Guest Roast

Guest Roast: “Effecting Change Starts with the Community”

Noah Marwil, Latin America Regional Director of Pencils of Promise(PoP) shares his views on working with indigenous Guatemalan communities where ‘communities’ as such do not really exist.

This past July, Adam Braun, the founder and Executive Director of Pencils of Promise (PoP), wrote a piece for the Huffington Post reflecting on the recent Greg Mortenson controversy. Comparing the PoP approach to that of CAI’s, Adam speaks to the type of support education projects need beyond construction and proclaims that CAI’s shortcomings “should serve as a rallying call to invest more heavily in school support and sustainability.”

As the Pencils of Promise Latin America Regional Director I know all too well how true this statement is. Read More »

Guest Roast: “Fear of a Return to Armed Conflict in Burundi”

James Belgrave reports on the increase in violence experienced over the last six months and its implications for long term stability of Burundi. Photo Credits: Teddy Mazina.

Since the peace agreements of 2005 and since the former rebel FNL (Forces Nationales de Libération) forces laid down their weapons and joined the political process in 2009, relative peace has reigned over Burundi.

However, since the 2010 elections, which were characterized by sporadic political violence, the security situation has steadily deteriorated. Several recent armed attacks stand out amongst a list of worryingly violent incidents. The government has so far blamed ‘armed bandits’, but some point to the violence as bearing the marks of a potential conflict with the potential to destabilize a country which is already recovering from a civil war which left around 300,000 people dead and more than 500,000 displaced. Read More »

Guest Roast: “Traditional Birth Assistants: Scapegoats or Potential Miracle Workers?”

Thomas Hart has been called ‘a fine example of a “citizen of the world”’* and an expert on traditional Maya practices having lived, worked and studied in Guatemala for the best part of two decades. Thomas is an anthropologist at heart and has consolidated his vast knowledge in his book “The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”. He works for a British NGO called Health, Poverty, Action and as a guest roaster shares with us some potential solutions to high maternal mortality rates in Guatemala**.

Comadronas, Guatemala’s Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), are community midwives who are estimated to deliver up to 90% of births in rural Guatemala. Their relationship with the Ministry of Health has been a complicated one. In many communities, they have been derided by health professionals as uneducated (they sometimes are), illiterate (they sometimes are) and even superstitious (for practicing their own indigenous culture). As such they have served as convenient scapegoats for high maternal mortality rates, which are estimated to be twenty times higher in developing nations (1). Read More »

Guest Roast: “Landmine Victims, The Forgotten Souls of Colombia.”

Guest Roaster Aliza Amlani shares her experiences from Colombia.

A few weeks ago I began reading “Writing on the edge”, a book about Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) missions Worldwide. One reporter was in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, an area rife with malaria and unexploded landmines planted by the Khmer Rouge. As I sat sipping on a cup of tea in the comfort of my own home, I wondered what it must be like to put yourself in such a dangerous situation. Three weeks later that is exactly what I did.

I have been living in Bogotá for 3 months now, working at an NGO. One evening a call from a colleague informed me that we were going to carry out monitoring and evaluation of projects in the department of Meta, only a few hours by car from Bogota but a place that feels like a world away. It is well known as the “home” of the FARC, the left wing guerillas that have terrorized citizens for decades. Cocaine plantations and a close proximity to the capital make Meta a hotspot for guerilla activity. Like where there is smoke there is fire, where there are guerillas there are paramilitaries, the deadly opposition right wingers. These two groups fiercely battle for land and cocaine plantations, destroying anything and anyone that stands in their way. Read More »


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