Archive for 1994

“Who Killed Kasseim?”

Speech No. 2 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual
Date presented: 27 Sept,1994

The objectives of this speech were:

  • To convince the audience of your earnestness,
    sincerity and conviction on a subject.
  • To confront any nervousness.

Time 5 to 7 minutes


I watched him die.

I looked on helplessly as he struggled to breathe. They put tubes in his mouth and nose. They searched for veins in his wasted arms and gave him blood. He moaned as they drained the poison from his swollen belly. Finally they wrapped his lifeless body in a blaket and covered his wizened old man’s face.

He was 25 days old.

I sat in front of my television set and wept with his anguished mother as she cradled his limp body. I longed to comfort her. How could I reach out to a woman in far off Pakistan? How could I know the depth of her suffering?

Who killed Kasseim?

Could it have been….his mother?

But she loved him! He was her first child, after 14 years of fruitless marriage – the long awaited fulfilment of her dreams and hope for the future. Could she have killed him?

She believed she was giving him the best care when she weaned him onto an expensive milk formula.
But when it cost more than she could afford – did she over dilute it?
When clean water was scarce and expensive to buy – did she draw it from the river, contaminated with raw sewage?
Did she have enough money to buy fuel to boil the water?
And when Kasseim inevitably succombed to diarrhoea – could she give him the correct dose of medicine, when she had never learned to read?

Or did the Health Worker kill him, when she introduced the mother to the milk formula – surely she knew that a bottled fed baby in a third world country is 14 times more likely to die.
“Just in case your milk fails,” she told the grateful mother, as she handed her a sample of highly promoted, expensive infant formula. Was this a kind act? – or an insidious ploy to undermine breast feeding?

Was Kasseim killed by the manufacturers of the formula, when they ignored the International Code of Marketing? They promoted their product in clinics and hospitals, making gifts to doctors and health workers who recommended the formula, even though in a country like Pakistan, the lack of refrigeration and sanitation means that a baby will suffer from 10 to 12 bouts of diarrhoea before his first birthday – if he lives that long!

Did they killl him, or was it the doctor, who derives most of his income from the medicine he sells. When the distraught mother brought Kasseim to him, did he prescribe a potent unnecessary drug?

Did the drug company kill him? When they refused to withdraw their anti-diarrhoeal drops – drugs that had been banned in the western world when it was proved that they caused intestinal paralysis, toxic shock and death in young babies?

Who is responsible for half a million babies in Pakistan alone, who die unnecessarily each year from diarrhoea and dehydration?

“Oh, God,” I cried, as I watched Kasseim die. I don’t know if it was a prayer or accusation.Can we blame God for man’s inhumanity and greed?

Soon after this television programme was aired, one drug company did withdraw the Drops. Public pressure finally caused at least one infant formula company to heed the International Marketing code.

It was too late for Kasseim.

But I had heard about the practices of these Multinational Companies several years before. I was going to protest – but I was too busy – too apathetic.

Did I kill Kasseim?



It seemed to go over well. I wasn’t quite so nervous presenting my second speech, but I still felt shaky for the rest of the evening and couldn’t get to sleep for hours after I got home that night!


‘Specially Harvey

Speech No.1 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual
Date presented:12 June,1994

The objectives of this speech were:

  • To begin speaking before an audience.
  • To help you understand what areas require particular emphasis in your speaking development.
  • To introduce yourself to your fellow members.

Time 4 to 6 minutes.

My neighbour came to me one day and she said,”You know that new lady over the road? She just asked me if you were a bit…….peculiar!”      

“What??” I said. “Me….peculiar?”

“Well,” she said. “you can’t blame her. She sees all those funny bags and boxes left on your doorstep every few days – and then there’s the washing. She knows you’re a widow, but you’ve always got men’s clothes on the line – and what about Harvey? ‘Specially Harvey!”

Well, I suppose it all would seem strange to a newcomer – ‘specially Harvey. But there’s a reasonable explanation for all of it.

For the last 17 years, strange boxes and bags have been appearing on my doorstep. Sometimes just one or two. Sometimes a whole truckload. One night, I opened my front door and walked slap bang, face first into a solid wall of boxes that had been piled up against the door.

Another night I opened the door and nearly fainted in terror. All I could see was this man’s dark suit as it leapt inside. Someone had hung the suit on the door handle. I wished I’d had Harvey with me that night.

I never know what will turn up in those bags and boxes. Most of them contain clothes. The more interesting ones are full of odds and ends, crockery, ornaments, kitchen gadgets, children’s toys, books. They all have to be sorted and some things have to be washed, so there are often strange things on my clothes line. I found a bright orange jumper for Harvey in one of those boxes.

People have been bringing me their secondhand goods ever since our World Vision Club started holding Jumble Sales, which we hold twice a month.

Harvey used to help me promote the Jumble Sales. He wore his orange jumper and rode around in my car with a sign on the back window that said “Smart people shop at World Vision Jumble Sales”. I suppose that’s why my new neighbour thought I was peculiar. ‘Specially when Harvey waved to her.

My two sons found Harvey embarassing. They’re both grown up now, but when they were younger, they preferred to walk home from school than to travel in the car with Harvey.

Our cats liked Harvey. Oh, they weren’t too sure about him at first, when they saw him sitting in the lounge, but he soon won them over and they slept in his lap.

I must say he did give Mrs Robinson a fright, when she came for her music lesson. For weeks she’d look over her shoulder and say “He gives me the creeps.” But she was used to the cats running up and down the piano. I didn’t think she’d be like that about Harvey.

I miss Harvey. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him go. But frankly, he was beginning to get on my nerves. He just sat around all day, never lifting a finger and he was getting covered in cat hairs.

Then the invitation came for him. One of the other World Vision Clubs was holding a seminar and they specially wanted to meet Harvey. I grabbed this opportunity and wrote back,”Would you like to keep him there?”

My friends helped me put him on the bus. He was getting harder to handle. He was a large man, and his stuffing had gradually settled in his bottom half.

But he looked great in his orange jumper, his green trousers, white gloves and shiny shoes. Smart people do shop at World Vision Jumble Sales. Even Harvey’s bright red hair and his big button eyes had come from a jumble sale and so had all the rags I had used to stuff him.

I often think of the good times and the friends I have had. ‘Specially Harvey!

This was my first attempt at public speaking. I knew I was supposed to make eye contact with everyone, so I kept turning my head like an oscillating fan. I was so nervous, I thought I would faint before I got to the end! For my first 5 speeches, I sat on a high stool because I felt too shaky to stand up. By the way, they loved it! (or said they did.)