Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why are our schools free if poor country children have to pay?

That was the question from one child this morning during a discussion on Fairtrade and its impact on the families who benefit.  Why don't we share our money with the poorer countries?  was another.  Very profound questions and not ones that could easily be answered.  They were super children whose willingness to think about the subject really did exceed that of many adults.  The school had centred its harvest festival on Fairtrade with great ingenuity - there were poems on pineapples and oranges, songs about cauliflowers and bananas, a brilliant rewrite of "Sugar sugar", interesting facts about apples and tea - in fact masses of information which really meant that I didn't have to say much.  They'd said it all, and in a way that showed they understood many of the issues. 
At council tonight it was the turn of adults - the council reaffirmed its commitment to Fairtrade and I had the opportunity to remind people that it isn't just in council that it matters but in everyone's lifestyle.  I'm not sure that all the adults were as keen as the children were this morning.
Before the council meeting we had a presentation from Eastern Ravens on the Young Carers Aloud project, an effort to give young carers in the borough a real voice and to convince the professionals dealing with their families to listen to them and included them in the decision making process.  It was heart wrenching to hear stories of children as young as 5 helping their parents who couldn't cope for various reasons - physical illness, mental illness, physical disabilities, learning difficulties - different for every family but all real, all needing help.
The highlight of the council meeting was the first item when 4 long serving but now retired councillors became Honorary Aldermen of the Borough.   Suzanne and John Fletcher were amongst them and I didn't have words to adequately sum up what they have contributed to the borough during their combined 54 years of service - the change in how councillors address each other in meetings, the changes to how members of opposition parties are given information, the extra openness and transparency, the way in which people are treated when they have dealings with the council - none of them big things that can be pointed to in the way that a major cabinet decision or important report can be highlighted, but so very important.  And how to describe the work they did in their wards without making it sound as though no-one else can ever take over from them?  The hours and hours spent resolving problems for individuals, which no-one else knows about.  And the work they did to further the cause of Fairtrade in the borough, and which they continue to do, which seems to have gone full circle from where I started.

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