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52 MAY 2003
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postcard from leon fulcher

From Heathrow

Iím writing this postcard from another airport transit lounge, leaving the UK on my way back to New Zealand. Iíve been invited to spend a few days in Dubai Ė part of the United Arab Emirates Ė and then a week in Malaysia before getting back home. Itís interesting the number of family and friends who shared concerns about my stopping off in Dubai and transiting through Singapore. Concerns about coalition incursions into Iraq have now been compounded by fears of the SARS virus. No weapons of mass destruction have been discovered so far, and the world now faces Coalition or Non-Coalition choices. My brother-in-law refuses to purchase non-Coalition wine while, as a New Zealander, I choose the opposite. Without UN endorsement and some semblance of diplomacy, my Child and Youth Care ethics donít support the abuse of power, whether by autocrats or neighbourhood bullies!

Smiling under my medical issue SARS prevention mask!

But I donít want to focus this Postcard on the second Iraq War that started on my birthday. I wanted to reflect on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS Ė now diagnosed as coronavirus pneumonia Ė and the way its being spread by international travel. Hong Kong and Singapore children or university students returning from school holidays to the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Australia have faced 10 days' isolation before being allowed to re-join fellow students in residential hostels or home stays. The city of Toronto Ė hardest hit amongst North American cities Ė recently introduced draconian measures to restrict peoples' movements and halt the spread of this mutated cold virus. Visual manifestations of the SARS scare could be found at every airport Iíve visited so far during this trip. Not only have there been fewer travellers but todayís traveller was also more likely to wear a mask, of different styles and colours. A whole new industry of designer mask ware has emerged!

Regular hand-washing and gloves are said to be important!

Having already cancelled plans to attend conferences in Hong Kong and Singapore later this year, Iíve joined thousands of others whose decisions have crippled Hong Kongís Cathay Pacific Airline, as well as Singapore Airline in Asia. North American airlines also face post-911 bankruptcies while fortifying cockpits and arming pilots, all in the name of safe travel. Itís ironic to think of how the microscopic coronavirus is likely to shape trends in world travel over the next decade, posing greater long-term implications for safe travel than anything else. The design of air conditioning systems in airplanes will almost certainly change, along with many destinations of choice.

Make sure weíre listening to whatever is worrying children!

Looking back over the past 4 years Ė sending Postcards from many places Ė sadly it seems, the world has become a scarier place. I hope this wonít stop people from attending the 7th International Child and Youth Care Conference in Victoria, BC come August. 2003 is not a good time for isolationism, with children and young people suffering more, almost everywhere in our world. Itís important that we gather together to explore best practices and keep reviewing the cross-cultural chasms that divide us! Wear a mask, but turn up and add your voice!

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