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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Rethinking Somalia

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Here's your chance to rethink the Somalia we hear about on the radio/TV. This post is by Nicola Baird 

The rains failed big time in 2010. It's full of pirates. War lords. What about the famine? Oh we all know about Somalia - just from hearing the headline news which sometimes leave worries about local politics, celebrities and the global financial crisis to focus on the hundreds of thousands of displaced, or ailing Somalian people.

On the bus I met 14-year-old Fatemeh* who ticks the Somali box. Actually she's a Londoner, and has never been to Somalia. But she told me how strange it is listening to her parents' stories about their homeland. "My mum makes it sound so nice, the things she did, it's nothing like the news."

But this year there is a terrible drought - the worst in six decades - which is leaving millions of people without food. Many have already moved to Kenya and Ethiopia in a bid to find food.

Leaving this huge rain failure aside (is this another sign of climate change?), I'm beginning to think that journalists - or at any rate the conventions about reporting news - are doing us all a great disservice. There is a history on BBC News here which reads OK, but as headlines it is a litany of disasters.

By focusing on the bad stuff, we get very strange impressions about our world neighbours.

Or in the UK, our real neighbours. The Islington Somali Community puts it like this:

"Telling the story of Somalis in Britain is hard because there is a lack of nationwide research. The 2001 census suggested there were 43,000 Somalis in the UK. But other experts suggest at least 95,000 and as many as 250,000 with estimates of 80,000 living in London alone. While they represent one of the largest ethnic minorities, the only significant research has been localised case studies. These tend to show that Somalis are a hard-to-reach and marginalised group whose voices are unrepresented in national debates and as a result are largely ignored by both the national and local mainstream services."

My experience of Somalians in the UK is smart people, definitely shy, perhaps from a constant sense of embarrassment about their country's pop-up profile.

Of course Somalia has massive problems. Indeed my 10-year-old daughter Nell is looking forward to a non-uniform day at her school (it costs £1 to avoid the uniform) in a bid to raise money for Somalian famine victims. They should make £300 by the end of the day, even without a single cake sold. I just wish I could tell Fatemeh something more positive about her mother's country when I next bump into her on public transport.

Have your own non-uniform fundraiser
Oxfam is helping support Somalia, to make a donation see here.

*not her real name

1 comment:

kokorako said...

From Nell: the school made £500 in total!