Somewhere in Transit to Port-au-Prince


These past few days have been fairly intense. First, I spent Thursday and Friday at the SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, then when I was coming home from SwitchPoint I heard about the massive earthquake in Nepal where I actually have friends, all the while readying myself to travel to Haiti today. It’s been a lot!

As you read this I’m on a plane somewhere in transit to Port-au-Prince. I am excited to go to Haiti and although things have been a bit overwhelming nothing can stop me from gathering great stories while I’m there for the first time.

While at SwitchPoint I thought critically about my work as a writer and founder of Social Good Moms and how I can make both better through powerful storytelling. SwitchPoint is a conference for global health thinkers, artists, and communicators. That’s not their full definition, but that’s how I define it for myself. That’s what I like about SwitchPoint: The flow of it hits people in different places. Mine was about telling the best stories we can with the tools and knowledge we have.

Everyone had a story to tell even the freestylers who have traveled the world creating Beat Making Labs for the youth of Africa and Asia…

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… to the husband and wife owners of Haw River Farmhouse Ales who wanted a full-fledged brewery and funded it themselves without any investors (impressive) and could care less if they grow big or not. They are taking it one step at a time and are staying true to the Saxapahaw community. I love that.

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By the way, their ales are fresh and delicious. I tried two: one dark, stout beer and another light, lemony beer. Both were two of the best beers I’ve ever had in my life mainly because of the unique blends and because they were literally brewed 10 feet away.

And with that…I will talk to you when I arrive in Haiti given I have Wi-Fi. Be sure to follow me at @jenniferjames. I may be able to tweet and not write full blog posts.

Talk soon, friends!

 

 

Spending a Day With Smart, Global Innovators


Haw River
It’s early, early Friday morning. In a few hours I will be back at the SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, a quaint, small town that is known for the global health innovators summit it hosts every year. SwitchPoint is a gathering spot for global change-makers who work to drive social change through data, or drones, or communications, or photography, among many other disciplines. I wrote a full post, Can Creative Innovators Drive Global Health and Humanitarian Change? about my first day at the conference in one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina on the Haw River.

Tomorrow I will take more photos. I always vow to take more photos when I am at events, but usually I rely too heavily on my phone. I’m putting a stop to that because I don’t want to miss a thing and I also want to share Saxapahaw in photos, not just words. The town is about twenty miles from Chapel Hill and has really grown into a destination of its own. The New York Times  even wrote a piece about the sleepy, little town in essentially the middle of nowhere.

I am attending SwitchPoint as a guest of IntraHealth International who I met last year on a trip to Tanzania where I saw some of their work with male circumcision that helps curb the spread of HIV. The presenter of SwitchPoint, IntraHealth International does innovative work with health workers in 100 countries. Working with IntraHealth International is really a full circle moment. I remember being in Zambia and seeing their offices in Lusaka in 2013. I wasn’t fully aware of everything IntraHealth International did at the time, but I knew I had heard about them and I recognized their logo. I am thrilled to now know more about their work!

I will say that I am excited about all of the talks we’ll hear tomorrow. I am equally excited about a scheduled field trip I am going to take to Saxapahaw’s brewery. If you read me often you know I love beer no matter where I am in the world. It’s my thing. I can’t wait to try Saxapahaw’s beer. And, of course, I will be taking photos.

 

#TBT That Time I Was This Close to President Obama


End of AIDS Event
Four years ago I attended the Beginning of the End of AIDS event at Georgetown University that was hosted by ONE and (RED). A lot of celebrities were there: Bono and Alicia Keys to name a few. But, it was President Obama who actually came down among us to shake hands instead of just leaving right from the stage, which was nice of him. I was close enough to get this photo of the President even without a great lens. He was that close!

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My Most Recent Trip to Tanzania


When I look back on 2014 a few years from now I want to remember that I went to Tanzania in October because, friends, I will forget!

I always need to write about my trips because remembering back to the things I’ve done and trips I’ve taken is sometimes quite difficult for me because I am so busy! Days merge into weeks; weeks merge into months. Then, the next thing I know I look up and it’s an entirely new year.

In October I traveled to Tanzania with PSI along with singer, actress, and humanitarian Mandy Moore and IntraHealth to report on health workers. It was a whirlwind trip – not even an entire week. And although it was quite quick, we packed a lot into the time we had.

When I was in Tanzania last year I took a lot of overland trips from Dar to Morogoro to Iringa with a final stop in Arusha. It was gorgeous around the time I went. The Jacaranda and Flame trees were in full bloom. It was beautiful. This time we flew from Dar to Mwanza and then drove a few hours to Shinyanga and then back to Dar. Dar was just like I remember her – crowded with a ridiculous amount of traffic! I still haven’t spent enough time in Dar. The next time I am in Tanzania I am going to give myself at least a day to just wander around the city. And, of course, I will go shopping at my favorite place in Dar, The Slipway. And, I am not going to miss another chance to visit Zanzibar. I’m always so close, but find myself just being way too busy to get to the islands!

As you know I love to travel. Most importantly, I love seeing the smaller cities and getting outside of the capitals and major urban metropolises. Getting out into the other parts of the country is what makes traveling worthwhile.

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Here are some of the posts I wrote about health workers for both PSI and Intrahealth.

Here are some of my photos from Instagram. You can follow me at instagram.com/jenniferjames_

I've missed you #KLM! #travel #DaresSalaam #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I can spend all day in the field with babies. All day!! #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Flying from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam this afternoon. #travel #Tanzania #love

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I loved meeting Lucy, a family planning health worker who receives training from @PSIImpact

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Dar es Salaam #OysterBay #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Beautiful young girl in Dar es Salaam. #Tanzania #travel #photography #latergram

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

A bajaj driver in Dar es Salaam #Tanzania #Africa

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

You know how much I love moms and #babies. #travel #photography #Africa #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I could be with the babies all day! #Tanzania #latergram #Africa #travel #cute #babies

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I’ve Fallen in Love With the Philippines


I have been in the Philippines all of four days and I’m already in love with this country!

First, I didn’t know that the Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands. That mere fact sounds like a challenge to me and although I won’t nearly see them all during my lifetime, I am already plotting in my mind how my family and I can see at least some of them.

I rarely come to Asia as most of you know. I’ve only been to Asia once before and that was to India. But, now I am entirely intrigued about visiting Asia more often to write about global health. I know there are challenges in southeast Asia and while I tend to primarily concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa most of the time, I think it might be time to expand my horizons slightly. There’s a big world out there!

As you probably know, if you have been following my journey, I am here with World Vision USA to see their recovery efforts after Typhoon Haiyan. I’ve written a few posts thus far. You can find them here:

I’ve also been taking slice-of-life photos while here in Tacloban. Here are a few of my favorites.

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Wheels Down Tacloban

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This is public transport if you can believe it. These buses called “jeepneys” are holdovers from WWII.

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Filipinos are huge basketball fans. In fact, the Philippines is the second largest NBA market behind the United States — hence this driver’s seat cover, a Dwayne Wade jersey

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Filipinos love basketball. Really love it!

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Fresh seafood! Even the clams were moving and spitting water. I’ve never seen that at home.

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I can’t say enough about the seafood. We’re on an island and it’s delicious and fresh!

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I met  Crisanta V. Caimoy in Dulag, about 90 minutes from Tacloban. She is lovely!

 

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If you follow my travels, you know I always take photos of flowers. Always!

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More flowers! Different color.

Coconut mound

The Filipinos are VERY  fond of their coconut wine and many have offered it to me, even on the one-year of Typhoon Haiyan anniversary vigil route. Many make coconut wine themselves and their livelihoods were wiped out because of the storm. I don’t know. ..not sure how good coconut wine would be…

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The food is really delicious here. And with  chili peppers..it’s even better!

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The Pacific ocean is beautiful. ..just beautiful.

I’m Traveling to the Philippines on Monday. Here’s Why


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©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision

One thing I now readily realize is that I travel so much that many of my online friends, followers, and even my family don’t know where I am from week to week. They’ll often ask: Are you at home? Still traveling? Where did you go again? Where ARE you?

So, now I try to write about my upcoming journeys as many places online as I can leading up to my trips to avoid any confusion.

TYPHOONHAIYAN Joy and her 2-year-old daughter Kimberly are on the pathway to recovery after their family was walloped by Typhoon Haiyan. Summary: Tonight, for the first time in months, 7-year-old Joel Jan is eating supper after 6pm. Later, he'll be able to pull out a book, and his mom, Joy, will read to him and his two younger sisters. "Finally we have light at home," says Joy, 35. Today, World Vision has provided them with a solar lamp.

TYPHOON HAIYAN Joy and her 2-year-old daughter Kimberly are on the pathway to recovery after their family was walloped by Typhoon Haiyan. Summary: Tonight, for the first time in months, 7-year-old Joel Jan is eating supper after 6pm. Later, he’ll be able to pull out a book, and his mom, Joy, will read to him and his two younger sisters. “Finally we have light at home,” says Joy, 35. Today, World Vision has provided them with a solar lamp.

That said, I am traveling to the Philippines with World Vision USA, a Social Good Moms’ partner and one of four organizations Bill and Melinda Gates recommended as an organization to support last year.  I leave on Monday to report on World Vision’s yearlong response to Typhoon Haiyan. I’ll be there for about a week not counting travel time. I won’t begin reporting until next Thursday. The one-year anniversary of Haiyan is Saturday, November 8. I’ll try my best to repost all of my articles and photos during US time. There is a 12-hour difference from eastern time.

You can follow all of my updates via Twitter primarily on @jenniferjames and @socialgoodmoms.

I look forward to seeing what World Vision has done since Haiyan slammed into the Philippines and killed 6,100 people and caused hundred of millions of dollars in damage. There are still 1,100 people who are unaccounted for.

I will travel with members of World Vision USA staff as well as a media team. You can follow along on Twitter at #WVBloggers as well.

Photos courtesy of World Vision.

My Amazing Month in Africa


I spent a cumulative 22 days in Africa in October. I won’t lie – it was amazing!

Throughout October I traveled to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. I went to Tanzania to report on agriculture, health, food security, and poverty as an International Reporting Project fellow. I traveled to Zambia as a guest of Malaria No More to cover their brand-new Power of One campaign that is essentially a global movement where a small $1 donation goes to test a Zambian child for malaria and treat them. $1 literally keeps a child alive. And finally I traveled to South Africa on the final Social Good Moms’ insight trip for the year.

During my travels in Africa I have learned many things: the continent is gorgeous! Gorgeous! My photo collage does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

Gorgeous Africa

But there are places in Africa where a lot of work needs to be done. In some places infrastructure isn’t worth a damn. Pardon my French. It’s true. That is why I was happy to hear about the upcoming Building Africa conference that is taking place in February because something has to be done about the roads. Of course, I am not saying anything new here, but having spent time on many dirt roads in October to the detriment of my backside I thought I’d mention Africa’s massive roads problem. If Africa doesn’t fix its infrastructure problem, health and transport woes will continue to be a constant burden on African countries. To wit, you cannot transport medicines, food, and essential items to people who live in areas you cannot reach. That’s problematic. Last week the African Union’s economic development arm, NEPAD, convened a conference in Johannesburg that is looking at bringing on private partnerships to help fund roads in Africa. $500 billion dollars is needed to fund infrastructure improvements on the continent of which $100 billion is expected to come from private funders. That’s a start.

I also was reminded that the African people are amazing and beautiful, and warm and welcoming, but there is still corruption that prevents or severely stalls a lot of good projects from happening. Even Kenya has set up a name and shame anti-graft site to curb bribery and corruption. Who knows if it will work, though, or is significant in name only.

The United States government has a heavy presence in Africa through global health programs like PEPFAR, Feed the Future, and the President’s Malaria Initiative – not to mention the millions of dollars in funding that goes to NGOs on the ground. A lot of productive, life-saving work happens on the ground in Africa. I have seen it, reported on USAID-funded projects, and have read about countless programs that are helping those in need. You wouldn’t believe how many USAID logos I see throughout Africa. Seeing USAID’s African presence gives me a sense of pride to witness what the American people do for other countries even if they don’t realize where a minuscule fraction of their taxpayer money is going. This I know to be true: the people who work for USAID are fantastic stewards of US taxpayer money. It’s their duty to use the money in the ways in which they are intended. And although I haven’t seen every USAID budget allocation line for foreign aid programs, I have talked to enough USAID employees to know they take their work very seriously. I enjoy seeing where taxpayer money is going in Africa and have many times. Most Americans have no clue that as a nation we are keeping millions of people alive and healthy and that’s a shame. I wish more people knew.

USAID

Being in Africa for nearly a month teaches you that time flies! 22 days goes by extremely quickly even though at first it seems like the month will drag on forever. I also realized that I need to set my eyes on west Africa in the near future. I have only visited east and south Africa. That, my friends, has to change. I am sure I will go to west Africa for some reason in 2014. That is a promise to myself.

Africa

I also learned that if you set goals things will get done! I had goals of traveling internationally more in 2013 and that has happened time and again and I am grateful for it. My next international trip will be visting India next year. Many of you know I was supposed to go to India this month, but the kind folks at Water for People (the fantastic NGO I am going with) were so kind to move the dates to 2014 that my year of travel will start in February of next year. And as you can expect I am truly looking forward to going to India again.

Finally, I will leave you with this: whatever it is in your life that you want to do, do it! You probably don’t want to spend nearly a month in Africa like I did. But, whatever your goal – go after it. Time won’t wait for you!

sitting with mamas - Tanzania