My first reaction was to write about the loss – huge loss – for his family and friends and colleagues at Calabash; the communities they work with; volunteers; and indeed to me as a friend and people and places as a partner – but I wasn’t comfortable with writing that way – it took me a while to work out why.
Paul was – a gladiator – a huge force for good – a passionate advocate for the people he worked with – confrontational – an inspiration.
For me he was a loyal friend – a teacher – a partner – a mentor.
That’s what I want to remember – what I gained by knowing him – not what I have lost.
When Harold, Kate and I decided we wanted to develop a responsible volunteering programme Harold told me that all his experience in responsible travel led him to believe that Paul Miedema at Calabash had to be one of our first partners. I was quickly convinced……Paul wasn’t…..
as I wrote recently for Paul’s book of remembrance
My dear, dear friend and mentor Paul,
Remember when I came to talk with you about a volunteer programme in 2005? – you told me to eff off – you had seen the damage that affluent volunteers from “the west” had done in your community – Over fried fish ( lord knows what…. can’t remember ) and lots of beer we talked and talked and listened to each other – and then came that moment ….that moment when we both thought…..”together we may be able to do this”…..and out of that grew the people and places volunteer programme – you …..you did that Paul.
I am so sore from missing you – but I promise – I will continue the work we started – I will not let you down – I will fight to ensure that the communities you cared so much about are not exploited….not in my name.
Travel well my feisty anarchic friend – but please watch over me whilst I try to continue our work.
The last time Paul and I were together was in Thailand – at a workshop we had been asked to attend – the workshop’s goal was to identify ways to discourage orphanage volunteering – an important issue for both of us. I don’t know who created more of a stir….yes I do…..it was Paul – he was (as he always was when he saw injustice and exploitation) STRIDENT….he felt the issue was simple….there never is and never can be a justification for orphanage tourism…he felt the people in the room were not being bold enough in their confrontation of the issue – it was vintage Paul – let’s address this head on – however uncomfortable it is.
We will so miss his voice – watch this video – passionate confrontational Paul ( about 27 minutes in) – talking about how, all too often, badly managed volunteer programmes exploit local communities – “extractive” is what he called them…..but how well managed programmes can “create a shared humanity”.
and a PS another thankyou Paul for introducing me to Rodriguez and his music