Would you save the world?

By Jackie Jennings-Bates

How would you make the world a better place If you had all the resources you needed?

It is a worthwhile experiment. I encourage everyone to ponder the possibilities. I think you will find a passion, something that touches your heart and can inspire you.

In the past, we have focused on safe water. It is the most simple, effective way to break the cycle of poverty. The global task of achieving clean water for all citizens is not complete yet, but it doesn’t stop me thinking about other issues that still need urgent attention.

I really just wait and see what pops into my head and then I do some research.

Child trafficking is one dreadful situation I often dwell on, but I don’t think I am ready to discuss that one yet. Instead, I often wonder how I could improve the life of refugee if I had unlimited resources.

A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. There are internal refugees as well in many countries.

Numbers are estimated between 25 and 60 million worldwide, a number that has been increasing in recent years.

A refugee camp is supposedly a temporary settlement built to accommodate those fleeing whatever circumstances have driven them from their homes.

However, some, such as those housing Palestinians in Lebanon, have been home to four generations since the 1950s. Accommodations range from tents, tarps, shipping containers to haphazard buildings that have evolved over the decades in the more established camps.

Imagine you were suddenly forced to flee your home with only the possessions you could carry, what would you look for in refuge?

I think you would want:

  • Basic comfort
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Security.

Any parent would want opportunities for their children, a sense of community and hope for the future.

New technologies can find a home in such places of need. The Ikea Foundation have developed flat-pack shelters and raised millions for sustainable lighting and energy.

Some friends of ours worked to secure legitimate birth certificates for refugee children in Northern Thailand. Without them it was as if they didn’t exist.

Programs developed around play can take a role in lifting the spirits and putting some joy back into the lives of children. Often dance, art, stories and theatre can tell a story, teach a lesson and provide healing, especially if passing down cultural traditions.

Then there are the rather more dull things to think of, infrastructure, water, sewage, waste removal, etc. What about creating green spaces and gardens? How can we make it feel like home?

Ultimately, many camps will become more permanent and then thoughts of governance and assimilation into the local economy need to be addressed.

People need a sense of purpose and many an entrepreneur can be found.

I look forward to having more time to think about these issues, do more research and meet more people who work on the front lines to get firsthand information.

In the meantime I will just be grateful to be in my own home in the most beautiful country, surrounded by friends and family, at least on Zoom if not literally.

At least COVID has taught us some empathy from being separated from our loved ones and of life being disrupted.


Let's all play our part

I met with a few overseas business colleagues this week and we wandered down a rabbit hole discussing the merits of getting tax benefits for investing in projects that revitalize urban areas or assist in poverty reduction.

Our current system actually creates a disincentive for successful people to take on the task of assisting in poverty reduction.

After some lengthy discussion, we decided that the two things preventing progress in the private sector reducing poverty were:

  • Regulatory environment
  • Taxation

Any smart person will find a way to get things done, but when it comes to poverty, the red tape can be a barrier to success. In fact, when it comes to business, the red tape is a significant barrier to overcome in almost every instance.

One example may be Canada’s inability to vaccinate the population in any meaningful timeframe. We rank 38th in the world in terms of our success in distributing the much needed solutions for our health sector and our economy.

Why is this?

As I understand it (aside from not placing orders for vaccines early enough), one reason is that unlike other Western countries, Canada did not create any emergency legislation to approve vaccines based on other countries approvals.

This is clearly an emergency for the whole country and yet, we favour leaving all the regulations in place so our regulators, Health Canada, are taking the same process as always and we are falling further and further behind the field.

If I had access to a new vaccine that could solve the problem, I would have to run the vaccine through the approval process before I could talk to anyone about purchasing my vaccine. The government, it appears is not wiling to take that risk (at least in my discussions).

This example serves to show how when we are solutions oriented, the only thing that can prevent progress is an over-regulated environment.

The second area is taxation. The problem with how taxation has evolved is that most people, once they reach a certain level of success, spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to be more tax efficient.

What if, as an example, the City of Kelowna, in conjunction with the provincial and federal governments, created a project or zone that needed funding to solve a particular humanitarian or community problem, perhaps homelessness.

They could attract money as donations, but with a further benefit of the donor receiving direct tax benefits.

Would it be possible to create the correct incentive that benefits society, take the financial aspect of the problem away from government and benefit the donor?

Many countries have adapted to a taxation regime because it is demonstrated to benefit the quality of life in the country, for example some of the Scandinavian Countries.

I often find myself asking the question, what do I get for my taxes? Where am I taking from the system?

It is not an easy question to find a satisfactory answer to.

I think if we don’t look at solutions like this we will fall further and further behind the curve in trying to catch up to problems we have created.

We enjoyed the discussion and decided we will keep thinking about it. Let’s hope some others do also.

Days of uncertainty

By Jackie Jennings-Bates

We are certainly living through days of uncertainty, the most profound in my memory.

I’m sure my grandparents raising young children through the Second World War would wonder what we’re worrying about, but it is all relative, of course.

The daily onslaught of negative news about COVID, the turmoil south of the border, global climate change, it all leaves us wondering what tomorrow will bring.

I am a big believer in trying to imagine living a day in another person's shoes.

In our travels to the Samburu region of Northern Kenya, we definitely got to see and appreciate how the other half lives, and I am referring to the less fortunate half (or morel like 90%).

Every day for them must be uncertain. Out of necessity, they would have to walk to the nearest source of water to bring home as much as they could carry for themselves and possibly their livestock.

There was no guarantee water would be there. Certainly there would be no reason to expect it would be clean. They often have to clamber down into dangerous crevices to find any, and then scrape away the scum or animal faeces that have settled on the top.

There could be predatory animals watching their every move. There is no certainty they will survive another day. Yet somehow they celebrate life. We were always welcomed with exuberant song and praise.

They have:

  • Dreams and goals
  • Plans for their children to stay in school and go away to college
  • Hopes of starting a small business.

During the pandemic, some of us may have found time to ponder things. I often look back on the privilege of being able to travel now that we are restricted and think about what I have learnt.

I am inspired by these beautiful people who live daily with uncertainty, but don’t dwell on it. Instead they get on with life. I think they are more used to hardship than we are.

We look to other people to take care of us, especially the government. We think it is our “right," but really what is the government other than persons elected to represent us, so really the government is us.

Taxpayers’ money is our money, which is why it should be spent wisely. There is no Fairy Godmother out there coming to make this all go away.

So we should take some lessons from those more attuned to hardship, just get on with things the best we can and find any excuse to celebrate what we do have.

Be thankful that tomorrow you don’t have to walk in somebody else shoes and trek many dusty, dangerous kilometres for water before you can brew your cup of coffee.


A crystal ball would help

When it comes to reducing poverty, the Wayne Gretzky method could be invaluable — skate to where the puck will be; don’t wait for it.

But how do we predict with confidence a global disaster or increasing poverty in various locations around the world?

I’m sure boffins such as Big Gates sit with complex computer modelling and algorithms to help them understand where the puck will be, but for a small enterprise or an individual, where can you best invest your money and/or time?

I believe it has a lot to do with your passion. It is important for us as a charity not to duplicate what others are doing. While we are mostly a water charity, we work with on-the-ground resources who can construct solutions on our behalf.

That way we can use local expertise and likely reduce the cost of us trying to construct water solutions in far-off lands where we don’t know the political, social and environmental landscape.

One of the most unlikely and treasured friendships I ever had was with “Elder in training” Bob Purdy of Paddle for the Planet.

I met Bob while I was planning to paddle board around Okanagan Lake with frankly, very little experience. I struck a friendship with Bob and the reason I say an “unlikely friendship” is that some may describe me as a capitalist and some may describe Bob as an environmentalist.

Bob was concerned about what we were doing to the planet and wanted to make a difference so in his last several years on the planet he made a commitment to paddle every day.

I believe we had a mutual respect for each other’s positions and Bob would always come across as very wise and concerned in our discussions at 5 a.m. on Okanagan Lake on chilly autumn mornings.

However, Bob was not most concerned about inspiring others to simply save the planet, he was concerned about inspiring people in to action.

At the end of the day, while our crystal ball may be foggy, we can still do something to help mankind or the planet and help reduce poverty. Bob wanted you to take up a cause, whatever it was and commit some focus to it.

I remember the conversations clearly and treasure them but sadly, Bob has now moved on to greener pastures and bigger lakes after a wrestling match with cancer.

His legacy lives on because people around the world are committing to their causes and doing something to make a change.

The answer to the question about predicting global disasters is almost irrelevant to an every-day person like me or to our small charity; we just need to start making a difference.

Perhaps, the message is that while we may wish to get ahead of the curve, we can spend too much time trying to find a solution and not enough time helping others.

As someone once told me, God cannot steer a parked car, start moving and he can tell you which way to turn.

Let’s make 2021 a busy, productive and energetic year and finally put COVID-19 behind us as we deal with the ramifications at home of people being restricted to living an abnormal life for a good length of time.

More A Focus on Saving Lives articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for more than 40 years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business.

He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the U.K. in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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