DRCongo: And The War Kicks Off... - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

As we sat in a remote camp in Kinshasa, news broke out that the African civil was stirring up again in Goma, east of way where we were situated. But being so far from the rumbling conflict didn't stop any of us imagining the worse - the aftermath of a war is not something I've had to get used to in Newham, London (gang crime not included). In a break-in news blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, here below is how the news impacted my group of reporters, and the surrounding circle of our new Congolese friends:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Wednesday October 29, 2008

Campfire, shooting stars, third world war and Fanta

Tonight we lived it up in the luxurious village of Kinkosi in the Congolese region of Bas Congo - we had a mosquito swamped hole for a toilet, giant red ants nipping at our legs, a derelict spider-filled hut for 15 of us to sleep in and all the plantain, fufu and rice a heart could desire. Sarcasm aside, it was brilliant.

We spent much of the day watching the village men catch our fish for dinner, witnessing the hard graft and tiresome routine that provides them with sufficient meals for a season. I was itching to get stuck in and help the guys soldier through, but Lord knows I'd probably fuck up the process, or just look like a sitting British duck in the mushy pits.

As the nets were gathered, 17 year old fisher-boy Balamika stated he had walked 4km bare foot to the compound in order to work and gain enough funds for his schooling in the afternoons. He said: "I enjoy my job, there's nothing bad about it. But I want to study in my spare time so I can become a builder in my village. My family and I will be disappointed if I don’t become one."

It was another glimpse of the compassion and communal pride of the Congo.

As the burning sun set (much to our lobster-skin relief), we sat around a campfire with the locals, sipping the generous donation of honey wine and ice-cold Fantas (in glass bottles!), listening to fables of olde Congolese times. Above us, shooting stars glistened, in the distance we saw flashes of distant thunder and lightening. The atmosphere was priceless - the kind that sends a shiver, and makes you reluctant to return to the gloomy, grey, smouldering shade or crap that can be London town.

The people reminded us what impact we were making and how we were held in such high regard, as our translator Betty Mizele led in a song for us strangers of the Western world. I don't know what the hell she was saying - I couldn't translate her Lingala words. But we sung for the moment, before Betty finished with a lasting solo a capella:

"Let me just sing alone,
To say how wonderful you are,
You are wonderful,
You are wonderful."

Herein lays the real riches of the Congo.

Then came the news. We were told of war breaking out in Goma, East of Congo. Word quickly spread of over 60,000 people fleeing from the conflict between the DRC military, Gen Nkunda's Tutsi rebel fighters and the Rwandan Hutus. It was a lot to take in with no access to Internet or contact with eastern offices to clarify fact beyond speculation and sensationalism.

I could not imagine the fear that would engulf our relations back home, let alone the terror that would inevitably spread across the Congo, especially for those in the war zone. It was a rude awakening to our picturesque moment around the campfire.

We all sent out texts on the emergency mobile phone. I jetted messages of love and reassurance to my family and girlfriend, letting them know that such is the colossal size of the Congo (being the third-largest country in Africa, covering 905,563 square miles, an area almost a quarter the size of the United States), we were as close to the war as London is to Moscow. Still, those details would bring little comfort.

I put my Fanta down and took a moment to reflect with a bitch-slapping realisation that Congo is about much more than songs, campfires and shooting stars. The people here have a struggle, they have beauty, they have life and they have death. We are here to bring that story home.

At the end of every day our group debriefed and had reflection time. Tonight, some prayed, some spoke, some stayed silent and meditated. Though I'm not usually one for a corny-ass song or prayer, I simply put it:
"I pray for those in Goma, and I just thank God that tonight my loved ones do not strive, fight, flee and die in war. Amen."

For the first and hopefully last time on this trip, I feel numb and I miss home.

This story can be sourced from here


DRCongo: A Nzundu Mother's Wishes - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

An emotional day in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Nzundu people. Here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift report:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Tuesday October 28, 2008

From the village, for the village.

I can’t say I was too impressed by the gecko in my mosquito net this morning. The unwanted uninvited roommate crawled across my upper lip before I woke up; I initially thought my bum-fluff facial hair had transformed overnight into a long and slimy moustache.

After a cold shower with cockroaches for company, I left with the team from our compound to visit the rural Nzundu sector of Bas Congo, situated just outside the capital of Kinshasa.

My rude awakening was not sufficient preparation for our long trek following the breakdown of our vans... again! However, our group expanded as we were joined on our 5km walk by local villagers, fascinated, as ever, by us, our cameras, weird clothing, my super-peculiar eye-brow piercing and so-called "caramalised" skin colour. It was all friendly curiosity.

Onto the fields and we were given demonstrations in the Congolese art of cow-ploughing and crop-growing. The process was terribly slow, primitive and seemingly dangerous as at moments the animals looked temperamental and pulled away unpredictably. I didn't clap and applaud when the cows did their job, it seemed too patronising, but I stood, watched and smiled in appreciation of the mass amount of hard work that goes into providing food for the Nzundu people.

The local women planted seeds one-by-one into the ground, straining, sweating, smiling and waving. Fourty-four-year-old Bianu stated her five children go to school whilst she works in the fields. When I questioned her position as a struggling crop-grower, she said: "All my money goes to my kids and their education. I would not be able to afford it without this PDI (Integrated Development Programme)."

What threw me was her response to my next inquiry, as I asked about the aspirations of her children:

"They will get their education, and get more money. Then they will return to the farm and work with us, with the family and for the village."

Such a notion was incomprehensive to me. F**k that I thought. I couldn't understand the point of striving for my degree only to go back to a struggling farm. Superman had the right idea...

Then a simple discussion knocked my ignorance astray. As my colleague Sam Faulds interviewed 23-year-old Thierry, an encapsulation of Congo said: "I’ve worked on this farm for 18 years. I grow beans, I live in the village and work for my family. I do not complain. I work to improve their situation..."

It is such the Western mentality to expand, grow, leave the nest and fulfil otherworldly dreams. I was blind when I spoke to Bianu, but my greatest respects go to anyone whose dream it is to stay and plant a better life for the loved ones unable to fly.

Leaving the village, our driver Bosco blared out some Congolese music as herds of people hugged us and danced around our van. They welcomed us, and embraced us despite major indifferences and our naivety of their situation.

My friend Anita Morais commented as we drove away: "Why do we take things for granted? If people in Congo are so happy with so little, then why are we so discontent?"

Good question...

This article can be sourced here


DRCongo: Children & Education - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Millions of children and a handful of semi-decent schools does not add up in my books. Beyond the dusty feet and raggedy clothes, the young people I met in the Democratic Republic of Congo had a somewhat different glow to them; being so humble, warm, excited, and sadly blissfully unaware of how many of their guardians had lost out to a corrupt government and an ongoing African civil war. In years to come, I'll still look back at the photos, the interviews, and wonder what may have come of my Congolese brothers... though no doubt the DRC has not seen the last of this East London journalist. It is one hell of a trip, and one of my favourite days there is documented below in an article for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Monday October 27, 2008

Kids and Politricks

Today on the outskirts of Kinshasa in Kasangulu, we visited an organisation that focuses on reforestation projects. I can’t lie, I found the hour-long lectures reminiscent of mundane uni days - to put it simply, the snooze-fest was pretty dry. However, the overall journey and the people I met reinforced my intrigue and passion to explore and discover the ins and outs of this fascinating nation.

In the morning, our car got stuck on a mudslide on the way up to the village’s school and medical house. The four-wheel drive made little difference. We abandoned the vehicle and marched the rest of the distance. Thank God for my Adidas Adventure trainers, as only Lord knows how the locals trek the collapsing hills in their sandals.

Twenty minutes later, and we'd found a pitiful medical centre and conference area. I saw 10 wooden chairs, two small rooms and two and a half computers. The nearby school was also in a state less than perfect. No projectors, but prehistoric blackboards, dilapidated walls, no windows, just bars and kids hanging from them like inmates in a jail cell.

I asked translator and guide Felix M'Lenda if there were any intentions to refurbish the school. I also asked if there was any money available to help the situation. The guru of west Congo said: "Yes. Of course there is money, but the people in power will not help. Not because they don’t have the money, but because they do not care. They are selfish and take care of their own needs."

I proceeded to ask Felix about the next local elections, and their part in changing the country. Sadly, after saying "I hope they make improvements" he added "but I don’t want to talk about politics anymore. It really makes me want to pull out my hair."

Politics, greed and corruption are tender subjects for a man like Felix, who is witnessing his nation fall victim to its own riches (let's please remember that DRCongo holds more than half of the world's cobalt, 30% of all diamonds, 70% of coltan - a vital ingredient in mobile phones - as well as huge deposits of gold, copper and various other minerals).

According to Felix, the developing economic relationship between the Chinese government and the Congo depicts a third world being exploited out of its resources in return for the Chinese services of roads and railways - but as Felix claims, "what good are roads without cars to drive on them?" He states the grass-roots need the funding: the Congolese children, their schools and education. However, he slouched in defeat and reluctantly called the changing economy a "fair exploitation" of his people, as they will literally take whatever they can get.

Down the road we visited an IDP (Integrated Development Programme) called COABAC, which has trained over 10,000 people in bee-keeping and honey-making. The workers rely on such a job after having their villages pillaged by rebel soldiers during the "third world war" that erupted in 1998. Having had their cars, equipment, machinery and even bikes taken from them, the project is still struggling to help maintain livelihoods.

What a piss-take it was to then have 30 glowing and promising local children run up to me, fascinated by my camera and colleagues. Each one said they loved school, they loved church and had dreams and belief that is often hard to perceive in the UK. Fourteen year old Efrem wants to be a doctor, his friend Kimia wants to flex his muscles in the bricklaying industry and the force of six year old Marly will stop at nothing until he becomes the world heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. The smallest titch of the pack was pulling around a hand-made car he had made from shiny trash - blatantly the boy belongs in the engineering pits of Formula 1.

Back down to earth, Felix reminded me: "Most of these kids will never leave Congo. Most will follow in their father's footsteps and join the family business as honey-producers, fufu makers or farmers."

He wasn't being a party-pooper, just putting the picture in its true perspective. Felix added: "You see... people want to work, people like to work. But they have no means to work and grow." Suddenly those golden Chinese roads and railways seemed so irrelevant.

This article can be sourced here


DRCongo: The Dreams Of A Congolese Waiter - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

What are the dreams of a young Congolese waiter, playing out the best years of his life in a war-torn country. Direct from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I found out for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Postcards From The Edge: DR Congo
Sunday October 26, 2008

Waitering for nothing.

On my second day in the Congo, I came across a blossoming individual in Yanny. The 23 year old waiter epitomised big dreams from small places. He resides in an impoverished sector of the nation’s capitol of Kinshasa, but with resounding faith, he plans to get his own set of wings as a pilot.

What a prime example he sets for any drop-out lay-about half-asks of our nation:

What are your dreams?
Well I would like to have my own small company one day, and to be my own boss. That would extend the funds for my studies to be a pilot, which I am training to be right now.

Where do you plan to fly off to?
I’d love to live and work in South Africa, Canada or the UK.

What about Congo?
It is not easy here. Congo is my family, but it is getting worse. The government is very slow and there is a lack of work to improve the country and help my people. At the moment, most families are living on two dollars a day, with seven or eight people living in one or two rooms. It is not enough, and it hasn’t changed in a while. However, if I am successful, I would like to return to Congo in the future and teach others to fly. It would be good for the economy.

What gives you the drive to work harder?
Religion is very important to me. God is my first father, and I believe opportunities will come if I pray and study well.

What do you do for fun?
I love basketball; I play three times a week. But it’s too expensive to be part of a team. It costs 20 dollars a month!

What about drugs, booze, girls and rock’n’roll?
Drugs? Never. It’s too much of a waste of time to get drunk. Besides, all of that costs money, and I don’t have any to spare. I need to save for my studies – I mean I don’t even have enough money to do something special for my birthday. As for girls, I do have my needs. Come on, I’m a guy!

The article can be sourced from here


DRCongo: Sleepless In The Jungle - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

One of my earliest blogs I wrote for Ctrl.Alt.Shift about my time reporting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I had just arrived to a very hostile reception at Kinshasa airport, and my main objectives of the day were to get used to the Congolese diet and to try and get some sleep (hard process of that can be seen with the pics below) - ALL easier said than done... Here's the feature:

Postcards From The Edge: DR Congo
Saturday October 25, 2008

Small Fish, Big Swamp

We were huddled up like a walking pack of sardines as we stumbled our way through Kinshasa airport. The long and gruelling process made the headache of Heathrow look nice and easy.

It took 30 minutes to get through customs. The sweltering heat of 29 degrees drained me, and the seven hour turbulent flight did little to help my struggling condition. To my right, an elderly American disputed a matter over with his customs officer - frustration and impatience engrossed the two lost in translation. In the end the Congolese officer demanded: "Ok!Ok! Just give me 20 dollars..." I got off lucky but learnt promptly that bribing is a common asset in the Congo, and like most, the American slipped through a 20 note to avoid any further interrogation.

Baggage claim was hustle bustle, with all preying over the conveyor belt playing the game 'when push comes to shove.' I was actually impressed that only my colleague Rebecca failed to retrieve her luggage – she would have to endure three days without the luxuries of a bendy toothbrush and minted dental floss.

Exiting the building, it was re-affirmed - this was not Hawaii; there were no gorgeous girls awaiting our arrival with flowery necklaces. In the DRC we were greeted by dozens of selling and begging children. They came thick and fast, trying to pick us off one by one, tugging on my shirt and surrounding our getaway van. Though they were never violent, they were certainly persistent, and my mind proclaimed: "Let’s go go go, let’s get out of here!" Call me uncompassionate, but what can I say - I was intimidated. I was nervous.

Praise to the Heavens, I then caught my first glimpse of the beauty of Congo: a woman carrying a hefty box of fruit on her head offered me a free banana. The frivolous sentiment was hard to refuse with her glorious smile that shone through despite the strain of her baby on board; an infant boy with dried - up saliva crusting up his cheeks, resting peacefully on his mother’s back. Nevertheless, I had to deny the offer with a quick reminder of our health and safety regulations - food from the streets was not an option for us.

The drive to our compound was as manic as the airport debacle. We moved with a herd of over-packed vehicles scuttling down the rocky roads of Kinshasa, with children hanging off the outside of vans, no sign of traffic lights and no sign of fear. My mate Teklar defined the 'good drivers' of Congo as "crazy but able." To me, it was
all streamlined anarchy.

Two hours later I moved into my en-suite room, complete with grimy shower and piss-smelling WC. It was expected really.

On my way to dinner (of beef curry, fufu, plantain and rice) I passed four men chatting in a car outside our bedrooms – two of them polishing Rambo machine guns. It was clarified later that they were our guards, although the mere thought of them patrolling beyond my door was more so unnerving than comforting.

It hit midnight before we headed back to our rooms, with handy men Teklar and Ben lending their services, devising ingenious hanger contraptions to hold up our mosquito nets. Inside the mesh I looked like a cross between Sleeping Beauty and the Golden Child. But finally I could settle in, unpack, shower and sleep... that was until my neighbours caused a racket pumping up the volume until 2:00am. Like a frigid nag I marched next door in a mission for shut-eye, finding the culprits to be the four security guards, who looked mightily peeved at being interrupted.

With no wish for suicide, I ambled back to my room. Tom Hanks eat your heart out - this is 'Sleepless in Congo.'

The full article can be sourced from here


Hondura's HIV Supergirl - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Every now and then, I come across a teen superstar who makes me feel old, lazy and well, just not quite accomplished enough. Who makes me feel this pathetic/self-sympathetic? Hondura's Keren Dunaway Gonzalez, HIV positive, a renowned little public speaker on the disease she was born with, and producer of her own teen HIV awareness magazine. The best (for you)/worse (for me) part of this story - the girl is only 13! Keren serves as an inspiration to any and all teen queens out there, and who knows how great she'll be post-puberty. Here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift report on the HIV supergirl:

Feature: HIV Supergirl
What’s there to whine about when you’re 13? Your lack of a social life, prepping for SAT’s, that first kiss?

13 year old Keren Dunaway Gonzalez is indifferent to this process. In the poorest regions of Honduras, she produces an HIV awareness magazine and this year she opened the 17th International AIDS conference in Mexico as a young resonating voice of justice alongside the President of Mexico. Never mind school trips and dating, this inspirational girl has already found her calling as a child activist fighting the stigma of HIV in Honduras and across the globe.

Honduras continues to struggle with the disease, having the highest HIV rate in Central America. Those diagnosed with HIV in the impoverished country are often bullied and turfed by others in their communities. And if the stigmas surrounding the illness weren’t bad enough, a lack of treatment and awareness of HIV leaves it standing as the second most common cause of hospitalization and death in Honduras - a statistic Keren and her family are determined to change.

Keren and her parents Rosa and Alan are all HIV positive. As a unit they went public in 1999 with their HIV status and founded Fundacion Llaves with a mission to abolish stereotypes surrounding the virus. The organisation has created HIV support groups, workshops, their ‘learn about HIV/AIDS and win’ weekly radio programme and two Llaves magazines including Keren’s youth publication - as a result Karen and Llaves have played a hugely influential part in persuading the Honduran government to provide life-saving medicines. Bit by bit, they are giving the disease a human face, showing people and heart beyond statistics.

Keren sets the prime example with her trailblazing magazine Llavecitas that goes out to 10,000 children every two months. It contains fun features and most importantly HIV info and advice to help her demographic understand that they need not fear or reject a friend who is HIV positive. She is a trooper embodying her mother and Llaves’ lifetime ambition to “change the course of history, no matter how insignificantly.”

Find out more about Keren - read the full article here


'Adulthood' Cast Interview: Child Soldiers - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Reporter Ben Anderson and I flipped the script at the 'Adulthood' DVD launch in London, throwing some questions at the cast (including Noel Clarke and Adam Deacon) regarding a comparison between Sierra Leone's child soldiers and the teen crime 'edpidemic' we're supposedly seeing in the UK... quite the provocative and unconventional interview for the actors, then again, that's what we do at Ctrl.Alt.Shift. Here's the report:

Vox Pops: Child Soldiers
Sierra Leone has been ravaged by an 11-year-long civil war, ending in 2002. During this time children as young as eight years old were kidnapped, drugged and forced to brutally rape and kill for the cause. While the war is over, it can be easy to look past the fact that there are still an estimated 23,000 child soldiers in the country.

In a bid to offer our peers some perspective, Ctrl.Alt.Shift went to meet the cast of Adulthood, a film about British street crime, at the DVD launch, HMV, Oxford Street, London.

Noel Clarke, 33, Sam in Adulthood:
“My take on the UK epidemic is that young people don’t feel appreciated enough, and feel neglected - that is one of the key issues. I couldn’t even guess the figure of kid soldiers in Sierra Leone, I don’t have a clue, but that is one of the key problems - we don’t know what’s going on in the world and we - including me - should pay attention to what’s out there. 23,000 is a large number, and when you compare it to here, there is no comparison. Kids over here do have opportunity, but they need to be shown this and educated about it.”

Adam Deacon, 25, Jay in Adulthood:
“I think there has always been a problem with this sort of thing in the UK, it’s been going for over 10 years, we could all see it coming from back in the day but now the media have jumped on it. I think the media make it worse, and they should be more restrained in what they say. I can only guess there are thousands of child soldiers in Sierra Leone but I don’t think any number would surprise me... 23,000 is a lot but we live in a mad world, a world where there are silent wars going on all over the place with the intention of keeping the rich rich and the poor poor.”

Read the rest of the comments here, including answers from Femi and Arnold of the Adulthood crew


China's Random Blood Tests For The HIV+ - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

If the police (in fact if ANYONE!) stopped me and demanded a sample of my blood, I'd give them a righteous "Jog off!" before pacing it in the opposite direction. I don't like giving away my details, let alone liquids from my body. Then again, beyond the wimpish bravado, I'm actually not so confident what I'd do if hijacked at an airport and forced to give my blood for testing; that is essentially what the Chinese goverment is enforcing at their borders - and all in the name of detecting that not-so frightening disease, HIV.

This is nothing more than a breach of human rights, and I for one, am hoping this disgraceful technique doesn't catch on. Reporter Ben Anderson and I took to the streets of London to see what our public thought about the issue. Here's our piece for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Vox Pops: Give Me Your Blood
Have you ever fell innocently into the stop-and-search arm of the law? Well never mind name and address, imagine having to give up your blood to prove you are not HIV positive.

Random blood tests on border-crossing travellers are becoming an ever-more current process in China as they strive on to prevent the disease from spreading. In fact, the number of check-ups this year has already leaped to an astounding 756,000, a considerable increase from last year’s 65,900. And how to they choose: from spotting the symptoms, which for HIV can be anything from loss of hair to excessive yawning (so you know best not to have jet-lag).

Is this another violation of human rights (like getting stopped by the feds for wearing your hood up), or is it sufficient protection of China’s welfare?

We hit the streets and asked our people would they be pissed or smile, comply and say thank you, if chosen for a compulsory random blood test. Then knowing the severity of the HIV issue in China, we asked them to guess how many check-ups have been carried out in 2008 in comparison with the 65,000 figure. Finally Ctrl.Alt.Shift put the government in their hands and asked for a solution to the golden question: Just how do you stop the spread of HIV?

Abdi, 16:
“Taking random blood tests? I wouldn’t mind you know, it seems fair. I think that the figure in China probably doubled to like maybe 130,000 in 2008. And if I was in government I’d probably do the same thing. I think it’s great, it’s a good thing to do as you know exactly who has it and you can keep a record of them.”

Marie, 17:
“No that’s just wrong. It’s something personal you know - blood is something you don’t give away nilly-willy. I’m guessing the number of random blood tests in China jumped to about 80,000 this year. As for a solution, well I think kids need to be more educated about contraception. Sex-ed needs to be less taboo to talk about. Parents, teachers and the kids need to be able to discuss it easily. Maybe that will help stop spread HIV.”

Read the full article here

DRCongo: The First Step - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Just three months after my graduation (thank you Lancashire Uni for my journo honours), I was recruited by Ctrl.Alt.Shift and asked to join 21 other inspirational volunteers on a research trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (talk about bungee-jumping it into the deep end). But before even stepping onto the plane to the DRC, headlines were rushing in from every news source I could find in the UK. Words like 'rape', 'war' and 'violence' were not uncommon - so not exactly the most comforting research for this 14-day reporting trip I was about to embark on.

Still, as a journalist, it only added to the rush, and reasoning (despite mumsie's outspoken concerns) to go out and explore this beautiful country that has been tragically ravaged by war and corruption. Being passionate and determined for first-hand experience of global and social injustice news, together with working over-time to be thoroughly clued-up with the DRC's fascinating history - any sense of hesitation soon grew to great anticipation; all that was left to do was survive the 14-hour flights and bring the story home. Here's my first DRC focus article for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, written before I even got to Kinshasa. Even joy it, it was only of my many DRC blogs:

Feature: Congo With Me
“Rape and violence rife in Congo again”.

Last week the Metro headline did slightly mar my upcoming trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I fly out on October 25 with a team of volunteers to provide aid and gather reports in the war-torn country, and if it wasn’t enough that constant supervision and hostage training was acquired to enter such a world, this article pokes it head up at the most inconvenient of times just to remind me that nothing can prepare me for the Congo. It is a way of life so intangible… at least for now.

The reported stats came thick and fast:

The estimated number of street children in the DRC fluctuates between 25,000 and 40,000. Civil war within the borders of the DRC has killed over 5 million people since 1998. Over 40,000 cases of sexual violence have been logged in the DRC (just a fraction of the real total, as the rest are silenced in fear of worse consequences if they snitch)...

As I was being bombarded with this research of countless numbers and facts, at times boredom did shamefully set in with their irrelevance to my London hustle-bustle life. But study one story from the terrorised masses, and you might hit a nerve – take the Metro piece for example, which documented the recent torture of Congolese mother Constance, who spoke of how she and her baby, along with 50 other women, were seized by militiamen in the eastern province of the DRC:

“The commander chose me as his woman and raped me every day. My baby was beside me when this took place.”

Put your mum, sister, daughter or wifey in that scene and it’s a whole new affair...

Read the full article here

Note: I made it the DRC and back in one piece, more of less... Check up my full Congo diary in my blog archive for more!

Street Genius' Stereotalk Event Preview - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Street Genius are at the frontline of youth inspiration and innovation. The UK-based initiative are 16-19 year olds setting up film, music, art etc events for their generation to showcase their skills, and all I can think is, damn! I wish I wasn't so lazy in my teens... Here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift preview of their Southbank Sterotalk short film event:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift Preview: Stereotalk
London is set to welcome a buffet of young blood to the movie-making game with a one-off event called Stereotalk.

At 11:30am on October 25 Southbank’s BFI will open its doors to a free showcase of five engaging short films. All of the productions will be illustrating pre-conceptions of the youth of today, with hopes to flip the media’s stereotypical vision of teen spirit on its head.

Here’s proof the next generation refuse to lay wasted and undiscovered, as three out of five of the movies to be screened were created by three youth groups from Lambeth and Southwark who put together the films during BFI’s Reel Lives programme earlier this year. The 16-19 year-old directors are now prepping to unleash their artistic craft upon the capital with “Just a normal day”, “Save Spike” and “Stop” which depict today’s teenage mentality from a fresh and true perspective; all guaranteed hits by the event’s organisers Street Geniuses – a youth-talent driven scheme funded by Stereotalk sponsors SOWF (Some Other Way Forward).

Like Stereotalk host Florence Fasanya, I am sick of some of the pre-judgment and stereotypical portrayal of young people, and even as a journalist I agree with her that: “We need to tackle the problem from the source which is the media.” But Ctrl.Alt.Shift stands in anticipation and recognition of our youth that are being offered a chance to have their say at Stereotalk...

Read the full article here


The 'Silent Tsunami' Global Food Crisis - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

The actual Tsunami took out thousands of lives, but the aftermath so-called 'Silent Tsunami' global food crisis is taking out millions more. It's perhaps something to bare in mind; whilst many of us will be feasting, going up a belt-size this xmas, I severely doubt Santa and the festive season will be doing much to help our brothers and sisters across the world.

They don't need tinsel, baubles, or Rudolf (unless he's on a menu) - the people need food quicktime. Here's my opinion piece on the issue for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Feature: Silent Tsunami
You think you're hungry and complain because you haven't got enough money to go large at McDonalds? Well, Ctrl.Alt.Shift has been tracking the food crisis, from Indonesia to Thailand, it’s a devastating issue that brings hunger, starvation and probable death to the forefront.

Indeed, the escalating prices in our fast-food nation must be of massive inconvenience to our earn or burn lifestyles. But while here in the UK the ever rocketing expense of food might be causing some pain and heartache, it's nothing compared to the struggle of the people battling with the ‘silent tsunami', a name given in the developing areas of Africa, Latin America and Asia where famine runs ragged.

When reading up on it, a project which caught my attention was Northern Aid, a national Non-Governmental Organisation targeting communities in Northern Kenya, most marginalised by historical, political and socio-economic factors.

Here are some words I found from Secure Livelihoods Officer Mohamed Adow depicting the suffering in Nairobi, Kenya:

“The food crisis is affecting everyone in Kenya, including my own family...
It is poor families who feel it the hardest; they already spend over 70% of their income on food."

Read the full article here