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Dr. Colin Hudson

By the late Dr. Colin Hudson

Returned on 14th Sept from the fifth visit to South Africa in 13 months. Quite a number of folk have understandably asked, "What on earth was it all about?" This tries to answer in a fairly compressed form -- more details if you ask for them. Those who are only interested in the most recent expedition can ignore the first ten paragraphs.

In May last year, the Gaia Foundation in London suggested that something like the Barbados "Village of Hope" could be appropriate for the Johannesburg Earth Summit (WSSD), in particular linking with the swelling interest in the development of the "Earth Justice Movement" (EJM). EJM is deep thinking indeed, -- questioning the basis of traditional "Western" Jurisprudence which seems to be leading to an ever-worsening interaction between people and each other and nature, and replacing it with a jurisprudence based on the Laws of Nature (as understood by Science) and Intuitive Laws (as understood by "primitive" peoples and great religions and philosophies). "Hopes" (similar to "Best / Better Practice -- defined in our ventures as actual working models which can be adapted and copied widely to achieve harmonious living with the natural laws including other people and species) move us from wistful interest to pleasing achievement. As far as we know the Barbados Village of Hope was the first time in which a whole Nation used exhibiting to share and discuss Hope / Better Practice in a systematic and pragmatic way.

Because of the success of the Village, I was nominated to sit on the UN Eminent Persons "Round Table" for Latin America and the Caribbean in June, and the idea of an Event of Hope for WSSD was warmly endorsed. UN "Capacity 21" paid for Mo'' and me to join an EJM Meeting (orgnised by Sandy Heather) in August just outside Johannesburg. One important outcome of that discussion was the decision by Mandla Mentoor and colleagues, in Soweto to pursue the dream of a "Soweto Mountain of Hope" (SoMoHo) in the Tchiawelo District -- eventually one of the most notable features of the Summit. Two of the other "overseas" attendees at the meeting were Million Belay from Ethiopia (who created a Village of Hope in Addis Ababa less than two months later!) and Shahid Zia, Director of the SUNGI Foundation in Pakistan. And, not least, was our fascination with the opportunities and magic of South Africa, including a raft of delightful and concerned South Africans, many of whom became firm friends!

Following agreement that in addition to SoMoHo, a comprehensive "Village of Hope" would indeed be a Good Thing, Capacity 21 paid for me to return to SA. At that time the Johannesburg Development Agency urged that it should be sited in Joubert Park, a decayed and crime-ridden Inner City area (formerly the "Nobby" district but now abandoned by Business and Nobs alike) with 80% of the inhabitants not even South African! Already the Park was the location of the ambitious "GreenHouse" and "Lapeng" projects which could be boosted by, and hold the legacy of, the Exhibition. Far from being a "problem", the high proportion of immigrants offered the opportunity for the Exhibition to be "African" rather than just South African. Towards the end of that visit we saw an advertisement inviting applications for ASHOKA Foundation Awards for innovative social transformation ideas; since money was clearly a limiting factor we submitted an "alternative currency" idea and we not only won an Award, but one of the Judges asked if he could help with it's implementation! This visit created new friendships including Sandy's parents, Nan and Ralph, and especially John Clarke and family, Jeremy Burnham, and others who would subsequently play key roles.

By February, fears were mounting that Joubert Park's bad reputation could not be sufficiently changed by August that the "Village" would receive the number of visitors it deserved. A key part of the design had been a central section which was mobile, taking the best of the Hopes all over South Africa after WSSD as a "Caravan of Hope". So, argued John and colleagues, why not short circuit the static display and go straight for the mobile Caravan? It could even move during WSSD symbolically collecting Hopes from the "South" in Soweto and the NGO/Civil Society meeting at the Exhibition Centre (also to the South of Johannesburg), pass through Joubert Park and then symbolically share them with the Ubuntu Village Meeting Point and Sandton Convention Centre in the "North", where the official delegates and "Business" were gathered. During this visit I made more great friends, including the Marsay family, the Indigo Junction group, Mike Bowes and Tammy, and Luc Hoebeke as well as renewing an old acquaintance with Roger Kelly.

A major International Agency expressed interest in funding such a venture and a team was formed to plan buses, staffing, content, etc. Treading Lightly's role was reduced to the assembly of "global wisdom (Hopes)" as the background "content" to stimulate folk to identify local Hopes. We settled into this, with a key player added in the form of Rory Spowers a researcher and writer of exceptional ability. Hopes were "tested" in a series of displays at Barbados Exhibitions and schools, developing a simple interactive method, including integrating "Footprint" Analysis. This work was to lead to a "Web(site) of Hope" and series of "Little Books of Hope".

In April we were asked by the South African Group to consider a longer period in SA, helping with the continued movement of the Caravan after WSSD, including perhaps a special aspect for the total eclipse in December! Also the Gaia Foundation planned to send us to Pakistan for the launch of the first of a series of exciting eco-agricultural villages by Shahid Zia's SUNGI Foundation. We found someone to look after our house and garden and Mo' and I set off on a three-month adventure via UK.

But not so simple. Funding still hadn't been confirmed in SA and even as we received our Visas, the possibility of war between Pakistan and India was escalating. In the meantime a group of extremely able folk in UK had been thinking about the Web of Hope, Books of Hope and a "Roadshow of Hope" in the UK context. Important potential players included "Positive News" and the Natural Step (UK) as well as John Pontin and the Schumacher Society. Rory's Book ("Rising Tides") was also being launched. At the same time my Father's village South of Bristol became interested in the ideas! It was great to have the opportunity to see more of my Father (still in excellent health) as well as many cousins at a memorable reunion in the village of my maternal grandmother. It was also bluebell time. The visit to Pakistan had to be cancelled but, as you can imagine, there was no shortage of things to do while we waited for the call to SA, including our first contact with Grant Sonnex of Radio 4.

When the call came, it was not to say funding was finalised (though at that time they had been told this was in the final stages) but "could we come urgently to help implement the ASHOKA Award in the Inner City"; the original submission had been made plausible by the Village of Hope project on which it could hang, but without that "peg" it was proving a challenge for which resources were not available. We decided to take the challenge and flew to Johannesburg early May to live right beside Joubert Park. Thanks to the great team of folk in the Park area and helpers from outside (especially Pinkie, Makhotso, Caroline, Liwena, Dale and Tish White (now proud owners of a flourishing tyre garden), Boudewijn, Chris, John, etc.) an alternative currency ("HOPES in the City") was started and immediately attracted interest in other places. This gave us a chance to enjoy the wonderful train and coach facilities of SA to visit Grahamstown (especially good to meet the Timmermans, Eloff and the remarkable Irene and colleagues in UMTHATHI) and Capetown where we renewed friendships with several who had been at the first meeting in August, were wonderfully looked after by Cathy, met Ossie Asmal who decided to name the train carrying the official Capetown Delegates to Joburg the "Train of Good Hope", and enjoyed a 25 minute encounter with Peter Willis of the SA Natural Step -- a momentous contact as it transpired. The bad (devastating actually) news was that soon after our arrival the funding offer for the Caravan was abruptly withdrawn, leaving a wonderful project stranded and several people who had given months of free time badly let down.

Sadly Mo' had to return to Barbados soon after our wonderful journey to the South, leaving me to complete the currency development and to revisit Grahamstown to brainstorm a version of HOPES with UMTHATHI; and then to an experimental Afrikaaner settlement (Orania) interested in using HOPES as a way of measuring their self-sufficiency. I was made really welcome and especially so by Frans who drove 220 km to Bloemfontein to collect me, John and family who were an inspiration in DIY, and the inspired leader of the Community and his family. On returning to UK I found the Gang even more positive and forging ahead, including an anonymous gift of #10,000. A presentation to Wrington Villagers went particularly well.

And that could have been the end of the saga. All sorts of Initiatives of Hope started and being continued by able folk; but with the one major Initiative (Village/Caravan) which originally took us to SA sadly aborted. Time to get back to garden chores and focusing on Barbados. But three weeks before the WSSD was due to start, the boat started to rock again! The website was up, it looked as if the first Little Book would be published in time, Rory was booked to go and test the reaction to the whole idea and a colleague would be useful, and I couldn't stop wondering "how things were going" in my usual interfering way. Then a mail to say that one of the most intriguing ideas looked like it had foundered -- Archbishop Tutu had agreed to unveil the Marquette of the "Peace Angel" in Joubert Park the day before WSSD opened and the HOPES currency was playing a critical part in preparing and executing that ceremony, including "greening" apartments and rooftops and purchasing guns and knives from young men to be melted into the final statue ...... Now Tutu's doctor had said he couldn't do that as well as another critical function demanded by the President. Could we "think of something?"

An e-mail confirmed that in fact the planned arrival time for that Train of Good Hope was the same as the Peace Angel plan! There was one last seat on a BA plane to Capetown but ony on 19th. In the remaining week, and with help from Andy, Angela and Sharon we composed a 200-foot long "Rope of Hope" which I took in a suitcase to Capetown, meeting briefly with Stella and BestFootForward between two overnight flights. Peter Willis arranged it all, met me and housed me. We had a Ball meeting some fascinating and innovative people (not least Peter's family -- his wife having been part of the Stroud alternative currency and farmers markets and other coincidences and now with the Valley Trust Directed by Russell Bishop who wants to implement an alternative currency .... ); we even presented to an International Quaker Peace Retreat. In short, leaving a trail of devastation ..... The Rope was then put along the corridors of three carriages of the Train of Good Hope and we had another Ball on the 27 hour journey, being met at the railway station by the HOPES Exchange Directors, Rory, and children who carried the Rope through the streets to Joubert Park, entertained us, fed us, led us, and inspired us with bottle gardens, tyre gardens, etc. ...... for three hours, including a presentation by the GreenHouse Director (The GH had opened the previous day and had a super exhibition mounted -- a miniature Village of Hope in fact!). The whole thing had been arranged with, and we paid for it with, HOPES (of course).

Then the Rope was suitcased again and off to St Stithians School where the Peoples-Earth-Summit was being held and it became the feature decoration around the large Hall in which the World Sustainability Hearings were held, the whole thing coordinated by several of the people whose names appeared earlier in this account. Rory did a fantastic job promoting and assessing reaction to the Web and Little Book of Hope (4,000 given out) and we met and ran across some amazing people as well as many other players in earlier parts of this saga. Reaction to the Hopes Initiative was outstanding and we can proceed with confidence. Near the end, we accidentally ran into a European Union guy who had played a part in advising about funding for the original Village idea and he offered to facilitate an application for the Caravan idea to continue as a "legacy" not only in SA but other countries too ....... Two leading figures from Orania appeared to continue the discussions on alternative currency ..... I ran into Herman Timmermans, ........ And so it went on -- like a sort of play where all sorts of events and actors appear and suddenly it "all comes together". Some of the younger people helping, or delegates, at the PES were an absolute inspiration, including Bheema (dolphin therapist), Jeff (the cheerful sound engineer), Paula (professional clown and potential PhD on Enthusiasm), Leigh-Anne (going back to Capetown to work miracles), and Suzie (with whom I share the job of "someone to blame"), .... not to mention my room mates, Panama and Odigha, Ryan Case (working with John Todd of "Living Machine" fame), and the amazing Mathis Wackernagel (of Footprint fame), and dozens more who I count it a great privilege to have been able to meet, even if briefly.

Perhaps the best incident of all was to be able to put a Director of Woolworths (equivalent to Marks and Spencer in SA) in contact with Nick Nielsen and colleagues and three of the pupils who footprinted Notting Hill School, as well as David Gear at St Stithians. Woolworths Trust is thinking of sponsoring schools to footprint themselves, probably in groups which include poor schools with rich ones so that (often for the first time) poorer kids will be the mentors for richer ones .... It works! This contact was another result of the indefatigable Peter Willis and colleague Hugh Tyrrell.

After leaving the School I stayed for 4 days with Norman Reynolds and Lucy. Norman used to be Mugabe's chief Economist in Zimbabwe and is now one of the leading thinkers in South Africa on alternative economics and the Basic Income Grant (BIG), guaranteeing the "rights" enshrined in the Constitution via a special "currency". Lucy is promoting Montessori-type education in a practical and "out of the box" way. They live near Joubert Park so I could give a few final hours of help to the folk there. The high notes continued, including the privilege of going with Val Worth to Alexandra Stadium (with police escort!) to join the launch of BIG with a human chain linking the awful poverty of Alex with the opulence of Sandton, and a seminar in the Park for five people who will be able to help to move the HOPES forward against immense difficulties (if it works in JP, it can work anywhere in the world, including giving practical experience for BIG-type initiatives); preeminent amongst them is Mark Lachman, Project Manager with the giant South African Breweries and passionate to help re-look outworn paradigms! What a high note to leave on.

You might think that was ENOUGH but I shared the plane with Helena Norberg-Hodge and a Professor in the Rotterdam School of Business Studies (who knows Mark Lachman and is now interested in working with us in some way). There then followed 6 magnificent days in UK, enjoying my Father's company (including an unforgettable walk on Mendip), spending quality time with my son and Jenny, meeting with the UK "gang" and Positive News as well as four very special people from a past life as an agricultural engineer, some of the passionate people in my Father's village who want to take sustainability ideas forward, and Grant Sonnex ..... You see how the people keep coming round in this narrative? Ubuntu at work.

Back to a lovely welcome in Barbados, including two excellent hikes on Sunday and lunch with the Merritts (who built those puppets for the Village of Hope -- round we go again!) and the pleasure of some simple garden work which Mo' kindly left for me to enjoy. We're lucky people. Bless you all.

20th Sept 2002

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