Monday, 29 July 2013

Invitation to visit Burundi



Invitation to Visit Action Aid in Burundi
I am writing this blog to:
  • Invite sponsors of children to come and visit their sponsored child and to see the work that Action Aid do here in Burundi for themselves.
  • To describe the work that Action Aid do here in Burundi and to inform people about my visit to Burundi
  •  To express my gratitude to Action Aid for their kindness and generosity to me

This is the first blog I have ever tried to produce but I really believe that the excellent work that Action Aid are doing here deserves a bigger audience than just me and another sponsor Mark who visited last month. 

1. The invitation

Acting Country Director Emime Ndihokubway and Josias Ukuriniyesu Sponsorship Manager for Action Aid Burundi has asked me to invite everyone of the 7000+ sponsors of children here in Burundi to please come and visit your sponsored child and to find out for yourself just how the money raised is being spent and to see how it is benefiting the community and last but not least of course see Burundi at the same time.
You could easily combine your visit to Burundi with a trip to Rwanda to see the gorillas or with a beach or safari visit to Kenya or Tanzania
I came here to Burundi on holiday and bought with me some presents from my neighbour James Folley who sponsors a 14 year old girl here in Burundi called Charlotte. I asked Action Aid if I might be able to join them when they took the money and presents to Charlotte in her village and they were delighted to arrange this.
I am only the second person who has come to Burundi to visit a sponsored child and the team here told me that they would like this to be the beginning of a new trend.
Let me first start by reassuring you that despite what the British Foreign Office say Burundi is now safe to travel around (recently a delegation of 12 British MPs came on a visit to Burundi and went out with Action Aid and stayed in the local community with them and felt safe enough to do so without any security concerns with only their Action Aid colleagues accompanying them).
Secondly what you need to know is that the country is stunningly beautiful and the picture below is typical of the scenery you will drive through for mile after mile (I was here in the dry season and it will be even more spectacular in the wet season)

Thirdly the people are lovely and very friendly as can be shown by the photo below showing how my friends and I  spent the evening after a long day of visits in Karusi - beer costs from about 50pence for a big bottle so your money will go far.....

.......and the food is great as well as can be seen with Josias Ukuriniyesu the Sponsorship Manager for Action Aid Burundi on the right with a friend  Gervais about to tuck into fresh fish and chips after an afternoon spent watching the hippos at this nice bar on the edge of Lake Tanganyika just one or two miles from the city center of Bujumbura the capital

Fourthly you have no need to worry about hotels. In Bujumbura you will find hotels of international quality and whilst in the provinces they will be more basic they will be clean and you will be comfortable and of course safe.

The hotels I stayed in were easy to find and very good value. For less than US$ 10 you will have a basic but very comfortable and clean room with a self-contained toilet and bathroom. The water is cold but some hotels will heat some for you and in others there are more expensive rooms with hot water. Food and beer are available in the restaurant.

The final and most important thing is that the all the staff here at Action Aid from the Acting Country Director Emime Ndihokubwayo to the young people who translate the letters between the sponsors and the children will do everything in their power to ensure that you are well looked after and that you will have a very enjoyable trip and you will be well looked after.

If you wish to read about the experiences of a fellow Brit. who also visited recently then please follow the link below to Mark Coull's blog and read about his trip.

2. Action Aid in Burundi

The Action Aid head office is based in the capital Bujumbura with a total of about 17 HQ staff who manage the programme for the country lead by the country Director Emime Ndihokubwayo and to run the local aid programmes in the five provinces there are a further 14 staff.

The five local aid programmes are generally funded by different countries and can be found in the following provinces:

  • Karusi - UK
  • Rutana - Italy
  • Mpinga - Italy 
  • Butaganzwa - UK  
  • Bweru - USA + Brazil
There are over 7000 Sponsors from around the world sponsoring children in Burundi, the majority from the UK. Child sponsorship makes up 80% of ActionaAid's income with the remainder coming from what they call 'Additional Income' or High Value Funding. These are contributions from organisations or companies.
One of the things I learnt was that the money which is given by the sponsor does not go to the individual child (an exception was made where the sponsor visits and makes a personal gift). The money goes to the sponsors immediate community for the benefit of the whole community (I will describe later some of the projects and how the money is spent). The reasons are obvious when you think about it as even US$30 is a huge amount of money for a family with an annual income of US$100 and giving such a large sum to one child would create jealousy and resentment in the community and do more harm than good. The sponsored children are seen as ambassadors for the community and this gives them a sense of involvement.
70% of the money given by sponsors is spent in the community with about 10% covering the programme overheads such as salaries, transport, correspondence, a further 10% is allocated to allow Action Aid to deal with national issues with the remainder being  used flexibly where it might be most needed.

3. How Action Aid decides on where to spend


The key word I heard many times during my visit was "PARTNERSHIP". Action Aid does not pretend to think it knows how BEST to spend the money they receive instead they adopt the following method.

  • Discuss with the government where they think that Action Aid can best target aid
  • Once the area is selected they then meet and discuss with the Provincial governors which communities in the province they should work with.
  • The third stage is the most important aspect and here Action Aid will go out to the identified communities and sit down with them and discuss and agree what the priorities are for that community. The communities will form associations and elect leaders. What is very important is that everything is agreed with the community and Action Aid do not force their ideas on the community.
This approach in my opinion is very important as it ensures that the money is being spent on what the community really want and need and therefore it is far less likely to be spent on projects which fail or are not appreciated – we have all seen examples on TV or in the newspapers where aid projects have not achieved their objectives and I believe that Action Aid have the right model here as they obtain "buy-in" at all levels before they embark on any expenditure.
Once again that word partnership repeats itself because Action Aid now go to great efforts to work with the community to ensure that the project will work. For instance when they build a school they will agree with the government that the government will provide and pay for the teachers so that once the school is built it will be used.
Another word I heard repeatedly was "TRAINING" because before Action Aid give over any money they first ensure that the communities are given the appropriate training. This might include "management" so that can run a project, agricultural training so that they can understand how to manage their crops or livestock and so on.
Lying behind Action Aids work are three important "pillars" which drive all they do

  • Empowerment
This is a hugely important part of the work that Action Aid do and education is a very important part of the process. Women make up 80% of the agriculture work force but have no legal rights to own land or property. ActionAid are working towards empowering women so that  30,000 women and girls can realise their rights to food and sustainable livelihoods by 2018. They are also working to ensure that in the same timeframe a further 15,000 children will have access to a much improved quality of education. Action Aid are also doing a lot to monitor the public service provision and ensure that taxes are being properly spent and to empower poor and marginalised people to participate in the governance process and demand accountability from the government in the delivery of public services. Action Aid help develop the neccesary communications skills to obtain their rights as well as organising and mobilising individual and collective action.

  • Campaign
Campaigning can take both the form of programmes aimed upwards and outwards at governments and sponsors  or educational to the community with messages such as the one on my T Shirt which was a joint campaign with Unicef and unbeknown to me I had been walking around all day with a T Shirt that said on the front ‘Do Not Shit in the Open’

Action Aid are involved in lobbying, mass communication, advocacy as well as building an evidence base.

  • Solidarity
this aspect of Action Aids work involves people and organisations that are sympathetic to the struggles of people living in poverty and in supporting and sustaining a movement for change. The ideal is that the people living in poverty take the lead.

But I would add  further 4th pillar if I may -" SUSTAINABILITY" because this was another word I heard repeatedly in the context of their work. All their projects that I saw were designed to last and that was why before any money was spent the training was so important and that the communities were all behind the projects.
 My Trip
We left Bujumbura at about 15.00 and I have to say we travelled in a bit more comfort than the locals…

… but after 6 hours the next day travelling on dirt tracks in the hills  visiting project I now know why Action Aid and other charities are driving around in 4WD as these are not a luxury but a necessity. Indeed one of the Landcruisers that Action Aid have is more than 10 years old with over 300,000 kilometers on the clock and is very well maintained (it would have to be to survive). Action Aid also get income from the car as they hire it out to other charities so you could not say it was an extravagance.

Our first stop was to stop in the small town of Buhiga in Karusi Province to spend a little of the money that James had provided on basic provisions for Charlotte and her family. Buhiga is in Karusi Province which is one of the poorest in Burundi with a population of around 500,000. People here survive on US$100 a year and so careful management by Action Aid of the money from James was very important. We bought basic foodstuffs such as oil, flour, rice and tomatoes (with me is Monika who works with Action Aid in Karusi on the projects and walks an hour and half each day to and from work!) Also with us was the local programme manager for Karusi Kamecha Dieadonnd who drove us around for the day.

I thought it odd buying these basics and only later realized just how important they were to the family when I was shown around their house and failed to see any food or drink to cook. We were going to buy a couple of goats but as it was not market day we left this until later.

Several miles later down a dirt track we came to Charlottes house in the middle of what looked like nowhere. We were met by Charlotte and her mother – this is Charlotte (her mother and Monika) at the front of the house with some of the provisions.

Charlotte was really pleased to see us and for the first time have real contact with her sponsor (through me) as up till now they had only communicated by letters (which the Action Aid office in Bujumbura translate). I was able to show her what houses were like where James and I live and concepts such as electricity and running water might just have clime from another planet so far it was from how Charlotte lives. The house is very basic 3 rooms for 6 children, the mother and some goats they look after for someone else. Charlottes father passed away and when she was a child she caught malaria but unlike many she survived. She is very quiet and shy (I was the first white person she had seen but unlike some of the young children and babies she did not burst out into tears when she saw me!)

She likes school and see the importance of getting herself a good education and she is an above average student.

One thing that was very striking about the house was just how few possessions they have, a couple of chairs, some clothes, a couple of pots and pans and some school books.

Above is one of the rooms and below is the bedroom that two girls share with the goats with me sitting on the bed.

Nearest water is a one hour round trip and if you have never tried to carry 20 liters of water up a steep hill then you cannot imagine having to do it 5 times a day – let me be honest I could not even carry the 20 liters across 10 meters on a flat surface.

After getting to know the family better we gave the presents that James had sent – they were designed to be shared with sisters and school friends in the community and included pens, notebooks, pencils and crayons. Here is Charlotte opening the box (how I wish I could have carried more but I had already been in Rwanda where I had bought a number of things for others and could not carry any more).


Charlottes family have a small plot of land and grow Cassava, sweet potatoes, beans and are planning on growing some green bananas. They are also building a small house as they have to leave the one they rent. The house will cost about US450 to build (remember the family income is only about $100 per year) and you can see the start of the work here.

An idealic setting but remember no water and no electricity and in the middle of nowhere (although a new village is being build nearby)! The rest of James money will go towards providing the house with windows, doors and metal for the roof and will make a big difference to the family. What I liked about Action Aid is they did not simply hand over the money but the team in Karusi will manage the spending of the money on behalf of the family and ensure they get the best possible value for the gift from James.
Charlotte asked me to thank James for the presents and the money and to pass on her greetings to him. She is looking forward to his next letter and of hearing all his news. When I asked her about the sponsorship and the work of Action Aid she told me she was very grateful for the support that Action Aid give the community encouraging mother to send their children to school and creating community groups and projects that benefit the whole community and they really appreciate the outside contact.
Perhaps the most touching thing she told me was that James sponsorship, letters and presents gave her hope for the future. If you are ever wondering about sponsoring a child then this should convince you.
Our next stop was at a nearby village called Burenza. Here Action Aid have provided Bf 50m for a new school with room for 163 students. The school has been well constructed and build to last with cement foundations and teachers and desks will be provided by the government. The school will be able to provide better quality education for the local children and will mean less walking to school (up to 5 miles) and smaller class sizes (from more than 100 now to nearer 50).

Most interesting is the way that Action Aid went about this project (and is typical of how they work). First (after the consultation process described earlier)  a Parent Teachers Association (PTA) was formed. After training in management skills, leadership, human rights skills and building management money was provided for materials. All the labour was provided by the parents (apart from cost this creates ownership and commitment in the community) and the only person on the project to be paid was an outside engineer. This project is a real partnership between the government, the PTA and Action Aid. Action Aid involvement reduced the cost of the new school by about one third than the normal cost of a school this size.
Both the parents and children value education and encouragingly children now will often refuse to stay at home and work for their parents instead of going to school. Action Aid will continue to support the PTA for the next 4 years to ensure they have the necessary skills to manage and maintain the school for the next 50 years at least. Action Aid will also help the PTA in raising money for the school but will not provide further funding. They will continue to help the PTA design other projects to obtain funding from other organisations.

Our next stop was the village of Shanga. Here Action Aid have built a granary for the village and also provide the seed for the first harvest. Here the objective is to allow the community to manage its harvest in a sustainable way. In the past the villagers would sell their harvest and then often find they had not kept enough back to eat and sow the next year.

Now after training support from Action Aid the association buy and store the grain from the villagers after the harvest and the next year they are able to ensure that the villagers can buy the grain that they need to sow the next harvest. Another benefit for the villagers as apart from the certainty they pay about 20% less for the grain than it would cost in the local markets. The profits from the granary are used to benefit the whole community and to date they have bought some and so successful has the granary proved to be that they are going to use some of the profits to expand it.
However the Association has a very important role to promote women’s rights in the area through education in understanding their rights and financial support in seeking justice. Examples of some of the work Action Aid and the profits from the granary have helped the community include:

  • Helping 5 women with marital problems go through counseling and the provided help for them to go to court.
  • Supporting two orphaned children in the village paying for one to go to school and helping another to buy him the necessary books and things that he need so that he too could go to school and receive an education.
  • Specialist training support for the community in harvest management to avoid famine and make the best use of their resources.
Lastly and most importantly we were able to buy the two goats, one for Charlotte and one for her family.

Kibubwe Village

After another long drive down the dirt tracks we reached the village of Kibubwe and met the head of the association there (248 members)

As with Shanga Action Aid have provided a granary and training for the Association with the same benefits for the community. Action Aid have also provided 17 cows for the association.

Once again once the priority had been established before providing the cows Action Aid provide training on cattle farming management. The main objective of this project is to help provide a better income through the manure produced which will boost the harvest and not as I had first thought milk and meat. Later the association will start to sell excess milk to generate more income.

The head of the Association told me just how much the support from Action Aid made to the village

“it has made a very big difference to our families before we had nothing now each family is able to take 10 kilos of maize to eat at home”

Action Aid is also providing seeds to grow green bananas which is a staple food and also has built a potatoe store so that the potatoes can be stored properly and once again ensure there are seed for the next harvest.

One thing I noticed was just much dirt was ingrained on the children’s skin the reason the nearest water supply was 5 miles away!


Our last stop was Nyarunazi which is the home of a Batwa community of around 100 households. The Batwa are a minority tribe making up about 3% of the Burundi population and often called "Pygmies”

Here Action Aid have built one of 50 Reflect Circles. This is a place where the community can gather and discuss issues. They are also used very importantly for helping adults literacy and numeracy as well as being a place where training can be carried out. Training programmes provided by Action Aid have included sessions on crop management and livestock management and have help the community develop and improve their living standards.

After training Action Aid has provided the village with 7 cows, green banana seeds (and the government provided land to plant them in the village). You can see the plantation on the right in the valley.

Action Aid have also constructed 40 houses for the community, provided 3 taps for clean water and 35 goats. The community told me how grateful they were for the support they had received.

 After all this bumping around on dirt roads I was ready for an early dinner of goat brochettes with chips before relaxing with the Action Aid team over a few beers.


I seem to have fallen on my feet because Josias asked me if I would like to visit the Action Aid team in Rutana and see some of their projects. I did not hesitate to accept. Josias put me on the right bus and 3 hours later having passed through beautiful scenery I was met off the bus by a 16 year old friend of Josias –Urlich who used to be a neighbour. I was taken to my hotel and then I met up with the Action Aid team for some goat brochettes and beer.

I spent a lot of time with Urlich and his family whilst I was in Rutana and they were wonderful hosts showing me around the area and entertaining me in their home.

Also in Rutana were two trainers I had met in Karusi – Thomas Muema (from Kenya) and David Onen(from Uganda). Next morning I sat in some of the training. The subject was leadership and I have to say the presentation and content was every bit as professional as what I have seen in the UK. The course covered over 3 days areas such as characteristics of leadership, styles of leadership, conflict management, communication, motivation to name a few of the topics covered.

This training was not just for the local Action Aid team but also there were people from the provincial and communal governments, representatives from the civil society at both national and provincial level, as well as people representing youth associations, human rights, women, syndicate and trade union associations. In total there were 31 attendees.

Next day Pierre Barampenda the Action Aid coordinator for the Rutana province took me out with his team to see a sanitation project in action (the subject of my T shirt I mentioned earlier). I was hugely impressed by what I saw.
On arrival in the commune of Musongati we first had to introduce ourselves to the head of the area. Although the area is rick in Nickel it is not yet being exploited and the area is very poor.There has been talk of building a railway since 1976 but so far there are no trains in Burundi.

In total the commune is made up of 17 subgoups  or "collines". A major sanitation  problem exists with more than 1000 of the 12,000 households without sanitation and with the help of Action Aid the community has united to solve the problem. Many of the households have no toilets and thus use the surrounding area to go to the toilet. This is not very hygienic to say the least and there have been outbreaks of cholera in the area.
The key words that apply to this project are Partnership and Empowerment. Action Aid and their partners are not providing cash but are empowering the local community to achieve something they all want.
This project has the buy-in of the local authorities, the provincial health authroities as well as the commune and top down education has played a major role in this project. Action Aid have kicked off the project and will continue to support it with their partners from Unicef but they have handed the project over to the community to run and impliment.
Once agreement had been reached that this was a project that the community wanted then representatives from the  17 collines (hills) that make up the community were elected by each colline (2 men and 2 women from each as it is believed that the involvement of the women will make success more likely) and they were given training. Then they were tasked with going out to their coline and mapping the area and to produce action plans.

The objective of the meeting was to present the maps and action plans to a wide group for approval. The group included representatives from Action Aid, the provincial health association, local administration ( at commune, colline and even sub-colline) the comunity facilitors and representatives from decentralised government services (education, agriculture, health, environmental protection, the police and civil society.

This was the first time the group had been exposed to the project and there was widespead buy-in from all.
The maps and action plans were very impressive. The maps were first drawn in the mud starting with the paths or tracks and then using things like leaves, twigs and stones as symbols they identified the houses, churches, and other buildings and features for their area. They also identified the areas where people were using to go to the toilet in the open. Once they had agreed that the map was correct it was then drawn on paper. These were very detailed as can be seen.
The action plans were all designed to be complete in 12 weeks and were again very detailed from identifying where toilets would be build, who was to build them, the timing, how they would help the elderly and the sick and vulnerable to build their toilets as well as the monitoring and reporting. Once again Action Aid had already provided training to the teams on toilet construction and the team are responsible for passing on their knowledge to their commune and overseeing the project.
This is one of the teams presenting their action plan and describing their map.

The presentations were lively and interesting (Pierre translated for me) and I was made most welcome by the whole community.
The aim is for all the toilets to be built and operational in 12 weeks. Certainly everyone in the meeting hall was 100% behind the project and it was very impressive for me to see what some education, discussion, training can achieve with very little money (if you do not count the Action Aid time and transportation to the commune) can achieve. The commune also told me that they saw this as a new way of working and they would get together to run other projects for the benefit of the commune (they hope that the improved sanitation will save local health costs and that this saving can be used for future projects).
What was so impressive was that this was a real community lead solution to a major problem and that it is the community who own the project and will make sure it works and that Action Aids contribution has been that of a facilitator (not something to be underestimated).
When someone in the audience asked how they would ensure everybody in the colline would do their part in the project the answer was that they would not be allowed to share beer and attend the celebration party for completion if they did not support the work – a serious sanction!

I had told both Josias and Pierre that I did not want to disrupt the work of the team but both were insistent that two birds could be hit with the same stone and that on our way back we should visit a national park and the waterfalls. An offer I did not resist! Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of day to see the monkeys and baboons but I am very grateful to Action Aid as this was not somewhere to visit using public transport (there is none down the dirt roads and we must have been 15-20 miles off the main road). This is Pierre at one of the waterfalls.
On our way back we stopped to look at a new school Action Aid had funded using exactly the same principals described earlier. This is the old school.

And this is the new school built by the community in just three months with 6 classrooms and space for about 400 children.

The children no longer have to use a hole in the ground to go to the toilet but can now have separate boys and girls latrines with running water.

These children told me just how much they liked their new school (there are not many here because it was school holiday time but these came running over to greet us and to see “the white man”)

Finally on the way back we stopped at this “motorway café” for some brochettes and a drink. I had the liver and kidneys with piri piri sauce and cassava and I can assure you it was truly delicious and a perfect way to end a wonderful day.

I am now off to Kirondo under my own steam to visit another part of the country.
My friends at Action Aid were once again kind enough to take me to the right bus for Kirondo and also secured me the front seat. The views were stunning as we climbed continuously for 30 kilometers out of Bujumbura and the 4 hour journey was great. On arrival in Kirondo I was met by a cousin (Emanuel) of Fred who works in the Action Aid office and Emanuel took me to the hotel  Action Aid had booked for me in the centre of Kirondo.  Very comfortable US$ 6 for an en-suite room.

In Kirondo there were power cuts most evenings and often the water was off too. Minor problems especially as the hotel provided flash lights and Gerry cans of water to cover such eventualities.

Kirondo is  a small town and is the Lake District of Burundi . Emanuel showed me round the town on my first full day. Next day I had a wander round the market and met Emalline. She had been sitting on her stall all day and had not sold a bean .  Most of the stall holders wait for someone to come up and make a purchase rather than actively sell. I decided I would have a go and within 10 minutes I had sold 2 kilos of beans and Emilline was well impressed.

The next day she invited me to visit her family.

A visit out to the lakes was a must. Everyone told me it was too far to walk so I put it off for a while to explore the area round Kirondo first. However I struck lucky as I took the first path I found. First I came to the slaughterhouse.

Then the car wash/launderette and water collection point.
I then just followed the path in the through the banana plantations with the odd house on either side of the path. It was really nice and I met many nice families as I walked and the children once they had got over their fear of the white man were great fun.Pictures are better than words....

To my surprise after about an hour and a half walk (about 40 minutes I would guess if I had not stopped so often) I found my self at the lake which I had not expected when I set out.
I so enjoyed this walk that I did the same walk a couple of days later. I also made other walks in the area and spent a very enjoyable 6 days in Kirondo
Overall Impressions of Burundi

During my time here in Burundi I never saw or heard anything that gave me concern over my personal safety (if you exclude the normal hazards of retuning back to the hotel after a few beers along unlit paths and tracks).
It I true that Burundi is a very poor country but without exception the people are very friendly and welcoming. You cannot walk past anyone without greeting them and usually shaking hands (the Belgium/ French influence) and a big smile. My school boy French came in very useful as French is the official language of Burundi and English is not so well spoken.
I never experienced any problems in finding something to eat even if it was just the local basic fare but in Bujumbura there are many excellent restaurants (although some are hidden away and would be difficult to find unless you were with a local). I have spent more than three weeks here, I have drunk the local tap water, eaten salad, eaten with the locals in their restaurants, drank the local homemade beer and I have not suffered any ill effects
Burundi does not have a tourist infrastructure as yet – part chicken and egg – in that there are very few tourists and most probably only transit the country on the 3 day visa you get at the land borders if you have not already got a month visa from one of the Burundi embassy’s (although I understand it is very easy to extend the 3 day visa). However what this means is that it is difficult obtaining information about the country and there do not appear to be tours out to the local beauty spots (or the source of the Nile) and you will need to hire transport to visit these spots.
I have loved my time here and thanks to Action Aid I have seen an awful lot that I would otherwise have missed. I have also had the enlightening experience of see how Action Aid spend their money here in Burundi.
I would urge you to seriously consider taking up Action Aids invitation to visit. There are wonderful hosts and really keen for you to come out and visit.

I must end this by expressing my gratitude to all at Action Aid but especially Josias for looking after me so well and showing me around some of their projects.


  1. Fantastic blog Alistair! It was great to see some familiar faces (especially Josias). I'm sure you had as wonderful a time as I did meeting these incredible people.

    Brilliant stuff sir!

  2. Fantastic work Alistair! Your stories are really good!

  3. Thank you so much for the blog, Alistair (and Mark too)! It's wonderful to see the pictures of Charlotte and her family and to know that a little money can do so much. Looking forward to seeing you in Sheffield. Please give my warmest regards to all at Action Aid and thank them for the work they are doing.

  4. Wow! What a trip, and such nice work done. I wonder how you or Action Aid can advertise this better though. There are so many travel blogs nowadays that good ones like this is difficult to come by.

    p.s. 'Indeed one of the Landcruisers that Action Aid have is more than 10 years old with over 300,000 kilometers on the clock on the clock and is very well maintained (it would have to be to survive).' /// double typing there with 'on the clock'.

  5. thanks for the nice comments.

    Action Aid Burundi have put this on their facebook page and I agree that perhaps Action Aid as a whole might be able to make more of both Mark's and my blogs to promote the work that they do.

    As for the on the clock bit a slight problem of editing and cut and paste as the spell check on what I was working on was in French which was not very helpful!