Niamh Clune

Environment, poetry, comment, children's books,

A Song Of Sahel SOS: How Do We Show Solidarity?

those who have; those who have not
those who dream; those who do not
those who consume world resources; those who have nothing
those who complain about rain; those who die for rain

How Do We Show Solidarity?  

Dust bites. Red storms strip all before them. Grains of sand are sharp, gritty, punishing. Winds come suddenly, filling the sky with feminine pink. Hazy colour has the thrust of pestilence, steals your breath, fills your lungs and blasts your eyes.

The blistering orb strips clean your bones, X-rays skin’s thin veneer. There is nowhere to hide from sun such as this. The Sahelian sun is different to the one under which I live.

I love rain.

I could not live there.

I did live there once in a mud hut with a grass roof. I fended off scorpions and hunting spiders. I slept beneath a mosquito net. Nevertheless, mosquitos found my bleached skin and sunk their proboscides into my flesh passing malaria into my blood.

I survived. Well, I would! I had access to medicine and a hospital that took good care of me. I could escape, fly away to another sun, to rain, verdant fields, supermarket food.

I never understand people complaining about the weather.

Where I was in Sahel, people were tall, black and straight as ebony sticks, and stood out in sharp relief against the barren landscape. In that terrain, even colour is forced to fight for existence. White is colourless.

People who live there are experienced in coping with three year drought cycles, in the expectation of having one good year. In 2002, after global dimming was discovered, a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) report suggested that the drought was probably caused by air pollution generated in Eurasia and in North America, which changed the properties of clouds over the Atlantic ocean disturbing the monsoons. Tropical rains shifted southwards.

The drought in Sahel has been in effect since the 1970’s. African seed is as hardy as the people it feeds. Droplets of rain wake them from four year dormancy. But not even that seed can withstand neglect such as this.

Sahel is a belt spanning Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The Sahel forms a transition between the Sahara desert in the north and the Sudanian Savannas in the south. Sāḥil ساحل literally means ‘shore, coast’ and is derived from the vegetation that grows there and which, delineates sand from savanna. The people are pastoral, eking an existence from growing a few crops. Recurring drought undermines natural, traditional coping mechanisms. Locals no longer have sufficient animal herds to trade for food during their ‘poorer’ years. It is too long since the rains came. They have been unable to rebuild herds. Animals die of starvation too.

I realise that musicians and artists have traditionally stepped up to fill empty, African coffers. Such gestures are born of a desire not to feel helpless in the face of overwhelming helplessness and senseless tragedy. How do we allow even one child to die of starvation?

How do we show solidarity for those confronting starvation, displacement, disease and death? How do we show solidarity for children who will never grow properly, whose bones will be deformed because of malnutrition, whose future will be stolen by starvation, whose budding intelligence will be arrested, nipped in the bud, denied by intervening circumstance?

How do we show solidarity to children whose immune systems will be weakened by starvation, allowing the ravages of disease to inflict early death?

How do we show solidarity for mothers, too weak in themselves to bury a child. The hungry desert claims tiny carcasses.

How do we show solidarity for children left orphaned, whose mothers, baked by midday sun, starved and parched, grind grain to earn useless husks with which to feed their starving children?

How do we show solidarity for a mother who, on dying breath, reaches for the child she will leave behind to whisper love’s last comfort?

Do we tell the children of Sahel that the world cares, or are we too wrapped up in our own business to spare a thought for them?

Do we, in the face of all the horrible things presently occurring in the world, maintain our Humanity and show compassion when many of us are struggling ourselves to sustain a livelihood?

We do what we can. We use what is God-given and free. We use our talent.

Children cannot eat words. Blinded by starvation, they cannot see pictures. I wondered at the incongruity of this.  Talent  has value.  It raises awareness. It inspires giving in others. As the Founder and CEO of Plum Tree Books, I put out a call across social media for artists, poets, writers and photographers to join me in a Song Of Sahel.

Song of Sahel, an anthology of poetry, fiction, music, art and photography, will be launched worldwide on September 15 on Facebook. Published by Plum Tree Books as a multi-media kindle and available on Amazon, the proceeds of the sales will go to SOS Sahel, an NGO working in the Sahel region of Africa.

Song of Sahel, brings together artists from all over the world, including the UK, US, Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Canada, South America, Germany, Netherlands, India and Australia to one platform in the hope of raising awareness of the plight of the people living in the Sahel.

Join us on September 15 at or Here for the event when you can meet some of the artists involved in the project. Listen to music composed especially for the event. Hear live readings of some of the poems submitted. Listen to a radio broadcast. The event begins @10am GMT and continues around the clock until 10am the following day.

Join now. Submissions are open until 15th August.

Contact US Via for further details on how to make a submission or how to link with us.

About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books.

58 comments on “A Song Of Sahel SOS: How Do We Show Solidarity?

  1. shiranirajapakse
    July 13, 2012

    We use our talents to show solidarity….Well said. I’m looking forward to this!


  2. the secret keeper
    July 13, 2012

    niamh, can you recommend other links where i could read more about what is happening in Sahel. i have an understanding of what is going on. i just feel i would like to read more about the people who need to be helped. the children who have mothers reaching out for them but cannot even help themselves. this really should not be happening. even if it means trying to find a more amenable place for them to live that is not to far away but that can sustain them. it is all so frustrating that the starvation cannot be stopped. it doesn’t make sense in the world as it should be today. i retweeted and shared on facebook. what can be done? are people coming up with solutions that are beginning to work? what i am asking is something actively being done or is the world just watching or turning their faces away? it feels obvious to me that new land needs to be found to relocate within a reasonable distance the people who need better ground in which to grow crops that will contnue to thrive. so much draught. is there any land available near enough so the people wouldn’t lose their place of heritage. this is so maddening. i need to sleep so i will think more on this tomorrow or later today. jen


    • ontheplumtree
      July 13, 2012

      You can find out what is happening by going to any of the major donor’s web-sites. UNICEF, World Food Program, Save The Children, OXFAM, to name but a few. Plum Tree Books will be running our campaign in conjunction with SOS Sahel. They are a small, locally-based NGO operating in some of the various countries that constitute the Sahel region. And the Head Office in the UK specialises in Sudan.

      Refugee camps are being set up (which is one of the things that Doug went to Sahel to help Plan International based in Niger, to do). Feeding stations are also being set up. The trouble is, Climate Change has rendered most of these places inhospitable. Refugee camps literally are situated in the middle of the starkest terrain imaginable. Oxfam digs wells. And the usual Disaster Emergency Relief Funds are pouring in. Land is always an issue. For example, Mali is in a state of Civil War, and refugees are pouring into Niger, one of the poorest countries on earth, to escape the war. Refugee camps are where many women will try to bring-up their kids, feeding them on the grains, allowance of oil and milk powder provided by aid. They live from begging bowls, eking out an education the best they can which is delivered by travelling Mullahs or Christian missionaries. This is no way to begin or end a life. I do not know the overall answer, short of the world, as a whole, addressing multifarious issues such as Climate Change (and how to survive now that it is a reality), corporate greed, hatred, capitalism-gone-mad, colonialism which beggars local resources, dropping world debt.

      The list is endless, the problems insurmountable, unless by a collective awakening of the heart. We have all tried with our previous campaigns. But greed always wins. All we can do is do what we can. It seems the collective Will is absent to really tackle the world crisis in which Humanity now finds itself. Most people are exhausted, suffering compassion fatigue, struggling to survive the current economic climate, dealing with local disasters such as tornadoes, earth-quakes, floods droughts, fires, heat, to have to look up and see what world-leaders are up to. Governments (whom we elect) care more about invasion and election results than being humanitarians. I am obviously, old-fashioned. I was weaned on the politics of the sixties that got out into the streets and protested often at risk to ourselves. We need a revolution. Are we too tired to have one?


      • the secret keeper
        July 14, 2012

        start a revolution. i’ve been feeling the need for one for years. the people of the world unite, there’s nothing to lose but your chains. if the wealth of the world were spread out i feel that the problems all over the world would be more manageable to resolve. if the people who are in the areas where it is almost to impossible to sustain life had the financial means to relocate and not to a refugee camp but to a home and village and a means to more than just survive. it would be possible if all the people of the world freed up their generosity. the world would be able to do more than just survive. people would get training and education and jobs and have shelter (decent) where they could bring up their families. if it means there would be one parent families. if we help supported all the people who need support to restart their lives we could take care of everyone. we, as a world, should be able to accomplish this if all the world governments and the people in all the countries who have more than what they need shared then the excess could be given to those in need. if we kept this going we could eventually end world starvation and find homes and support for all people and they wouldn’t have to live their lives as non citizens and invisible citizens of the world. the way people look or don’t actually look at the homeless in my country. the way the homeless are thought of: they are crazy or lazy or don’t care so they are less than people and if they die or someone abuses them or kills them the police or anyone else won’t lift a finger to help them out or even to try to find out who abused them or killed them. people just don’t care if they think you are a nobody. i am sure a great many people look at Sahel as a place where the people we are trying to help are nobodys. they are non-existant. the people that look away just want to get on with their lives. let the people on the street die and be done with them. like scrooge’s philosophy: “let them die and decrease the surplus populations.” that is what the wealthy think. if they cannot do anything to make me wealthier then why bother. i realize there are some people who are wealthy that do help so i will not totally demonize those who have a great deal of money. but you don’t have to be wealthy to not care, you just have to be a right wing tea party republican not to care for anyone in the US let alone the rest of the world and especially not the people in Africa. they aren’t their people so why should they care. why aren’t they taking care of themselves. everyone needs to do that. this is the way these people think. let everyone starve and die if they can’t afford to live. some of our politicians are outspoken about feeling this way even to people they use to call friends. it is shameful the attitude that some people think. i am so far left of the left that they are not progressive enough for me. my theory for my country and this should apply to the world b/c i feel we are all world citizens: all people should be guaranteed a decent place to live, the funds to afford a nutritious supply of food, funds fo clothing, funds for an education and some extra for necessary goods and left over for entertainment of some sort. this should be the basic needs that should be met for all people on the planet. how to accomplish this is to share the wealth, the jobs, eliminate poverty, eliminate those positions that pay an exobitant wage and let that money seriously filter down to everyone. training and education to what people are best suited for so that they are happy in what they are doing with their lives. support the artists of the world for they are the ones that foresee the future and how to make it grow. in this country a CEO works for $.01 seconds to buy a 1/2 gallon of milk; a middle class worker works for 13 minutes to buy the same 1/2 gallon of milk and the low wage earner who works at mcdonalds works for 1/2 hour to buy 1/2 gallon of milk. now i would definitely say that there is an imbalance of monetary sharing. like in the russian revolutions there were those who ate at the super fancy restaurants and could have anything they wanted to eat or drink. the proletariat could barely survive on the rations that remained. so the bourgeoisie needed to be overthrown and the wealth needed to be divided. unfortunately, those who took over after the royal family were terminated ( i did not like that at all) were worse. so we need to think of a way if there is to be a revolution that we do not create a stalin or a moa. we need a progressive well represented over seeing group that can organize a structure that will take care of the whole world. knock down all the walls that separate people. i am definitely not suggested anything close to anarchy. there needs to be a form of world government where all are represented and lobbyists are not allowed. i just realized this might be considered sedition. it sounds like i am plotting a revolution. it all comes full circle. did you know that marx left his home country and spent the second part of his life living in Great Britain. he had the right idea, if there were a way that the whole world could be joined and the crazy leaders and the boundaries of countries could be eliminated, then we would all stand a chance. there would be no such thing as outsourcing. as john lennon said in one word: IMAGINE!!! well aren’t i the revolutionary. if it happened i think it would work but taking the toys away from the 1% and their protective henchmen could prove dangerous and quite possibly impossible. but in actuality is there anything that is totally impossible??? jennifer kiley ~the secret keeper~


      • bilafond
        July 16, 2012

        Very nice plan and very nice thoughts of bringing change. I fully support this cause world wide. I for one is not propagating need to have place to live. For me where i live this is higher strung of the ladder, I see stop to killing of innocent by powerful, the right to live. Thousands have died not knowing why they were killed and and those who kill have no idea who have they killed. I have been in civil war situations in Somalia, Liberia and Seira Leone. It is all about power and nothing else. It still goes on here next door. To sum up, it is war machine industry which guzzles and benefits. When I was in Mogadishu and else where hundreds of NGOs did good work but a dissenting opinion always heard and called them Lords of War. I know how much money flows and not all reaches for which it is announced. The cycle is amazing most reaches back to the point of origination after small and big agendas are achieved. Please forgive my harsh comments if it has offended any involved in good cause of SAHEL.


      • ontheplumtree
        July 16, 2012

        Your assessment is absolutely correct. It is a combination of things that keep people poor. And what people do to each other in the name of tribalism, religion, corporate greed, colonialism to beggar resources, local corruption, climate change…etc. All we can do is do what we can. We need a world-wide shift in consciousness, a collective awakening of the heart…the collective will to change these inequalities. I fear this will never happen. Ignorance is rife in all corners of the world and expressed through ALL cultures. My husband and I worked in Kenya and Sudan. He worked in Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and most recently, Niger. We are aware of all the in’s and out’s of Aid. But does this mean we are now too cynical to care? I think not. Thank You for stopping by Bilafond. Please would you consider writing something for this and submitting it to our anthology…


  3. tomdharris
    July 13, 2012

    Hi Niamh, I’d be happy to devote some time to this great project. I have some existing unpublished young adult short stories or many new concepts I could use. Let me know how and where to submit them, if required. Inspiring stuff! Good on you.


    • ontheplumtree
      July 13, 2012

      Hi Tom…I have perhaps, not made the call for submissions clear. It is to write something about the situation in Sahel: A poem, or a piece of copy about who you feel about the situation, how you want to express it.


  4. DiAnne Ebejer
    July 13, 2012

    As Plum Tree launches into this project I am so hopeful people will hear the call, yet personally I hardly know where to begin writing a piece about this most unthinkable situation. As I sit here with my hot cup of coffee, stuffing glazed donuts, cuddled up on my nice comfy couch I’m hoping I can place myself into the depths of that sadness and desperation and come up with something more than a face full of tears.


    • ontheplumtree
      July 13, 2012

      You will DiAnne by digging deep into your own loss. Isn’t that where we all become one and relate to each other. In fact, that comparison is perfect… What do we do when we feel helpless in the face of such misery, degradation, despair, hopelessness? How do we cope with feelings of helplessness…do we switch off?


    • shiranirajapakse
      July 13, 2012


      When you take a sip of your coffee or take a bite of that donuts think what it might be like not to do it. Then think what it would be like not having coffee of donuts or anything else ever. Imagine losing all the comforts you have, and think how you would feel. That’s where you start writing. Or just talk about the “face full of tears” and how you got there. That’s inspiration enough – the sheer helplessness of it all. You’re a brilliant writer and you should have no problem. Just give it some time.


  5. Aaron Cornett
    July 14, 2012

    where do we send our submissions? I would love to help. I also have a writing group called Permanent Travelers I will post there as well. thanks!


    • ontheplumtree
      July 14, 2012

      Please use the Contact US form, and I will then have your email and will send further detail.


  6. shiranirajapakse
    July 14, 2012

    DiAnne I was so taken up by what you said that the words kept running through my head the whole night and I wrote this down.

    Inspired by DiAnne

    The aroma from my coffee wafts
    through the room. The sweet
    taste of the donut lingers in my
    mouth as I sit in cushioned
    comfort and shed tears at
    the unfairness of it all. You cannot
    have this simple life I have.
    Your life is led in a faraway place
    where the aroma of coffee
    is just a dream. Your mouth will
    not taste the sweet fullness
    I taste nor know what it must
    be like to sit on a cushion.
    For you the cold hard earth is all
    there is. That and a sip of
    water, if you can find it.
    Your tears have dried up long
    ago. There’s no more water left
    in your little body that looks
    like a dried up leaf to produce
    a single tear.
    You lie there waiting for something
    more than this, but what can I
    offer you sitting here in my
    room so far away?
    All I can give are words.
    They cannot feed or protect
    you from the cold. But they can
    turn themselves into cash that someone
    will use to buy you things. Simple
    things that can make you live
    a better life, another day. That’s my gift
    to you. I hope
    this is enough. Is it?
    I sip my coffee now gone cold
    and try to imagine what you must
    be going through, so far away.

    © 2012 Shirani Rajapakse


  7. DiAnne Ebejer
    July 14, 2012

    Shirani…believe it or not, I hardly know what to say that is so beautiful. I’m so grateful you were inspired to write this from my little comment…that you got all of that says you are a insightful, deep feeling compassionate person as well as a brilliant writer. Thank you hardly seems the appropriate response but thank you from the bottom of my toes…


  8. Uncle Tree
    July 14, 2012

    Well said, Shirani!

    Niamh, ” We need a revolution. Are we too tired to have one?”

    Like a punch in the gut and a wrench to the heart, that question
    went to the quick, where I try to hide our collective shame and
    my own doubts about a benevolent and forgiving Cosmic Creator.

    I’ll need some time to grok on this choked-up feeling
    that I usually hide so well. If I ask for the Dead-Line
    for entries, then I now wonder how many will go today…


    • ontheplumtree
      July 15, 2012

      The deadline is August 15th Please send us a poem about how you feel about the situation.


  9. Pingback: start a revolution: starvation in sahel | the secret keeper

  10. shiranirajapakse
    July 17, 2012

    Thanks DiAnne for your beautiful words.

    Uncle Tree we are involved in a quiet revolution. A writers revolution! Come join us.


  11. Gwen Dubeau (@gpenman)
    July 22, 2012

    Hi Niamh, this is a tender and real subject. I will see what I can do to be involved and promote this.


  12. Ampat Koshy
    July 25, 2012

    I would like to contribute a poem. Can you tell me what to do?


    • ontheplumtree
      July 25, 2012

      Please use The Contact US form. I will receive your request, and will reply by email. Thank You! We look forward to hearing from you.


  13. Ampat Koshy
    July 25, 2012

    Which email address should I send it to?


  14. Pingback: SONG OF SAHEL submissions open | Jameswfrobertsdapoet's Blog

  15. Betty Dravis
    July 26, 2012

    Niamh, You asked if Sally might be interested in contributing a work of art. Before I ask her I need to know if one of her current ones would be suitable. (Perhaps the tiger.) None seems to fit the situation and I doubt if she’ll have time to do a new one. Hmmm

    God bless you and all your very humanitarian works.

    Heart Hugs – Betty Dravis


    • ontheplumtree
      July 26, 2012

      I have not seen all her work. I will send a essage to you directly.


  16. Betty Dravis
    July 26, 2012

    I meant a work of art to be photographed for the book. ❤


  17. Ampat Koshy
    July 26, 2012

    I am leaving my poem here since I can’t find the “contact us” form – but please,please include it if you can. With much love, concern and compassion.

    Dr A.V. Koshy
    presently Assistant Professor
    Dept of English
    Faculty of Arts and Humanities (for Women)
    in Jazan University
    Saudi Arabia.


    • ontheplumtree
      July 26, 2012

      Dear Ampat. I have received your lovely poem and will include it in the anthology. I will be posting the whole event on Facebook and will invite you to it there. For future reference, the CONTACT US is in the left-hand column of the main page.


  18. ontheplumtree
    July 26, 2012

    Please also send us a short bio (50 words and a photo, if you have one and a preferred link to your web-site.


  19. Ampat Koshy
    July 26, 2012

    have sent you the bio via contact us


  20. Ampat Koshy
    July 26, 2012

    and the preferred link


  21. Pingback: Song of Sahel SOS | the secret keeper

  22. the secret keeper
    July 30, 2012

    Reblogged this on the secret keeper and commented:
    Plum Tree Books

    Contact us here for details.

    The complete anthology will be published on Amazon. We are doing this in conjunction with SOS Sahel. Proceeds of sales go to SOS Sahel.


  23. DarKarsean
    July 31, 2012

    Reblogged this on darkarsean and commented:
    This is so important – for the more we don’t do, the more doesn’t get done. Ignorance is not bliss on any level


  24. Pingback: life of pi | the secret keeper

  25. Shawn MacKENZIE
    August 1, 2012

    Reblogged this on MacKENZIE's Dragonsnest.


    • ontheplumtree
      August 1, 2012

      Thank You Shawn for your support by re-blogging our Song of Sahel.


  26. Sue Lobo
    August 2, 2012

    The call has gone out & the ripples are spreading reaching out to so many talented & caring people who are submitting their arts to help a really worthy cause. We should also thank Niamh, Wayne & all the other hard working people who are making this cause grow by uniting everyone. Many thanks to all.


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  31. Frenk Tominec
    August 9, 2012

    Red edge

    Red edge
    green path,
    blue rivers,
    crying child.

    Gray Sky
    dry tree
    empty channel,
    ground jail.

    the flood of all,
    all is burning,
    dying life.

    Gold edge sky,
    green way around the world,
    emerald river,
    fresh wind from the hills.

    Men and women,
    subject standing in the retail world,
    voice of the child,
    not crying.


    The new world!

    Best regards Frenk Tominec


  32. thiskidreviewsbooks
    August 10, 2012

    Reblogged this on This Kid Reviews Books and commented:
    I am reblogging this post from On the Plum Tree. It is a request for submissions of poems, writings, songs and art work for an event to be held on Spetember 15th to benefit Sahel, a region in Africa hit by a horrible drought that has left a lot of people dying from starvation and other diseases. I am sending in a poem that I am writing. I thought maybe others would like to know about it too. Thanks!


    • ontheplumtree
      August 10, 2012

      Thank You Erik for re-blogging this on your wonderful blog. I look forward to reading your poem and think it’s great that kids are getting involved in this project also.


  33. Tonia Marie Houston
    August 12, 2012

    Reblogged this on Passionfind with Tonia Marie Harris and commented:
    Musicians, poets, photographers, and artists from around the world are joining in the relief cause for Sahel. Follow this link to Plum Tree Books for more information on how to help. I join in solidarity for the families of Sahel. They are mothers, fathers, and children. My contribution is a poem titled “A Grain of Sand.”


  34. Pingback: We Are The World | the secret keeper

  35. patriciasands
    August 29, 2012

    Reblogged this on Patricia Sands' Blog and commented:
    Will you find a moment to join in on September 15th?


  36. Pingback: Solidarity for Song of Sahel (SOS) with Plum Tree Books « The Claudio Fiore

  37. Pingback: TJs Rambling Updates! Well, just two for now… | T J Lubrano Illustrations

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