women we know to exercise their right to vote--a right which we've only had for less than a century. In July 1917, a group of 33 women picketed outside the White House, asking for the right to vote. They were rounded up by 40 police wielding clubs, brought to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia and imprisoned for "obstructing sidewalk traffic".[Read More]
Wednesday Jul 23 2008
Traditionally, a generation was defined as the time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring (about 30 years). Recently, however, a more accurate definition would be a group of people born and shaped by a particular span of time. The eras of Generations X, Y and Z span much less than two decades each. And every generation experiences life from a different perspective including changing societal values, technologies and career options. These different perspectives are very apparent when we communicate with each other.[Read More]
Wednesday Mar 12 2008
The premise being that we CAN talk it through…
This is the question that epitomizes the possibility that the World Café represents. It is the question that informs Anne Dosher, the 80-something ‘Elder’ of the World Café and Board member of the World Café Community Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to developing and disseminating this and other innovative dialogue approaches. I recently had the privilege of interviewing this gracious, generous and engaging lady—the human embodiment of what I imagined the World Café phenomena itself to be—with a few inquiries of my own.[Read More]
Tuesday Jan 29 2008
I was reading an article about ethical wills recently that got me wondering about what kind of legacy I might leave behind if I were to die tomorrow. This type of ‘leave behind’ document—like diaries, journals, books, letters and photo albums—are usually loving prepared over the course of several years. Nowadays, we also have innumerable opportunities to record our lives and thoughts online to share with friends and family. So why bother going to the trouble of preparing an ethical will in addition to a legal will?[Read More]
Wednesday Oct 31 2007
How often have you caught yourself ‘tuning out’ when listening to a friend, family member or acquaintance? Or had someone point out that you aren’t really listening to them? We have all, at one time or another, done so—whether consciously or not.[Read More]
Wednesday Jul 11 2007
By Shae Hadden
It’s my pleasure to begin this series of portraits with the story of a man who has inspired me to persevere with my commitment to exercise regularly since I met him two years ago. When I decided to begin this column, I immediately thought of Richard Gauntlett as the epitome of a person who is redefining the culture of aging through his actions.
“You don’t have to a specialist or a particularly great athlete to accomplish your goals. All you need is to be clear about what you’re setting out to do, commit to keep going through the difficulties, and give yourself the freedom to take as much time as you need.”
Wednesday May 09 2007
By Shae Hadden
How often do we take time to look a little closer at beautiful works of art? To learn about the culture that shaped the images we see?
I recently had an opportunity to visit a unique gallery in my community. Founded and run by a Canadian who is committed to bringing Australian Aboriginal art created by women to North America, the Jan Townend Art Gallery features paintings, textiles, weaving and basketry. The British art critic John Ruskin once said, “All great art is the work of the whole living creature, body and soul, and chiefly of the soul.” The powerful paintings I saw at the gallery amply conveyed the soul of the Aboriginal people—its beauty, strength and hidden meaning. The deceptively simple style is grounded in a complex ceremonial tradition. Consider that these people have no written languages, so their art is a visual record, a way to communicate their history and culture: the images help them tell their creation stories, their ‘dreamtime’, their explanation of the world they live in. Pausing to view the creative work of these women made me realize how my hectic, technology-driven life has left me disconcertingly out of touch with my own soul. And in speaking with Jan, I gained a greater understanding of what this art means to the artists and their communities.[Read More]
Friday Oct 06 2006
By Shae Hadden
On Conversation Street, there are no age limits, and traffic can flow in both directions simultaneously.
Musing on intergenerational conversations today. I’ve always been drawn to talk with people older than myself. Perhaps this is because I’ve never felt comfortable with my peers. I could blame it on the educational system (I was thrust ahead of my age group in school to keep me interested in learning and never really got to socialize with my kids my own age)…or on my own shortcomings (I just didn’t know what to share with them in a social setting). My peers all seemed so much more self-assured than I, so confident about their way of seeing things. And I was just full of unanswerable questions and endless insecurities. I found it easier to chat with my next door neighbor’s grandfather instead of playing in the sandbox…[Read More]
Friday Sep 22 2006
I was struck by the overwhelming sense I had that this woman was no longer waiting for something...or someone...to come along. That she was at peace just being here...on the stairs somewhere between here and there, yesterday and tomorrow. Just present here and now.
At the starting point to serenity.[Read More]
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