Stop the Cuts

Saskatchewan’s socially conservative, fiscally reckless government has sought to shore up it’s many years of deficits, short-sighted spending and cronyism with dangerous and unjust cuts to social safety nets, like benefits for the disabled and shelters for the homeless. These two short videos document recent local demonstrations of the citizenry’s unwillingness to see long-term health and well-being of both people and economy, sacrificed on the altar of face-saving by career politicians.

(Recorded, edited and published by Jared for Upstream).

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The Precarity Problem

After decades of policies of deregulation for the fantasy of trickle-down economics, we’ve created such a gap of wealth, health and even hope for the future, that we just can’t ignore it anymore.

With more and more Canadians working in temporary, casual and part-time jobs than ever, the precarity problem has risen to the top of our political and social agenda.

(Recorded, edited and published by Jared for Upstream).

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Vote for Health in #Elxn42

Canada’s forty-second federal election is nearly upon us, and already we’ve seen record numbers of voters coming out for the advance polls. It seems like the health of our democracy is definitely on the rise… but are we any healthier than we were last election? Today we talk about how your vote at the ballot box might mean a lot more for your personal and community health outcomes than you may have thought.

(Recorded, edited and published by Jared for Upstream).

Seeking a cure for poverty

Poverty is incredibly complicated, and has all sorts of causes and factors. That’s why the Saskatchewan government last winter appointed an advisory group to examine what opportunities we can seize to raise people out of poverty. Just this week, the advisory group dropped a list of recommendations for what we should do.

(Recorded, edited and published by Jared for Upstream).

Mali’s musical answer to extremism

Torn apart by Islamist extremism three years ago, Malians and others from the surrounding region have traveled half a world to gather refugee musicians, and form a melodic counter-narrative to violence.

(Recorded, edited and published by Jared for Vice).

Lengo: a worthy goal

ARUSHA – Hope can be hard to come by for children in Sub-Saharan Africa, but one Tanzanian man has gone back to his profoundly impoverished village to help its kids find and seize opportunities for a better future.

Emanuel Saakai, 29, says he’s using sports to motivate and inspire the next generation.

He founded ‘Lengo’ Academy one year ago, taking the Swahili word for ‘goal’ to teach the children of Ngaramtoni village to approach their dreams with the same tenacity they use while charging forward on the soccer field.

Saakai teaching children in Ngaramtoni

Saakai teaching children in Ngaramtoni

Saakai thinks there’s a lack of appreciation for the power of team sports to work against poverty and bring people together.

“A lot of people take these opportunities for granted. For them it’s a normal thing. But when you come to an area where people struggle even to get a pair of shoes, then they will welcome that opportunity with both hands. It’s all about knowing what’s important about that particular thing. If you establish an institute somewhere people don’t need it, it’s like pouring water on dirty land. It’s mud – it’s wasted,” he says.

Saakai started Lengo as a passion project. He wanted to provide the boys in his village with opportunities he never had, just to play soccer – Saakai’s parents couldn’t even afford to buy him basic shoes, and they used rolled up clothes for a ball. With the help of his wife Tracey Sawyer and her fundraising contacts in Australia, Lengo has already grown beyond his initial vision,  invigorating and involving the entire village in less than a year. He says they’ve become much more active in school and even the very young have begun to take part in community activism.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger every day – it’s now beyond my imagination. But I always had the feeling that these boys, these young people, needed such an institute that would develop them. But I didn’t know it would catch on this quick, especially in this area with so many who have nothing,” says Saakai.

One of the kids he works with, Amisi, is fifteen years old and living on his own since his mother disappeared. He says he can afford to eat only once every one or two days, and has to walk over two hours to and from school each day.

“I feel ashamed to ask for anything, so I work as much as I can to cover basic needs,” he says. Amisi is closer to the rule than the exception for the community that Saakai works with.

Akili, sight-challenged boy in Ngaramtoni, sponsored and coached by Saakai.

Akili, sight-challenged boy in Ngaramtoni, sponsored and coached by Saakai.

Akili was born with an impairment in his right eye, and has great difficulty playing soccer, which he says is his favourite thing in the world. Saakai has worked to give him special coaching, and now Akili is an important part of the team. Saakai and Sawyer have used their fundraising sources through Lengo to bring Akili to Austria to get eye surgery – they just arrived there last week.

“This amazing opportunity… this is going to change his life in general. Without these things, without Lengo football academy, then nothing would happen for him,” says Saakai.

He believes the Lengo Academy project is about the future more than anything else. He says the children he works with will go forward from Lengo with hopeful, confident attitudes leading them to seize every opportunity in life.

“Most of the boys by then will be fathers, with their own families and their own kids. So in that way they’ll be working somewhere as sports people, as teachers, as lawyers and so on,” Saakai says.

“I think these boys will be in a situation that, without Lengo, they wouldn’t have been. And even their boys will be getting involved in football, and getting involved in good upbringings because their parents will be having that.”

Saakai and Sawyer recently produced a documentary on Lengo Academy, and are beginning to work collaboratively with other NGOs like Yes! Tanzania to increase positive impacts on community development. They hope Lengo can one day help kids to learn life skills and lift themselves out of poverty across Tanzania, and beyond.

First published for Speak Magazine.