Emergency – School and Learning

The School-in-a-Box has become part of the UNICEF standard response in emergencies, used in many back-to-school operations around the world. The kit contains supplies and materials for a teacher and up to 80 students, if taught in double shift classes of 40. The purpose of the kit is to ensure the continuation of children’s education in the first 72 hours of an emergency. 

In addition to the basic school supplies, such as exercise books, pencils, erasers and scissors, the kit also includes a wooden teaching clock, wooden cubes for counting and a set of three laminated posters (alphabet, multiplication and number tables). The kit is supplied in a locked aluminium box, the lid of which can double as a blackboard when coated with the special paint included in the kit. Using a locally developed teaching guide and curriculum, teachers can establish makeshift classrooms almost anywhere.

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The contents of the kit are culturally neutral, can be used anywhere in the world, and are often supplemented by locally purchased products, such as books in local languages, toys, games and musical instruments. Exercise books are printed without margins, so that children who write from left to right or from right to left can use them. Another version of the kit, without the lockable box, the School-in-a-Carton, is also available, as is a replenishment kit.

School-in-a-Box: Guidelines for use [PDF] 

Kit “L’Ecole-en-Boite”: Guide D’Utilisation [PDF] 

La Caja-Escuela: Guia de Uso [PDF] 

UNICEF Image: school-in-a-box
© UNICEF/HQ05-0161/Shehzad Noorani
SRI LANKA: Sports equipment and other games from a UNICEF Recreation Kit are distributed to children at a relief camp for people displaced by the tsunami.

The Recreation Kit

It is now widely appreciated that sport is an effective trauma therapy for children displaced by war and natural disasters. The Recreation Kit is designed to provide that therapy, as a result of experience gained during several emergencies. The kit is suitable for up to 90 children, who can participate in team sports and games under the guidance of a teacher. It includes balls for several types of games, coloured tunics for different teams and a measuring tape for marking play areas and a whistle and scoring slate. Following a gender analysis of the kit, and in light of UNICEF’s priority of girls’ education, additional items aimed at encouraging physical activity and sport amongst girls have also been added.

The selection of play materials stocked in the Supply Division warehouse has been reduced considerably, as more good-quality toys have become available at the local level. A limited number of play materials are stocked for emergency purposes, but the Division’s technical experts have identified a number regional sources of imaginative play materials for young children, that can be utilized when a need arises.

Chevron – Evil Acts

For over three decades, Chevron chose profit over people.

While drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1990, Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor. To save money, Texaco chose to use environmental practices that were obsolete, did not meet industry standards, and were illegal in Ecuador and the United States.

The result was, and continues to be, one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. Contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface streams has caused local indigenous and campesino people to suffer a wave of mouth, stomach and uterine cancer, birth defects, and spontaneous miscarriages. Chevron has never cleaned up the mess it inherited, and its oil wastes continue to poison the rainforest ecosystem.

Today, 30,000 Ecuadorians are demanding justice in a landmark class action lawsuit. Despite Chevron’s repeated efforts to sabotage the trial, an independent court-appointed expert recently deemed Chevron responsible for up to $27 billion in damage.

It is time for shareholders, consumers, and the public to hold Chevron accountable for its actions. Click here to learn more about the history of Chevron’s “Rainforest Chernobyl”, or visit the Take Action section to learn how to get involved in the fight for justice in the Amazon!

About the Campaign

Landing in St Maarten ! Spectacular

This post is due. One long year late, but here it is, for other subjects to follow.

Our holiday last Summer in St Maarten was memorable from all the other ones we have had in the Caribbeans. First, because it was a real holiday this time and not a stop over between work. And secondly, we were going to spend it  with our French friends Christian and Michele. ‘ De bons vivants’ as we would say ..

For those who can get a bit confused about the islands in the Caribbeans, here is short apercu :

The island of Sint Maarten-Saint Martin is the smallest land mass in the world to be shared by two different nations. Only 37 square miles are owned by France and the Netherlands Antilles.

Cliffs at Cupecoy Beach

Cliffs at Cupecoy Beach
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort
Mullet Bay Beach St Maarten

Mullet Bay Beach

The French territory covers about two thirds of the island and is technically a part of Europe and the European Community. The Dutch side is a member island of the Netherlands Antilles and part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but not considered European territory. There is no real border, just modest monuments and signs. The island is known as an almost perfect holiday environment; beaches and nightlife are spectacular, shopping and dining the best in the Caribbean.

To get a feel of the area covered by St. Martin, multiply 6 miles by 6 miles. You got already 36 square miles… But not to worry, this is the biggest small island in the world. Without visiting, its impossible to imagine the variety of landscape, cultures and entertainment to be found here. St. Martin just doesn’t FEEL that small… Its central mountain range provides for a rugged and interesting terrain, with winding roads up and down the hills, through small villages and still plenty of untouched land.

The Caribbean’s largest lagoon is the Simpson Bay Lagoon, landlocked with the exception of two narrow channels with draw bridges. The Lagoon is large enough to have a real sail and is home to a giant fleet of yachts, which are either berthed in one of the luxury marinas or anchored in the sheltered waters. St. Maarten has become the yachting center of the Caribbean, home port to some of the world’s most outrageous megayachts.

St. Martin is the ultimate micro cosmos, home to residents from over 90 different nations. The island broke out of the Antillean group of third-world economies and societies and became the exiting, active, bustling economic center of the Northeastern Caribbean. To be sure, there are problems associated with its rapid growth, but there are also stunning success stories to be told.

Our stay was a daily routine of booze, swimming, beach bathing, lunch, dinner and water sports with beautiful company in the most delightful environment we can ask for. Not to forget the Rum ! From Appero to cocktail, it is present all the time. Our friends introduced us to Maryse who brew her own with local exotic fruits. They macerate in the delightful concoctions for a couple of years before they are ready to bottled. We enjoyed the ‘Rum Bois Bande’ and ‘Love Potion’ … No comments.

Here are our friends on the terrace with Maryse in her magnificient villa overlooking the bay set in a lush tropical garden.

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But before I forget, there is one tremendous thing we experienced there and in Bahamas. That of watching a plane land on almost our head. No Kidding, it is a favourite past time on the island, and everyone knows the arrivals timetable there, as business on the beach gets roaring. Crazy surfers even wait for the blast to get blown away …You can get an idea from this clip behind the landing strip of Juliana Airport :

Appero time al fresco :

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Diving and snorkeling

My Mum told me I chuckled merrily when she first gave me my beach bath ….

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Looks like I do till now. I love the sea. I am a true islander. Happiest when I am by the beach and the sea. Nothing else matters, life seems restful and all seems to come back to order. Being born in Mauritius, I could only follow the nation’s favourite pasttime. Picnicking at the beach, call it a day, a public holiday, a celebration, Mauritians will find any opportunity to be by the beach.

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The whole family spends langorous, hedonistic and lazy hours under the shade of the casuarina trees swayed by the gentle breeze nimbling at delicious snacks in between runs of swimming in the lagoon. Wet and sticky with sand, everyone’s pleasure is tolling day long on the stretches of gorgeous beaches Mauritius is famous for. And to the more adventurous, comes the snorkeling. Yet to the more adventurous, diving takes a special place depending on time one can devote to follow this passion.

Mauritius undoubtedly shares the reputation of one of the most sought after and reputed diving spots on this planet. What makes this distinction ? Well, the rich variety of marine life, the crystal clear water, the temperature, and the accessibility ticks all the right boxes to a memorable diving experience. I spent all my childhood and adolescence by the beach. I learnt swimming quite late though, at 12 years old. Since then, I took part in many national competitions and won a few too.  But my dream was to be able to dive. And to start, I tried my  first snorkeling … it was a disaster ! I choked, spat, drank sea water … and my eyes hurt and burnt for some days. However, my first diving experience was painless. It was like anticipating agony at the dentist and it turns out to be smooth and eventless. My first initiation was given to me by a friend who now runs the first diving centre on the island.

It is nothing equal to any terrestrial experience. I saw a yellow and black sea eel ( below is a picture showing, but its not mine, courtesy to Nautilus), and shoals of simmering fish in a multitude of colours which all …. seemed a bit blurred and grey at first. But later, it was joy. A feeling of awe, intense euphoria with that frustrating and exploding sense of wanting to shout without being able to.

Scuba divers in Mauritius are spoilt for choice of dive sites. There are numerous dive sites strewn all over the island. Beginners can start at the shallow side of the ocean whereas experienced divers can head straight for the more adventurous dive sites such as cliffs, caverns, reefs, pinnacles and wrecks. One of the well-known and popular dive sites in Mauritius is the Cathedral that is located off the Flic en Flac on the western coast of Mauritius. Other dive sites in Mauritius include the Whale Rock and Roche Zozo that is an underwater rock pinnacle and the submerged crater near Ile Ronde.

Can’t wait to get my paddlers on again this Summer ….. Some nice pics at this site, click to see them : Panoramio

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My favourite Comics in French !

Oh Yes !

Many of you reading this would be flabbergasted by this honest preference of mine. I grew up reading French comics or rather reading them in French only. Of course, I consider the Belgium ones as ‘French’ too … So, naturally I can relate better to French cartoons that DC Comics or Mangas. Over the years, I have read many others but till date, my heart skips a beat whenever I see a new French cartoon album. When I am in Paris, my most favourite place apart from many others, remains the FNAC on Champs Elysees. I spend hours drooling, relaxing, skipping, browsing, reading and just taking it all.

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I would not be able to enumerate the number of cartoons albums I have read nor seen on TV. But I can distinctively remember my first read. It was a Tintin. A revelation ! A pleasure to inhabit my psyche for many years to come. It was ‘Tintin au Pays du Congo’. There was born probably my first love for graphism. I remember the glossy hard cover and the inside cover’s vignettes. It was written in such simple French that it was like seeing the scenes alive with the direct, fuss free illustrations. I marveled at the eccentricities of Captain Haddock, and loved Tintin’s dog, Snowy or Milou as I prefer it in French. I discovered with eager interest and complete devotion all the other titles gulping them down with avidity each time I could lay hand upon them. From the mutiple adventures that Tintin followed as a reporter, I learnt many aspects of other countries along side. I did not need to learn how to read from an encyclopeadia to know that there were Opium parlours in China, that the ancient Aztecs worshipped the sun, that there was oil in Iraq, that the Zappatas ruled by booze, cigars and guns. I find this account of Dom Doly similar to mine:

To most adults, therefore, Tintin is living the “never grow up” dream, the sort of life bereft of responsibilities, financial worries and basic drudgery to which we all aspired before reality set in. As a kid, however, I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t the appeal – I just loved reading about Tintin’s globetrotting. I travelled the world through his pages, taking in every gloriously exotic detail, every curious foreign trait. A vast part of my passion for travelling and exploration comes from having devoured so many of these extraordinary foreign adventures. At the age of seven, I used to have a huge map of the world up on my bedroom wall in Beirut, and I would put pins into every recognisable destination that Tintin had visited. I would tell anyone who cared to listen that one day, I too would visit these places.

On my travels, I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been in some far-flung destination, suddenly had this weird feeling of dejà vu, and realised that I was experiencing a Tintin flashback. There was Prague in the early 1990s – I was a diplomat there for a while and kept seeing striking similarities in both the architecture and the politics between Czechoslovakia and Syldavia, the East European setting for King Ottokar’s Sceptre. I even came across the tomb of a King Ottokar in the capital’s cathedral.

When travelling in China, I found myself in a small town two hours south of Beijing, in a Herge street scene straight out of the pages of The Blue Lotus. One of the little shops on the street was even selling a wooden statue of Snowy, Tintin’s dog. The shopkeeper had no idea who Snowy or Tintin were, it was just a weird coincidence. Obviously, I bought it, and the statue now sits in my loo as a reminder of the weird connections that travel so often throws up.

The really extraordinary thing is that Herge, Tintin’s creator, had never actually travelled abroad when he was writing the books. He was an obsessive hoarder of photographs, newspaper clippings and drawings, and he used them to make every detail of the books completely authentic. Every car, uniform or building depicted in the stories were painstakingly researched, and this helped to bring hyperreality to the adventures. Is it possibly this detached view of the world that allowed him to make absolutely everywhere seem so desirable and attractive to me? If he had actually macheted his way through insect-ridden swamps or seen African poverty in its rawest form, then maybe the books would have been more politically correct but somehow less magical.

Tintin in the Congo has recently come under a lot of flak for its depiction of the Africans as dim-witted colonial subjects, and for Tintin’s wholesale slaughter of almost every animal he encounters. I happen to agree with the criticism. I understand why it would have been written as it was at the time. But I’ve started to read Tintin to my six-year-old daughter Parker, and I can’t quite square why someone so obviously good and “nice” behaves so oddly in the Belgian Congo. She’s a little too young for lessons on the excesses of European colonial rule, so we’ve just avoided this one so far.

On the plus side, she has become fascinated, as I was, by all the countries that Tintin visits, and currently wants to go to Nepal to find the Yeti (one of the adventures that I haven’t done yet, so I’m up for it, we just have to ask Mum).

Tintin’s travels have always seemed to me to be in the same vein as early James Bond, in that each story unfolds in some exotic global environment as yet unsullied by mass tourism. As with Bond, I’ve often tried to think of places that Herge didn’t cover. Bond covered most of the British Empire, although I think that we have yet to see an adventure in either Australia or New Zealand. Herge also ignored Australia and New Zealand (apart from commencing an ill-fated flight from Sydney in Flight 714), but manages to cover most of the rest of the world. If you ever see Tintin sitting next to you on a plane, get off immediately. It’s very rare that he ever steps on to one without something exciting happening to him. I guess airport security was a little less taxing in his day.

As a kid, however, I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t the appeal – I just loved reading about Tintin’s globetrotting. I travelled the world through his pages, taking in every gloriously exotic detail, every curious foreign trait. A vast part of my passion for travelling and exploration comes from having devoured so many of these extraordinary foreign adventures.

Recently, my living in Vietnam gave  another little surprise !. Here, there is a fascination of Tintin. They exist in all forms of tourist objects from tshirts, embroidered fine linen to lacquer paintings. Probably, the remnants of a past French colonial past. It is translated among many other things into lacquer paintings, a technique that the Vietnamese have mastered over the centuries. It is the only country known in the world which still uses traditional natural sap resin to make lacquer, unlike many Asian countries which have been taken over by synthetic dyes and chemicals. One can find all the best of Tintin illustrations reproduced in fine lacquer here. They exist in a few sizes, but the A4 and A3 sizes are the most popular as they can be heavy, being mounted on board. Should I say that I own a couple modestly ? . They are 2 small A4 sizes, handy to take with us when we leave.

If you want to buy any of Tintin’s lacquer, drop me a word.

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Tintin in lacquer

The biggest thrill came when I first saw an animated film of Tintin. It was that of ‘Tintin et le temple du soleil’. Pure Bliss.

Who can deny the peals of laughter that enlivened our days when we read the adventures of Tintin and his companions.

Next on my list came the famous cowboy who can shoot quicker than his shadow ! Yes, weare talking of Lucky Luke.

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Jolly Jumper, Ma Dalton, Dalton Brothers and Rantanplan featuring regularly in Lucky Luke’s adventures were rich of life in the Far West. My initial response was that of getting used to the elaborate details that the illustrations came with. Gone was the sobriety and visual simplicity that was present in Tintin. Dynamism and loud noise ruled in Lucky Luke. But the lonesome cowboy walking down the sunset triggered a nostalgic feeling wach time the chapter closed on an adventure. Ready to discover the next.

But my ribs tickled more with Asterix and Obelisk. The lovable contrasting duo of two of the most famous Gauls.

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Asteris brought me the love good natured humour and friendship. Every time I am in Brittany ( ancient Gaul ), I adore visiting the menhirs or dolmens. Walking in the woodland areas, I always fantasise that I will see a running boar being chased by Obelix. O also think of Becassine, another of my favourite cartoon character based on the typical Breton maid. And the magic of the medicinal herbs and ingredients of the magic potion tickles my spine when I am in Wales. Another Celtic country sharing the same family root as the Gauls. The land of Merlin. All things said, I think each and every account and details of my favourite comic books still inhabit me and would always travel with me.

I cannot fail to mention Iznogoud, the Grand Vizir of El Haroun, the Calife who tries incessantly at attempting at the latter’s life to claim his throne. Good versus evil all punctuated with infectious humour makes Iznogoud of my fail free potion of lift me up comic books.

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