Monday, October 31, 2005

Helen Flavel, an Australian philanthropist

Helen Flavel is an Adelaide woman whom I had never heard of until this week's Bali Update arrived in my inbox. I did read in Bali about the terrible conditions in an old folks' home which someone else had done up in a fit of kindness. Old folk are of course generally looked after by their families, but if you don't have a family you can run into trouble; the government's largesse is not all that large.

Here is an extract from the Bali Update article:
"Last year Nyoman Sukadana asked Ron and I to visit a very elderly woman who lived with her widowed daughter and her 10 year old grandson in a tiny one roomed house. The aim of the visit was to see if we could have electricity installed. The house was in a very poor condition and the room where they slept, was so dark it was difficult to see inside. Ron managed to have a look at the roofing timbers and it was obvious to him that there was no way electricity could be installed, until the badly leaking roof was repaired. Nyoman organized a builder to see what could be done and on further inspection, large cracks where found. It was decided that repairing the roof was useless, as the walls were near to collapsing. Like many of the houses in this area, there was no kitchen; all food was cooked outside under a tree. The toilet was a hole in the ground in the back yard.

After a discussion with the family, we offered to knock the house down and rebuild. Fortunately, the neighbourhoods next door offered a room to the family while we proceeded with the rebuilding.

This was July 2004 and we needed the house ready before the wet season. We ask that the male relations help where possible. We also brought in workers from the village. The house was finished by the 23rd of November. When the house was finished it still only had one room for sleeping, but we had added a small room for cooking and a small bathroom and toilet.

The daughter supported the family from her little stall, where she made and sold flower offerings to the village people. She had to buy the flowers which allowed very little in profit. Nyoman talked to the daughter about making her little stall more viable. He told her she needed to plant seeds and grow her own flowers in a garden on the house site. This was done straight away and now they family have a little more money and their self esteem has risen dramatically."
I tend to have a somewhat supercilious attitude to such hokey home grown aid schemes named after their leading light, in this case concentrated on one relatively wealthy island amidst thousands of infinitely poorer islands, but if one woman feels sufficiently impassioned about the undoubted poverty in Bali to spend A$9,000 a year from her own pocket convincing others to donate money 100% of which goes to the poor then all hail to her, I say. Her website is here.


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