It’s been a pretty chilly winter here in Wellington, New Zealand this year. We’ve had at least 2 hard frosts. Several times I’ve cranked up our excellent new heat pump by a couple of degrees, and added an extra blanket round my knees.
I thank heaven I’m a (comparatively) rich white girl in a rich warm country when I read about the Kyrgyzstan Winter Diaries, and view the wonderful photos of older people. This is typical:
Jeengul, 72. My son and I live in an old sports centre. We live on the second floor, because it has a stove and it’s warmer for us to stay up there and cover the window to try and keep the room warm. During winter I am afraid of slipping over when I use the stairs outside, because it is icy and very slippery. I don’t want to go outside, but I have to go out to collect wood for the stove.
Severe winters and energy shortages in Kyrgyzstan are leaving many older people unable to heat their homes. As part of a new audio-visual project launched on 5 March in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, HelpAge International has been collecting photos, case studies and videos which document the challenges older people are facing.
[Via and photo by © Azuma Nakahira/HelpAge International 2008: Kyrgyzstan Winter Diaries 2008 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!. ]
I urge you to go and view the gorgeous photos that form this Flickr stream. It’s so wonderful to see photos of older people, while heartbreaking to read of the privations they live with.
I just ate a hearty home-made soup for lunch. It was full of vegetables and some leftover chicken. And then I read this:
Aysha, 62. “The main problem in the winter is heating. I have no money to buy coal. I usually use animal dung and wood for heating. I spent my pension on flour, so I have no money for coal. A neighbour used to help us sometimes. He sold us flour and coal at a low price, but now he helps us less than he used to. When my children visit me, they bring some food with them, which is really helpful for me.”
How is it we live in a world that can find trillions of dollars at a moment’s notice to rescue financial institutions while Aysha and Jeengul and millions of others have to choose between being warm and eating?