SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kiva turns 7!

Although Kiva has been around since 2005, I can't remember when or how I first heard about it, but I do know I was instantly inspired.
The brain child of a couple of young American computer whizzes, Kiva's flagship is a state-of-the-art web-site that links lenders from around the world with thousands of borrowers in poorer places.
I started out making a small investment. I might even have contributed as little as $100. But even if that was the case, with the standard lending unit of $25, I would have been able to help finance loans to 4 separate borrowers in places as far apart as Mali and Turkestan. 
Since then, whenever Kiva contacts me to let me know that a loan has been repaid, I simply redirect the money to someone else. And occasionally when I am flush, I add another small amount to my original 'pot'. Even though my capital investment is still only in the hundreds, I was delighted to notice this morning that I have now helped finance 32 loans.
For all that time lending for me has been a solitary pleasure. But that all changed on Monday.
That's when I decided to attend Kiva's 7th birthday party, which was celebrated around the world, and in Melbourne at the Loop Bar in the CBD.  

Me, Heather and Nicola

We were greeted on arrival at Loop by Heather (above), a self-confessed 'Kiva addict', and a volunteer for the evening. 
I was astonished to learn that Heather has used some of her retirement funds to help finance over 1400 loans. With a repayment rate of 98.97%, she feels her investment is in safe hands.
Heather also drew my attention to the fact that you can easily join a team or teams of borrowers, which can make the whole experience no longer solitary and a lot more fun.  
There are teams with thousands of members and some with only two. I particularly liked the sound of Team Nerdfighters, who loan 'because we aim to decrease world suck', and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There are many national groupings and I was happy to hear that Team Australia, with its 4472 members is right up there, having contributed more that 2 millions dollars in 86,000 loans. 

Kiva members and prospective new investors at the 7th Birthday party

We had a great time at Loop, talking to other Kiva fans and listening to Nicola (above top), the evening's speaker, who enlightened me even further about the web-site. For the first time I realised that you can choose to lend to people with particular 'attributes', for example to workers trying to get by in conflict zones or my personal favourite - those who are attempting to stay on the land and resist the drift to the cities.
So this morning as I lent $25 to Yashar in Azerbaijan to buy sheep and another $25 to Juan Santos in El Salvador for five sacks of compost, I felt really grateful to Kiva for providing me with the opportunity to assist them.
Reading about the lives of these two men from very different parts of the world, I was struck much more by the similarities between them and me, than by the differences. Just like me, they both want to care for their families, to have enough money and to do work they enjoy. So thank you, Kiva, for connecting me to them, as well as to the other lenders in my new team.
And happy birthday. May you have many more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

PEN in hand

Friday, October 05, 2012

Food for free

I love the first Saturday of every month because that's when we have our local food swap.  In the park adjacent to the Fitzroy pool, regulars join 'debutantes' to share the surpluses, however small, that are grown in the gardens or even on the window sills of our inner-city homes. 
The swap is great because you get to socialise with the neighbours, while immersing yourself in all things food. You get to sample it, share recipes, discuss it at length with the growers and of course take it home. And whatever the weather we'll be there. On gorgeous days, like last summer's swap:-

Glenda, me and Anne

Or even on days like today, when we shivered in unison, chomping on the delicious tangelos and gelatin-free jelly, made with honey, green tea, mint and a mystery fruit provided by a swapper of Asian background. (I hope I've got those ingredients right):- 

Brave, rugged-up swappers this morning

When I first came across swapping, I couldn't get my head around the idea. I was plagued with questions, like: 'With no money involved, how do you figure out if what you are taking home in exchange for what you bring, is fair?' But it didn't take long to realise that those sorts of questions are irrelevant. People are delighted when you take their produce, especially if you ask them how best to prepare it. No one wants a glut of parsley or lemons, so it can be a thrill to see them carried off by an apartment dweller who has no way of growing them. And next swap that apartment dweller might well return with jars of lemon butter or recipes for 101 things to do with parsley. In the end it all works out, and we learn heaps along the way.  
I never knew before, for example, that you can grow macadamia nuts or avocadoes or keep quails for eggs or bee hives for honey, all in inner-city Melbourne. 
And I've had to totally revise what I think of as 'weeds' after listening to new arrivals to Australia who prize some of our wild greens. This reminds me of our brief time in Santiago, Chile in May when I was blown away by the variety of 'weeds' used for cooking, like the ones displayed by the street seller below:-

'Weeds' for eating in Santiago, Chile

I have written a lot about food swapping over the last few years, especially because it is a phenomenon that was initiated here in Australia. Check out new matilda for my overview of this home-grown movement. It's great to know that food swaps are mushrooming all over the country, providing the opportunity for people to eat top food minus top $s. In many ways it's just a contemporary spin on something that good neighbours have always done - shared their bounty with those around them.
No wonder I always look forward to food swap day.