Fatherland, mother tongue – the power of two languages
Anyone who has attempted to learn a new language in adulthood knows the effort it takes. It is perhaps not surprising that many wonder if raising children bilingual isn’t all too much for those tiny brains. Scientists find that the opposite is true: bilingualism can enhance cognitive skills and other brain functions.
Interview with Arun Gandhi
When do you get a chance to interview the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi? I met Arun Gandhi (81) in Brussels for an in-depth conversation about peace, education, the role of media, parenting and the many lessons his grandfather taught him about life.
Crying for empathy: baby as teacher in the classroom
In thousands of schools around the world, children between the ages of five and 12 take lessons from a newborn baby. The result? Increased emotional intelligence, understanding and empathy towards classmates, and less bullying and aggression.
Live from London: the end of Zimbabwe’s exile radio
“Sadly it looks as though we’ll be closing down next month.” I’m staring at the e-mail in disbelief. After eight years of following the Zimbabwean exile radio station SW Radio Africa, I somehow had managed to contact founder Gerry Jackson right at the moment she was forced to pull the plug.
Interview with the Dalai Lama
In a stunning Scottish castle just outside of Inverness, I had one of the most special interviews of my career to date. For almost 40 minutes, I had an exclusive one-to-one with the Dalai Lama. What made it even more powerful was that homeless street paper vendors made £1.1 million profit from sales of this special edition.
World’s newest nation facing challenges
As many refugees returned to South Sudan ahead of its official statehood, scarce resources were stretched thin. Al Jazeera English published one of my features from a returnee camp in Juba in the run-up to independence.
Beyond the Indian Dream
India has enjoyed record-breaking economic growth in recent years and celebrated many other milestones, such as the eradication of polio. However, millions still struggle to share in the success. Together with Scottish photographer Simon Murphy I travelled to Jharkhand - one of the three poorest states in India. BBC Scotland featured some of our work.
A future without vision
The road to the Kometi family’s hut is a rutted dirt track that cuts through tall grass and overgrown weed on either side. During the rainy season, especially, it can be a struggle to reach the compound which is located about six miles off the main road. There are urban legends of aid workers who were stranded in mud in their cars overnight whilst hyenas circled close-by in the bush. Yet all this does not stop Andrew Maina from coming here at least twice a week. He has good reason, he says, and would make the journey despite the danger and even if he had to do so on foot.
Interview with rugby legend Francois Pienaar
When Francois Pienaar received that famous Rugby World Cup trophy from Nelson Mandela in 1995, he knew he had written history. But what he didn’t know then is that he would go on to inspire not only Hollywood, but also 2,000 young people - and one Big Issue vendor.
What it takes to change a life
A sand pit on the border of the Namibian desert is where I first witnessed the power of street soccer. It was 2006 and eight boys ran after the ball in the smouldering heat. The pitch consisted of a wide tube filled with air, forming a square and two goals. There weren't many supporters but the players didn't even notice. Each of them played like their life depended on it, because it did.
Turning waste into sustainable employment
The sheer amount of plastic and other waste along Indian road sides would be enough to put most people off the mammoth task of urban waste management. But for the past two decades social entrepreneur Ravi Agarwal has been working to change a system which has the potential of improving health and environment in the country where one sixth of the world's population lives.
The raft that keeps Athens afloat
For more than two decades, homeless and unemployed individuals have bought and sold magazines to make a living on the streets. In February 2013 the world’s newest ‘street paper’ launched in recession-struck Greece.
In pictures: Homeless World Cup, Mexico City 2012
When Mel Young and Harald Schmied dreamt up a football tournament between the vendors of their street papers in Scotland and Austria ten years ago, they couldn't have dreamt in their wildest dreams that one day, 20,000 people would cheer on 500 homeless players from 54 countries. And yet, that is exactly what happened in Mexico City on 6th October 2012. "We have a dream: that the invisible people become visible; that people move from the dark side of the street into the light."
James’ wish – Notes from an emerging nation
The world is about to witness the birth of its newest country. It is a fascinating thought that by the end of this week a new land and a new people will come into existence. The South Sudanese will finally be able to say officially what they have felt throughout decades of civil war: that they are their own people on their own land - the Republic of South Sudan.
The birth of South Sudan
It is not often that you get the chance to witness the birth of a nation. In June 2011, I got that chance in South Sudan. I visited returnee camps, remote villages and a leprosy colony. I spoke to landmine victims, single teenage mums-to-be and journalists fighting for media freedom. My stories were published by more than fifty media in twenty countries, including Al Jazeera.
Spotlight on social entrepreneurs
From a poor student who set up Nepal's first free private school to two American mums creating a food revolution. Social entrepreneurs never fail to inspire me. Ashoka is the association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs. Through their network, I have met many changemakers who are solving societal and environmental problems across the globe.
With poverty on the rise, do we have more time for talking?
Which continent has one in four people at risk of poverty and exclusion, 26 million people unemployed and homelessness increasing in virtually all states? Hint: it is the same continent that promised three years ago to reduce the number of citizens living below the poverty line by a quarter and lift 20 million people out of poverty. Europe.
Bringing empathy online: the antidote to cyberbullying
The times when society believed that children should 'toughen up' or 'just deal with it' are over, but bullying nonetheless affects tens of thousands of children in the UK today. Almost half of all youngsters get bullied in school and cyberbullying is on the rise. Social entrepreneur Emma-Jane Cross is providing solutions right where the problem is.
The coming-of-age of the Homeless World Cup
Since my first involvement with the Homeless World Cup six years ago, I have been captivated by the event. The mission of the organisers, the spirit of the game, but most of all the courage of the players made me follow the extraordinary tournament around the world.
Why booming India still needs aid
Upon my return from a reporting trip to India in January 2012, India's Finance Minister declared in the UK media that his country does not require Britain's aid. As Scottish aid agency SCIAF launched its fundraising campaign for India, The Courier newspaper asked me to write a comment piece.
India eradicates polio, not poverty
Fifteen year-old Nagma Sultana smiles shyly as she enters the tiny top floor flat. The smell of the open sewer nearby penetrates the room. There are no windows in the filthy, concrete walls; the only light comes in through the open door that leads to a narrow corridor. Part of the cold, stone floor is covered with a thin rug, other than that the room is empty. Loud noises from the slum streets echo inside. These living conditions are not what politicians and investors talk about when they promote India's own 'Silicon Valley'. But for Nagma and two million other Bangaloreans, this is home.
Sudan’s most vulnerable – Inside the leper colony
At first sight, the village of Rokwe on the outskirts of Juba looks like any other village in South Sudan. The sun shines bright on the grass roofs of the mud huts and sounds from a church choir practicing can be heard in the distance. Only the scenery at the local health centre gives away that this is no ordinary place. Dozens of patients seek shelter from the sun on the concrete veranda. Many have more than one disfigured limb. Some are able to move around, others struggle to walk. Rokwe is a leper colony.
Protecting the messenger
Roger Alfred grew up thinking journalism was dangerous. Telling the truth to him was equal to risking your life. In South Sudan during the years of civil war, independent media did not exist. Journalists criticising the northern government were punished, or even killed. During the eighties and early nineties, critical reporters became victims of the brutal regime. One of them was Roger's dad.
The point of no return
Jacob Meltong was a teenager when he entered Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya in 2005. The journey from Aweil in the South Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal was long and dangerous. Although the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan had been signed just months earlier, tensions were still high and many of the roads were scattered with landmines. After days on the road, Jacob had arrived in a foreign country where his parents hoped he would escape the aftermath of the war and get an education. He was hungry, tired, and alone.
‘Homeless should be part of every Olympics’
For the first time in history, homeless people got an official voice during the Olympics. It might only have been one event in London a month ahead of the 2012 Games, but it is a significant political statement, say the organisers. “This is about showing the talents rather than the needs.”
Starting from scratch
On the western outskirts of the South Sudanese capital of Juba some two dozen people have gathered in the local chief’s compound. It is a very hot day, the sun is unforgiving and people crowd around the one big tree in the yard to get some shade. Plastic chairs are brought in for the men, most of the women and children sit down on a large, woven mat on the floor. They come together regularly, to support each other and discuss their future. Some have come back here months ago, others just arrived. Wherever they have come from, one thing is the same for all of them: they have to rebuild their lives.
The power of India’s disabled work force
In a booming economy that is crying out for skilled workers, India’s corporates take baby steps in including disadvantaged groups. With a potential work force of 30 million people with disabilities, the challenge is to match up talent and jobs – and fight stigma in the process.
The other side of the City of Lights
Benches and doorways in some areas of Paris are crowded with rough sleepers every night and the banks of the Seine have often been host to ‘tent cities’. While most politicians and tour operators try to hide the city's dark side, one football tournament draws attention to the problems and challenges perceptions.
Is reporting on suicides necessary?
When I moved to Namibia in February 2006, I did what I always do when arriving in a foreign land: buy the papers. One of the first things that struck me was the way the Namibian mainstream press reported on suicides. The editor of The Big Issue Namibia asked me to write an opinion piece on the topic.
Saving the wild cheetah
The sun is shining, the sky is clear. It is silent. Suddenly there is a rustle in the grass. A young cheetah appears, carefully raising its front legs and peering out from behind its yellow grass cover. I cannot believe I am only meters away from the fastest animal on earth. I wrote this report in Namibia, home to the world’s largest number of cheetas.
Brazil in denial about homelessness
On the way from the international airport into town one cannot miss the people sleeping on the pavement, sheltered under bridges with nothing more than an old blanket to cover themselves. Like many metropolitan cities across the globe, Rio de Janeiro has a substantial homeless population. Yet city officials go out of their way to hide the issues.
Greetings from the Bush
In the reality television programme ‘Groeten uit de Rimboe’ (‘Greetings from the Bush’) a Dutch family was dropped in Namibia’s Kunene region to live with a Himba tribe. Afterwards the Himba were taken to the Netherlands. Was it unbiased cultural comic relief or cultural exploitation? Having seen the outrage about the programme in Holland, I wrote this report for The Big Issue Namibia magazine.