Isolation Island – Flatholm #underthemask

Cholera – the scourge of Victorian Britain

One of the blights of Victorian times was a rapacious killer, that had arrived in the UK from Asia. It took out many thousands. It was a condition that particularly affected poorer communities and those who arrived from overseas – Sound familiar?      

The disease affected the poor, in cramped conditions

The Cholera epidemic, was one of the defining moments of the 1800s, triggering local authority reform and the harnessing of the finest minds in engineering to create civic sanitation at a scale that had not been seen before.

A significant response in South Wales was the creation of a cholera community and hospital – off the coast of Cardiff.

Overlooking the Severn Estuary – the Victorians saw the Island as a valuable defence against invasion

The tiny Island of Flatholm, four miles from the mainland had had history long before cholera. It had hosted the Celtic saints, the Vikings settled here and moved on when the water and the food ran out. And the Victorian engineers had seen it as a valuable defensive weapon against the threat from Napoleonic France.

Ironically, by the time the hospital was built the epidemic was more or less over. Yet the remains still serve as a reminder.

The plan then was to isolate the sick. For the last two months we have been isolating the well.

The remains of the Cholera Hospital on Flatholm

This has meant that the island, which has been fighting its corner as a attraction for visitors and nature lovers, is in Covid-19  lock-down, with all but two locked-out.

Jen Breen and her partner Matt are working as wardens on the Island: “We were asked if we wanted to stay or go,” she said, “ we decided to stay, just the two of us.”

Cardiff Habour Authority rules stipulate that one person cannot be on the Island alone, so the couple are staying together, in glorious isolation.

“We’re just keeping things ticking over,” says Jen, “making sure that everything is kept neat and tidy to be prepared for some visitors hopefully!”

The Island has been a sanctuary since the time of the Celtic Saints

It was anticipated to be a busy year this year, with a visitor boat carrying up to 30 being re-commissioned and the harbour authority applying for lottery funding to repair some of the remaining buildings and develop the Island’s significance in the narrative of Cardiff Bay and the Severn Estuary.

“We had quite a lot of events scheduled as well,” said Jen.

Securing the cholera hospital remains is part of a lottery application

“There was some yoga stuff and some bushcraft camping, there were scouts visiting and some ex-military guys who were going to come and do some workshops.

“The calendar was quite full, but now it will have to wait until next year or see what we can fit in with the good weather.”

Jen and Matt have been spending their time tending to routine maintenance. Now they are planning to count the seagulls!

That may seem like a function of the very bored but actually its very important part of life on Flatholm.

The island is renowned for its population of lesser black-backed gulls. The survey is generally carried out by a large team – this year it will be done by just two.


HG 11/5/20


One-track Mind – reporting #underthemask

Hywel George, journalist and filmmaker for over 30 years

On the day `British deaths from COVID-19 become the highest in Europe we choose to reflect on problems, that existed before we dropped all other stories for Corona Virus. Girls are still being cut and married young; refugees are still fighting for space and recognition in camps; wives and mothers are being beaten – babies are still being born, the elderly and the sick are still dying. Our worlds may be changing – the human experience remains. And we ask: when the media suggests we look away, what truths go unreported?

 I watched a feature film recently about the connection between the North American crack-cocaine epidemic and the supply of guns to the US backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

former US President Bill Clinton and the intern Monica Lewinsky

The Central Intelligence Agency was forced to admit a connection. The admission, however, came when the world’s attention was firmly fixed on the Clinton/Lewinsky impeachment hearings.

The admission attracted no media coverage (or precious little).

Captain Tom has raised millions for the NHS

This week we have had the scaling back of the Nightingale Hospital project. We have had the outpouring of adoration for the efforts of centenarian Captain Tom and his multi-million-pound fundraising efforts for the NHS and we have had the progressively quieted voices of concern, as the government’s rescue packages start to reach businesses and individuals.

I am not much of a conspiracy theorist and I don’t regard myself as terribly cynical, but I have been a journalist and writer for long enough to ask myself what I should be looking at, if someone tells me I should be looking at something else.

It’s clear that procurement procedures are more open yet less transparent. There’s greater opportunity to ‘tip-the-wink’ to friends and connections. We are on a ‘war-footing’. That means two things – greater fear and greater freedom.

It was with some sadness this week that I read the Welsh Assembly’s grant announcements, for international development through the Wales and Africa scheme. All funds had been directed in this round to COVID-19 projects.

Young African women are still fighting FGM

This did not come as much of a surprise. But I was disappointed. (Not just for my own bid either!)

Across Africa there has been a very limited impact of the virus so far. Many of the countries at greatest risk have very young populations. The young, though not immune, are less vulnerable than older populations. Many countries are applying learnings from other, now almost forgotten crises (Ebola, HIV/Aids, Malaria).

The conversations we have had across Africa suggest populations would rather risk the CORONA virus than starvation, privation, isolation.

How many mothers are getting beaten by frustrated husbands in curfew?  How much crop is left rotting in a field because work-gangs can’t be recruited? How much impact do these visceral experiences have on the normally grey-suited execs in the global-north, languishing in isolation at the pool-sides of Norther Europe and the US.

Africa is a continent of youth

The Corona-crisis will pass. We will have spent an enormous amount of money on rescue bids and health care provision and developing a vaccine.

And the world will return to the ‘new normal’ – it may look like what we knew before, it may be something different. Whatever it looks like, it won’t be based on one story.

My worry is we will have lost our tonal response while we wait. We will only know the difference between COVID and non-COVID, black and white. But life is a unique and shifting pallet of endless grey-scale. Let us not forget.

HG 6/5/20









It never rains but that it pours – western Kenya #underthemask

On top of all the problems of the Coronavirus lockdown, it’s important not to forget that other challenges exist, many of them longer lasting than a virus. In Western Kenya climate change has brought another bout of flooding.

Lowland areas of western Kenya are buried under water

Thousands of Kenyans have been displaced from their homes and are living in temporary camps, according to latest reports from the country.

Heavy rains in the Nyanza region have left low-land homes inaccessible and forced many men, women and children to find shelter wherever they can, according to Alice Kirambi, who runs the development NGO Christian Partners Development Association.

“This is clear evidence of climate change,” she says.

On top of the restrictions in the country due to COVID-19 crisis, the flooding could not have come at a more challenging time.

And it’s forcing people to come closer together, when the guidance is for them to social isolate, and keep a distance from their neightbours.

In a message to the world for much needed assistance Alice says” “Men, women, girls and boys, plus babies are all marooned together in isolated buildings like schools, churches and camps.

“Life in the camps is unbearable,” she says.

“The first major requirements are food; maize, beans, green grams and cooking oil, soaps, clean drinking water and vegetables.

“Secondly,” she says, “some pregnant mother and young babies require mosquito nets, blankets, linen, soap and sanitary pads for the girls and mothers.”

On top of this of course are the basics of COVID-19 prevention – masks, sanitiziers, soaps and hand washing equipment – are also urgently needed.

Sixteen camps have been set up in the region, on the border between Kisumu and Vihiga counties. Each camp initially catering to 200 people.

And Kenya is just coming into malaria season, so the stakes are very high indeed.

“There are 16 camps of displaced persons who are desperate and living in despair,” says Alice.

“The state of hopelessness in setting in and rape and Gender based violence is rampant.”

With the whole world’s efforts focused directly on the coronavirus outbreak, it may be some time before the assistance comes to the needy displaced flood victims of Western Kenya.

If you have any capacity to help, do drop us a direct message and we can direct your funds to the flood effort and the work of Christian Partners Development Association. 


HG 2/05/20

TOWNSHIP POWDERKEG – South Africa #underthemask

I’m not pre-disposed to fear. But something is waking me, in the small hours, before the dawn chorus. Head working, heart racing, adrenalized and stuck. Like many I am defined by what I ‘do’, despite my efforts to just ‘be’.

 I have coped well so far with my impatience. But like the latter stages of a draining sink the whirl is getting faster, the noise building.

Cairo Moyo originally from Malawi

 In moments of reflection I fear for the countries I am so invested in. At Griot we are receiving reports of violence and unrest, particularly in Africa.

Kenya is saying better the virus than starvation, Malawi’s lockdown was suspended by the courts due to a lack of provision for the poor. East Africa has the additional problem of Locusts in five countries. And from the pressure cooker bubbling in the Townships of Johannesburg, there has been violence and looting.

As I sit is relatively luxurious isolation, with no immediate concerns over food or shelter, I ‘do’ what I can – bring you stories from around the globe, that help contextualise our own experience of #Covid-19.

Today, we speak to Cairo Moyo.

I met her when she was a teenager. She was in her last days of school, growing up in the SOS Children’s Village in Lilongwe, Malawi.

She was among a cohort of young people I worked with to develop a programme that showed Africa to the world through the eyes and ears of its orphans and abandoned children.

Cairo finished that programme and went on to journalism training in Blantyre.

That was over 10 years ago.

Wearing the colours – Cairo now lives in South Africa

She has spent much of the intervening years in South Africa. She writes occasionally for the papers there.

“South Africa confirmed its first corona virus case on March 5,” she told us.

“In the weeks that followed, infections were mostly confined to suburban areas – it was mainly travellers from Europe, United States and other countries.

“As of today (25th of April) there are over four-thousand confirmed cases and 79 deaths of the corona virus in South Africa.”

The number of new infections is increasing daily. Like other countries there is a Government enforced lock-down. This is bringing challenges to many.

“In Johannesburg, a lot of foreign nationals especially the undocumented ones are finding it difficult to earn a living,” said Cairo. “Those without papers have small scale jobs.

This means: no work, no pay,”

A long way from home – Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi

Cairo had spoken to a fellow Malawian, who wanted to remain anonymous.

He told her he was really suffering, in South Africa, at this time. He had no food and none of the essentials of life. He’d said that if he had money he would have gone home.

Cairo says the Government and other agencies seem to be working hard to reach the needy, especially the elderly and those in rural areas.

The Townships of Johannesburg

But the patience and the hunger has burned through in the townships. People are taking matters into their own hands.

There’s been violence and looting as the hungry take matters into their own hands

“As we are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted next week people have resorted in bad practices such as stealing and looting shops to find something for the day,” she said.

“We are in difficult times as a country.

Cairo has hopes for the future of South Africa

“My only hope is everything will get back to normal when lockdown is lifted.

“Although it is not guaranteed for how long it will take to repair the wreckage this pandemic has left in the lives of many people and the nation as a whole.”

 It is hard to tell, so far, just how much damage has been done to the lives of individuals across the world. And I am troubled that the only statistics we see are those of hospital deaths from the virus. It may be a long time before the full extent of its reach will be understood.

HG 26/4/20














BRON GONE, GENERATION EXITED – family #underthemask

 I am called to remember today that, amid the furore and drama of the COVID-crisis, human life continues – and in some cases stops. Children are born, people are getting ill (unrelated) others are dying (sometimes also unrelated).

It’s come to pass in my family.

Bronwen George RIP 

My parents have been gone a long time. Mam passed away five years ago. Dad went in ‘91,

They were youngsters at the end of WW2 – passionate, resilient, optimistic.

Mam’s family had moved into the Swansea valleys from a country background ‘down west’.

Dad and Uncle Keith with the family

Dad, Ron, had been raised in the Rhondda. His father Emrys supported a family of five (siblings and mother) aged 13. He gained a mining degree in night-school; became a colliery manager and a freelance trouble shooter – South Wales’ Red Adare some have said (they also claimed he was the first in the Rhondda to own a car, though I find that hard to believe). He told my dad he’d given him his chance by allowing him to go to Grammar school, which he did between appointments on the rugby fields and snooker halls.

It was some years before Ron was to meet his wife to be. But at school he was in class with Bron.

She was stunning. Voluptuous, flirtatious and fun. And she loved to tell a story.

At mam’s funeral Bron told me a story about her school days with Dad. She said he had been quite a catch. She claimed the girls used to pay a shilling, for him to accompany them to the ‘pictures’ – nice work if you can get it!

Ron and Min married the same year as Bron and Keith

I don’t think Ron and Bron were ever an item, but she did become my aunt, marrying Dad’s older brother Keith, when the boys had finished National Service.

Ron married Min in the same year. The years rolled by and children came. My older brother Huw first, then cousin Nigel, cousin Yvonne and eventually me.

Keith followed Emrys into the mines. He also studied at night school, was among the first with a shovel when Aberfan wiped out a generation; became a colliery manager, retiring from Taff Merthyr when I was in my teens.

Ron’s graduation

Dad couldn’t get far enough away from mining. He went into the law, initially as a policemen, then studying the subject at Aberystwyth and joining the Health and Safety Executive, retiring as principle inspector of factories. “I’m neither civil, nor subservient, but I am a civil servant” he was fond of saying.

Keith stayed in the Rhondda, we made our home in the Vale of Glamorgan, where Min taught in the primary school in Cowbridge.

Keith and Ron shared a love of fishing

Of course, it was a generation of smokers, certainly the men. And, too young, we started to lose them. Keith first, aged 63. Ron, 18 months later, at the same age.

Mina was a primary school teacher in Cowbridge

Mam moved back to West Wales, to be close to my brother’s family, just 10 miles from where she lived as a young girl.

With Keith and Ron both dead and grandchildren to take the attention the two sides of the family drifted further apart. Min spending more time with her sister than with Dad’s sister in law. We’d only gather for weddings and funerals and christenings.

Mina and Bron

Now, Auntie Bron has set off to re-unite the gang. She is the last of the four. She died quietly this week. Cousin Nigel told me the death certificate stated “Cause of death – Old Age” – how refreshing to hear that in these times.

She won’t lie in state in her chapel in Maes-y-cwmer. She won’t be cremated in her finery, as she may have wanted and her funeral will be a very private, family, affair.

But at least she has gone in dignity, not ripped from us by some invisible, headline grabbing thief.

With Bron gone and a generation exited, we who remain ponder: “who’s next?”


HG 22/4/20

A love of fishing has passed down the generations










Unsustainable Reliance on NGOs- Greek Refugee Camps #underthemask

There has only been one topic of conversation now for WEEKS. We get it, of course! It’s a big topic. But at GRIOT CREATIVE we are striving to draw  attention to the plight of those who were already in crisis, BEFORE COVID-19. As  Collette Lette Batten-Turner writes, Refugees, in camps in Southern Europe have dropped off the radar as NGOs fight to keep their stories alive. 

By Lette Batten-Turner

As we enter the fifth week of lockdown and the UK government urges us to ‘Stay at Home’, little attention is paid to those in other countries who are unable to do so. The refugee crisis has not stopped with COVID-19.  But operations of many NGOs working in the hotspot on the Greek islands have. 

On Samos, an island less than a mile off the Turkish coast, a refugee camp built for just 648 people is now struggling under the weight of more than 8,000 people. With a population more than ten times overcapacity, arrivals on the island are forced to live in ‘the jungle’ – the hilly area surrounding the official camp.

They have no access to shelter or safe running water. They share space with a rampant population of rats and snakes. There’s insufficient toilet facilities meaning open defecation is common in the jungle.

The cramped line for food exceeds three hours wait at every meal, making it inaccessible to the ill and elderly.

The quantity of food is not enough for everybody and is far from nutritious, at a time when immune system health is paramount across the globe.

In these conditions, it is infeasible for people to follow government guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19: washing hands regularly being impossible without access to running water and ‘social distancing’ is not an option in cramped and overcrowded conditions.

UNHCR is restrained by the local government.  An information point set up near the camp entrance usually directs new arrivals to NGOs. Staffed by volunteers and funded by public donations, they attempt to meet the most essential needs – providing tents and sleeping bags.

However, under the COVID-19 lockdown in Samos, almost all of the NGOs on the island have had to close. Only Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Med’Equali Team have remained open; operating with extremely reduced staff due to the evacuation of volunteers to their home countries when lockdown was announced.

Chloé Mandelbaum works for an NGO on Samos. She says the Greek government’s response to the pandemic seems only to have brought greater police presence. They regulate the number of people leaving the camp to walk to Vathy centre.

She claims this is futile in a camp where tents are crammed together, housing entire families and social distancing is impossible.

With a limited government response, NGOs have stepped up to provide information, hand sanitiser and bottled water. But its thought the funds will dry up, as people across the globe look to safeguard themselves against future recession and wallets tighten as a result.

No cases of coronavirus have yet been reported on Samos, but Chloe believes it is only a matter of time. Many people living in the camps have pre-existing respiratory conditions and would fall in the high risk category, which has resulted in individuals isolating for 12 weeks in the UK.

In the camps, isolation is impossible. Across Europe, countries like Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Portugal, Croatia and France have escalated the evacuation of unaccompanied child refugees from the Greek islands in recognition of the catastrophe that could occur when COVID-19 begins to spread.

Despite this, British Home Secretary Priti Patel has so far ignored a letter from MSF , pleading with the UK government to accept a number of unaccompanied children with pre-existing health conditions. 

The pandemic has exposed the danger of over-reliance on non-governmental organisations, staffed by temporary volunteers and funded by donations, for the provision of basic services to tens of thousands of people living in the camps.

It has been the case for years,  NGOs providing to needs that should be met by governments.

Without other European countries accepting a greater share of refugees fleeing ongoing conflicts and political persecution, this burden falls disproportionately on countries at the periphery – countries like Greece.

While the coronavirus provides an all-new threat, NGOs still operating on Samos are trying to continue as usual . But, without a coordinated cross-government response, and increased evacuations, COVID-19 threatens catastrophe on Samos.

Collette has worked extensively with the Refugee crisis across Europe. She will continue to monitor events for us as the pandemic tightens its grip.

HG 22/04/20

Beyond the margins in Tamil Nadu, “Untouchables” #underthemask

In many parts of the world, where margins between survival and death are thin, the Coronavirus is throwing up some very different questions to those faced in Western Europe. A report in the Financial Times recently shone a bright light on the response across much of Africa – many would rather risk the virus than starvation.  Africa, of course, is a complex mix of economies across 54 countries. Today in our featured blog we shift look at the Tamil Nadu State in India, which faces many of the same issues of poverty and privation.  


The Irula Tribe live in unofficial locations

Tamil Nadu lies in the South East of India. It’s flanked by the Bay of Bengal to and the smaller states of Kerala and Kanartaka in the West.  Andra Pradesh forms its Northern Border.

Economically, it is faring better than most states in India.  Chennai in the far north dominates the population figures with over eight and a half million. Coimbatore is the second most populous city, with just over two million.

The Country has been in lock-down since March 19th.  That’s working well for some. But in the tribal regions there is confusion and hardship.

We were moved to hear of the plight of the Irula Tribe. They are regarded among the “untouchables” in a caste system that ranks your place in society by your position at birth. The “untouchables” are the lowest of the low.

campaigner Raj helps the Irula make masks and gowns

The Irula live in unauthorized lands such as dry riverbeds or in the depths of forests, which are typically dry and provide limited resources, according to Wales based social activist Usha Ladwa-Thomas.

“They frequently lack access to potable water, proper sanitation and adequate access to food,” she writes.

“They experience extreme exclusion.

“Their children are either unable to go to school; or if they do they are usually asked to clean the toilets, or other such tasks.

“Furthermore, their young girls fear walking to schools as they could become prey to violence. Including sexual violence.

“Their stories of being in ‘bonded labour’ – including how they took exploitative loans from their employers then became enslaved labour for many years makes me angry,” she said.

These people are exploited, voiceless and powerless to begin with. Now, on-top of these hardships they are faced with the Covid-19 virus which will result in widespread deaths.

The concept of ‘social distancing’ is a mystery.  Washing with soap and water is huge stretch for communities where soap does not exist and there’s barely enough water to drink. Enforced economic inactivity through the lockdown will lead to even greater pressures on food supplies.

“This will force more to ask for loans from their employers, and further launch them into longer periods of bonded labour,” said Usha.

Usha, herself of Indian extraction, works for the Welsh Assembly government. In her spare time, she supports the work of Caplor Horizons. Caplor in its turn is administering a fund-raising effort to support over 500 Irula people who are desperate for basic food and information about how to stay safe at this time.

If you would like to know more about how you can help the Irula and support this fund raising effort you can follow the link on the Caplor website.


HG 20/4/20 #underthemask




One of the most bizarre stories to reach us at Griot during the Covid crisis has been that of the ‘vanishing leader.’ The one time poster child of the ‘poetic-revolution’ in Nicaragua has a habit of disappearance – but surely never at such a critical time. This week he resurfaced with just as much mystery.

We set Ossian Schofield on the shifting-scent of the controversial leader of the Sandinista Movement Daniel Ortega.

Wednesday 15th of April, Nicaraguan leader, Daniel Ortega, addressed he nation. It was the first time in over a month. Alongside his wife, Vice President Rosa Murrilo, Ortega declared that Nicaraguans “haven’t stopped working, because if this country stops working, it dies”.

He then attacked US handling of Coronavirus, taking aim at how minorities have suffered most during the pandemic. He highlighted the flaws in the American healthcare system. He claimed individuals were, at first, hit with fees of up-to $1200 for simple COVID-19 testing. Nicaragua, he said, despite being one of the poorest countries in Latin America, boasted a healthcare system which is largely free.

He omitted to say where he had been for the previous 34 days!

It’s not first time the President has spirited away. In 1998 Ortega disappeared for several weeks. He was facing claims of rape by his stepdaughter. Accusations he denies. Again, in 2014, a 10-day absence from office. This led to speculation on social media that he was in Cuba, (he’s a close ally of the Cuban regime) receiving medical treatment. He has become progressively secretive about his health, since it became known that he suffered a couple of heart attacks and developed high cholesterol.

His reappearance this week comes amid growing media pressure and speculation. Did he have another health episode? Had he actually contracted Coronavirus?

Ortega’s History

Rising to prominence as a military leader of the Sandinista rebels in the 1978-79 Revolution, Daniel Ortega and his brother Humberto seized power from the US-backed Somoza dictatorship.

The revolution was a clarion call for the liberal left across much of the world. It was even celebrated by the ‘70s punk band The Clash in their triple album Sandanista

Ortega was a Marxist-Lenninism. In the global wave of left wing student movements in the 1960s and the ubiquity of posters of Che Guevara a group of intellectuals gathered and formed the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).  It was one of number of anti-Samoza groups, attracting widespread support. Samoza’s regime was widely regarded as profoundly nepotistic, anti-democratic, corrupt and brutal. FSLN gained prominence within a diverse coalition.

The rebel group initially consisted of three factions.  The Ortega brothers set about forming alliances with more centrist and right-wing opposition to the government. It became known as the ‘Insurrectional Tendency’

Once in power the socialist movement began a series of land reforms focused on confiscating from wealthy Somoza supporters and distributing it to the peasant majority. They also nationalised all major industries and started a country wide mission to educate the masses.

It started as a seemingly sincere attempt to restructure Nicaragua as a more socially and economically just society.

It wasn’t long, before the country’s new Government was itself facing accusations of has brutality, corruption, nepotism.

Ortega himself is nothing if not controversial. There is a strong and vocal voice that considers him an anti-democratic despot. Since his return to office in 2006 he has increasingly tightened his grip on power through the use of the supreme court

Critics claim his abandoning of socialist ideals can be seen in his cosying up to big business and the United States, the country he so despised, during the Samoza years. And Nicaragua is still not stable.

Violence erupted again in anti-Sandanista uprisings in 2018. The trigger was the President’s proposed cuts to social security and pensions. These he eventually scrapped. But not before full-scale rioting, among whispers of another revolution. The clashes, which evoked some of the character and violence of the ‘79 war, have so far left 300 dead and over 2,000 injured, according to Human Rights Watch.

Revolutionary Approach or COVID-CLOWN?

Nicaragua is the only country in Central America not in lockdown. The President is one of few leaders across the world denying the danger of Coronavirus – most being authoritarian dictators.

In Fact, the man, whose career has been built on a claim to care about the Nicaraguan people, seems to have actively put them in harm’s way. According to Confidencial, one of a handful of independent newspapers in the country, the government has forbidden healthcare workers from using basic PPE so as to ‘’not alarm’’ patients. The Vice president has also made tv appearances urging the public to enjoy Carnival celebrations, attend sporting events and go to the beach. School students who have missed lessons have been threatened with expulsion according to sources speaking to the Associated Press.

One small consolation is the Country’s average age is just 26 and the population lives outside of the main urban areas.  So Nicaragua could be better placed than some to deal with a widespread outbreak.

Whether the President will stay around to witness it remains to be seen. One former Government minister, speaking to Reuters said: “He (Ortega) has always fled from problems, no wonder he is absent in a pandemic.”. 

What Next?

Daniel Ortega calls for peace and stability. But he knows, from personal experience, that is not the Nicaraguan way. The people will fight for freedom and democracy, whether oppressed from the left, or the right. It seems peaceful opposition is being stamped out, with campaigners accused of drug-dealing.

Ortega and his wife seem not only to be losing touch with the people, but with the very ideals they fought for. The ideals that brought them to power in the first place.

When the people are desperate and there is no room for their opposition voices to be heard and recognized the people of Nicaragua will rise-up again.

I wonder, as I watch a regime so out of step with world views, whether Coronavirus will be the tipping point that brings revolution back to the streets of Nicaragua.

Ossian Schofield is a politics student at Portsmouth University. He is particularly interested in the American political regime and its influences around the world.

At Griot we have close working relationships in Central America and had we not been locked down in the COVID-crisis would have been in the country when Mr Ortega removed himself from public view. We anticipate returning to the Country later in the year.

HG  18/4/20





Getting older is scary. It can be confusing, lonely, isolating. Many families live distant from aging relatives. The pace of 21st century life often leaves sons and daughters with the sad, but inevitable, choice of putting parents in a home. The only way out for most, is in a box, bound for a final resting place.  The COVID crisis has exaggerated this pressure on the elderly, who are thought especially vulnerable to the disease.  Imagine our delight then to read the unusual story of Val on on the South Coast who’s been SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE.

 This is her story, written by her son Glenn:

mother and son

Mum had been in a care home since breaking her hip in December 2019. She has vascular dementia and we three siblings, her attorneys, sat in a ‘best interest’ meeting about her care.

Local authorities generally see family engagement with their elderly drifting downwards, to local care-home provision. This relieves the family of obligation and worry, for their loved ones. But it also leaves the relatives adrift from their responsibilities. Our Enduring Power of Attorney states that, as attorneys, we should support Mum’s interests, as she defines them. That’s even if we disagree. This continues until such a time as Mum has no capacity to make her interests understood.

Living in a care home with Sunday family visits, Mum was becoming institutionalised and depressed. Her greatest wish was to return to familiar surroundings and her partner who lived close to her home. The couple had restricted access to each other since Mum had moved into care. She was drifting away, spending long periods in bed watching TV, complaining about her hip. There was no physiotherapy to aid her recovery and she was reduced to using an NHS ‘shuffle’ frame. Most of the family felt she was in exactly the ‘right’ place. That at least she was safe.

In the ‘best interest’ meeting, counter to the consensus, I spoke out. I seized on an impulse to offer supporting Mum in a two-week trial back home. The professionals seemed enthusiastic, as their usual view of family attitudes brightened. But the family remained concerned. What would happen after my stay? Was I raising hopes of remaining back home that could not be met? We all worried that if the trail failed, Mum would be forced back into the care home, and that would be even worse as a consequence.

After lengthy debate, a reluctant go-ahead, “On your own head be-it!”, was given.

Family feelings did gradually thaw. A new wet room was installed on the ground floor and the house thoroughly cleaned.

In February, I returned to collect Mum, she was sitting excitedly waiting for me. Her house was warm and cosy.

Social Services had been working on a care package since the previous September. It was still not in place by the time of her release from care. During the trial home stay, we finally managed to secure support to include four visits a day with friends stepping-in to assist Mum every morning. With this in place I could leave.

That was February. We’re now in Mid-April. Mum is still at home. She is no longer depressed. She walks better, enjoys choosing her own meals and meeting regularly with her partner (at least until we went into ‘Lock-down’).  They would meet and do crosswords together at their choosing, not during ‘visiting hours’.

The cost of Mum’s care has fallen and the family now shoulders more of her care.  But family are SO seeing the benefits, especially during the time of CORONAVIRUS. There is no telling how long these arrangements will last, as the onset of dementia advances. But we are enjoying Mum, at home, while she is still with us, swimming against the tide.

As we head further into the battle against COVID-19 this story could be seen as an inspiration for families with relatives in residential care. There are reports of elderly residents being persuaded to sign DNR’s, ‘do not resuscitate’ forms. How much more dignified to spend your viable years at home.




Women lead the Fight against the Virus – #underthemask

We have been interested for sometime in the new generation of female leaders across the world and impact their having on the economies they run – imagine our delight then, when we found an article in FORBES looking at the impact those leaders were having in the battle against COVID-19.

It’s early days, but the findings in the article written by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox seem to suggest that a response that is loving, considered and nurturing is producing different results to the ‘gung-ho’ response of fear driven machismo.

“From Iceland to Taiwan and from Germany to New Zealand, women are stepping up to show the world how to manage a messy patch for our human family.” She writes, “Add in Finland, Iceland and Denmark, and this pandemic is revealing that women have what it takes when the heat rises in our Houses of State..
Of course, the countries listed above are smaller nations, so Forbes draws attention to the German statistics. Though not lead by one of the charismatic new breed of heart-led change-makers, Germany is run by a women.
The article quotes Angela Merkel, who stood up early to the risk of the virus: “It’s series,”
she said, “take it seriously.” And the country listened.
Of the main European economies Germany is managing delivering better figures than most. Testing began straight away. And there are signs the restrictions may start to ease sooner than many of her neighbours.
Further afield, the liberal leaning lead of New Zealand Jacinda Arden acted with clarity and vision. She put visitors into self-isolation really early and then banned foreign visitors soon after. The country has (at time of writing) on suffered six deaths. And now, eeven returning nationals have to be quarantined for 14 days.
Katrin Jackobsdotir, in Iceland, is offering free testing to all citizens – whereas most countries have limited testing to those showing symptoms. As such the country has so far been able to a lockdown as such.

In Taiwan
the government, led by
Tsai Ing-wen introduced 124 mesures when the virus first appeared back in January – so far they have restricted fatalities to six, without having to instigate lockdown. The country is now sending 10million facemasks to the states, says the article.

The youngest world leader, Finland’s Sanna Marin used social media ‘influencers’ to spread the word and also in Scandinavia Mette Frederiksen went on children’s TV to tell kids it was ok to be scared.
The article invites us to compare those interventions to the bravado of Boris, the jingoism of Trump… you know where we’re going, right?
The article shows this table of data from European Centre for Disease Control

I am delighted to see these figures and to be presented with another opportunity to crow about the rise of, in particular, a new generation of considered and caring politicians. I look forward to reading more analysis of their approach to COVID-19, climate change and other world issues and hope that FORBES magazine continues to watch them closely too.

HG 14/4/20