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Marios Cleovoulou

2002 Newsletter

Marios Cleovoulou 

Greeting to you all!

Well, this year was a total change of pace as I've starting my own international volunteer projects organisation called AidCamps International, to offer volunteers the opportunity to participate in short term development aid projects in the third world.  This has meant that I've spent most of the year at home, which now doubles as the AidCamps International "office".

Bahamas

I started off the year, from January to March, on the Greenforce Coral Reef Biodiversity Survey expedition on the Bahamian island of Andros, as an extension of the October to December phase there summarised in the 2001 Newsletter.

England, England, England

I then spent most of the rest of the year at home working on AidCamps International; advertising for and recruiting volunteers for the first project in January 2003 to build an extension to a handicapped children's school in Tamil Nadu, India, and generally putting together all the behind-the-scenes things necessary.

This actually proved to be less effort than I'd expected, and I had no trouble getting 15 volunteers for the project (despite a nail-biting period when India and Pakistan looked ready to go to war with each other).  In fact, it proved so popular we expanded it to 20 volunteers, and were still turning people away.   So, I could have gone off and done some voluntary work myself, but by the time I realised I'd have the time free it was too late to organise anything.  Oh well!

Having been reassured by the success in getting volunteers for the first AidCamp I then set about contacting other organisations with a view to expanding the AidCamps concept to projects in other developing countries.

KenyaKenya

At the beginning of December I went to Kenya for a week to finalise the arrangements for an AidCamp there in September 2003 to build a community health centre in the rural village of Buburi, close to Lake Victoria.

It order to check everything out it was necessary to visit all the places the three-week AidCamp would go in just a few days, so there was a lot of running around, checking hotels, museums, parks, transport arrangements, etc.

Village scenes in Buburi
Woman making cassava flour
Woman making cassava flour
Pumping water at the well
Pumping water at the well
The village hair dressing salon
The village hair dressing salon

The experience in the village itself is going to be really special for both the volunteers and the locals.  It is far off the normal tourist trail, indeed, I asked a bunch of kids (about 7-11 year olds) if they'd ever seen a "mzungu" (white man) before, and they said, yes -- one!  (Someone who had visited their school a couple of years ago).  My presence caused a lot of friendly curiosity, a whole group of us is going to be a major and unprecedented event in the area.

Black and white colobus
Black and white colobus
Waterbuck
Waterbuck

As part of the planning process I spent a rushed couple of hours in Mt. Elgon National Park, where the AidCamp will take the volunteers one weekend.  During my brief visit I saw baboons, colobus monkeys, water bucks, african buffalo, and dassies (like large guinea pigs).  I didn't see any of the salt-digging elephants that the park is known for, but I did spot some fresh elephant droppings!

And Next...

I'll be in India for the whole of January, running the Handicapped Children's School AidCamp there.  After that I'll be making brief trips to Cameroon at the end of February and to the Philippines in April to set up AidCamps in those countries.  Come September I'll be spending a couple of weeks in Kenya to start off the Community Health Centre AidCamp there.

Maybe in-between I'll get a chance to go off for a short time and do some of my own voluntary work -- archaeology in Italy would be nice! -- but that remains to be seen.

As always, I hope I'll meet some of you, somewhere, sometime.  Hopefully on an AidCamps International project!

Marios

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