Posted by David Gledhill
As well as being a wife, mother, Deputy Mayor of Upper Hutt and Co-ordinator of the Jackson Street programme, our guest speaker, Helen Swales is also a member of the Business and Professional Women's Association, which has 130 clubs worldwide, but has flown under the radar for most of us.  BPW believes in the 17 goals of the United Nations and is particularly concerned with the rights and welfare of women and children who are so often the ones who suffer most in a human crisis.  She gave the case of the massive 2015 earthquake in Nepal as an example of their community projects.  After the earthquake of  Saturday, 25 April there were 9000 dead, 22000 badly injured.
The first issue was  "How can we give help EFFECTIVELY?"   The answer was to work with local leaders and help build them up.  BPW hired trucks and with local volunteers distributed the most urgent items, water, food and survival materials.  Nepal contains many local dialects incomprehensible to neighbouring settlements so they used pictures for communication.  One particularly urgent situation was women in child birth, so the team included a gynaecologist.  The earthquake was massive: 8 million out of a total population of 28 million needed urgent assistanse.  A major  problem  was housing, a problem compounded by the endemic corruption in the higher levels of government.  The answer was to bring in the materials through Pakistan.  BPW built houses and set up a school for the youngest children.  They listened to what the locals wanted, and whereas the Australian army built single room houses  BPW built two-roomed houses, 42 of them by February 2017.  And the locals now knew how to build more.  There were three key concepts: 1 to help local leaders prepare an organised action plan, 2 to listen to what the local people wanted and to involve everyone and 3 to hold and implement regular reviews.
BPW is now looking to assist women and children in Ukraine.
In answers to questions Helen said yes, they do work with other organisations and sometimes have joint projects.  Their funding comes from a variety of sources: membership fees,  donations, the United Nations Organisation and some projects earn money.
(Helen also told us of the Jackson Street programme for Christmas).