new podcast: a punk rock hospital-crowdfunding doctor.
TL;DR: I’m no longer doing a weekly podcast! The team is working on upping the production value of the podcasts (you’ll hear the difference already in this episode) and me & my team will be putting out about one podcast a month.
We have some amazing guests coming up, and this one is blazing. It’s Dr. Rola Hallam, a Syrian-born British punk rock hospital-crowdfunding doctor. She saw the system was broken, ignored all the haters, and crowdfunded a hospital. TODAY, she is launching a new crowdfund to get early-warning systems installed into schools so that kids can escape with a 6-minute warning before the bombs drop, and she’s making a direct plea to our community to donate anything you can, even $10. You can donate here: SaveSyriasSchools.org. (note: we’re using a bit.ly link in the hyperlink here so we can track how many people click the link so we have an idea of how many of YOU are clicking through to donate and check out their work.)
You can listen to my podcast with her HERE directly embedded in this post, or anywhere you get your podcasts (Spotify, Apple, etc etc.) If you’re viewing this post in your email, click through to view on web: https://www.patreon.com/posts/48671627.
and please…leave me a comment to let me know if you’ve listened and/or donated.
The longer story:
Good morning from Aotearoa New Zealand, my loves.
And greetings from my usual coffeeshop, where I now sit most mornings staring at my laptop screen after I drop Ash off at school, wondering how (and why?) I am going to answer the 2,300 emails that have accrued, unanswered, over the past year.
I get sad. I feel frustrated. I’ve been living waylaid in a foreign country for a while year, and haven’t been home for almost two years. I miss my house. I miss my friends and loved ones. My family and community are all disconnected and anaemic. I miss making music and touring.
I start feeling sorry for myself.
Then I realize that I am sitting in a coffeeshop in New Zealand, surrounded by wealth and plenty, with a croissant and jam, and I shake my head. Nobody in my family is actively dying, nobody is homeless, and nobody is so poor they cannot eat. There are no bombs or chemical weapons falling on the people I love.
I’ve written about it before – but this feels like it’s one of the most important themes going around the World Zeitgeist right now: how to manage to rightfully mourn what you’ve lost while staying joyously grateful for what you still have.
This has been the human condition since the dawn of time: the endless, multilayered sandwich of grief and gratitude.
I was talking the other day on the phone with Elizabeth Lesser, one of my favorite friends and mentors. (She was also my flagship podcast guest, and if you haven’t heard that episode, hoo boy, stick that one in the to-listen-to pile, it’s really comforting and inspiring.) She’s been in my hometown of Woodstock since the start of the pandemic and she fills me in on the realities of the neighborhood, how the town is feeling, how the grandchildren are doing (she’s got a couple living right nearby), how the parents are coping (or not coping).
About a month ago, I talked to her, and she’d fucked up her knee. She was with one of her grandkids and made some risky choices and overdid it, and now she’s got a torn ACL and is hobbling around. We talked a few days after the accident, and she was full of anger and frustration at herself. She’s so refreshingly honest: it’s so nice to talk to a person who’s much older and so accomplished who is also so willing to talk about the bogeyman in her head. She and I had a nice long chat about the spirals of negative self-talk and “would shoulda coulda” that plague us on a daily basis when we drift too far from the present. She was pissed at herself.
So a few days ago, when I talked to her, and asked her how her knee was, she said it was healing slowly, but she sounded very cheerful about it. “You sound less sad!” I said. “Well”, she said, “Right after I fucked my knee up, a couple of my friends died suddenly of cancer. So I’m pretty….happy about my knee.”
That’ll do it, I guess.
Here’s the thing: we talk a lot about how the act of comparing ourselves to others can be so deeply wounding and toxic. There’s always going to be someone to the left or right that has a more functional family, or a nicer ass, or a nicer house, or a better paying job, or a more supportive partner, or a newer smart phone.
Comparison is the road to hell.
But what about when we’re comparing ourselves to those “worse off” than we are? Is that equally dangerous? Elizabeth thought not.
We delved into that conversation, and I mused with Elizabeth about how I often find myself thinking – and comparing myself – to people I know who have found themselves infertile, or who have had to bury newborn babies, when I start to feel self-pitying about the fact that I probably won’t have a second child.
“It’s like your dead cancer friends and your knee”, I said. “Do you think it’s dangerous?”
We concluded that it isn’t.
If it makes you live in present gratitude for what you have, do what you gotta do to remember how blessed you are to have whatever you do have. And you always have something. A child at all. Or family at all. Or a body at all. You can get really basic with it: some people died. You’re alive. You can always be grateful for that in itself. You’ve alive. You’ve made it this far and you’re alive. The rest is icing on the cake of mortality.
This is a very roundabout way of introducing this new podcast.
I have a feeling if I’d started this post off talking about Syria and politics, your sense of self-protection might have listlessly scrolled away from this screen, to just about anywhere else.
The conflict in Syria is ten years old this week, and marking and honoring it wasn’t on my list of things to do.
My understanding of the conflict is probably about as yours – or “the average person’s” – I read the Guardian and Times and I listen to the BBC and I try to follow the plot of what seems like an impossible story. A country that just keeps struggling. It’s called a “civil war” but as my guest, Dr. Rola, points out, it’s less a “civil war” and more an attack by a government on its own people. (If you want to read an overview of the conflict, there’s a good article here that the BBC posted a few days ago).
A few months ago, this woman, Dr. Rola, cold-emailed me from an undisclosed location. She’d read my book, “The Art of Asking”, and she felt we had huge things in common. We both cared about people. We both wanted to find a way to circumvent the patriarchy to make the world a better place. We both got called The Village Crazy Lady for doing a crowdfunding campaign.
The huge difference was: I crowdfunded a dumb glam-new-wave rock record, and she crowdfunded an entire hospital for children.
She said: “I want to reach the world on March 15th, when we hit 10 years of Syrian conflict. Can I be on your podcast?”
I said: “I’m supposed to be taking the month off and not recording any new podcasts. And so definitely, fuck my plans, you can be on my podcast.”
Here we are, a few weeks ago, making this recording.
I was in a recording studio in Auckland, and Rola was somewhere overseas. She can’t tell us where she’s based right now, because there are people out there who want to harm her.
When I call Rola a PUNK ROCK DOCTOR, I don’t mean she sports plaid bondage gear and a mohawk. She doesn’t wander the streets playing ukulele either (my humble version of Punk).
When I say punk rock, I mean in the truest, counter-cultural sense of punk: not obeying the rules. Smashing the system.
That is punk.
Dr. Rola was on the front line in the early stages of the Syrian conflict.
On the August 26, 2013 she was working at the Hand In Hand Hospital in Al Atareb when a child suffering severe burns was rushed in. A BBC crew shadowing Rola captured the unspeakably horrific scenes that followed.
A local school had been bombed, killing ten children and left many more injured.
Rola treated patients, later describing the scenes as ‘chaos and carnage’.
Hospitals and schools continued to be attacked, driving medics underground.
Totally desperate for funding but painfully aware of potential donors’ disillusionment of blind giving, Dr. Rola established “CanDo”; a crowdfunding initiative intended to connect people who wanted to help directly to Syrians civilians.
The campaign went viral and 5,000 donors raised £247,000.
So Rola built a hospital. Here she is, outside it.
She crowdfunded an actual fucking hospital.
This is punk.
Brief history lesson:
The Syrian conflict began in 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad led government used deadly force against civilians demanding political freedom and an end to corruption.
Today (March 15th) marks the tenth anniversary of those events.
According to the Syrian Observatory of human rights, there have been over 380,000 documented deaths, over 116,911 of whom were civilians. 205,300 are missing or presumed dead.
When she contacted about making this episode, I knew immediately that I had to use my platform – and YOU, my patrons – to amplify and try to help Rola’s efforts.
I knew from emailing with her that she was funny, brave and potty mouthed (The Triumvirate, YES!) but the conversation you’re going to hear is just INCREDIBLE.
You should know it won’t be an easy listen. But listen anyway.
Be Elizabeth. It might help you to reframe your fucked-up knee.
No one knows better than you all that the world can be a bleak, bleak place but when we can, we listen and we help. Even if we do a small thing, we can help.
I asked Rola to prepare a call to arms….I wanted her to tell you in her own voice why it’s so important you – you you you – contribute to her new project, if that’s something you can afford to do.
Her new project involves installing EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS in schools, so that children can run out of the building.
I know it’s bleak.
I know it’s hard to get excited about something so bleak.
But we gotta do it.
So….you’ll hear that CALL TO ACTION at the end of the episode…..but you might be, y’know, stirring a pot on the stove or chasing your kid and I want to make sure it’s as easy for you to help as possible.
Here’s Rola and some of the staff of her crowdfunded hospital in Syria.
Look at what she’s created. It’s just amazing.
(Rola with Hope Hospital nurses, photo by Tim Alsiofi)
Rola wrote this for the post:
‘”It is the 10 year anniversary of the ongoing war in Syria – a devastating milestone for Syrians and for all of humanity.
We may not be able to stop the bombs but we absolutely can protect children and break the cycle of violence, trauma, injury and death. We plan to implement a life-saving early warning system in 150 schools at high risk of attack and provide every child who has had to bear witness to these horrors with specialized trauma recovery therapy.
We need every penny you can give so please go to SaveSyriasSchools.org and help us save lives and heal minds.”
Here’s the site:
That’s your call to arms.
Please….NOW, TODAY: help amplify the message and the link, SaveSyriasSchools.org on social media. We can mobilize as a community and help Rola achieve her aim of SAVING. KIDS. WHO. ARE. GETTING. BOMBED. IN. SCHOOLS.
* Rola is donating her fee for appearing on The Art of Asking Everything to SaveSyriasSchools.org
* AND we’re donating a portion of the money raised from Thinging this episode…
* AND Neil Gaiman (you know him), who’s written before about the conflict in Syria and the impact on humanity, after traveling to a refugee camp in Jordan, is also making a donation.
I’m hoping that with these collective efforts, we can raise a big chunk of change for Rola’s project.
Please – if you can – do what you can. If and when you do, POST ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
A note on the f-bomb title: you might think that the title of the podcast is an inappropriate title for a conversation this grave.
I hear you.
But when we sent Team AFP’s suggestions to Rola, wondering if she’d have a problem with us using the words “pimp a hospital”, she told us she had thought of something even more apt: “THE FUCKERY OF PHILANTHROPY”.
I told you she was a punk rock bad-ass.
Obviously, we went for it. It means Facebook algorithims may crush the reach of our podcast.
But we have YOU.
MORE ABOUT DR. ROLA
Dr. Rola and Saleyah, Photo: Telegraph, photographer unknown
Rola’s appearance on The Daily Show talking to Trevor Noah…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VquniRLh45c
Rola Hallam spoke about the doctors, nurses and aid workers rebuilding Syria at TED https://www.ted.com/talks/rola_hallam_the_doctors_nurses_and_aid_workers_rebuilding_syria
‘Saving Syria’s Children’ documentary:
‘Open letter: let us treat patients in Syria’ https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61938-8/fulltext
Rola’s “The People’s Caravan”
Rola’s official bio:
Rola Hallam is a British-Syrian consultant anesthetist, humanitarian, international advocate and speaker and the founder of CanDo; a social enterprise that enables local, frontline healthcare workers to provide healthcare to their own war-affected communities.
Hallam knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was a child. She arrived in the UK aged eleven speaking no English. Her father was a gynecologist in Cambridgeshire. She studied medicine at the University of London and graduated in 2003. She was a registrar and education fellow at the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she specialized in Global Health.
Hallam first practiced medicine in the UK, where she trained to be a consultant anesthetist. Her focus for the last 17 years however has been on global health. She worked at the Royal Free Hospital. In 2007 she travelled to Ethiopia as a volunteer with Health Volunteers Overseas teaching on a Masters course for nurse anesthetists and then working in development of pediatric health services with local health providers, building capacity and conducting research on how to best manage critically ill children with pneumonia with Professor Katherine Maitland and Imperial college London. She has also worked in hospitals near Aleppo and across Syria.
In 2011, when war first broke out in Syria, Hallam became involved in the humanitarian response. She became Medical Director of Hand in Hand Syria, a Syrian led, UK registered charity that looked to deliver medical aid in Syria in 2012. Hand in Hand Syria supported 80 field hospitals and a pediatric hospital. In 2013 she appeared on Panorama Saving Syria’s Children. She is a prominent voice in the news coverage about Syria. She has written for The Lancet, The Guardian The Independent and the Huffington post. She has appeared on The Daily Show, the BBC and SBS.
To address the issues she had found within the aid system, she established CanDo, a not-for-profit social enterprise and crowdfunding platform for local humanitarian organizations. CanDo supports and enables local, frontline, healthcare workers to save more lives in war-devastated areas and for people around the world to support cost-effective, locally-led, life-saving health interventions, efficiently and quickly. She ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 called People’s Convoy, which raised money to build a new children’s hospital in Syria. The Convoy left the UK in December 2016, where it met members of the Independent Doctors Association at the Turkey-Syria border. She was an invited in speaker at the 2017 and 2018 Women in the World conferences, alongside Hillary Clinton. In October 2017 she spoke at Google’s Zeitgeist Minds. In November 2017 she spoke at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, alongside Barack Obama and Naomi Campbell. She has advocated jointly with Physicians for Human Rights and is frequently featured in publications to discuss Syria. She is a guest lecturer at King’s College London and the London School of Economics. In January 2018 Hallam was announced as a TED Fellow and her TED talk has had over 1 million views.
THE PODCAST ITSELF – HOW TO LISTEN:
audio for all of the podcast episodes are embedded on my website, including today’s episode: http://amandapalmer.net/podcast
go here, select the podcast venue of your choice (i.e. apple podcasts), and click on the most recent episode.
and it’s FREE, and AD-FREE!
And not only that, we are donating a portion of this episode to SaveSyriasSchools.org.
Please, again, give there if you can.
The Art of Asking Everything
Dr. Rola Hallam: The Fuckery of Philanthropy
THE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
We’ve attached a pdf of the transcript of the podcast the patreon post. To view it, you can download it by visiting this patreon post on the web, if you ain’t there already. (it’s a hyperlink at the very bottom of the post with a little paper clip attachment symbol next to it).
Thank you to my punk rock doctor, Dr. Rola, for her work, for her immense amount of heart, and for sharing everything that she’s shared with us today.
Once again, it’s the 10 year anniversary of the war in Syria. You out there can help protect children right now who are being targeted in attacks like the ones Rola was talking about, so please, donate a little, even if it’s $10, to save Syria’s schools, where Rola is raising money to install these 150 early warning systems, to help kids get out of buildings before they are bombed. And you will also be supporting trauma therapy for the kids, which you know is deeply important to their future selves, to the health of the whole country, to the health of the whole world.
The URL again is SaveSyriasSchools.org. It’ll also be plastered all over the internet, you can Google it, it’ll be on my feeds.
And check out the show notes for links to Rola’s TED talk, and the BBC documentaries that she talks about in the podcast.
For all the music you heard in the podcast, you can go to amandapalmer.net/podcast.
Thank you to Morten Gamst at Envy Studios in Auckland, New Zealand, for recording today’s interview, and helping with the filming that we’re using for the promo.
And lots of thanks, as always, to my incredible team. Hayley Rosenblum, who makes so many things possible, she is the ghost in the machine of our Patreon, and she makes sure so many things get done, words, pictures, live chats, general internet love. I could not do this without her. My assistant Michael McComiskey, who makes sure that scheduling happens, and trains run on time, and that I’m able to do all the things. Our Merch Queen Alex Knight, who’s also helping us transcribe this podcast, so that the conversations are accessible, much love to Alex in the UK. Also in the UK is Kelly Welles, my social media guru, co-editor, mastermind, sister-friend. Cat and Rose at Spellbound for helping with the wonderful graphics and the video making. And of course, in Sydney, my manager, Jordan Verzar, who brings us all together, and makes sure we all get paid. The podcast was produced by FannieCo.
And last but not at least, as always, again, this podcast would not be possible without patronage. At current count, I’ve got about 13,000 patrons, they make it possible for this podcast to have no ads, no sponsors, no censorship, no bullshit. Just the truthful media, as far as we can make it. So special thanks due to my high-level patrons Simon Oliver, Saint Alexander, Birdie Black, Ruth Ann Harnisch, Robert W. Perkins, Leela Cosgrove, thank you guys so much for helping me do this, and make this.
Everyone else, please go to Patreon, become a supporting member. This will also give you access to the live follow up chats that I sometimes do with the guests after the podcast comes out. I won’t be doing one with Rola, because this was so immediate, but that’s a perk of the Patreon.
And thank you. If you donated, thank you. If you could just listen and share, thank you. I love you.
THANK YOU TO ALL YOU PATRONS, FOR SUPPORTING THIS PODCAST.
This whole undertaking would not be possible, in this manner, without patronage.
YOU make it possible for this podcast to have no ads, no sponsors, no censorship, no bullshit, we are just the media, doing what we do.
I love you all.
See you soon.
——THE NEVER-ENDING AS ALWAYS———
1. if you’re a patron, please click through to comment on this post. at the very least, if you’ve read it, indicate that by using the heart symbol. that’s always nice for me to see, so i know who’s reading.
2. see All the Things (over 100 of them) i’ve made so far on patreon:
3. JOIN THE SHADOWBOX COMMUNITY FORUM, find your people, and discuss everything: https://forum.theshadowbox.net/
4. new to my music and TOTALLY OVERWHELMED? TAKE A WALK THROUGH AMANDALANDA….we made a basic list of my greatest hits n stuff (at least up until a few years ago, this desperately needs updating) on this lovely page: http://amandalanda.amandapalmer.net/
5. general AFP/patreon-related questions? ask away, someone will answer: email@example.com