Happy New Year - a message from Pat Kerr

January 21, 2020

I am a great optimist when it comes to a New Year and starting a new decade is often an even greater opportunity to reflect on the past and to plan for the future. This year I am struggling and couldn’t even work out how to start this message as there seems to be no obvious resolution to the most severe problems facing us and our planet. Luckily, I received a communication from the Executive Director of the World Fair Trade Organisation (we are a guaranteed member) which expressed my feelings more aptly than I could:

 ‘While on the onset the global picture seems to be gloomy, I still feel a strong sense of hope.’

Although its often hard to remain optimistic we do have to hope for a better future- for ourselves, our families, our friends and for people all around the world and the planet we inhabit. We not only need hope but also the energy to make these things happen!

The Sreepur Village is a microcosm of safety and (often) joy as there are so many bright and energetic children running around, be it at school or playing in the village grounds. At least everyone’s basic needs are met and opportunities are opened. There are very few luxuries, but everything is distributed in an equal and fair way and the environment is very green and not polluted. We have day to day problems and money is tight but we are a close community and as long as I don’t read or listen to the news then all seems well!

We continue to re-focus on the skills the women need in their lives, always making sure that they have two or three ‘strings to their bow’.  This year we have added the care of goats and a huge flock of ducks and geese to the skills training section. The bamboo weaving is proving particularly successful as many of the products used in the local village homes are made from bamboo. Our trainer is also putting emphasis on making higher quality items that will return a greater profit. The mothers now have their own ‘Rainbow Garden’ and while this season is not the most colourful, they are growing lots of vegetables and herbs and seem to be enjoying the new learning experience.

Nationally climate change is concerning as Bangladesh is largely low-lying and is often considered the second most vulnerable country in the world to rising water levels. Many of the families coming to us have already suffered from flooding or land erosion and this winter the weather, normally pleasant at this time of year, has in fact been overcast and unusually cold.

Having become accustomed to a hot country many people are suffering and the abnormal lows in temperature has led to deaths and illness. Another national (and international) issue is that the future of the massive number of Rohingya refugees seems unresolvable several years after their devastating migration from Myanmar.

Unfortunately, 2019 did not have a great ending for me as I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and had surgery and radiotherapy. As these things go I was very lucky that the disease was caught early and with any luck I am all clear. However, dealing with it took up a lot of time and energy and I apologise that I did not send out any New Year’s cards to anyone this year.

So I particularly wish you all a very Healthy and Empowering New Year!




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