Photo courtesy of Martin Hay

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A new recruit - the crew in the office

I'm back in Juba and yesterday our newest member of staff arrived from the UK, Claire. here she is with her new desk. The UK office sent her over with her very own table sign showing her name and job title. Here she is showing it off:

Claire, our new Grants and Information Coordinator. She likes beer and Tottenham Hotspur - we connect on the former.
When I took a picture of Claire in her new role, the rest of the team complained that I was showing favouritism. So, to ensure that you know that I love all of my team equally, here's the rest of them.

This is Anna - isn't she glam? Anna is our Health Advisor. She likes fashion magazines and things being orderly - we connect on the latter.
This is Denis, our WASH Advisor. I don't think I gave him enough time to prepare for the photo, and he looks a bit upset at me. However, on the rare occasions when we have BBQs, Denis often provides the soundtrack with a delightful mix of African tunes and power ballads.
This is Dawit, our resident expert in most things and also our Food Security Advisor. Dawit likes to pretend he's not interested and listening whenever Anna and I delve into a girly chat in the office. Dawit often joins in after we've called his bluff.
And this is me at my desk, with Anna laughing at me in the background. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


I've just spent 3 weeks in one of our field-sites, a place called Omdurman. I really liked the place and enjoyed my stay there. It was much more peaceful than Juba. I liked the rice and the goat stew and the mud huts, the outdoor showers and the long-drops. I enjoyed working with the team and was inspired by their commitment and what they'd achieved.

While I was there I was helping the team to gather some data about the impact of their programmes. Here's a map the local staff drew of the programme area. It proved a vital tool for planning the data collection.

Map of programme area drawn by local staff.
I didn't take any pictures when I was in the field because I'm scared of causing offence. However, in-between working really hard and other such noble things, I managed to take some pictures of the compound.

The tukuls that we live and sleep in.
Here's a lizard on the side of mine
The borehole behind our compound. Its been broken for 3 months so collecting the water for each day's use is a bit of a logistical challenge. Of course, we have a car, which is more than the average person in this area, so we can't complain really.
My feet in my tukul.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Gemma - not in Juba!

So, after 4 months in Juba, I'm now in the field doing something field-y. As I packed my bags to come, it made me feel like I was going on a Geography field-trip. My mind shot through all the field-trips that I've been on, with the long car journeys, photographing and making notes about everything, using my clip-board and head torch (not necessarily at the same time) and the sensation that every question you ask could provide useful orientation and data. Am I a geographer - yes! Am I a geek, yes yes!

Anyway, I'm here in Aweil East in Northern Bahr el Ghazal to help the team carry out a KAP (knowledge, attitudes and practices) Survey. I cannot explain how exciting it is to be here doing this after spending 4 months in HQ writing funder proposals and reports. Hopefully I'll get around to taking some pictures and provide further info in due course.

All that's left to say is: woo! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Consumption patterns of a S. Sudanese urbanite

So, this inspired me today. In England there’s no end of stuff to spend your money on; DVDs, snack food, clothes, magazines, theatre, dinner out, a music concert… the list goes on!

I stumbled upon the average % of money spent by households on various things in South Sudan and found the stats startling when I compare it to my spending habits back home. Say I earned £2000 a month (I wish!), and had a South Sudanese’s spending patterns, here’s where my money would be going:

Food (69%): £1380
Education (2%): £40
Health (5%): £100
Clothing (4%): £80
Utilities, incl. bills (5%): £100
Transportation, incl. communication (6%): £120
Personal care (3%): £60
Housing, incl. maintenance, repairs, appliances, utensils and cleaning (5%): £100
Recreation (0%): £0
Other (1%): £20

Well, it helps me to put the rising price of vegetables in Tesco Metro into perspective - £1380, per month?! You can get a lot of courgettes for that. But, perhaps I’d be likely to spend more on my food if my rent and bills totalled £200 per month. Not sure what they mean by “personal care”, pedicures, perhaps?

A graph showing consumption by state. The percentages I use are based on the average for a person living in an urban area in S. Sudan.
Of course, this is very rudimentary, and I understand that it is problematic to compare my spending to that of the average South Sudanese person since this is based on percentages, and if the South Sudanese economy was stronger I’m sure the % they spend on food would reduce also. However, it does make me wonder – rent and bills aside – is it necessary to spend all that I do on gadgets and frivolities? Does it enhance my wellbeing to spend my money on more stuff? Should I quit spending money on more stuff and buy the finest at Waitrose instead?! What would I do with all that excess money if I were to be fortunate enough to earn some, someday?!