Hello and welcome!
Our lives were irrevocably changed on March 4, 2006 when Trevor was struck down with a crude homemade axe while sipping tea with elders in a remote village in Afghanistan.
We are excited to share our journey with you in our book available now in bookstores across the country, in e-books and at Amazaon.ca. The paperback will be released in early 2013. We hope you enjoy it and our website.
I think I know how Hilde Back feels as a survivor, even though the horrific Holocaust death she evaded makes my wound seem like a shaving nick by comparison. Hilde was a young girl in Nazi Germany who was helped to escape by a stranger. Hilde’s parents were consumed by the Holocaust but she made her way to Sweden where she taught school on a modest salary. In the 1970s, Hilde started sponsoring a bright, but poor Kenyan boy, Chris Mburu, in primary school. Education is free in Kenya but most families can’t afford it so many of Kenya’s best and brightest have to work right out of school, and don’t have a chance at the higher education tantalizingly free for the taking but so far out of reach. Their story was the subject of the award-winning documentary A Small Act. Chris went on to Harvard Law School and is now a human-rights lawyer for the UN. There is a touching scene in the documentary when Chris gives Hilde a ‘Harvard Law School Mom’ sweatshirt.
Hilde probably got by on a meagre salary but she gave what she could; just 15 dollars a month, probably in mute salute to the kind stranger who saved her life so many years before. I wonder if the act of giving became a comfortable monthly ritual; making sure she had stamps and envelopes, writing the cheque, sealing the envelope and posting it. My family makes the act of giving a ritual; on the first day of the month, we log on to www.kiva.org and read Grace the profiles of the entrepreneurs. Then we explain the concept of microfinancing and tell her about the advantage of empowerment over charity to her and suggest she choose female entrepreneurs with kids. She asks questions, look at the faces of the needy people she is about to help and chooses. Grace usually wants to give far above our budget and at bedtime she is still flush with the joy of giving.
The UN estimates that only two percent of the 3 billion dollars that was poured into Haiti by Canada and other donors actually made it to the Haitian government and Haitian-run NGOs. I think many people are leery of donating because they know corruption is endemic. I don’t know how to fight corruption of this astonishing magnitude save donating to aid organizations that have been proven to be honest. Charitynavigator.com rates the efficiency of charities all over the world. Canada’s most efficient charities include hearttoheart.org and Food for the Hungry [fh.org]. Global Greengrants.com follows the Kiva model by channeling donations to small environmental activist groups around the world. And, of course, I would be remiss to not put a plug in for the Greene Family Education Initiative.
In a foolhardy act on April 3rd of what he called civil disobedience, Tristan Oldfield swam in front of the Oxford and Cambridge crews racing on the Thames in the 158th Boat Race. Oldfield claimed to be protesting elitism. The oarsmen came to a shuddering stop when they saw Oldfield’s head bobbing in the water at roughly the middle of the four and a half mile race. Both crews would have been at full speed then, nearing the limit of their endurance as the lactic acid spread through their bodies. But they had been training all winter for this race and were summoning their reserves to push through the pain and win.
The act of stopping midway through a race borders on sacrilege and must have taken huge discipline and caused some pain as the crew ‘held water’ by digging their oars deep into the water. We call our oars ‘blades’ because of the way they hydrodynamically slice into the water for maximum torque. Oldfield was lucky he didn’t get caught under the blades because he would have been chopped to mincemeat.
The boat race has been run since 1829. Both crews have sunk on the course and in 2003, Oxford won by one foot. The crews rowed to a dead heat in 1877. Students at Oxbridge are indeed the elite—athletically but also as students; unlike pampered American scholarship athletes who enjoy alumni donations and take bird courses like sports management. The Oxbridge oarsmen pursue rigorous, professional courses of study like physics and engineering – the Oxford bowmen is Dr Alexander Woods.
I rowed at a fairly high level in the late 80s and always held the Boat Race as my benchmark. The crews train hard through the dismal English winter. Many are Olympic athletes. The Boat Race is the epitome of amateur athletics in England and represents a commitment to excellence that is unmatched in my view. Oldfield would do better tilting at the corporate elite oblivious to rule of law like the big fossil fuel companies raking in monstrous profits from the raped earth with impunity. We’ll see how he fares swimming in front of their oil tankers.
I am shocked, outraged, and embarrassed by the government’s proposal to prosecute environmental protesters as terrorists. Embarrassed because I fear that our country’s stellar reputation among nations—which dates back to Vimy Ridge in 1917 and burnished by Lester B. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize 40 years later for basically inventing peacekeeping— would be irreparably damaged if the cherished democratic ideal of peaceful protest were to be criminalized. Continue reading
Prime Minister Harper scored a diplomatic coup March 26 signing a long-sought free trade agreement with Japan. This was the product of long negotiating and deft footwork and is to be savoured because of its rarity. Harper has pissed away two golden opportunities to enhance Canada’s stellar standing among nations. Continue reading
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was charged on March 23rd with 17 counts of premeditated murder for the March 11 massacre of Afghan civilians, mostly women and kids, in a village in the volatile Pangwei district. Continue reading
I am often asked about Canada’s accomplishments in Afghanistan. Our longest war cost Canada 158 of her best and brightest. The decision was made in 2004 to leave the relative safety of Kabul for combat operations in volatile Kandahar Province, the birthplace of the Taliban. Continue reading
This blog is dedicated to my beloved grandmother, Muriel Shaw (1919-2012), who so enjoyed a good read.
Canada’s longest war began in early 2002 in eastern Afghanistan, when Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran led his 3rd Battalion PPCLI into battle alongside American troops in Operation Anaconda. Continue reading