Blog posts


The LUCIA Library at Saria

This is a photo of the library that LUCIA built at Saria – I fundraised for it last year (my school raised £5000 in a term) and I’m reviewing the project now as part of a grant proposal for a girls’ toilet block and handwash station on the same site.

Unfortunately there’s been a bit of an issue with the stoves project, so I’ve shifted my research focus into Bees! Ethiopia produces about 40000 tonnes of honey a year, and we’re looking into developing a bee project of sorts to help communities make money. I’ve got no experience with bees – so I’ve been doing a huge amount of product analysis, reading papers and reports and budgets for the different kinds of beehives (who knew you there were so many different types of beehive!?), and I’m currently chatting with my supervisor about us running the project itself, instead of going through an NGO – which would be a first for the charity and really exciting!

Of meetings and speeches

I’ve just come out of a meeting that I arranged with a local ‘Green Business Advisor’ and an ‘Ethical Business Coach’. We discussed issues around green infrastructure, general ‘green’ practice in businesses and their experiences working in Bristol. It was good to get some first hand, local expertise and heartening to see two old guys still passionate about what they do. They also told me about some interesting examples that I might use as case studies in my project.

I’m now well underway with writing up my project – a framework for the further ‘greening’ of UK cities. Sure enough, my preparatory research was not enough and I’ve been finding out more and more as I’ve been writing (I came across a speech by Iolo Williams which is the best, most moving speech that I’ve ever seen:

More Excel? IDEAlly not…

My project involves a large amount of data processing. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT. I’ll briefly break it down for you:

At an average debating competition, there are approximately 40 teams. Each team consists of 2 people. That’s 80 participants per competition. No information is provided about them apart from their name and their institution, and often people decide to input funny names instead of real ones.

The information from each debating competition is called a “tab”. I am currently processing over 50 tabs from 2010-2013. I have to identify each participants gender, which takes longer than you’d expect!

A New Farm

So on Wednesday I submitted the memorandum of understanding for my first project.

I didn’t do a lot of work on this one, but I took it over because it was convenient and I’m waiting on a reply from our people in Ethiopia before I can go on with the stoves and wash-station one.

Basically, we wanted to build a farm at the Saria Kebele Primary School in Amhara, Ethiopia. This is all well and good – but how is it going to work? Our contact in Ethiopia had put together a budget and a proposal for us, and I had to go through it and put it into a Memorandum of Understanding (basically, the sort of contract that NGOs use).

A Good IDEA?

I’ve never had a proper job before, so two weeks working 9 to 5 at IDEA has been a bit of a reality check. Not because it hasn’t been fun, but it is a bit strange having to say to friends “I can’t come out today, I’m working”. However, even with the 7am wake up calls, I’m really enjoying my time at IDEA.

For those of you who don’t know, IDEA is a charity which works on a global scale to teach debating, a skill which is so, so, so beneficial. It can improve your confidence, your ability to read and write, and also, most importantly, can enable critical analysis of issues from more than one point of view.

1st Week at DWT

Last week I started my internship at Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT). I’ve always had a love for nature but it is only recently that I have thought about working for a conservation charity. At the trust, I am working on a project concerning GIS maps of ecosystem services. GIS maps are a relatively recent development in ecology and aim to map ecosystem service demand and supply. This information can then be used to identify areas that provide valuable services and should therefore be conserved, but also “gaps” or areas where there is demand for a service but supply could be improved.

Mingling with Bristol’s greenies

I’ve recently been to the monthly Bristol Green Mingle with Charles and Fi. It was the first time I’d been to a mingle and I didn’t know quite what to expect – but unsurprisingly, it was just people (specifically Bristol’s greenies) drinking, eating and chatting. I met an interesting mix of people including local MPs, an ecologist and the director of the Bristol Green Capital initiative (who’s become a local hero after Bristol won the European Green Capital Award earlier this year). As well as being an enjoyable, relaxed and interesting evening it was also very useful – I gained a few handy contacts who seemed to know something (if not a lot) relevant to my internship project.

ACT! in Bristol

I’m now 2 weeks into my internship with The ACT! Alliance in Bristol. The ACT! Alliance is a newly set up campaigning organisation which differs from those that already exist in that it seeks to pool the efforts and resources of existing organisations to gain strength for change, rather than all working in an isolated and fragmented way. Importantly, ACT! does not compartmentalise the issues that we face, seeing that the deteriorating environment, the faltering economic system, failing politicians and poverty are all interlinked, and so are the solutions. Broadly, ACT! campaigns for sustainable development in environmental, economic and social systems.

Coming up to the end of the first week!

So I’m coming up to the end of my first week. It’s actually been really good!

Yesterday I went to one of the trustees’ meetings and had a quick chat about some of my ideas (they’ve been in the pipeline for about a year, so a lot longer than the placement). They seemed really enthusiastic about them, and how the charity is going to be moving forward. I would really recommend working with a smaller charity – there are only 8 trustees of LUCIA so I actually feel like they value my input and will consider my suggestions seriously.

Other than that, I’ve done some initial research into the stoves project and how to apply for funding.

Ben Fernando – first day at work!

So I’m just on lunch break for my first day at work! I’m at LUCIA (Life Uplifted by Change in Africa), a small Birmingham based charity that works with women and children in Ethiopia. I’ve been working with them for a while  now doing fundraising, and I decided to do Charity Insights so that I could get more involved with the research and problem-solving skills that they do.  You can find out more at

So far I’ve had the usual introduction and health and safety talk, and discussed my project with my supervisor. Initially, I’m going to be looking at how to get funding for the grassroots projects that they’re looking at in Rural Ethiopia.