The human journey 

This weekend, while travelling, I watched a thought provoking film called ‘The Good Lie‘. The film ‘follows’ four very young Sudanese refugees (some of the Lost Boys of Sudan) who are forced to walk +900 kilometres through Sudan, to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, to flee Sudan after their families lives were taken during the Sudanese civil war.

What made this film particularly thought provoking was not the atrocities they witnessed on their long journey through Sudan, and how these experiences affected their future lives, but more importantly, the way people are treated in refugee camps, and, if refugees are ‘lucky’ to be relocated to another country, how hard it is for them to fit in and to settle.

This problem is still current. Kakuma Refugee Camp was founded in 1992 and today, it still serves over 179,000 people who have fled wars and violence in neighbouring countries (Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea and Uganda). 179000 people ‘trapped’ in this “small city” of thatched roof huts, tents, and mud abodes. Living inside the camp is equally prison and exile. Inside this small city at the edge of the desert, children age into adulthood and hope fades to resignation; a kind of hostage life for many refugees.

Watching ‘The Good Lie’ and reading more about Kakuma has made me even more sympathetic to the plight of the thousands of refugees who land every day on our European shores from Syria, Eritrea and beyond, to try to find sanctuary and a future in Europe. These people do not choose to leave their country; they choose to live. They choose to offer their children some form of hope for the future. I don’t believe that these refugees can be condemned for wanting the same things that we all want in our lives; safety, love and belonging, esteem and education.

I have heard so many refugees on television say that they are humans, so why are we treating them like animals. We are indeed all on a human journey. Fellow Europeans, what we need to do, is to open up our hearts and minds to the issues that are playing out around us in the world; and to ensure that our local councillors and politicians make the right decisions to accept as many refugees as we can into Europe and the UK. You can also help. Choose the charity of your choice; give money, clothing, your time but, give.

We are living in the best of times and the worst of times and realise that given different circumstances, that this could just as easily be you.

Putting your network to good use

Have you ever counted how many family members, friends, acquaintances or business relationships you have? No, neither have I. But, if I rely on Linked in and Facebook, I know in excess of 1000 people and, I have a reach in excess of 14000 people.

Knowing each of these individuals has absolutely no benefit however, it’s what I do with this network of people that can make all the difference. How often do you connect people in your network to one another? And, how can you put your network to good use?

Last week I attended a Child and Youth Finance International event in Amsterdam. The first of many to come. Founder, Jeroo Billimoria, is a woman on a mission who makes things happen and someone who bangs on doors and makes her network, work for her. This event was attended by hundreds of business people, NGOs and individuals from around the globe. I met some very interesting people doing some exceptional work; Development initiatives network in Nigeria and Unicef in Nepal. People from organisations that need help in order to help others. Working for a global organisation has its benefits, so I immediately connected my Deloitte colleagues in India and Nigeria to the NGOs that I had met, in the hope that benefit will be found.

You can start closer to home though. A friend, Marianne Sassen, recently started her own company in the Netherlands, Marianne Communiceert. She consults businesses in communication strategy and translating this strategy to successful business activities. She realised that many local NGOs don’t have the financial resources to use a consultant, so she hooked up with a filmmaker, Tafelberg Films, to offer a day’s free communication advice and the production of a promotional film to a charitable organisation that takes the time to upload their business plan to their website, Operatie Spotlight. One, very lucky charity in the Netherlands will ‘win’ some free consulting work. A worthy activity, close to home, which I could immediately tweet and upload to my linked in profile. I know many charities that would be thrilled to receive this free advice.

Putting our networks to good use is therefore easier than you’d imagine. Think as local, regional or as global as your network will take you and remember, that a little (for you) can go a very long way for someone else.