Two years ago – as part of my ‘tertianship’ (last year of Jesuit formation) in the Philippines, I lived for a few weeks in Navotas, one of the shanty towns in Manila. Some of the families lived in very simple houses on stilts in Manila Bay. We arrived during the aftermath of a strong typhoon. Two things struck me, firstly the incredible resilience the people had in the face of these frequent storms. Secondly, because they had so little – how quickly they were able to rebuild their lives. We made a small video to appeal for help.
I spent a wonderful 6 month in the Philippines, fell in love with country and the people. It was also fascinating to hear how it was the Jesuits who were the first to track typhoons in Asia from the Manila Observatory (click here to read more about that). It is very sad to hear the effects of the recent Typhoon. In a county which seems sadly used to frequent disasters, this one is at a higher level. When I was there – I was very impressed by how the network of Jesuit education institutions coordinated disaster relief (click here). So when the Jesuits received a letter from the Provincial requesting help today – I thought I would it worth posting his letter here. You have to click on the link to open the PDF.
Link to donate online Indicate ‘for the Philippines Appeal’ in text box
Many of the Catholic parishes in the Highlands of Scotland were also ‘crofts’ – which allowed the priest to support himself and the parish by living off the land. A croft is a small free-hold of land which allows sustainable living. As communities have got wealthier, the need for the parish to sustain a croft has diminished. However I now in many places the vestiges continue. I have had the joy the last few years to go to the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist for a few weeks supply in the summer at this parish click here. The priest still has his own flock of sheep, real not metaphorical, and last summer I was presented with my own lamb, butchered and prepared by the parish shepherd! Here in Arisaig the priest keeps over 40 chickens, and ably assisted by the wonderful Winnie (left) we have a regular supply of ‘holy eggs’ which parishoners pick up and are enjoyed at breakfast. I have really enjoyed feeding the chickens with Winnie and learning about poultry-care.
Even better of course is enjoying the fruits of their labour. The parish house is equipped with a magnificent double egg-cup – first time I have seen one! Not only does it allow you to be greedy – but also to compare tastes. Today I tried the light blue shelled egg along side a Polish chickens classic brown colour egg. The Pole edged it slightly – with one of the richest yolks I have every enjoyed. It is true that free-range tastes much nicer.
There is a serious point – the growing movement of eating locally sourced and in-season products. Not only does it support the local economy, the food is healthier and tastier! Scotland seems to be leading the way with this and the influential Fife Diet. Asking local people to sign-up to eating food from the region of Fife, for a year, and to monitor their progress and share their experience. The project has developed from a voluntary network into a funded body and in its development has changed from a small amount of people dedicated to eating ‘from Fife’ for a year, to a much larger network of people trying to re-localise more generally and to explore what sustainable food might be. It has won awards for ethical consumption. Seeing the parishioners donate money and pick up their eggs on Sunday was very inspiring – particularly as the younger contribute a bit more so the older folk can get their eggs very cheaply. This could be a great idea for other parishes to take up!
In the last year I have found myself living in three of four places where I wash out of a bucket. One thing I have noticed is that it makes you much more careful about how you use water. Every drop becomes precious, especially filtered or good drinking water. I still remember the shanty town in Manila and the small home where I was staying. There were about fifteen buckets and tubs of water stacked around. All possible rain water was collected and stored, a very precious commodity! Here in India this is also the case – the newspapers are filled with stories of drought at the moment. Officially on summer holiday, many of the government schools are staying open for lunchtime to ensure that the children receive at least one good meal a day (although my fellow Jesuits tell me that many of that money and food will make its way into the wrong hands). In these conditions it is a really important service that the school serves by teaching the children – who will the teach their families – about how to use, store and capture water wisely.
I am showing the science students the excellent BBC ‘Human Planet‘ series at the moment. Last week we watched an episode about living in the desert. As part of my preparation for the class, I looked at the annual rainfall figures here in Manvi and Pannur. What is very clear is that all the regions in the district have seen a drop in average rainfall, thus bringing them into the category of semi-arid or semi-desers (anything under 500 mms a year). This focuses the mind!
The Monsoon rains supply over 50% of India’s precipitation in 15 days so when they fail it is problematic. Trapping and storing water is very important. We have been teaching the children about rainwater harvesting – so that they will take this knowledge back to the villages. Exacerbating the situation here in India is the rapid melting of Himalayan Glaciers which is depriving the great rivers the Indus and the Ganges of their summertime source, thus extending the long dry season. Here in Karnataka the lifeline of the great river Krishna also flows through neighbouring Andrah Pradesh and also Maharashtra. The rapid building of Dams in all states and diverting parts of the river has politicized water to such an extent that conflict can easily develop. In fact it is striking that India’s extremes of hydrology, population and poverty presents large difficulties for water management. Agreement to release dam water down stream and across state boundaries makes the front page of the newspapers. As always it is the poorest who are hit the hardest by water politics and the corrupt water mafias.
Building pipes would help these children spend more time in school - Please help see link below. Even £10 can make a big difference.
Here in Manvi and Pannur there are two different sources of water – surface water and ground water. Climate change is making surface water less reliable, so there is more stress on ground water. India is the biggest user of ground water in the world with over 2 million boreholes providing 60% of water for irrigation. Ground Water is much more efficient for agriculture and cheaper pumps and electricity have changed the life of many of the farmers but the groundwater is finite – and shrinking – over exploitation means that bore holes run dry. Much of it is is also not drinkable and illness is common due to contaminated water and parasitic worms. The result is that in Pannur the villagers have to walk 6 kms a day to get safe water from the river. It always seems to be the women and children who have to carry out this arduous task. We have been asked to help – the villagers are proposing to lay a pipeline from the river to the village – which will have a big impact on the peoples lives. The land has been donated and the labour of digging and laying the pipeline will be free – what they are asking for are 960 20ft pipes (6inch diameter) and two 20-horsepower pumps. If you are interested in helping! Please do…. check out this facebook page and also you can donate a small amount online by clicking on the link below.
Click here to make an online donation.