Dear friends and supporters,

I am so pleased to have joined BWAUK recently as operations manager and despite it being a particularly difficult time globally with the Coronavirus crisis, I am optimistic, hopeful and ambitious about what we as a charity can do to reduce poverty and its devastating effects on communities in Africa. I have seen within my work and from my travels, that it's the community grass-root initiatives that truly change lives and make a lasting impact. 

When I arrived in Dar es Salaam back in 2008, ready to board a single engine plane to Zanzibar, I was not prepared for how much I would connect and fall in love with Africa. I certainly had to put all my faith in their flying skills as I sat down in an old 1970's coach seat tied to the floor of the plane by rope!

Ruby Glasspool at Dar es Salaam airport waiting to board a single engine plane to ZanzibarLittle did I know it was the plane on the left not the right I would have to take!

I travelled the length and breadth of the beautiful, chaotic island of Zanzibar but two communities remained fixed in my memory, even many years later. I visited a spice plantation in central Zanzibar and aside from the activity itself, I was intrigued by something else. Despite the conditions the family and the boys lived in, they were full of love, full of fun and so incredibly kind. There was nothing to be gloomy about to them, and everything they did was an adventure. They had clearly worked hard and built up a community supported business that provided income and food for many. I saw that it was the knowledge they held as a community and the inspiring way they worked together that brought them success. 

Ruby Glasspool in banana plantation in Zanzibar on her worldwide travelsThe boys made me a grass hat, although it just looks like a bad photo shot!

Staying in Zanzibar, I came across a small village community, a Maasai tribe who did the best they could building makeshift homes out of anything they could find. The community had set up a few stalls and spent their days making woodwork wares, selling them for next to nothing. After spending time with one family, they told me that there is no competition between sellers and the community share the work and the takings equally. Now that's what I call community success! 

Ruby Glasspool with a Massai tribe village family buying wooden craftsSpending the day with a Masaai tribe family in Zanzibar

And that's how I fell in love with the African spirit and the true power behind community efforts. My travels moved on to rural Colombia a few years later. The Colombian driver told me he was taking us to a family in the heart of the Amazon rain forest who used to trade illegal drugs for a living as the only way they could survive. They had received a small government grant and a collection from the community to turn their lives around. As one of the community members drove us to the camp, we were held up at gun point, and although I don't know what the driver said, I know he got us out of a dangerous situation. We made it safely through and spent an incredible 48 hours with the family who told us their whole story. I could not believe the courage they had and the miraculous way they had changed their lives and the lives of their community from one small government grant. 

Ruby Glasspool with little girl from Colombian family who set up rural camping experience in AmazonThe family's little girl wanted to wear my media pass 

And finally, across the other side of Colombia I found myself on a long trek through the rain forest to meet another inspirational community who had used a small pot of funding to set up a kayaking business. A few hours later, and just as we were approaching the settlement a guide came running up to us with a look of alarm saying that we had been followed by a gang known for kidnapping and ransom crimes of western people and we had to move and move fast as they had arms. They frantically bundled us into a handful of kayaks and pushed us off down the Amazon river saying it was the safest and only way out. And so for the next hour I held onto the side of the boat and all the bags as we paddled down the river in torrential rain to safety. What an incredible thing to do for some visitors you don't even know! 

Ruby Glasspool Kayaking down the Amazon river in ColombiaBetween paddling breaks and fear of kidnap I still managed to take a photo!

So whilst I believe there's much to be said for big international efforts to improve lives, the funding, the resources and the people power mean nothing unless the people behind them are working together for the greater good of all, and it's in the communities and the grass-roots projects that I see this powerful coming together of people, that creates lasting and meaningful change. And as Sylvia has mentioned in her own blog posts, that's why WE must not give up on these communities because this is the world we all want to find when we pick up our luggage and go travelling around the world.


Ruby Glasspool Signature

Ruby Glasspool
Operations Officer
Bread and Water for Africa UK