A great day to join HelpAge: 1 October from Moldova to Manila
Today is my first day as HelpAge International's new Chief Executive Officer.
My first four hours as part of this global movement dedicated to fighting for older people's rights have already reinforced to me what I already knew. I am incredibly lucky to be joining this brilliant organisation at this point in time.
My start date is not coincidental. Tomorrow, on 1 October, the UN International Day of Older Persons, HelpAge is launching the Global AgeWatch Index 2013 and older people in 58 countries are asking for change through Age Demands Action. This is the most important day of the year for our movement, and it is brilliant to see the finishing touches being put on so many months of research, planning and communications work.
At 9am, I met with Jane Scobie and Mayur Paul. They explained that I would be spending my first morning with them - getting the background to tomorrow's events, having some quick conversations with a selection of HelpAge partners and staff, attending a "launch planning" team meeting and being asked to write a quick blog about it! And all before the 1pm staff meeting. So here goes.
Gathering momentum in Africa
I spoke first with with Gacheru Maina from our regional office in Kenya. Obviously, our first words were to talk about the awful events of last weekend.
Gacheru spoke encouragingly of the much higher levels of ownership and engagement this year from some of our partners from previous years, a natural but nonetheless welcome indicator of the growing momentum behind ADA.
Awards in Eastern Europe
Next, I spoke to Dina Ciubotaru, in our Moldova office. In Moldova, our ADA campaign is organised by HelpAge under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family, and in partnership with UNFPA.
They are half way through a series of events in Moldova - highlights include eight round table discussions to bring older people together with policy makers, with the aim of better policies for Moldova's older population.
Tomorrow, the Moldova 1 TV channel will show a 20 minute video about the life of older people. Dina had loads more organising to complete, but her team and partners had all been given a great boost when HelpAge was presented with a special award by the Government for our work. What an honour, and what a team they must be. I can't wait to meet them!
Sleepless in Manila
Finally, I spoke to Fransiskus Kupang, who runs the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), an important civil society organisation and HelpAge Affiliate in the Philippines. My conversation with Fransiskus left me with a huge smile on my face, as he took me through all the exciting events that they have planned for tomorrow morning in Manila.
They will kick off with a "walk for life" in the Mall of Asia, with hundreds of older people participating. The Mall will showcase an exhibition of paintings done by younger people on their perceptions of older members of their family. There would also be a chance to lobby members of the Government on older people's key demand, lowering the age at which social pensions are paid from 76 to 60. The event would close with the announcement by the owners of the shopping mall hosting the event that, they are creating 30 "jobs for older people", which is one of COSE's long-running campaigns.
Fransiskus ended by telling me that organisers would come to his house at 4am for breakfast and to run through the plans a final time. "That's a bit early", I ventured. "On the contrary", he countered, "our older people will not sleep tonight because they are so excited".
That's the image I want my first day as part of the HelpAge family to end with. As we all wake up tomorrow to this year's International Day of Older Persons, wherever we are, please cast a thought towards this wonderful group of volunteers and older members of the community in Manila - so excited at coming together to take their Age Demands Action agenda public, and the opportunities that tomorrow brings them, that sleep may have eluded them today...
I hope their experience is replicated in countless communities across the world, and that tomorrow is a great celebration and a great campaigning platform for older people everywhere.