World

Why I’d like to visit Honduras

The final country I’d like to visit (in this list!) is Honduras. It is notorious for its high crime and violence rates, with homicide, gang violence and drug crimes being commonplace. According to the BBC, Honduras has “the world’s highest murder rate per capita”.

But it’s not just crime that is a serious issue in the country. Poverty and inequality are extremely high, with almost half of Hondurans living below the poverty line.

Even for journalists, Honduras can be extremely dangerous. According to Reporters without Borders, journalists from opposition media are frequently attacked or threatened.

So, as an aspiring foreign correspondent, why would I like to visit Honduras? The country has a very negative reputation for being a very violent place. And, let’s be honest, the evidence goes far in backing that up.  But I want to look further than all the crimes and statistics. Because people are individuals, not just a number. In the UK, or any ‘safer’ country for that matter, if we hear “this many Hondurans were killed in gang related crimes last year”, it doesn’t really mean much. After all, it’s ‘just a number’.

But I’d like to focus on the individuals.

How is that mother dealing with the murder of her son? How does this wife feel knowing that her husband has been caught up in gang related violence? What will become of this 3-year-old girl living in poverty without her parents? These are the stories that matter most, not meaningless statistics.

If you’ve read the other four posts in this series, you’ll have noticed a common theme. The main reason for ‘Why I’d like to visit…’ is to tell people’s stories; to share their experiences.

It proves my point about what, I think, one of the main things journalism should be: a platform for ordinary people to share their stories with the rest of us.

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World

Why I’d like to visit South Africa

South Africa sounds like the perfect trip away: good weather, a great culture and people who speak so many languages. And it would be – South Africa has so many positive things going for it.

But we all know that there’s a whole other side to the country. From gun crime, to corruption, to poverty, South Africa faces a pretty long list of difficulties. So why I’d like to visit South Africa is mostly for very journalistic reasons.

It seems almost ironic that a country with such high levels of crime and violence also has high levels of tourism. But to what extent do South Africa’s tourists actually see any of this? It would be extremely interesting to do an Unreported World type of thing: I want to find out what it’s really like to live in South Africa’s most disadvantaged areas, commonly known as Townships. While people are enjoying the many incredibly fantastic things about South Africa, I believe it’s also vitally important to consider the people who are not so fortunate.

Despite all the progress South Africa has made over the years, it still has an incredibly long way to go, especially in terms equality. It is arguably crucial to be aware of how South Africans are affected by the country’s issues on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s take theft in South Africa. According to Africa Check, in 2016/2017, there were 53,418 common robberies recorded. Now just remember that this figure only covers ‘common’ robberies, and does not include robberies that were not reported; the actual figure will therefore be much higher in reality. One question on the forefront of my mind is: to what extent are South Africa’s robbers actually bad people? A number of those people may just be immoral, but I believe a high number of them are probably not. It may be the case that many of them resort to theft because they simply cannot afford the things they need to survive: they may be ‘victims of circumstance’.

Now, I’m not justifying this criminal behaviour (or any other), but it does make me think of the ‘man stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family’ scenario. Not to mention the impact of theft on the people who’ve had their possessions stolen from them.

There are so many issues, such as this, that I would like to find out so much more about. I believe it is essential that people are made aware of them – when people know the facts about a situation, they are more understanding and less likely to jump to conclusions.

But however much I would like to find out more about South Africa’s issues, I would also love to see and experience the more positive things. While it’s necessary to draw attention to the injustices that occur on a daily basis, it’s also important to focus on the good things.

 

World

Why I’d like to visit Niger

Niger is a country I have very personal connections with – I have actually already been there (I’ve had family living over there). Although I was very young at the time, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go. Unfortunately, I can’t really remember what Niger was like, which is one of the main reasons why I’d like to go back.

I do, however, remember stories I’ve been told about Niger. My Mum visited the country a couple of years before I was born with my Dad, and she often talks about the visit. She remembers seeing cases of poverty over there, some people had absolutely nothing. It must have been an awful thing to see: an extremely sad situation.

But one thing she also remembers is how friendly and welcoming people were towards her. She told me about how generous and thoughtful people were. One of my favourite anecdotes is about when one parents went to visit one of my Dad’s friends. My parents were guests at his house and he had also given them a gift. It was a set of placemats and washable napkins for the dinner table: I think they’re absolutely lovely!

Niger Blog Picture
The placemats and napkins gifted to my parents

This gesture is one my Mum has always remembered after all this time. She always talks about the sentimental value of the gift that she still has 24 years later.

Now I’m an adult, I would love to return to Niger so I can fully appreciate what the country is like; I’d like to actually remember it for myself. Also, as a British person, I feel we don’t hear much about what goes on in Niger – I’d like to find out more about the country itself, the issues it faces and the people who live there.

And what better way to do that than to return to the place I’ve heard so much about, right?

World

Why I’d like to visit Afghanistan

The second of the five countries I’ll be writing about is Afghanistan. Now, I’m not naïve enough to think it’s the safest place on earth because it’s not. We all know about the challenges the country has faced over the past few decades – from the Soviet invasion to the Taliban rule to the various attacks in the country.

But with all the awful things that have happened, we rarely think about the positives it has to give. We rarely hear about the great things that ‘ordinary’ Afghans have achieved; and I think with all the troubles Afghans have faced for so long, it is also important to also draw attention to the Afghans who are doing great things. But, as already identified, life has not been easy for many people in the country.

One of my absolute favourite authors is Khaled Hosseini, who is originally from Kabul. Through the issues highlighted in his novels, you can clearly see how people’s lives have been ruined by decisions out with their control. From women in abusive marriages to civilians having to flee their homes, the novels really open your eyes to how people’s lives can be completely turned around by others’ decisions. Although the books are fictional, the point still stands: life has been difficult for so many Afghan people. Even Khaled and his family had to seek political asylum in the United States.

It reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for.

So I would like to visit Afghanistan for two main reasons. The first one is that I’d like to meet Afghans who have faced significant hardship and hear their stories first hand. It is so vitally important that their voices are heard – it’s equally crucial that we over here know about what other human beings have had to deal with. In so many ways, we are all so similar but circumstances – especially our places of birth – have determined so much about our lives, meaning some have had more opportunities than others.

But I’d also love to hear about the great things that people in Afghanistan are doing. We know that so many Afghans have faced so much hardship, and it’s absolutely necessary to talk about that. But I also think it’s vital that Afghan success stories are also highlighted. After all, there are extraordinary people all over the world.

So that pretty much sums up the main reasons why I’d like to visit Afghanistan. I strongly believe that the most important role of a foreign correspondent is to talk about the actual human beings who are affected by a situation or event. And that’s what I aim to do, whether that’s as a journalist or not. Of course it will be difficult, and sometimes a little dangerous, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

World

Why I’d like to visit North Korea

We all know how secretive North Korea is. The government controls literally everything: what people say, where people go and every other aspect of their lives. The world is shown what North Korea’s leaders want us to see: all the wealth and glamour of Pyeongyang. Anything to shine a positive light on the country. But, as we’re all aware, North Korea has a very dark side to it.

I remember watching a documentary by Sky News’s Mark Stone about the secretive state. He was accompanied by ‘minders’, who kept a watchful eye on what he did and controlled where he went and what he said. (‘It’s DPRK, not North Korea’, they kept reminding him). Additionally, some questions he put to the minders went simply unanswered; this lack of response told Mark everything he needed to know.

So the point is, even foreign visitors are tightly controlled by the state, especially journalists. Foreign visitors are only shown certain areas and are not allowed to travel elsewhere within the country. We all know that the government is hiding what would tarnish the image of North Korea it wants the world to see: the poverty, the work camps, the oppression… the list goes on.

I know that, if I went to North Korea, my actions would be closely monitored. I would never be able to reach the areas of the country that the state wants hidden from the outside world. So if I would not have freedom of movement, why do I want to visit North Korea?

Truthfully, the very simplistic answer is that I find the place incredibly intriguing. I am genuinely interested in seeing the place for myself. As a foreign correspondent, it’s arguably so important to be interested in foreign affairs and to be willing to go to the places that people don’t usually visit. It’s vital that people back at home are made aware of what is going on abroad and how civilians are affected.

Now, I know I’m not actually a foreign correspondent – at least not yet anyway. But that isn’t stopping me wanting to see different places and find things out, however difficult that may be. After all, seeing a country first hand, however staged and sugar coated everything may be, is completely different to hearing about it second hand.

So whether it’s as a journalist or not, I’d one day like to visit the very secretive state that is North Korea. I’m interested to see what I’d be shown and what the government would want me to see. But, more importantly, I’d like to observe people’s behaviour over there. Do they really believe that they’re being told? Or do they merely comply out of fear?

World

Sport Relief: Are they right to stop using celebrities in their films?

We Brits are very familiar with both Sport Relief and Red Nose Day. For the benefit of my non-British friends, they alternate on our screens every year to raise money for people in need. The associated charity, Comic Relief aims to end worldwide poverty, with Sport Relief and Red Nose Day raising millions of pounds every year. But this year, Sport Relief will see a major change: its films depicting the stories of people in need will now not include celebrities. This is due to various complaints of “poverty tourism”. But is increased celebrity involvement a key part of Comic Relief’s work? Or does it mean that the actual people in need are getting less of an opportunity to speak for themselves?

For years, celebrities have been involved in working with Comic Relief for both Sport Relief and Red Nose Day. Many have also appeared in films showing what life is like for many disadvantaged people around the world. One benefit of this is that they can use their raised platform to appeal to people to help those with less. They are recognisable, especially among their fans, and are therefore likely to be listened to.

Having spent some time with the people they are trying to help, the celebrities will have gained some idea of the issues that need to be addressed. They can then appeal to the rest of us back home to help do just that.

But while there are benefits to celebrities appearing in the videos, this arguably means that the actual people in need have a lesser platform to tell their stories, with celebrities arguably taking too much of the limelight. I’m not saying they should have absolutely no involvement in charity work – that would be a huge loss – I merely believe they do not need to appear in the Comic Relief films.

Disadvantaged people do have their own voices and should be given a bigger platform to tell their own stories. MP David Lammy spoke to the BBC, specifically referring to those in Africa. He said that instead of celebrities acting as “tour guides”, Sport Relief should allow Africans to “talk for themselves about the continent and the problems they know”. Who better to talk on behalf of people than the people themselves, right?

And it would be far more powerful for people to describe their own situations, as that is their everyday. Someone else, who lives a far more privileged life, and therefore doesn’t really understand the full extent of their situations, couldn’t get the point across as well. Spending a limited period of time somewhere can never really give someone the full extent of how life really is there.

If the people in need were given a bigger platform to tell their stories, it would arguably add greater credibility to the films. After all, they’re the ones actually living the issues on a daily basis.

So is Sport Relief right to not show films with celebrities having visited developing nations? Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see the benefits of celebrities appearing in them. But I have to say, on the basis that I believe everyone should be able to tell their own stories themselves, I think Sport Relief has made the right decision.

Society

Store Closures: Is online shopping really the way forward?

We’ve all heard about the recent New Look store closures. 60 stores across the UK are to close within the next 12 months. Around 1000 jobs have consequently been lost. But New Look isn’t the only chain that has have to closed some, if not all, of their shops. So is online shopping really the way forward? Should more of us really be looking to the internet to do our shopping? Or are the more ‘traditional’ shops still the way to go?

One thing many of us love about online shopping is the convenience of being able to shop wherever and whenever you like. We always have access to our smartphones, tablets or laptops and apps mean that we can order things to our homes with just a few clicks. And with next day delivery, it’s not like we even have to wait long for our orders.

And the sales! Let’s take Boxing Day as a classic example: you’ve just got all this money and some gift cards for Christmas that you want to make the most of. But those crowds are seriously off-putting – who wants to have to spend their day squeezing past other people who love getting in your way, right? Luckily, sales also extend to the wonderful world of online shopping, so there’s the option to spend your Christmas money without getting shoved by hundreds of other shoppers.

Although, videos of people fighting over TVs is pretty hilarious every year on Black Friday!

But despite the ease of online shopping, actually seeing products in real life before buying them is arguably far better. For example, when buying clothes, trying them on saves so much time. We all know that no size is actually the same in every shop – it’s so irritating! Personally, I can’t be bothered with the hassle of having to return a load of online orders just because they don’t fit.

On a wider scale, the closure of high street stores means the loss of many jobs. 1000 people have lost their jobs with just one company having closed many of its stores.

Everyone will have their own opinions about whether they prefer online shopping or going out to the shops. And many of us use both: even as someone who much prefers going to the shops, I do sometimes use the internet for shopping. So is online shopping really the way forward? I suppose it just depends on people’s own personal preferences.