Packing not going well!!!


Absurdly long day today starting with the total nightmare of hugely swollen knee joints – big ouch and very miserable…

limped down the stairs in the manner of a wounded bod and went to physio. The lovely Nick looked at me and said humph, we chatted (he also had big trip disrupted by the ash cloud) and he fiddled with my knees and then I went over to the Rheumatology clinic where a very nice nurse (under instruction from the even nicer Consultant) stuck a needle full of steroids into me … my Olympic dream ruined!!!! Steroids and an anti inflamatory called narproxin – both apparently rot your stomach in due course and one of them weakens your bones (not good in my case!!) – but if they get me through the next month I’m well chuffed.

However, I was assured later my own GP that it was a ‘vetinary’ dose and would render me cheerful for weeks and help allergic reactions to everything and help the knee issue in as far as anything could.

So – day finally started in ernest at nearly 3pm – frenetic fingers skimming over worn out keys, work done around 9pm and time to have a quick dinner with my brother – over from Hong Kong for one night only – checked in, printed off tickets, photocopied passports etc etc etc and now thougth I’d bid you good night this last night before the adventure begins.

I have a schedule which includes inaugurations of water treatment plants, opening of blocks in primary schools, assessing possible new projects and hopefully seeing a few leemurs – it is pretty relentless but very exciting. A challenge with sore knees but hey life’s too short not to embark on adventure.

One of the highlights of the day was being given my own #hastag on Twitter for the trip – thank you @willperrin for coming up with #MadasEllie … so if you want to follow the adventure on Twitter use that as a search term.

Busy morning tomorrow – hunting for suitcase, clothes, ribbon cutting type dress, spider proof outfits and of course nipping out to have legs waxed – a girl must look her best before a former Ambassador!!

Please click on – it’s all in a hugely important casue as I hope to show over ocming weeks with this blog.

Night then … oh and thank you for all the phone calls and other messages of support on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere hugely appreciated – now give some of your money!!

3 days this time and I’m on the plane to Antananarivo …

so much to get done in the meantime and not helped by the fact that my irritating auto immune system has caused my knee to swell up again – or was it the dancing in cowboy boots on Saturday night in Brixton, or falling over at Kings Cross running for the train last night. Humph- AND we’ve a new government in the UK to get my head around.

Anyway – looking forward to sitting back on the plane and breathing a big sigh of relief having crammed about a year’s work, a hair cut, packing, physio, knee inspection, lawn mowing, conference attending and so on before Saturday evening … am thinking that my case will have to be squashed shut rather than the neat flat packing we are all encouraged to do by those annoyingly perfect people on the TV.

Have given out millions of my little cards so far leading people to this page – so hello if that’s how you found me here – and don’t forget to click the big donate button on … I’m going to raise awareness of the social issues in Madagascar and the immense poverty and the amazing work that the Kitchen Table Charities Trust have been able to support out there (mainly through the Madagascar Development Fund)

So – you just have to read and click donate and send words of encouragement – I have to get there, deal with it all, blog, tweet, facebook (yes there is a Kitchen Table Charities Trust page on Facebook) and shout all I can about what I find there AND try and deal with the 740 species of spider that will be waiting just behind Brian Donaldson to meet me off the plane on Sunday lunch time.

This time next week, ash clouds willing, Cambridge will be a very long way away and I’ll be settling into a bed in Antananarivo having met up with Brian Donaldson and enjoyed an afternoon of getting bearings and a first taste of Malagasy cuisine. I will have seen a little of a beautiful city, and experienced some of the extreme poverty of the nation’s capital first hand.

Tana as the city is known is described in Wikipedia as being, “situated in the center of the island (of Madagascar) length-wise, and 145 km (90 miles) away from the eastern coast. The city occupies a commanding position, being built on the summit and slopes of a long and narrow rocky ridge, which extends north and south for about 4 km (2 mi) and rising at its highest point to about 200 m (660 ft) above the extensive rice plain to the west, although the town is at about 1,275 m (4,183 ft) above sea level. It is Madagascar’s largest city and is its administrative, communications, and economic center.”

Antananarivo at sunset (2005)

The description in the Lonely Planet guide introduces a colourful, noisy, chaotic city – home over 6 million of the capital’s 20 million population and has a bustle described by one website as putting the frenzy of New York to shame.

However, it seems that the charm of the picture of the sunset over the hill side city hides a very real picture extreme poverty. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and Tana will be a stark reminder of this according to many of the blogs and travellogues I have read.

So – I sit here now having had a blissfully happy night last night with friends in Brixton – wondering how I’ll deal with arriving there jetlagged, excited and apprehensive.

I flew into Kampala a few years ago, the journey from the airport to the city was beautiful and shocking in equal measure – banana trees, bouganvillia flowers, cattle in the road, people everywhere, lots of green and every other shop a coffin shop – people walking along with coffins on their heads. Uganda is a nation of relative wealth by comparison to Madagascar.

In Madagascar a recent ILO, UNICEF and INSTAT study found that about 1.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 years have to work, most performing hazardous occupations. A child born in Madagascar has only a 21% chance of living to the age of 40. Some more facts and figures here

So – I’m excited, I’m nervous, I feel daunted and challenged by the journey, and determinted to do all I can do to help people understand that Madagascar isn’t a thriving tourist location, brim full of furry talking cartoon creatures, but is one of the worlds most bio-diverse, beautiful and poorest nations.

I’ve got much more research to do – but if you’re interested I’ve found this link helpful (if you scroll down a little – past the reference to the talking cartoon creatures movie)

Interesting also to read the current Foreign Office advice to people travelling to Madagascar and staying in Antananrivo. is where I’m doing my fundraising for the Kitchen Table Charities Trust – you can help by following the link and clicking on the donate button…

Frustrated by the UK election results?

Concerned Clegg will sell your soul to Cameron?

Don’t believe anything you do can make a difference to the world?

You can make a huge difference – here’s how:

* In many poor countries children cannot go to school unless they have uniforms. It costs just £4 in Tanzania to provide two uniforms and a few exercise books and pens for a child – but when you are dirt poor that’s a huge sum.

Four pounds can change a life
* There are millions of people who are blind from cataracts and, therefore, utterly destitute. A charity hospital in Dar es Salaam will perform a cataract operation for £10 – not that they turn anyone away.

Ten pounds to see again.
* Tens of millions of people contract the worst form of malaria because they have no protection against mosquitoes. It costs less than £1 to supply someone with a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide.

One pound to protect someone from a deadly disease.
* It costs as little as £25 to help a woman buy a reconditioned sewing machine so that she can run a little business and feed her family.

Twenty-five pounds to give a family a future
* It costs approximately £500 to build two water points that will provide a decent water supply for a village of a few hundred people. This means the women and children no longer have to walk many miles every day to collect water that is often rank and disease-ridden.

Five hundred pounds to transform a village
* It costs £35 to cover all school costs for a child in primary school for a year.

A child who can read is a child with a future.
* For £100 a year a teenage boy girl can be taught a skill – carpentry or dressmaking or even computer skills. They become self-sufficient and the whole community benefits. The future looks brighter.

£100 for a real chance in life.

Please click donate … thank you so much

So far I’ve raised over £1200 for Kitchen Table Charities Trust to support projects like those outlined here – I want to get to £5000 – please help … this time you really can make a huge difference – every penny goes to the people who need it most.

(c) Ellie Stoneley & Kitchen Table Charities Trust 2010

that is now a statistical fact …

I had 3 hours sleep … fascinated by all the too’ing and fro’ing in the UK election – some good wins – Julian Huppert in Cambridge and some sad losses, Jim Knight in Dorset in particular … good that no BNP victories and truly marvellous to have Caroline Lucas as the first Green MP in Parliament. It’s going to be interesting to see how Markets and the rest of the world respond to all this. I think the media have come out so badly in the UK – whipping up the concept of Cleggmania, the insane furore around ‘bigotgate’ and the Tory ‘tits’ farce in the Sun and on and on …

Anyway we are where we are and the next few days will bring coallition from one side or another – we can only hope that it makes for a more considered Parliament. It works elsewhere – so maybe a good time with Europe and UK in such dire financial straits to have forced discussion. How will the ‘country’ respond? That remains to be seen – the media and the party leaders need to show some strength at this point.

Sleep on it seems a cunning plan in the short term.

Anyway – another election took place – in Mauritius – over 70% turn out there and the Prime Minister was relected

Mauritius is regarded as one of Africa’s few social and economic success stories.

My pre election nerves are setting in …I really really hope that all who are elected in both the UK and Mauritian elections, will strive to improve conditions, not just locally, but in so many parts of the world where so little can help the lives of so many.

There are two things I would really like people to do on 6th May if they are UK (or Mauritian) voters…

but first an update on a revoltingly hectic whirl at Ellie HQ … Having failed to fly on the intended date due to interference from the volcano (Madagascar flight now rescheduled for 15th May – hurrah), I’ve been making full use of my time… list in no particular order;

– hen weekend in Birmingham (Janice)
– christening in Bexleyheath ( #babyJoe )
– floors sanded and first coat of varnish applied
– work work work (and looking for work from end June)
– gardening, picking up sticks and peering at tadpoles in Mother’s pond
– doing website for the Friends of Stourbridge Common
– taken to theatre for the Glass Menagerie
– took friend for her birthday trip to theatre for Guys and Dolls (surely an inspiration for Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus)
– trying to unswell my re-swollen knee (booooo)
– being elected onto the PCC at church
– walking on very ugly but wonderful MBT shoes to help flakey knees
– trying to get huge stain out of carpet
– drinking small lake of Margaritas
– finding lots of Malagasy twitterers
– team building with globaltolerance
– learning how to best use the Flip camera that wonderful Simon Berry from lent me for the trip
– looking at old photos of my parents in a life long before I landed when they were black and white pictured and setting off on their own adventures in Africa
– considering social enterprise and government
– organising two conferences
– burning toast

ooohhhh and most importantly I have been busy FUNDRAISING … currently around £1200 raised for Kitchen Table Charities Trust – huge thanks to all who have helped so far, hugely hugely appreciated – but I want more – aiming to raise £5000 please click donate and encourage everyone else to as well!!!

So – back to where I started… Two small things from which, as the song goes, big things will come…

If you only do two things on election day 6th May 2010 then make them these two:
VOTE – vote with pride, vote from your heart and vote for compassion (people fought and died for the right to vote)


– thank you – sorry to be cheeky – it’s all in an incredibly good cause as you will read on the just giving page.

Having done both of the above, the rest of the day is yours and you will feel so much happier!!

On tap

Just look at the expression on these children’s faces – the first time ever in their village that they had been able to access fresh water by turning on a tap and not walking for 2 hours to fetch it from a well in the hills above the village – all for the cost of £1,700.

Go on click donate and vote!

Thank you
Copyright © 2010 Ellie Stoneley

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