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The new face of campaigns
Hello, I'm Maud, Birmingham Friends of the Earth's new Campaigns Support Worker. After a month or so in the Warehouse I am slowly beginning to figure out which staircase I should be using and what doors I shouldn't!
I come from a small seaside village in Essex where I have enjoyed reacquainting myself with life in the UK after living in Madagascar for two years. I studied Development and Peace at Bradford University, where I became involved in a Fair Trade Cafe, the Peace Library and campaigning both on campus and at Faslane and Menwith Hill.
It was in Madagascar, though, that my concern for and commitment to environmental and development causes was cemented. I worked at Akany Avoko, a centre providing housing, pastoral care and education for destitute young women and children. The centre was established by Swiss missionaries forty years ago to house young women on remand who would have otherwise been in jail until their cases came to court. Over the years the centre has expanded considerably to incorporate a farm, a crafts shop and other income-generating projects, as well as providing screen printing and carpentry workshops, pre- and primary school education and a domestic science class (secondary education is provided by schools in the local village).
With over 150 children, Akany Avoko cannot afford to waste resources. There are no municipal rubbish collections, so everything must be repaired, re-used, recycled where possible: plastic bags crocheted into juggling balls and bag handles; plastic bottles used for planting seedlings or turned into borders for the gardens; paper re-used for drawings, toilet paper or pounded into a pulp and remade into recycled paper for crafts. The, er, 'produce' from the five composting toilets, together with extra compost made from leaves and the excess from biogas toilets, works wonders in the large vegetable gardens. Rain water is saved for washing clothes, flushing the biogas toilets and watering the gardens, which are terraced to make the most efficient use of water during the dry season.
The centre has three solar cookers, a solar oven, a solar fruit dryer and solar water heaters. The solar cookers are incredibly efficient, clean and economical, and when in direct sunlight they can cook as quickly as gas. Meals are cooked in the morning and stored in hay boxes which keep them hot until mealtimes.
I recently told by a Birmingham Labour MP that "only the well-off can afford to be green". I couldn't disagree more with this view. The young women and children I worked with at Akany Avoko are among the poorest in the world but they understand better than many in 'the West' how, through efficient and cost-effective use of resources, we can meets our needs without degrading the natural environment.