Friday, 19 December 2014

Disasterjunkie DJ emergency iPod Christmas chart run down

Hello readers!

Disasterjunkie DJ couldn't let Christmas go by without a festive top 12 chart run down, a hit for each of the 12 days of Christmas! So plug in to your emergency iPod, kick back and relax...(in between bouts of rushing around like a headless chicken of course....and spare a thought for those turkeys!). 

Top tip, click on the song titles to link through to the music videos. Enjoy! 

12. In at number 12 we have the magical 'Fairytale of New York' by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl dedicated to all of you UN workers, who hang out in the environs of UN Plaza in Manhattan. I guess this tune rather conjures up the reality of your Christmas, no? 

11. Following close on its heels at number 11 we have 'It doesn't often snow at Christmas' by the Pet Shop Boys, a timely reflection on the recent inter-governmental talks in Lima. Climate change anyone? Anyone?

10. Frightened Rabbit brings you 'It's Christmas so we'll stop' at number 10. And just like rabbits in headlights, aid workers the world over will be running around as usual at Christmas, as we all know, disasters and complex emergencies have no sense of timing or convenience. Still its a nice sentiment....if only...

9. While at number 9, this a strange song by The Flaming Lips called 'Christmas at the Zoo' might just lift your spirits, which is about freeing animals from a zoo.  I dedicate this to all the aid workers, who are passionate about protecting the environment,  nature and wildlife alongside delivering community development activities. Also the imagery of animals wanting to remain in the zoo instead of being free is not is reminiscent of humanitarians, who know very well in their hearts they can come out of the aid business at any time, they are free to go, but never quite make that walk to freedom...away from the team tent.

8. For those of you who are working in conflict zones or face the challenges of working alongside an integrated mission, this one is especially for you, 'Stop the cavalry' by Jona Lewie. Timeless and very apt, it does what it says on the mess tin. 

7. Any Christmas chart run down would be incomplete without a big, fat, cheesy, glam rock anthem (no, forget Slade and Wizzard for once). In at number 7 is The Darkness and 'Christmas Time (don't let the bells end)' - about as camp as that fairy on top of your Christmas tree and featuring the obligatory children's chorus (wait...does that qualify as child labour?...sshhh don't tell UNICEF). The lyric 'You've got your career, spent the best part of last year apart and it still hurts...' might resonate with those of you in long distance relationships...

6.  ...As will this fabulous classic by The Pretenders, '2000 miles' at number 6. 2000 miles is indeed very far through the snow, as many of you are all too familiar with spending Christmas in foreign climes away from your loved ones, and especially those working on winterisation responses. This is a poignant recent rendition by the coolest of cool Chrissie Hynde

5. 'I feel it in my bones' by The Killers ft. Ryan Pardey, creeps in at number 5 with a rather sinister Santa Claus. (Trust me, you really wouldn't want this Santa checking his list twice to see if your name is on it). It's slightly PTSD trippy so be warned!

4. In at number 4 is 'Got something for you' by Best Coast and The Wavves. "Hey Baby, I've got somethings for you and I wanna tell you but you'll have to wait", sums up the dilemma aid workers face when carrying out relief distributions while needing to simultaneously Communicate with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) to achieve that holy grail of Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP).

3. If 3 is your lucky number then so is this song, 'Everything's gonna be cool this Christmas' by the inimitable Eels. Don't you just love it?  I included it because I can and I love the Eels. 

2. At number 2 we have Ben Haenow (Hey now, hey now don't dream X-Factors over...) with 'Something I need', in honour of all of the disaster affected families around the world aid workers are working tirelessly to assist. If only needs assessments were this good. Sure as eggs is eggnog, Ben will be in the UK number 1 chart spot as the Syco promo goes into overdrive...but it's a memorable anthem nonetheless. 

1. For our Christmas number 1, let's hark back to olden times when 
members of The Beatles reigned supreme and here is John Lennon together with Yoko singing 'Happy Christmas (War is over)'. It needs no introduction really, it speaks for itself, as powerful and poignant today as the day it was released. Let it continue to be our dream  - an end to war, killing and suffering. We have the power in our hands to make a peaceful world, let it not slip through our fingers in 2015! 

I'd like to hear from you so feel free to comment below or on the Blondebombshell in Crises Facebook page here or Twitter here.

For now, thanks for reading and if you liked this, pass it on....

Happy Christmas everyone! 

Peace, love and light,

Bravo, Bravo, Charlie....out (until next year).


Monday, 15 December 2014

Disasterjunkie jargonbuster bovine excrement detectors

Hello readers!

Are you tired of the endless round of boring meetings that are positively overflowing with bovine excrement?  (I'm thinking cluster coordination meetings, strategic planning sessions, task forces, working groups, briefings for people who have no idea what humanitarian aid is or how to do it properly or just same old, same old weekly team meetings...).

Are you facing some difficulty in distinguishing between useful facts and abstract concepts or cliches that frankly have no real substance or meaning or ounce of practical application? Well, have no fear! Help is at hand. The mighty disasterjunkie jargonbuster will come to your rescue!

Some handy tools have been recently developed, without the aid of any IASC or UN led task force. You might feel inclined to try out any of these little beauties to help you:

The automatic bovine excrement meter

Small enough and discrete enough to put in your back pack or man bag, this handy little bovine excrement meter homes in on the whiffiest of deceptive ramblings. On detection it will sound an alarm, which will get louder and louder the nearer you are to the source, providing you with an audible excuse for a sharp exit . Think of it as your very own 'patnav'.

Disasterjunkie jargonbuster bovine excrement bingo card #1

In addition why not arm yourself with this bingo card? It's portable and colour coordinated to blend in to UN situations, if necessary. Not a 'legs eleven' or 'two fat ladies' in sight (on the card itself that is...but who knows who will be sitting next to you in your meeting?...). However, it might indeed be 'unlucky for some' if these terms crop up during proceedings and you end up crossing them off the card in quick succession and you shout "full house", ...try "transitional shelter" instead (it might be safer).

The bovine excrement reveal-and-neutralise spray

Next time you fill in a requisition form, why not add this item to your  emergency relief kit list? Remember that old adage "If it smells like BS and looks like BS (you can now add if it sounds like BS)...then its probably BS"? Well, so that you can be totally sure, one squib of this spray will give you the definitive answer as it instantly reveals the truth and it will then neutralise the troublesome terminology so you can happily get on with your day completely bovine excrement free!

I'd like to hear from you so feel free to comment below or on the Blondebombshell in Crises Facebook page here or Twitter here.

For now, thanks for reading and if you liked this, pass it on....

Peace, love and light,

Bravo, Bravo, Charlie out. 


Monday, 8 December 2014

Being the hummingbird's wings

Running to stand still

She runs through the streets
With eyes painted red
Under a black belly of cloud in the rain
In through a doorway she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging
She is raging
And the storm blows up in her eyes
She will
Suffer the needle chill
She's running to stand
The hamster wheel of life

Are you on a field mission where you are working frantically around the clock, fulfilling several roles or jobs all at once because there just aren’t enough bodies on the ground to help you set up an emergency response?  Or help you try out new projects or even maintain your already-existing projects in your ever-expanding response programme?  Do you feel like you are caught up in the hamster wheel of life, constantly running to stand still?

Well, you are not alone. It's an all-too-common situation for many of us humanitarian aidworkers when we have been released into the wild, our natural habitat (i.e. the field) or when we are held captive (apparently against our will) by our superiors in a head office environment.

There are several analogies out there to describe this and I will give you three of them. I wonder which one you identify with the most?

Hats off to you

Some  people call it double, triple or quadruple -hatting, which can affect the quality of leadership in senior humanitarian positions, (mentioned in this ICVA survey 2014 here.)  I find this analogy slightly strange because I’ve never actually worn several hats while doing emergency response, have you? I mean one has to travel light, and it could be quite uncomfortable wearing several garments at once, never mind looking decidedly odd.  Mind you I have seen plenty of aidworkers who do wear hats, especially those who have a penchant for wearing baseball hats…I mean really, what is that all about? You are not playing baseball, it is not a game, you are not even able to reach first base if you aren’t able to set up your emergency response quickly and effectively and save those lives are you? Neither are you a hip hop artist, or, dare I utter the immortal words Justin Bieber.

However, I do remember wearing a sun hat occasionally. Yes, I think sun hats probably qualify for aid worker gear in an arid zone or tropical environment when the sun beats down on your head and the back of your neck, while you are waiting for a delivery to come to an airstrip or you are trekking for miles in the mid-day sun doing an emergency assessment. I prefer buff hats myself, see an earlier post on the subject here. They really are quite versatile and they don’t look like your average safari hat as if you are some kind of tourist going into a disaster zone. Anyway I digress...

Well that was on hats and you might ponder the significance of hat-wearing in emergency response. However, on a related subject "Six Thinking Hats" could be a useful tool for you and your team.

Edward de Bono devised it and is a form of lateral thinking. It is a creative way of getting your team to work more effectively together by thinking in different ways to problem solve.

Swan lake

The second analogy is that well-known image of a graceful, beautiful swan gliding effortlessly across a lake or a river, hardly disturbing the surface of the water. Meanwhile, under the water, its little legs are going nineteen to the dozen to propel the swan along.

We don’t really see that level of frenetic activity when we are above the water but say if you are a newt, a frog or a fish, then you might just notice those webbed feet constantly kicking out! Well anyway that’s what I think aid workers are like (no, I don't mean pondlife), constantly and frenetically paddling. You can never be ahead of the game, you are always trying to catch up. There are always more needs than you can meet and more demands placed on you, from the organisation you are working for or from the beneficiary community you are working with. On top of that there are increasing pressures from other agencies and coordination structures,  (no, not another cluster meeting to go to I hear you cry!), or from the Kafkaesque levels of bureaucracy emanating from donors, who behave like a huge puppet master, pulling the strings of us marionettes to make us dance to their ever-complex accountability tunes. So yes, that analogy of being the swan's legs is quite a good one but now I want to introduce you to another one because I think it is more fun! 

Hummingbird's wings

The third analogy is being the hummingbird's wings. Are you aware of the excellent nature narrator called Randall? He is a comedic genius and his straight-talking voice overs for mini nature documentaries are a world away from the wonderful, softly spoken, measured, yet sensitive tones of Sir David Attenborough, (who I have a lot of respect for, by the way).

Randall pulls no punches in his vivid descriptions and I would love you to enjoy this video of a hummingbird, I selected especially for you, my readers, because I think you will be able to relate to it.

We all know that there is always way too much work to do and we will constantly be in this effervescent, effusive, form of activity in full on emergency response mode. You cannot see the hummingbird's wings move, because they are flapping at such a fast rate they are almost invisible to the naked eye. Yet, you know that without those wings, the hummingbird is not going to be able to fly around from flower to flower to suck out that delicious and nutritious nectar to keep it alive. That’s really what we are like as aidworkers. Our emergency programme will not survive to meet the needs of disaster affected populations if we were not there and fulfilling all of the double, triple and quadruple roles that are expected of us. So I hope you will take heart from this analogy. You are the hummingbird's wings and what magical things they are. Continue to be the hummingbirds wings and take flight!


I'd like to hear from you so feel free to comment below or on the Blondebombshell in Crises Facebook page here or Twitter here.

For now, thanks for reading and if you liked this, pass it on....

Peace, love and light,


Monday, 1 December 2014

Washing in Wilderness 5 - suds up

Hello readers!

This Washing in Wilderness series attempts to share top tips and best practice in response to your personal hygiene challenges, while you are out in the field. Oh yes, really...

Past posts have explored unusual soap powder in East Africa, click here, and in the South Pacific, click here, and how you can make your household chores into an exciting extreme sport (for the adrenaline junkies amongst us), click here. And we also recently celebrated World Toilet Day here.

Keeping your clothes clean and fresh when you are out in the field can be tricky at the best of times. Don't let your mission become a soap opera. So, going back to soap powder, how about this little number? 

I wonder what the marketing and PR people were really thinking. You might think that they came up with this concept after a heavy night of pub crawling, but it is made by a company in Iran, so I am guessing this is unlikely. Still, imagine what your clothes and bedlinen would smell like? Take a nice deep breath in now! (On the other hand, don't!)

Send me your suggestions for weird and wonderful personal and household hygiene products that you have discovered on your travels via Twitter or Facebook!

Until next time, stay fresh ( you know what I mean)...

Bravo, Bravo, Charlie...out (for now)