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Posts Tagged ‘development’

The clock is ticking - spread the word

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Given the chance 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries can unleash the world’s greatest untapped solution to poverty. This is the Girl Effect.

Your support, your voice and your action – that’s what it’s going to take to wake up the world and make a real difference. Make yourself part of the Girl Effect revolution. Join the conversation and let the world know what the Girl Effect is capable of. Talk it up. Spread the word. Check out

Volunteer interviews

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Josie Orr

Why did you decide to volunteer overseas? Who or what influenced you to volunteer?
Basically I was looking for something to do after I finished my degree, (BA in Human Geography) that was related to what I had studied, so it just came at the right time really. Also was interested in traveling but wanted to do more than just go as a tourist. Growing up with both parents having done volunteer assignment made me aware of what an awesome experience it is!

jorr4How did you hear about the volunteer programme?
Through Otago uni, and a talk where VSA came and talked about it (but obviously heard of VSA, and knew about it well- (mum and dad use to hold VSA branch meetings at home when I was growing up.)

Who did you work for and what kind of work did you do?
I worked for an organisation in Port Villa, Vanuatu, called Wan Smolbag Theatre, a not for profit organisation, set up by two expats 21 years ago. They started off with just 15 voluntary actors, and now hire 100 full and part time staff. The organisation uses drama to inform, raise awareness and encourage public discussion on a range of contemporary health, lifestyle, environment and governance issues.

Five years ago they opened their youth centre, where I worked. The youth centre was established to provide out-of-school and unemployed youth who basically who had nothing to do with informal classes, workshops, and activities e.g. hip hop dance, nutrition, playing guitar, sewing, agriculture and sports. Enrolment wasn’t just for youth, with the youngest enrolled member 3 years old and the oldest 53! So activities catered for all ages.

I worked as a literacy teacher for the pikininis (children that couldn’t afford school would attend the centre), although I also helped out with other activities run by the youth, helping planning, setting up and running activities. Also helped run the kids sport programme, taught English, taught computer skills, helped out in the office, writing reports, organising field trips for the kids, basically an all round helper for whatever was needed which meant every day was different!

What were the biggest issues facing the young people you were working with over in Vanuatu? How did you work with them and the other volunteers/locals to deal with these problems?
Unemployment is a major problem for Port Vila, as many youth from the outer islands and rural areas move to Port Vila in the hope to get paid work, but with such high demand and very little jobs available, many find themselves unemployed with nothing to do, which leads to petty crime and youth turning to drugs etc. which are both becoming big issues. STIs along with teenage pregnancy is another major concern.

Basically through the activities the centre runs we were directly responding to the needs of the youth, giving children, youth and adults a chance to gain new skills, gain experience and participate in new activities. A lot of the activities would involve sexual health awareness activities, along with specific workshops held on such topics. We also provided English lessons, and helped out youth with job applications etc.josie-orr_portrait1

School fees are really high (especially as many families live a subsistence lifestyle) and hence the need to provide informal education to provide these kids with a chance to get at least some education and the steeping stones needed in life!

What is the most important lesson you learnt from volunteering?
That no matter who we are, where we live, or our backgrounds, culture or language, we really are all the same, we all experience the same situations in our lives and we can all learn from one another! Friendship is one of the most important things you can give to someone, and receive especially when you are living in another country away from those you know!

What were some of the biggest benefits to you? What did you get out of the programme?
Best experience of my life! Living in an amazingly beautiful country, and learning things I never could have really understood without having lived in Vanuatu for a year or make friendships with people who have lived there all their life!

Do you intend to volunteer again? Why? When? For how long?
Yes I hope to volunteer again – hopefully in the next two years! Ideally for 6months or more. I believe volunteering is the best way to travel. You get a real feel for the country you are visiting/living in and getting to know the locals means you get see the ‘real’ life of where you are, more so than just visiting as a tourist. As well as being able to give back and contribute (if only in a small way) to the lives of the locals.

What would you say to those who are thinking about or planning to go on an overseas volunteer experience?
Go for it! Just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and that you yourself are ready for it – it can definitely be challenging at times but if you go with the right attitude, an open mind, prepared to be flexible and patient, go with the flow and expect the unexpected, it really will be an unforgettable experience. And make sure you go with a reputable organisation that will look out for you if need be.

Kathy Impey

Why did you decide to volunteer overseas? Who or what influenced you to volunteer?
I had a long standing interest in Africa generally but especially South Africa (SA), my parents had lived in SA before I was born and left at the peak of apartheid when it became too problematic for them to stay (my father was teaching at a ‘black’ township school at a time when it was made illegal for white people to enter the townships) so I grew up attending anti-apartheid marches and surrounded by stories and photos of SA. On finishing high school I studied human geography and social work at university with the intention of gaining skills and knowledge that would enable me to travel to Africa.

How did you hear about the volunteer programme?
In my second year at university I had cornered the head of development studies and asked him “How can geography get me to Africa?” and he told me about the UNIVOL programme which at the time was only just being negotiated, then I had to be patient for another year until I had the chance to apply.

kathy-impey_portrait1In the articles I read about your overseas experience you said that you helped out with an activities centre in Mdantsane. Who ran the activities centre and what kind of work did you do for it? Was all your work based around organising activities?
I did a huge range of work, much of it not what I had expected to do, and most of it was just a case of getting involved and doing whatever needed doing. Officially I was a junior programmes advisor, so I worked with a team of local youth volunteers and a small core of local staff to plan, co-ordinate and run after school activities including like soccer, setting up a girls self-defence programme (I have a black belt in TKD and a sports coaching back-ground), swimming, netball, rugby, games and physical activity sessions for the elderly womens’ group, the local community run pre-school, and primary school aged children. I also facilitated coaching workshops and youth training, and occasionally got up at 5am to pump up 137 soccer balls (essential workshop preparations).

The non-sports side of the job ranged from making 500 luncheon sandwiches for children’s sport festivals, teaching basic computer skills, building a shack style kitchen out of sheets of corrugated steel, compiling training manuals, helping local youth put together CVs and job applications, and acting as a mentor and role model.

What was your biggest reservation/fear going into the volunteer programme?
That I wouldn’t actually have much to offer by way of skills or knowledge, I felt very inexperienced and worried that I might seem arrogant as a young outsider arriving there and expecting that I knew enough to be able to help. As it was my fears were silly, I had very supportive colleagues who were so accepting and positive from day one, although there were inevitably some misunderstandings, they let me learn from my own mistakes and I learnt to be guided, but also to speak up when I felt I could contribute. It was a combination of learning to watch and follow, and also when to step forward and take initiative. Most of all when a job needed doing it was important to just get in there and do it.

How did the reality of your experience differ from your initial expectations?
My expectations were fairly accurate having studied SA a lot and traveled there as a child, the last time was about 2 years after the end of apartheid. Going back I was surprised how extreme the racial segregation remained, and how much your skin still defined how you were perceived and what was expected of you. I had perhaps been a bit naïve, but being a white foreigner (and young, female, blonde etc) meant that I was very conspicuous in the townships and when I traveled. I got used to being stared at and questioned about my life, for many people it was the first time they had been spoken to as equals by a white person, so there was a lot of curiosity and attention.

Breaking down racial barriers and making human connections was one of the most rewarding aspects of being there, watching the kids in the preschool move from being initially scared of me, to climbing all over me and treating me as a huge novelty, then by the end of the year, just giving me a hug, saying hello and carrying on as normal – that transition to seeing me as just another person was a huge shift.

What is one of your fondest memories of the experience?kimpeysa1
Working with the young children was amazing, their interest and warmth was very genuine and often after a training session we would all sit down on the dusty field and just talk, the girls in particular would ask all about my life, if I had a boyfriend? Did I miss my family? What was NZ like?

On one very hot day after a soccer session I was huddled in the back of the ute with about 13 of the girls and they were singing songs in Xhosa which is the local click based language. It was incredibly hot and crowded, but we couldn’t open the windows or all the clouds of red dust would come in. Every time the car hit a bump we’d have to put our hands over our heads so we didn’t hit the ceiling too hard. As we drove the girls next to me (the two who spoke the most English) were telling me stories about the places we went past, where the church used to be, where their uncle lived etc. In the middle of all this one of the girls leaned over and hugged me and said something to the other girls that made them laugh a lot. So I asked her “U thini?” (What did you say?) and she explained that she had just told them “this white girl, she’s just like us”, in that moment the acceptance of those girls and seeing them realise that we were far more alike than we were different was extremely touching.

What sort of relationships did you develop while on the programme? Do you still maintain those relationships?

I have remained in touch with some of my colleagues and friends in SA. In five weeks time I will be going back to the same area for 3 months to do research for my Masters thesis. More than anything I can’t wait to go and visit and see everyone, I have been back in NZ for almost 1 ½ years, but I still miss SA every day.

One thing that is quite important to me is that here in NZ often people hear only about the bad things in SA, the crime, the poverty etc, those things are true in some ways, but hearing about the positive side of SA is something that happens a lot less, and I try to draw on my UNIVOL experience and speaking opportunities/interviews to get the message across that despite its problems and bad press, SA also has a very positive story to tell, and I hope this comes through in my answers to your questions.

The girl affect

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Girls living in poverty are uniquely capable of creating a better future. But when a girl reaches adolescence, she comes to a crossroads. Things can one of two ways for her, and everyone around her…..

Check out the Girl Effect website for more information about this awesome campaign and how you can get involved.

Take it Personally

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

take_photo1Anita Roddick of The Body Shop fame has created a work of art with this book, putting images and phrases together, such as, fashion and victim which show us how we have lost perspective of the real world.

Roddick has always tried to conduct business in a personal way, but has found that the business world is dominated by the faceless, and relentless advance of globalisation. This is a world of secret, impersonal committees, who do not take their social responsibilities seriously. The focus is on profit. Without more openness and democracy, she says, the world will be unable to deal with the serious crisis brought on us by globalisation.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

UNYANZ (United Nations Youth Association of New Zealand)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
UNYANZ serves as the Youth arm of the United Nations Association of New Zealand. It provides the opportunity for youth to express themselves, learn about the United Nations and provide positive solutions for the future.

How can I get involved?
UNYANZ provides many opportunites for young New Zealanders to learn about the operation of the UN and become involved in civil society in New Zealand.

By becoming a member, you can participate in events like the New Zealand Model United Nations. Held annually in Wellington, this event brings together over 250 high school students from all around the country to debate and represent United Nations member states. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how the UN works and also about world affairs. Similar events are run at a regional level in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
UNYANZ has also become active in Universities where studuents can involve themselves in Model Security Council events, including the New Zealand Model Security Council Competition.


Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
The mission of SurfAid International, a non-profit humanitarian organization, is to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in remote areas connected to NZ through surfing. SurfAid is the recipient of the 2007 WANGO (World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations) Humanitarian Award.

How can I get involved?

Donate directly to SurfAid

Schools programme – The SurfAid International Schools Program, sponsored by Billabong, is an excellent way to get involved and interested in a fascinating part of the world and some very important global issues. By organizing fundraisers for SurfAid at your school, you’ll have heaps more opportunities to get involved with the work they do. In 2008, Nick Evemy from Tga Boys College “won” a trip to Indonesia as highest student fundraiser for SurfAid (over $1000) as a branch of the SurfAid schools programme. Billabong underwrote the cost for him and his dad to visit projects we do in the Mentawai Islands. All details are available on SurfAid’s schools website: under fundraising.


Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008


What do they do?

Oxfam is a Humanitarian organisation is dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. Oxfam New Zealand was formed in1991, and has now developed an international reputation for its development work in the Pacific and East Asia, its focus on practical solutions to the emerging crisis in water and sanitation and its campaigning for rights.

How can I get involved?

  • Become an Oxfam campaigner - Campaign activities can range from spending two minutes on an email action through to fronting up to politicians to ask questions about their policies on aid, trade and debt.
  • Trailwalker Challenge - raise $2000 to help to overcome poverty and injustice by tackling 100km of tough NZ terrain
  • The Amazing Race - race other teams through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand to raise money for Oxfam projects
  • Oxjam - a month of music with a message. NZ artists busk and throw concerts to raise awareness about Oxfam’s work. They are always looking for volunteers, organisers and fresh ideas and content.
  • ‘Good Books’ and gifts – Buy your books at the online store, and all profits go to Oxfam projects. You can also buy gifts for your friends and family that directly benefit poor communities.
  • Send them stamps – Yup, Oxfam will sort through your old stamps and sell them to collectors!
  • Volunteer – Oxfam are always on the lookout for help with their programmes.
  • Donate to Oxfam
  • Read a Publication – Oxfam produce high quality, up-to-date publications on Poverty and Development issues around the world. Expand your mind and read one today!

Drug Money - the real cost

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

By Ian Blythe

opium-poppiesWhile taking drugs isn’t new, the incredible growth in the illegal drug trade is! Despite all the risks involved, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, and news seems to be spreading of the mula that can be made. It comes down to simple economics: the greater demand the higher the price. Drugs are in great demand and prices are high. But what is the real cost?

It begins with poverty
All drugs have been on a journey. That journey starts with a need and ends with a want. The crop growers or farmers at the start of the production chain are generally poor and desperate for income. They need money to feed their families and pay their bills, just like everybody else. Illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and cannabis are more profitable than legal crops such as wheat. A plot of land planted in wheat will earn a farmer $100 while the same plot planted in opium poppies could be worth $4000! Where poverty is found so are plantations for an array of drugs. For example:

  • Coca leaf, which is turned into cocaine, is cultivated in Peru and Bolivia, countries where, according to the World Bank over half the population live below the poverty line.
  • 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan, which was ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the UN’s 2004 Human Development Index.
  • 70% of the cannabis used in Europe comes from Morocco, where 14% of the population live on less than $2 a day.

Unfortunately the cultivation of drugs doesn’t stop the stop the cycle of poverty. While providing a source of income, it can be dangerous work and farmers find that because they are working in an illegal occupation they have no power and can’t fight for fair pay or better working conditions. They can easily be exploited by traffickers and gangs.

Bad for people, bad for the earth
clearedlandDrug cultivation can have a disastrous effect on individuals and communities, but it also has huge ecological implications. To grow poppies or coca leaves means that farmers need to have fertile soil, warm conditions and a private open field. So they end up cutting down or burning trees to make room. Not just a few trees though, millions of hectares of tropical forest have been cleared, just to keep up with the demand. The use of large quantities of pesticides, weed killers and fertilisers to maximise production leads to a loss in biodiversity, polluted soil and contaminated waterways. The topsoil is often left infertile by the end of the season and it can take up to three seasons to return to its original fertility. So the farmers continue to clear new areas of forest.

Who IS benefiting then?
The profit margins for the traffickers and drug dealers are HUGE. With the farmers only receiving 1% of the street value of many drugs, there is a lot of money to be made along the way. Cocaine bought in Columbia worth $1500 per kilogram could be sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilogram. This part of the drugs journey is usually controlled by gangs or criminal cartels. Drug trafficking, estimated to account for 8% of the all global trade, has given organised crime immense power and wealth, but with this much money at stake, competition is fierce and often ends in violence.

Customer relations
The drug’s journey ends with want. With 180 million regular drug users around the world this want creates significant demand. Drug addiction is complex, but at it’s core it about a user’s physical and emotional dependence on their drug of choice. Addiction creates a secure market for suppliers and keeps the prices high. Lucrative returns and future prospects of an even higher income keep people involved in the industry

Big pond, little fish
buying-drugsEverybody involved in the chain of production and distribution is accountable for the vast effects of this industry. Society is very fast paced and everybody is looking for instant gratification - kiwis are no different. We are not a major drug producer, but Aotearoa New Zealand is home to an increasing number of users. In the last couple of years there has been a steep increase in usage of Methamphetamine, more commonly known as “P”. As “P” is problematically addictive the spread was inevitable. But P isn’t the only drug we’re using. Cannabis is the most readily accessible drug, as it is not only cheap as chips, but very easy to cultivate. Per capita Oceania (an area that includes us, Pacific Island Nations and Australia,) has the highest level of cannabis users in the world.

Five Facts about the Global Drug Trade

  1. 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan
  2. The income of those involved in growing drug crops is 1% of their drugs street value
  3. Millions of hectares of tropical forest in South America have been destroyed in the cultivation of coca (used to make cocaine)
  4. 180 million people worldwide use illegal drugs regularly
  5. Drug trafficking is estimated to account for 8% of all global trade

The circumstances may seem overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do to help!

  • First you need to get motivated, so get informed and dig a little bit deeper. Check out the Learn More section.
  • After you feel motivated you need to get empowered - get involved with some of the local organisations working in this area. The New Zealand Drug Foundation not only produces lots of resources, but they run events too. Community Action on Youth and Drugs project (CAYAD) run projects all around the country, call your local council to see what’s going on near you.
  • Next you have got to live it, talk about the REAL COST of drugs with your friends and stand firm for what you believe in.


Global Bits - The Trafficking trap
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime -The World Drug Report
New Zealand Drug Foundation

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine.

My PYF experience: a reflection

Monday, October 30th, 2006

TeRito Peyroux

TeRito, Jacob and Rosie
In March of this year, before even sending an application to be part of the New Zealand delegation attending the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival (PYF) in Tahiti, I was already excited. I suppose it was almost as if I knew that my going would be a liberating home-coming of sorts, to a place in Polynesia which (like Rotuma, Rarotonga and Aitutaki) is a significant part of both my family heritage and cultural identity “Liberating” in the sense that I would be returning to Tahiti without the comfort and security of my parents or ma’piga on hand, should I want it.

So with my own cultural identity being at the root of initial thoughts and feelings from the very beginning, it was quite natural (after finding out that I had actually been accepted to go and would therefore need to look for funds) that my attitude, learning and overall experience of the PYF were strongly influenced by things pertaining to cultural identity. My cultural identity–as a multiethnic, urban New Zealand born and raised, Methodist young woman, in 2006.
For sure, the PYF provided a myriad of conferences and workshops ranging from health and education right through to governance and sustainable development, which were designed to be all very relevant to the 1000 or so youth participants in attendance. There was even a representational group that met devotedly every evening to help piece together a Pacific Youth Charter, on the PYF’s behalf.

Of course, no Pacific gathering would be complete without the flamboyance, richness and celebration of cultural dance, songs, stories and friendships, and in a land so well versed in creative Maohi performance and hospitality, Tahiti was certainly no exception. This was superbly complemented by the nation’s annual Heiva festivities as well.

I suppose I could also dedicate a paragraph of my reflection to the political woes of French Polynesia and other Pacific Island nations that were shared from the perspectives of those whose portrayals when shared in the media aren’t usually very comprehensive (if they’re shared at all). However, due to my fear of digressing, with regard to politics, I’ll stop right here.
Still bearing all of the above in mind, the main highlight for me is something that even up until now I pleasantly continue to unwrap. From this PYF experience, my highlight came in the realisation that regardless of things measurable, predictable or linear, my sense of belonging and cultural identity is something that I journey toward discovering, understanding and accepting for myself, and thus I need not anyone else to demarcate for me.

Regardless of whether I’m a son or a daughter; whether I’m a first, last or even only child; whether or not I can fluently speak my mother/father/or ma’piga tongue for that matter; whether I’m half, quarter or an eighth of an ethnicity, whether I can sing hymns or chant ri jaujau; regardless even of my religion or whether my theology is orthodox, liberation or otherwise influenced …by birth and by upbringing, I am a part of all of these types of variables and they are all a part of me.

Thus in relation to my ethnic identity for instance, despite the arithmetic and despite any explanations or justifications, I am Rotuman. I am Tahitian. I am French. I am Scottish. I am a Cook Islander. I am a New Zealander. I belong and have just as much of a right and responsibility to each of these different groups as anyone else whose journey through understanding their own sense of identity and belonging leads them to these places also.
And so, with very cherished experiences in heart, a host of stirred understandings in head, heaps of awe-inspiring new friends on hand, and a nurtured spirit in tact, I certainly look forward to the next Pacific Youth Festival which is expected to be held in Fiji.

eating taro ice-cream with friends
TeRito attended the Pacific Youth Festival as part of the Just Focus contingent. This reflection was originally shared in the NZ Rotuman Association Quarterly and also put up on the Rotuma Website.

A festival “PACIFICALLY” for youth

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Corinna Howland

corinna howlandTahiti. Sun, sand and… socio-political activism? This may not be the most likely combination, but for over 1000 youth from around the Pacific region, it seemed to do the trick. The inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held on the island of Pape’ete between the 17th and the 22nd of July, was a unique and thought-provoking experience for its participants. Over the five day period, we attended a number of conferences, workshops and seminars centred around the four festival pillars — namely fair globalisation, sustainable development, cultural diversity and conditions of peace. These ranged from the basic (what are human rights ?’) to the complex and challenging (”Recognition, Preservation and Protection of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property “), and provided a rare forum for youth from different countries and cultures to discuss issues concerning the Pacific Region.

But there’s more to the Pacific Youth Festival than a bunch of people sitting around talking about/lamenting the state of the world. The primary objective of the festival was to produce the Pacific Youth Charter’ — a document outlining issues that need addressing within the region and providing guidelines for improvement. This was collated by a representative, or Junior Delegate’, from each of the countries that attended. Charmaine Clark, a researcher and youth worker in Gisborne, was selected to represent the views of the youth of New Zealand. This appeared to be a mammoth undertaking, incorporating an extra two hours plus of work once the sessions had finished for the day, not to mention trying to communicate with Junior Delegates who spoke only French or Spanish (although translators were on hand).
dancers at pacific youth festival
Outside of the conferences and workshops, much time was spent forging connections with other people at the festival. Many felt that this was perhaps the most important aspect of PYF, as this resulted in a truly moving sense of unity and brotherhood amongst the participants. Although communication was sometimes stilted due to the wide variety of languages spoken, the heart was definitely there. The schedule also involved a reception and dance party(!) at the Tahitian Parliament, a recreational day trip to nearby Mo’orea and various cultural exhibitions in the evenings. A particular highlight for me was the spectacular array of scarcely-clad male dancers, and the ukulele which played constantly throughout the festival. Interacting with the locals was another memorable experience — a chance to practice our limited French and Tahitian, and to understand what was important to people and how issues concerning the Pacific were affecting them on a personal level.
party at pacific youth festival
For me, the Pacific Youth Festival not only provided an appreciation of the Pacific, but an awareness of what I take for granted in New Zealand. In one workshop, the person hosting the conference asked what method of distributing information to youth in the Pacific would be most effective. I replied that I thought newspapers would be best, as youth magazines were well-received in New Zealand. Following this, a man from Papua New Guinea put up his hand and said that that would not work in his country, as only half of the population can read. Maybe this is my ignorance, but it was in part a realisation of how little we are taught about the region that New Zealand belongs to. We tend to look beyond the Pacific to America, Britain and the other world powers, when it would perhaps benefit us to be more introspective. So, don’t ignore your neighbours — take the time to find out about the Pacific, and join us at the 2009 Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji!


Going Global — A NZ Guide to International Youth Opportunities - Takes you through all the stages of hunting out, applying for and going to an international opportunity, as well as how to make the most of your experience when you get back home.

Secretariat of the Pacific (SPC) — a Non Government Organisation based in Fiji and New Caledonia which has heaps of info about Pacific issues, plus links to other sites.

Wikipedia — for general information on the countries and territories in the Pacific
pyf sign


  • Encourage your local school to teach students more about the Pacific and Moriori people.
  • Write articles to newspapers and magazines about Pacific Issues.
  • Make changes to led a more sustainable life (recycling is a good way to start) and encourage others to do the same.
  • Get involved with an organisation or group working on Pacific Issues (like Just Focus!)
    Encourage an end to stereotypes and racism (not all Pacific Islanders wear grass skirts and live off coconuts…)

This article was first published in Jet magazine in the Focus column.

Photos by Geoff Cooper.