Human Wellbeing in the 21st Century

About 4 years ago I won a memorable hand of poker at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Casino (the one with the musical fountain display out the front, and which George and Brad robbed in Ocean’s Eleven).  Two red aces and $200 better off, and I’ve not since then allowed myself the chance of losing these winnings by making a return visit.

If I was a gambling man, I would put money on the fact that next time round I’d almost certainly come away empty-handed…

The Bellagio Initiative, a much newer institution than the casino, caught my eye last year not just because of the euphoric memories its name stirred within me, but because of the organisations who had established it, and the mission they had set themselves – namely, the collective pursuit of answers to some of the world’s most pressing and current questions. Continue reading

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Women’s empowerment: the responsibility of business?

Yesterday, I spoke at a United Nations Global Compact event in Delhi, convened by CARE India, and debating the role and responsibilities of business, in terms of how they address women’s empowerment.

As catchy opening lines go, it’s very possible that half the readership of this blog (yes, both of you) may not instantly be gripped by the idea of 1,500 words on anything just described.  You’d be forgiven for this, of course – it is Friday, a week from Christmas, and there are better things to be doing.

Believe me, there was a moment stepping up to join the panel yesterday when being an Englishman and talking about women’s empowerment and business in the Indian context (during New Delhi’s own centenary week since it was first established under colonial rule) made me wonder what I’d in fact let myself in for. Continue reading

A message to all humans: a blog from CARE Pakistan staff

In Bangkok today a 5 day public holiday begins as the city takes down some of its flood defences in an attempt to ease the mounting pressure on the capital from the trillions of tonnes of water surrounding it, mainly from the north of the country.

Many residents cannot simply leave, and are hunkering down for a weekend of major flooding as a result.

This news has made UK media front pages (online at least) today, and may well keep its prominence in the next 48 hours. 

We have friends in Bangkok, who recently left Saigon to have a baby in one of the hospitals there, and who seemed to be in good spirits this afternoon when they texted us, but who are of course keeping their hopes up that the situation is not as dire as forecast over the coming days. Continue reading

Cup of tea anyone?

I’m at the Galleface hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, and halfway through my latest work trip.  Various meetings and seminars brought me out here, but I was lucky enough yesterday to be taken “up country” to visit some of CARE Sri Lanka’s project work in the country’s tea plantations. 

I have stayed at the Galleface before, and find myself again fascinated by its heritage.  Built in the 1860’s there are many original features, including one of the doormen, called Kuttan, who is one of the longest serving employees – possibly in the world.  The first car Prince Philip bought sits in the hotel’s museum.  The Prince was a young midshipman serving in the Royal Navy in what was known then as Ceylon, in 1940, at the time he bought the car, a 1935 model Standard Nine.  The car cost £12, which is about the price you’ll pay in new money for a meal for 2 in the hotel’s restaurant, 71 years later.  

The signage here is particularly good.  Inside the bathrooms: “Guests are asked not to bathe outside the bathroom”, and at the top of the stairs: “Galleface respects your decision not to smoke in the hotel.  Why not take the healthy option of the stairs, it’s only two floors down.” Continue reading

Incredible India

There is nowhere quite like India to make you appreciate living life in the present tense.  Cherishing the moment, and worrying not what tomorrow might bring.

This appears to be the case at all levels of Indian society (in general, sweeping terms) and plays out 1.2 billion times a day in the words, actions and exploits of the second most populated country on the planet.  It is also why writing this post whilst I am still in India seems apt.

It is currently Tuesday 13th September, and I am at Chennai airport awaiting my flight to Bangkok.  My mission here for the past 9 days has been to partake in discussions about CARE’s future role in India, and to visit CARE projects in rural communities.

On this very same day, 5 years ago, I walked into CARE’s offices in London and started work that would take me to various countries in Asia, but none so bombarding on the senses, and so dichotomous in every aspect, as India. Continue reading