Monday, 15 May 2017

Lady refuses to be beaten by life and makes her fortune

@UnWomen/Deepika Nath
When Pili Hussein was forced to run away from her abusive husband at the age of 31 she had nowhere to turn.

But this incredible woman somehow managed to turn her ill fate around by refusing to give up – and by pretending to be a man in a man’s world she made her fortune.

Pili grew up in a large family in Tanzania. Her father had six wives and she was one of 38 children. Although she was well looked after, she didn’t much enjoy life as her father treated her like a boy and she had to look after the cattle. Her marriage was even more unhappy, and at 31 Pili ran away from her abusive husband and found herself in the small town of Mererani, in the foothills of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro - the only place in the world where mining for a rare, violet-blue gemstone called tanzanite takes place.

Maasai herders first discovered tanzanite in 1967 - it's now one of the world's best-selling gems but is in limited supply. As a woman Pili was banned from mining there so she dressed like a man and took on the behaviour of the toughest of them all: “I acted like a gorilla - I could fight, my language was bad, I could carry a big knife. I was called Uncle Hussein.”
In the hot, dirty tunnels – up to 600m below ground - Pili worked 10-12 hours a day, digging and sieving, hoping to uncover gemstones in the veins in the graphite rock.

And incredibly after about a year, she struck it rich, uncovering two massive clusters of tanzanite stones. With the money she built new homes for her father, mother and twin sister, bought more tools and began employing miners to work for her.

Her cover was so convincing that it took an extraordinary set of circumstances for her true identity to be revealed. A local woman had reported that she'd been raped by some of the miners and Pili was arrested as a suspect. She had no choice but to reveal her secret.

Pili has now built a successful career and today owns her own mining company with 70 employees. Three of her employees are women, but they work as cooks not as miners. Pili is now married and her success has enabled her to pay for the education of more than 30 nieces, nephews and grandchildren. 

Original BBC story here.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Beautiful artwork recycles medical waste.

Nurse Tilda Shalof has turned her hand to creating the most beautiful artwork and memorial from medical refuse.

To Tilda, medicine caps, tube connectors, vial lids and syringe coverings left over from treating some of the sickest hospital patients are not garbage but a poignant reminder of lives lost and saved – and she has created an amazing artwork to honour those memories.

“I can use 100 of these in a day,” says Tilda, “Each one tells a story for me.”

The 58-year-old collected the plastic bits during her 28 years as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital where she cared for critically ill patients, including those suffering from heart failure or recovering from organ transplant surgery. She has since turned the collection into a mural, creating a colourful mosaic of more than 10,000 pieces embedded in clear resin, which measures 1.2 metres (4 feet) high and 2.7 metres (9 feet) long, and now hangs at the hospital.

Tilda had no plan when she pocketed her first piece of medical plastic in 1987 during her initial year as a nurse in Toronto General’s ICU. At first, she took the plastic pieces home for her two young boys; the bright colours and unusual shapes made them ideal for sorting and matching games. As her children got older, her family used the castoff plastic to make elaborate strands of rainbow jewellery. But soon, the crafts and games were not depleting her supply. Regardless, Tilda continued to collect them. And after 28 year she had big bags of the medical waste stashed in her home.

“I couldn’t let them go,” she recalls. “Each was like a talisman of all those people I had cared for.”

A friend and artist, Vanessa Herman-Landau, suggested using the plastic pieces to create a large mural. And so, over the summer of 2015, working together on weekends, Shalof and Herman-Landau, the mural was assembled, beginning with a large sunset orange circle constructed of lids from a drug used to help patients with liver failure.

She says: “It’s a tribute to nursing. It represents all the patients that I took care of over the years.

“When you are creating, you feel empowered ….It takes you out of the sadness of your work. Instead, it reminds you of the incredible work that we do.”

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Amazing lady - Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) was an American civil aviator. She defied all odds to become the first female pilot of African American descent and was also the first woman of Native American descent to hold a pilot license and an international pilot license. 

In 1916 at the age of 23, Bessie moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she worked as a manicurist at the White Sox Barber Shop. There she heard stories from pilots returning home from World War I about flying during the war. She took a second job at a chilli parlour to procure money faster to become a pilot herself.

American flight schools admitted neither women nor blacks, and no black U.S. aviator would train her. Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, encouraged her to study abroad. Coleman received financial backing from banker Jesse Binga and the Defender and took a French-language class at the Berlitz school in Chicago before travelling to Paris in 1920 to earn her pilot license. She learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane, with "a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot's feet."

On June 15, 1921, Bessie became the first woman of African American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot's license, and the first person of African American and Native American descent to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Determined to polish her skills, she spent the next two months taking lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris, and in September 1921, she sailed for New York becoming a media sensation and stunt pilot. 

She died aged 36 when, as a passenger of a plane flown by her mechanic and publicity agent William D. Wills crashed. Although the wreckage of the plane was badly burned it was later discovered that a wrench used to service the engine had slid into the gearbox and jammed it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The country where unwanted food is selling out

Across Europe 100m tonnes of food ends up in landfill every year, producing large amounts of greenhouse gases as it decomposes. But Denmark is leading the way in reversing this problem – having managed to cut the amount of food it throws away by a quarter.

On a chilly summer’s night in the centre of Copenhagen, a crowd gathers around the entrance of a restaurant called Dalle Valle. It’s 22:30, the buffet is winding up and the kitchens are about to close but these people, mainly in their 20s and 30s, are here for the food that the diners inside don't want.

Dalle Valle is one of hundreds of restaurants and cafes listed in an app called Too Good To Go, which lets you order takeaway food that would otherwise be thrown away, for knock-down prices. It’s an example of many social initiatives set up in the last few years to address the growing problem of food waste. And Denmark is leading the world.

In 2014 a government survey carried out in Denmark estimated that every household in the country each year throws away105kg of food worth around 3,000 kroner (£350) Shops will also discard food with minor cosmetic flaws, for example, bakery staff throw away mis-shapen rolls or loaves of bread.

And it’s not just a problem in rich countries. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that roughly the same amount of food goes to waste in developing nations as industrialised ones: around 630 and 670m tonnes respectively. In all, a third of the food produced for human consumption each year – a trillion dollar’s worth – goes in the bin.

Now Denmark is showing other countries what can be done. It has reduced its food waste by 25% in the last five years, according to a study by the Danish Agriculture and Food Council. Its success is largely down to changing shoppers’ habits. Last year two branches of a supermarket called WeFood opened in Copenhagen. The shops only sell food that has passed its sell-by date.

The UK comes in second. Between 2008 and 2013, it reduced its waste by 21%. And the Real Junk Food Project opened the UK’s first surplus-food store in Leeds in September.

Yet Denmark now has more initiatives tackling food waste than any other country in the world. And most of this activity can be traced back to Selina Juul, a Russian graphic designer turned food activist, who started a movement called Stop Spild Af Mad (“Stop Wasting Food”) eight years ago.

When Juul moved to Denmark in the 1990s to study, she was delighted to see an abundance of food. "I came from Moscow where communism had just collapsed and supermarket shelves were constantly empty,” she says. “Food was an often unmet necessity." But working part-time in a supermarket bakery, she was also shocked to see bread being discarded every day simply because it did not look right.

In 2008 Juul started a Facebook page urging Danes to stop wasting food. The page became so popular that she found herself discussing the issue on national television less than two weeks later. Juul was then contacted by REMA 1000, Denmark’s major discount supermarket chain, which wanted her to help find ways to curb food waste in their stores.

Around 29,000 tonnes of bread and cakes are discarded every year in Denmark, mainly because it is sold in portions larger than people need. To address the problem, the company reduced the size of its own-brand bread by 40-50%, dropping the price accordingly. As well as giving people less food to throw away at home, Rosenlowe says that the change has reduced food waste by stores and suppliers, which now discard fewer items for being too small.

To cut down on wasted food, one Danish supermarket halved the size of its bread and more businesses followed. Retailers such as Lidl and Coop Danmark joined in the drive to cut food waste. Lidl stopped offering discounts that encouraged people to buy more than they needed. Unilever sponsored free doggy bags in restaurants across Denmark to encourage people to take home their leftovers. And restaurants started selling leftover food via apps like Too Good To Go. Businesses that adopt practices to cut down waste are certified by an organisation called ReFood.
Non-profits also signed up. Ida Merethe Jorgensen, chairman of Danske Handicaporganisationer, a charity based in Kolding, works with a group of volunteers to collect unsold food and distribute it to low-income families, for example.

In most countries, including Denmark, there are no laws against selling or distributing food past its expiration date. But sell-by and use-by dates have conditioned people to think all food becomes inedible as soon as those dates pass. Thankfully this is now changing.

Others are now following Denmark’s lead. France and Italy recently introduced laws that make it easier for businesses – including farmers – to donate leftover food to charities, for example. And smartphone apps that direct hungry people to surplus food have been set up in several countries. “An increasing number of social enterprises are popping up all over Europe,” says Tania Burnham at Too Good To Go. “With the average mobile phone user checking their phone every six seconds, it's never been easier to interact with their target market.”

A postgraduate student at New York University, Holtzman thinks it is just a matter of raising awareness so that people can make their own choices. She is working to import Toast Ale – a craft beer made from surplus bread – from the UK. This spring she also plans to spend a month dumpster diving – living off food she finds in bins outside shops and restaurants – with a colleague from Toast Ale, documenting the experience.  

Original BBC story here.

Friday, 2 December 2016

89-year-old Joe looks forward to his new job

@The Guardian
An 89-year-old has found a job after placing an advert in his local paper asking for part-time work to stop him ‘dying of boredom’. Joe Bartley, from Paignton in south Devon, is due to start work at a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his ad.

“No matter what your age or your background, you deserve a chance,” Cantina Bar and Kitchen’s co-owner Sarah Martin told The Guardian. “Most people have got something to offer and Joe is someone who is keen, who is putting himself out there. What is not to like about that? A lot of people who come here don’t just come for coffee, they come for a chat, so Joe is perfect.”

Joe put an advert in the Herald Express twice last month. It read: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!”

He said he had been overwhelmed by the response to the advert: “The owner phoned me and said she was interested, and asked me to come in. So I arrived at the cafe and we’ve had a bit of a chat with the owner, and shook hands.”

Joe has lived alone since his wife, Cassandra, died two years ago, and has been lonely. “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement.”

Joe also got a job offer from The Ginger Breadman bakery in Barnstaple, the owner explained he wanted the pensioner to know he had been offered a job in the hope that it would put a ‘smile on his face’. But Barnstaple was a little too far.

His new employer Sarah said: “He is delighted, and we are looking forward to it. We think about these things all the time. We are never going to be rich, but we like to give something back, so when we saw the advert there was no question – the minute we saw it we knew we’d give him a job.”