Saturday, February 2, 2008

Penny Collenette's Community Conversation

This last Thursday, I went to a rather remarkable event right on Carleton's campus. It was one of Penny Collenette's community conversations, with the focus being on Canada's role in aiding foriegn development, and strategies for bettering the future of Canadian aid recieving nations, with a focus on Africa in particular.

The panelists were a good mix of youth activism and experience, and all had differing, but important things to say about developmental aid. Jenna Hoyt, the founder of the Little Voice Foundation, told her stories of being in Ethiopia, and the need to provide long-term housing and support for children on the streets, by joining forces with local communities in developing countries in order to create sustainable projects that are run by the people for the people. Nick Moyer gave an overview of the contemporary history behind current CIDA projects, the successess and failures of them, as well as other international development models which Canada can learn from. Shamin Mohamed Jr, the founder of the Children’s AIDS Health Program, is only 19, in addition to making me motivated for being the same age as myself and doing so much more for the world, gave his personal accounts of his travels to places as diverse as India and South Africa, and the need for foriegn aid projects there to work with, and respect local culture and local sensibilities in order for aid projects to have an effective long term benefit.

Glen Pearson, the Liberal MP for London North Centre, told his remarkable stories of flying into Darfur illegally to try and help the people, his efforts in freeing slaves, the burecratic struggles of getting aid to a region, and his devotion to a cause he believes in. It was extremely profound stuff. I wish I could have brought someone who was a cynical non-voter, who believes that politics is all crooks and deals, and sat him down in front of Mr. Pearson and his passion.

Penny herself commented on how despite some disagreements in the fine details of administering foriegn aid, that we are past an era where developed nations can simply throw money at a developing nation, and that more microeconomic, hands on aid is needed in order for the developing nations to build a solid base for independent growth. Penny fielded a question from yours personally on how to get the private sector more involved with development projects, and smoothly handled it, talking about the need for contact with individuals within companies, as well as the power of good and bad publicity.

Overall, it was a very interesting evening and discussion, and it gave the next MP for Ottawa Centre a good opportunity to communicate her views on developmental aid (which will play a big part of the Liberal platform) with some hands on experts in the field.

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