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29 March

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 2 months ago

Wednesday 29 March 2006


Parachutes and boomwhackersArabella Churchill


We leave the hotel in Singapore at 6.15 am and head to Changi Airport. First we go to the left luggage depot and collect the huge pink bag with 3 parachutes in it (for playing games with children, rather than jumping out of airplanes with!) and the suitcase with the boomwhacker sticks (for running musical workshops where possible) and the badge machine and 2,000 badge bits that we had left there less than a week ago on our way to Australia.


Kind airline staff


OK - we are badly overweight again - about 35 kilos overweight - as long as the check-in crew don't realise that my roll-along, very light-looking, hand-lugggage actually weighs about 14 kilos rather than the allowed 6 kilos - in which case we are 43 kilos overweight. So far we have been incredibly lucky on Children's World International Tours to Sri Lanka and Thailand, and despite being wildly overweight on almost every flight because of props, costumes and play and workshop equipment, we have always been allowed to take all our luggage and props with us with no charge - theoretically from London we could have been charged £13 per kilo - so we are tremendously grateful to all the airlines we have travelled with for their kindness and understanding. And, yes, yet again, we are lucky, and the kind Silk Air check-in man and woman allow us to travel with no extra charge. (Our laminates, with photos, explaining that we are working with tsunami-affected children, have been wonderfully helpful in this success - thank goodness. We operate on a really shoestring budget and overweight charges would be a disaster for the Charity!)


Email catch-up


There is time for me to use the free internet service at the airport and receive all my hotmails before we board the plane. Chris, my wonderful right hand in England, sends all my CW emails on to my hotmail, and we also manage to talk most days (which, thanks to marvellous Onetel, is really quite cheap). It is essential I keep in touch regularly with Children's World's English office while we are away, as our regular work in the South West of England has to continue smoothly, and we need to keep planning al our funding strategies and the upcoming CW Tours and Children's Festivals.


"Come, come, follow, follow!"


The flight from Singpapore to Medan is only 2 hours. We land and get our "on-arrival" Indonesian visas with no hiccoughs - hallelullah! It's 9.30 am by the time we have collected all our luggage and are ready to begin the final part of our journey. "What time is the next flight for Banda Aceh?", we ask. "It leaves at 10.10", we are told. Oh well, we think, no way can we catch that - we'll catch the next one after that. But no! We are grabbed by a very speedy and energetic man, who yells, "Come, come, follow, follow!" So we follow, follow at great speed, accompanied by 2 porters and our massive amount of luggage, and race between the international terminal and the domestic terminal. The energetic man keeps trying to get our passports off me to go ahead and buy the tickets, but I cling firmly on to them for fear of losing them - eventually we reach the desk and pay for our tickets. Our luggage goes through with no time for real discussions about overweight luckily, and then we are run to a bus and onto the plane which immediately revs up and takes off.


Fairly horrid


The flight only takes 45 minutes, and between patchy clouds we see tall mountains and densely wooded slopes. We land at Aceh and take a taxi to the Griya Hotel which had been recommended to us by John Bugge of Save the Children. Sadly it's full, so we ask to be taken on to another which looks suitably placed on the Lonely Planet map of the town. We get a room. It's fairly horrid, but it will do for the night. We head out into town, grab some lunch, check the internet and buy a sim card, so that our mobile phone has an Indonesian number that works.


Save the Children


Haggis doesn't feel well, so we head back to the hotel at about 3.00 pm, and he has a sleep while I ring John Bugge of Save the Children and arrange to meet up him and Kahyo, the head of their Child Protection Team. I have been emailing different NGO's for several weeks, with varied degrees of success, trying to get venues set up where Haggis can perform for children and where we can run games and workshops. Save the Children have set up "Areas of Safety" in many of the tented camps and barracks where very large numbers of homeless families are living, and we hope that we will be able to work alongside them in these areas. They have said they welcome our visit and that they will be able to support us after 1st April, which is very encouraging. Save the Children are all tied up in strategy meetings until Monday and John and Kahyo can't meet us till then, so, as other NGO's will be closed over the weekend, we have decided to go over to the nearby island of Pulau Weh on Friday afternoon, grab a quick scuba dive (both Haggis and I are very keen divers) and investigate the camps on the island and see if we can set up some "gigs" at camps there during our "off days", which we plan in future to take on weekdays rather than at weekends - partly because the island is quieter on weekdays, but mostly because we feel that the weekends are probably the times that the children are most bored in the camps and barracks).


What does IOM stand for?


I also ring Paul Dillon of IOM (the International Office for Migration) and arrange to meet up with him tomorrow, Thursday, morning. Children's World International has worked with IOM in Sri Lanka in May 2005 and in March 2006, on Paddy and Charlie's recent Tour there, as IOM do psycho-social work in Sri Lanka. Here in Aceh, IOM are concentrating on housing and health - they are not doing psycho-social work, and therefore have not been able to set up "gigs" for us here - but Paul has been very helpful with advice and has pointed us towards Save the Children, who may well be able to provide us with gigs, for which we are most grateful. We hope Paul can brief us a bit on Aceh and the post-tsunami situation.


Michael Eavis is giving £100,000


The other reason I want to go and see IOM is that Michael Eavis, a great friend and colleague of mine, who runs the massive and hugely successful Glastonbury Festival, has £100,000 stashed that he wishes to be spent on housing for tsunami victims. A friend of Michael's, Piers, a garden designer from Somerset died in the tsunami in Thailand, and Michael originally wanted the money to be spent on housing on Koh Phi Phi, where Piers died, in his memory - but Haggis and I have just returned from Thailand and know that it would be virtually impossible for Michael to build on Koh Phi Phi, as the Thai Government is not allowing any rebuilding there at present. Then Michael thought of Phuket, but we had spent a couple of weeks there, and know that there is really no need for housing - Phuket was not very badly hit by the tsunami and has really completely recovered. Even in Khao Lak, north of Phuket, where we worked in December 2005, which was the most badly damaged area, has pretty much sorted out its housing problems. I suggested Sri Lanka to Michael as a possibility, as I know there is still a real need for permanent housing there, but the Tamil "troubles" made him worry about the success of a project there. "Well, Haggis and I going to Aceh really soon, Michael", I said. "I believe there are hundreds of thousands still homeless there - would you like us to have a look and talk to different NGO's and find who could build the best, quickest, best value houses for you?" Michael said, "Yes!" He has been "sitting" on this money since the Festival at the end of June 2005, trying to work out the best way to spend it, and he wants it spent wisely and well as soon as possible. So that is an exciting addition to our trip - finding the right place for this £100,000 of Michael's Festival money (which was the Sunday-only local tickets income) to be spent. - I feel very excited to be able to play a small part in helping rehouse families in this way, and am determined to find the best home for the money. Our first step of enquiry will be with IOM tomorrow - I have checked their webpage and they are building some excellent temporary and permanent houses, and I look forward to seeing them in the flesh, so to speak.


Cleaner and brighter tomorrow


Haggis wakes at 8.00 pm, but feels no better and doesn't want to get up or go out to eat. He goes back to sleep again and is obviously "out" for the night. I have to turn the light off so that he can sleep - thank goodness for my little reading in bed head-torch! I write up a bit of the diary on the computer, drink lots and lots of water, take my vitamin pills and read for a little bit, then call our daughter Jess in England to check that all is well there - it is. This is a very horrid little room - I'm not looking forward to having to lie here for another 12 hours or so till Haggis wakes up. I really think we will have to find somewhere a bit cleaner and brighter tomorrow or we will start to get depressed.







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