Inspired Magazine


Profiling world changers, eco-warriors, peace makers

ISSUE 2, 2016 $14.95


Love heals in Chinese orphanages


Lads do laundry to transform lives


Saving our stressed kids


Ebola nurse risks life in Africa


Battle to prevent extinction

ISBN 978-0-646-96358-7

9 780646 963587 >

Kindness, courage

and compassion can

change the world.


Inspired founder/writer

Issue 2, December 2016


Samille Mitchell



Rhianna King

0403 053 768


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Thanks so much for supporting Inspired’s

second print issue. This issue we’ve searched even

further across the globe to bring you stories of

extraordinary people – game changers, ecowarriors,

peacemakers and love spreaders all

united in their belief in something better, their

courage to take action and their dreams of a better


We meet the gorgeous Jenny Bowen who virtually

singlehandedly transformed China’s orphanage

system after witnessing orphan girls tied to the

chairs in which they sat, motionless, vacant eyed.

She realised these forlorn babies needed one vital

thing – love.

We travel into the pulsing heart of the Asian jungle with Leif Cocks to save

the most endearing of creatures – the orangutan. We find out what drives

two young Aussie lads to dedicate their time to washing the clothes of the

homeless. We learn of the horrors of Nigeria’s witch child accusations, and

are left in awe at the work to rescue these outcast children. We see the magic

of ‘having the courage to be kind’ in the work of an Australian nurse who

volunteered to fight the ravages of the Ebola virus. And many more.

We hope these stories fire you up with the power of possibility, spark awe

at the amazingness of humans and inspire you to be the best version of

yourself. Just imagine if more of us had the courage to step up and unleash

our own brand of magic on the world.



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Thanks to your support we realised the dream

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positive media into the world.



6 12 20 28 36

Jenny Bowen

Healing China’s orphans

with love

Jenny Bowen’s charity

OneSky has transformed

the lives of more than

130,000 Chinese

orphans by showering

these unwanted children

with the most important

ingredient missing from

their lives – love. How did

one woman make such a

difference to so many?

Anne Carey

The courage to be kind

WA Australian of the

Year for 2016 Anne

Carey rose to fame for

having the courage to

volunteer to fight the

ravages of the Ebola

virus in Sierra Leone. She

is now embarking on a

new challenge – urging

Australians to have the

courage to be kind.

Leif Cocks

Battle to save the


Perth man Leif Cocks

has dedicated his life to

saving the orangutan

through his not-for-profit

charity The Orangutan

Project. The battle has

plunged him to the

depths of despair as he

has borne witness to the

atrocities orangutans

face. But it has also

filled him with awe and

delight for a creature

with an enormous

capacity for love.

Lucas Patchett

and Nic Marchesi

Laundry and chats

restore respect for the


Two 21-year-old mates

have launched a free

mobile laundry service

to wash clothes for the

homeless. In the process

they have captured

the imagination of

the public, not only for

washing clothes, but

for spending time with

people who are down on

their luck.

Anja Ringgren


Saving the lives of

Nigeria’s ‘witch children’

This young Danish

woman has dedicated

her life to saving

Nigeria’s ‘witch children’.

From one day to the

next these children are

branded witches, ousted

from their families, often

tortured, sometimes

murdered. Outraged

at the horrific practice,

Anja moved to Nigeria

to rescue accused

children. She then homes

those she saves in an

orphanage and seeks

to overcome the horrors

they’ve endured with the

healing power of love.


44 48 52 60 66

Cristal Logothetis

Ron Finley

Carina Hoang

Alex Cearns

Maggie Dent

Easing the burden for

Syrian refugee families

Shocked at the horrors

of the Syrian refugee

crisis, a young American

mother is easing the

burden for scores of

refugee families by

donating thousands of

baby carriers to people

fleeing their war-ravaged

homes. Through her now

burgeoning charity Carry

the Future, Cristal has

not only helped refugees

but also been personally

transformed from a

cynic to someone who is

continually amazed by

people’s genuine desire

to do good in the world.

The Gangsta Gardener

‘Gangsta Gardener’

Ron Finley is leading

a movement in which

people across the

globe are transforming

abandoned blocks,

roadside verges and

unloved pieces of vacant

dirt into gardens and

vegetable patches.

The craze is not only

beautifying forgotten

areas but bringing

people together,

providing fresh produce

in areas dominated by

fast food and reminding

people that they have

the power to shape their

own future.

A refugee’s tale of flight,

courage and triumph

Carina Hoang fled

South Vietnam in

the aftermath of the

Vietnam War, endured

a traumatic escape

from which she barely

survived, and now

returns to the Indonesian

isles to which she once

escaped on an annual

pilgrimage to uncover

the lost graves of other

Vietnamese refugees.

Guided by faith, spiritual

belief and the knowledge

it was so nearly her

laying in an abandoned

grave, her efforts are

bringing desperately

awaited relief to families

yearning to give a proper

burial to long-dead

loved ones.

Using photography to

save animal lives

Pet portrait

photographer Alex

Cearns travels the

globe photographing

rescued animals to raise

money for their care and

promote their protection.

She volunteers 40

percent of her time to

philanthropic causes and

relishes the chance to

present animals in their

best light.

Saving our stressedout


Parenting educator and

author Maggie Dent

has earned the love of

a nation’s parents for

her funny, practical and

insightful advice on how

to raise healthy and

resilient children. What

life path has Maggie

travelled to become

such an advocate for

saving our stressed-out

modern-day kids?



Jenny Bowen

Jenny Bowen’s charity OneSky, formerly Half the Sky Foundation, has

transformed the lives of more than 130,000 Chinese orphans by showering

these unwanted children with the most important ingredient missing from

their lives – love. How did one woman make such a difference to so many?

Right Love and affection

heals China’s orphans.

Tears still spring to Jenny Bowen’s eyes as

she remembers walking into her first Chinese

orphanage. Row upon row of toddlers sat

motionless, their scrawny legs tied to their chairs

with rags that bit into their flesh. Silent babies were

tied to the railings in their cots, some desperately

trying to suckle from bottles that had fallen from

their reach. The older kids were not tied. But they

too sat still, silent, with dull eyes staring from

sunken faces.

Jenny felt as though she’d been punched. Her

very being ached at the sight of these kids, all

girls, unwanted, unloved. And this was just one

orphanage among hundreds in China. Upon

returning to her hotel room she collapsed. “I

just completely fell apart,” Jenny recalls. “The

anger, the frustration, the helplessness. I had an

overwhelming urge to sweep them all up and take

them away from here.”

But Jenny realised this would be nothing but a

bandaid solution. What about the thousands of

other kids in orphanages across the country? She

needed to work with the Chinese to improve life’s

lot for its unwanted children.

And work with them she did. Through her charity

Half the Sky Foundation, recently renamed

OneSky, this once-Hollywood film director has led

a revolution in the Chinese child welfare system.

Over 18 years the charity has trained 14,000

caregivers in 700 orphanages across China to

help 130,000 orphans. Most significantly, it has

highlighted the importance of one single ingredient

to a child’s development – love.


Jenny would never have dreamed her life would

pan out this way. She lived a fast-paced life as a

Hollywood film director. Her two kids had grown up

and left home. Her husband Dick was just as busy

as a cinematographer. But a news item tore them

from their frenzied existence. A New York Times

article showed a photo of a dying Chinese orphan,

one of many of China’s children abandoned

simply because they were girls. “It just stopped us



Bottom Research has

proven that love and

affection aid brain


Below Jenny with

two orphans in their

revamped orphanages.

cold,” Jenny says. “We had been so caught up in

our own little world but this just made us stop, and

feel compelled to do something. But what could

we do?”

Their solution? Save one life by adopting a child.

What started as an altruistic notion morphed into

a deep personal desire for a Chinese child. So, by

the time they eventually travelled to China to meet

the 20-month-old girl selected for them, Jenny

and Dick were fully invested in the notion of a new

daughter. “It was so surreal,” Jenny recalls. “This

little girl was placed into my arms and we were

kind of in a stupor – and so was she. She was just

dazed. It was amazing holding her. I knew she was

my child but I knew this little girl was in a world of

trouble. She couldn’t walk, she was full of parasites,

she was covered with sores, thin as can be but with

a big pot belly. And the scariest thing was that she

was emotionally vacant. She was a little shell. She

didn’t know how to accept love.”


Determined to make up for the love she’d missed

out on, Jenny showered the young girl, Maya, with

love and affection. Slowly her sores healed, she put

on weight, she started to walk, to talk, to accept


But it wasn’t until Jenny watched her outside

their home window one day, a year after Maya’s

adoption, that she realised how far Maya had

come. “I just looked out and there was this little

child romping around in the garden so full of joy,”

Jenny says. “Looking through the frame of that

glass she looked like a child who’d been loved from

the very beginning. So I said to my husband ‘well,

that was easy, let’s do that for the rest’.”


She wasn’t joking. As if preparing for a new film,

Jenny threw herself into researching ways of

ensuring Chinese orphans received the love and

affection so essential for their development. She

came to learn about the science behind how lack

of love at an early age can stifle a child’s growth.

She discovered that holding and stroking an infant

stimulates the brain to release growth hormones.

Without such interaction, a child will fail to thrive.

Jenny also came across an educational approach

called Reggio Emilia – a child-centred approach to

learning – which she believed would help nurture

China’s orphans. But how to bring such knowledge

to the Chinese, with no contacts, no Chinese

language skills and absolutely no understanding

of Chinese culture?


Doggedly determined, Jenny eventually wrangled

herself into a meeting with government officials in

China. She cajoled and pleaded and negotiated

to receive permission to develop a pilot program

in two Chinese orphanages which led, in the year

2000, to her visiting the orphanage with the

children tied to their chairs.

It was here she realised the importance of working

with the system, rather than fighting against it

– a realisation that has become the hallmark of

OneSky’s success. “I realised the only way I could

change a broken system would be to find a way to

work with the people, to be their partner and that

realisation has led me every step of the way since,”

Jenny says. “And I learned along the way that

they are just people – the government bureaucrats

were just people, the ladies that were treating the

orphans so badly were just people – no-one had

ever talked to them about this. No-one had ever

tried to find a solution.”


To win over the government and appeal to their

sense of pride, Jenny realised the importance

of creating beautiful spaces in the orphanages,



“As if preparing for a new film, Jenny threw herself into researching ways of ensuring Chinese

orphans received the love and affection so essential for their development. She came to learn

about the science behind how lack of love at an early age can stifle a child’s growth.”

filled with international-standard toys. “All I really

wanted to do was get caring people in to look after

these children but the government really wanted to

see international standards and state-of-the-art

facilities,” she says.

With a team of volunteers from America, most

of them fellow parents of adopted Chinese

children, Jenny set to work cleaning, painting and

refurnishing the pilot orphanages into swanky child

care rooms.


Then came the most important part – recruiting

local women to come into the orphanages as

carers. At the time, many state-owned factories

had closed down, leaving many woman aged

around 40 deemed too old to work elsewhere.

Jenny started hiring these women, most illiterate

and untrained, and instructing them on the

importance of attachment and bonding to the

development of small children. These women

became nannies for the children, forming

individual bonds with the children in their care.

Jenny and her team also sought out teachers

from Chinese schools to work in the orphanages

and taught them a whole new way of teaching,

where children are encouraged to think for

themselves, to be creative, to share their own ideas

about the world.

Top Jenny delights in the children who have blossomed with more interaction and


Above Orphans enjoy playing dress-ups with a staff member – a far cry from the

once-bleak orphanages which discouraged movement, let alone play.


In Jenny’s words ...

Who inspires you

The children. I never fail to be moved by

their magical transformations – shattered,

emotionally vacant children become the

curious, smiling children they were meant

to be after they receive the simple gift of

nurturing that is taken for granted in loving

families. Those transformations keep me

fighting to improve the lives of the children we

haven’t yet reached.

Best advice

Don’t be afraid to learn something new and

start something new. And when you do, don’t

be intimidated by the ‘experts’ or by people

telling you that what you’re trying to achieve

is impossible.

Jenny remembers watching the volunteers

on OneSky’s first trip to the orphanages. “As I

watched the volunteers, tears in their eyes, lifting

tots free, tickling and dancing and crooning, I

saw how it would work,” Jenny says. “Every day,

we would come back. We would come back with

reinforcements – nannies and teachers and foster

mamas and babas, and before long this would

become a place where babies were cuddled

instead of trapped and tied, and every single

vacant-eyed toddler and scrawny six-year-old

would know what it feels like to be the apple of

somebody’s eye.”


Around this time Jenny also first set eyes on her

second daughter. Xinmei, now called Anya, was 28

months old, with a mass of blood vessels bulging

from her neck from a hemangioma. When she

eventually received permission to adopt Anya,

Jenny discovered that two years of wet nappies

tied tight with rope rags had caused bone-deep

scars on Anya’s hips. Her tiny feet were thick with

scars. And spite filled Anya’s eyes as she slapped

and spit her new mother like a wildcat. It would be

a long journey to transform Anya into the warm

and successful young woman she is today.


While Jenny embarked on the long process of

healing Anya with love, the kids in the orphanages

were also blossoming with the new affection and

attention. Light crept into their eyes, smiles spread

over faces, and individual personalities began to




Opposite page, top

Thanks to Jenny’s work,

orphans have transformed

from vacant eyed and

emotionless to playful.

Opposite page, middle

Carers shower the orphans

with love.

Opposite page, bottom

Love, play and education


Left Delight in education.

It wasn’t just the kids who transformed. Jenny

was amazed to witness the carers and teachers

come alive as they realised the power they had

to make a positive difference to a child’s life. “It

showed them that miracles can happen,” Jenny

says. “The transformation for young kids in the

first six months is miraculous. And these women

were witness to these miracles.”

Within a year, Jenny had permission to extend

the program to another two orphanages, then

more, and more. Amazed by the results, the

Chinese came to realise the importance of

providing such care to its children. And, when

Jenny heard the director general of the child

welfare agency give a speech using words she

herself had once spoken to him, she knew how far

they’d come. “I just thought, there’s no stopping us

now,” she says. “We can do anything. Now I knew

we could move the government; now we could

really transform the system.”


It wasn’t until Jenny reflected on her journey

while writing her book Wish You Happy Forever

that she realised the universality of what she

was doing. People flocked to her book signings,

begging her to start such a program in their home

countries across the world, even in New York City.

Jenny realised the deep human need for love was

universal – no matter what a child’s nationality or


The realisation sparked a new movement

within OneSky, which is now transitioning its

management to the Chinese to run across their

entire child welfare system. It ignited a move

outside of the orphanages to also help young

children left behind in rural Chinese villages when

their parents leave to find work. OneSky is now

training grandparents, the children’s primary

caregivers, in the art of valuing young children, it

is launching village child care centres operated by

loving carers like the ones within the orphanages

and it is training local mothers so they can stay in

their home villages and become early childhood

educators under the OneSky model.

Next year OneSky will also start operating

in Vietnam for the children of migrant factory

workers. Jenny dreams of such a model one

day taking over the globe. “It’s all about taking

children, these poor little victims and burdens

to society, and starting to value them for their

potential, and planning for their futures,” Jenny

says. “These young kids who’ve overcome

adversity have access to something the rest of

us don’t have – that depth of character, spirit,

resilience and inner strength. They have a quality

that kids born into privilege don’t have. Imagine

what they could go on to do in the world if they’re

just given the chance.”

Get involved ...

You can support OneSky’s work by making a

donation. Visit the website at

to find out more. In Australia, you can receive an

Australian tax receipt by donating to Half the Sky

Foundation Australia’s Orphanage Projects at


Anne Carey

WA Australian of the Year for 2016

Anne Carey rose to fame for having the

courage to volunteer to fight the ravages

of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. She

is now embarking on a new challenge –

urging Australians to have the courage

to be kind. She says it was courage that

helped overcome Ebola, and it’s courage

that can help stamp out two threats

she sees facing Australia – the insidious

culture of workplace bullying and

discrimination against refugees.

Western Australian Australian of the Year

Anne Carey will never forget her first day

in the Ebola treatment centre in Sierra

Leone. She was cradling an Ebola-affected baby

in her arms. She gazed through the protective

mask covering her face into the baby’s eyes.

And she watched the baby bleed to death while

she held him. The virus had ravaged the infant’s

insides causing him to haemorrhage. Horrified,

Anne looked up at the baby’s mother. The mother

had now lost all seven of her children to the virus.

Almost cruelly, the mother survived.

From that moment Anne changed. For Anne

knew this family was far from alone. The virus

was racing through West Africa. Thousands were

dying horrific deaths. The makeshift cemetery by

the treatment centre was ever-swelling with newly

dead. Anne’s life was no longer about her. It was

about fighting to beat a disease that could inflict

such devastation, a disease that would go on to

infect more than 28,000 people in West Africa and

kill more than 11,500.


The Kenema Ebola Treatment Centre, about a

five-hour drive from Sierra Leone’s capital city

Freetown, was a far cry from Anne’s country

Western Australian home. Anne was a nurse in

Esperance – a remote township embraced by

stunningly beautiful coast. But she’d come to fear

her hospital workplace.

Incessant workplace bullying had broken out over

a coroner’s inquiry into the death of an elderly

man in the hospital’s care. Though Anne hadn’t

been involved in the man’s care, she was somehow

caught up in a tangle of finger-pointing, belittling

and bullying that left her scared to go to work.

She filed a grievance case for workplace bullying

with the WA Country Health Service, which an

independent investigator upheld. But the decision

was a long time coming, so she took leave while

the bureaucrats considered the case.



Meanwhile, across a great swathe of Indian

Ocean, the horrors of the Ebola virus were playing

out. The Red Cross was desperate for workers to

help stem the tide of death rolling across West

Africa. Having already volunteered as a nurse

in Papua New Guinea and as an aid worker in

Sudan, and killing time while the grievance case

was considered, Anne decided to put up her hand

to help.

Unlike others, she didn’t see Ebola as an African

problem – it was a world problem. “To me this

was just a response to an impoverished, war-torn

people facing an uneven battle with a disease they

were fairly powerless to contain,” Anne says. “Not

to respond would be like not going to the aid of

a victim being beaten up in the school yard.” She

couldn’t understand how others didn’t see it that


And yet she was realistic. She and her partner,

doctor Donald Howarth, knew there was a chance

Anne would not return. But if people like Anne -

people with the skills to help - let fear stop them,

what hope was there of overcoming Ebola’s perils?

Anne would do what she could to help.


Anne flew to Melbourne for a Red Cross

debriefing where she learned that, at that time, if

she did contract Ebola, the Australian government



would not intervene. There would be no option of

coming home for treatment. But, after a few days

in Geneva learning how to fight the virus, Anne

felt better about going. She knew anyone who

was infected had three days before they became

contagious. And, with early intervention, the

survival rate was much higher.

But in Africa, where such information was not

common knowledge, it was taking days for

patients to seek treatment. They were scared to

approach treatment centres staffed by medical

staff who looked robot-like in their bulky white

protective suits. And by then it was too late. By

then they’d infected their loved ones, by then

they’d missed their chance for lifesaving treatment.

At this stage the death rate was around 80



Anne entered into this whirling mass of death

and confusion in December 2014. While reeling

from the horrors, she somehow fell into the daily

routine of treating its sufferers. Those presenting at

the centre were divided – suspected infections this

way, probable this way, and confirmed over there.

Under tin roofs and canvas walls, Anne and the

team would do what they could to save lives.

First, they’d dress in layer upon layer of protective

clothing until not an inch of their flesh remained

exposed. They’d scrawl their names across the

top of their protective eye masks so they could be

identified under the body-concealing outfits. While

the protective gear did the job of safeguarding

its wearers from Ebola, it ran the risk of harming

them through heat. The temperature would soar

to 46 degrees inside the suits, worn in nearly 100

percent humidity. So health workers were restricted

to dealing with patients for one-hour stints four

times a day.

Each time she came out of the high-risk area

Anne would begin the task of undressing – peeling

off layer by layer, and being sprayed with chlorine

with every layer removed. Everything she wore

would be contaminated with Ebola. So a mistake

here could have fatal consequences.


While in the high-risk area Anne would treat

patients with intravenous and oral fluids. She’d

provide medication and clean up diarrhoea and

vomit. She’d also try, as much as possible, to

simply sit with the dying. “You could pick some

people who were dying and get to them to sit with

them and just hold their hand,” Anne says. “But

there were others who’d be sitting up eating and

talking and then an hour later they were dead. I

always felt that was the hardest – not being there

for those people.”

There were some cases that Anne took harder

than others. Like the baby who died on Anne’s first

Previous page Anne

kitted up to enter the

high-risk Ebola area.

Opposite page, top

Anne overseeing the

graves in the everexpanding

cemetery of

Ebola victims.

Opposite page, bottom

A boy awaits diagnosis,

suspected of possible

Ebola infection.

Above left, top Anne

with a local medical

staffer. Anne says the

local healthcare workers

were the true heroes of

the Ebola crisis.

Above left, bottom

Basic facilities

characterised the Ebola

treatment centre.

Above Anne cradling an

Ebola-affected baby. This

child survived.


day at the treatment centre. Or the 16-year-old

boy who came in with his mother, grandmother

and brother – his father was already dead. The boy

was terrified, his big brown eyes awash with fear.

So Anne sat with him, she attempted to calm him,

she urged him to be strong. He died the next day.

His brother died the day after. The boy’s mother

and grandmother survived.

In Anne’s words ...

What inspires me

Seeing everyday people having the courage and belief in themselves

to work for a kinder world.

Best advice

Have the courage to be kind.


After a month of such work Anne had reached

the end of her stay – it was deemed too much

to expect health workers to cope with such

trauma for longer. But for Anne the trauma was

just beginning. For Anne returned to Western

Australia to face some sadly ill-informed criticism

from a public scared of contracting the virus.

She remained holed up in an apartment on the

outskirts of Perth for 21 days with no-one but her

partner Donald in physical contact, testing her

temperature twice a day, ever on the alert for

symptoms, and safe in the knowledge that, even

if she had contracted Ebola, she had three days to

get herself to treatment and quarantine before it

became contagious.

But the general public didn’t know about the

three-day period. They didn’t realise she’d have

the chance to isolate herself should even the

mildest of symptoms appear. People were scared,

and with fear came cruelty. Nasty comments

spewed forth on social media, and left Anne

terribly saddened. “It was horrible,” she recalls. “It

was a massive thing that was so uncalled for. I

found that really sad.”

The criticism she’d returned to seemed

particularly petty when compared to the

devastation she’d witnessed in Africa. So Anne

made up her mind. She’d return. The Red Cross

was cautious about accepting someone back

– surely it would be too traumatic. But Anne

countered that the bigger trauma was dealing with

the backlash she’d faced at home.

With another Ebola outbreak having unleashed

its fury closer to the Ebola treatment centre where

Anne had worked, they were desperate for staff.

The death rate was escalating once more. So Anne

returned to the fight.


Anne remained three months this time, with

a week break in the midst of it. Eventually, as

education about Ebola spread through the country,

the health workers began to earn the upper hand.

People started presenting earlier with symptoms.

They learned how to prevent the virus’s spread. And

slowly they moved into the recovery phase.

By March Anne was due to come home. But

this time she returned via Europe, where a more

informed public and health system meant she

faced none of the experiences of her previous



eturn. And by now the Australian media had

picked up Anne’s story. She was being lauded

a heroine rather than a public risk. How quickly

perceptions changed.


Having seen Ebola dealt with, Anne returned

home with a renewed determination to fight two

new bullies – that seen in the workplace, especially

the healthcare system, and that presented to

refugees seeking asylum on Australian shores.

She came to realise that she could fight workplace

bullying and discrimination towards refugees with

the same weapon used to fight Ebola – kindness.

And she determined to use the platform of WA

Australian of the Year to urge Australians to have

the courage to be kind.

“Ebola was dealt with by individuals who had

the courage to be kind to those in need, despite

physical and psychological risks to themselves,”

Anne says. “Changing the culture of bullying in

the workforce will require the courage of many

and the need to introduce a kinder culture to the


Anne likens the fear surrounding refugees to

that she faced on her return from Africa – a fear

borne from misinformation, from the unknown.

“The politicians are very good at scaring everyone

about refugees – and when people get scared

they don’t reach for the truth,” she says. “I don’t

understand why so many Australians see refugees

as criminals instead of people running away from

horrible things. I call on Australia to stand up to

bullies, to have the courage to stand with people

who are being bullied and in doing that we will

become a kinder nation. For me Ebola was just

another bully that needed to be dealt with. In

the end the courage to act conquered Ebola, and

likewise courage to act can transform this great


it’s about

peace of mind...

Opposite page, top Anne with her WA Australian of the

Year Award.

Opposite page, bottom Anne with local healthcare


Get involved

Anne is fundraising to supply computer

equipment to the local healthcare workers

who risked their lives fighting Ebola. Anne

says these people are the true heroes of

the Ebola crisis. You can contribute to the

campaign at www.makingadifference.

If people have purpose

and connect to others

they are going to be ok.




The power

of purpose

Fleur Porter

It wasn’t long ago that Fleur Porter found herself among

a group of women, in front of video and stills cameras,

modelling her 42-year-old body in her underwear. The women

– of different backgrounds, ages and varied body types – had

shed their clothes, and an avalanche of nerves, to confront their

fears and raise awareness of body image. With no airbrushing,

no intense fitness routines, strict diets, or even a spray tan, here

was a group of ordinary women embracing their own beauty.

The experience was intensely moving – there were tears,

laughter and a whole lot of nerves. Brimming with emotion, the

women gathered around Fleur and thanked her for bringing

them together. At first Fleur was confused at their thanks –

she had not organised the photo shoot. But she realised she

had played a role in creating a community of people, mostly

women, who had found the courage to overcome fear, step up

and live life as they dreamed it could be.

Out of the nine women participating in the photo shoot

and video campaign, six are graduates of Fleur’s Incubator

coaching program. Through the program, the women had each

shed some baggage or embraced some new spirit that allowed

them to get down to their undies on a cold winter’s day in front

of the cameras.

Fleur had given them the chance to see the world through

new eyes and have a red hot go at being influencers, accepting

challenges and inspiring those around them. She had guided

them to find their life purpose.


In helping these women, Fleur realised she’d also found her

own purpose. Just two years ago, Fleur was a successful life,

relationship and business coach. But she still had a sense that

she could make a bigger difference.

Fleur also realised that, among the diverse people she

coached, she saw the most progress when she helped her

clients discover a sense of purpose. When they had purpose,

other aspects of their life – relationships, parenting, work –

seemed to fall into place. “Purpose is the centre of everything,”

Fleur says. “If people have purpose

and connect to others they are

going to be ok.”


Convinced of the power of

purpose, Fleur created and

launched an eight-week group

coaching program called

Incubators. Initially scared whether

anyone would sign up for this

high-value offering, she has been

overwhelmed at the program’s popularity

and success. And even Fleur has been

amazed at the transformations. “It was really incredible

to watch people work through this beautiful process and they got

even more out of it than I’d imagined,” she says.

One woman was diagnosed with severe chronic depression

when she signed up. And just half way through the program she

rid herself of the label. Others found the courage and guidance

to launch and grow their dream projects (Inspired magazine

is among them). And still others flourished by uncovering the

narratives that had held them back and rewriting the stories of

their future.

“They are such intangible outcomes but when women live life on

purpose there’s this flow-on effect to their partners and their kids

and their friends,” Fleur says. “There’s this beautiful ripple effect

that flows out from these purposeful women. And this is the kind

of effect that can change the world. That’s the power of purpose.”

Get involved

Find out more about Fleur

and her Incubators program


Photo by Emma Hutton Photography.

“If people have

purpose and

connect to others

they are going

to be ok.”

Leif Cocks

Perth man Leif Cocks has dedicated his life to saving the orangutan through

his not-for-profit charity The Orangutan Project. The battle has plunged him

to the depths of despair as he has borne witness to the atrocities orangutans

face. But it has also filled him with awe and delight for a creature with an

enormous capacity for love.

Previous page A baby

orangutan clings to its

mother. Destruction

of habitat is pushing

orangutans to the brink

of extinction.

Below Rainforest

destruction threatens

orangutan populations.

Opposite page

Orangutans have

captured Leif’s heart

with their big

personalities and

enormous capacity

for love.

Leif Cocks scanned the gloom of the rainforest,

a tangle of trees casting a green glow through

the undergrowth, when he discerned a flash

of orange in the tree tops far above. He called

out, hoping the form may be the orangutan he

yearned to see. The creature swung through the

canopy towards him. A smile spread across Leif’s

face. He’d recognise this orangutan anywhere.

For here before him was Temara, the zoo-bred

orangutan he’d organised to be released into the

wild two years before.

Here they were meeting as equals for the first

time. While they’d enjoyed an excellent relationship

while Temara was in captivity, she was now here

on her own terms – a wild animal free to go where

she wished. And this creature was choosing to see

her former keeper. She not only approached Leif

but swung down through the trees to greet him,

extending out her arm, grasping Leif’s hand and

looking him in the eye.

For Leif, it was an emotionally charged moment –

a reward for the years of anguish he’d experienced

in his long fight to save a fast-shrinking orangutan

population from extinction. For this was a good

news story amid a horrendous chapter in this great

ape’s fight for survival, a win among incidents so

appalling they sound like atrocities from a genocide.


While most of us realise that orangutans are at

risk from deforestation for logging and palm oil

plantations, fewer people understand just how

terrible their fate. For those animals not killed

along with the destruction of their habitat begin to

starve, forcing them to seek out food from nearby

farms. Angered at the damage to their livelihoods,

the farmers retaliate. They take machetes and

slash down mother orangutans, tearing their

babies from their dying grasp to sell as pets. They

douse them in petrol and set them alight. They

crush their skulls with blunt weapons. They shoot

out their eyes with low-powered guns.

Despite such atrocities, Leif knows of not a single

incident in which an orangutan, a powerful beast,

has killed a human. Leif says these animals possess

a sense of empathy, of altruism, not usually

associated with animals. He says their destruction

is as horrific as the loss of a human child.

Their future continues to look bleak. Some of the

richest and most biodiverse forests in Indonesia

are earmarked for commercial exploitation under

a plan drafted by the government of Aceh. This

area in Indonesia is home to some of the 14,000

remaining Sumatran orangutans. Should the plans

go ahead, Leif believes the Sumatran orangutan

will slip into extinction within a few years. While

the Bornean orangutan population is bigger, at

about 60,000, they too face extinction without


Leif is in a desperate battle to save them. But

what compelled Leif to dedicate his life to saving

these magnificent creatures?


Rewind 30 years and Leif was a young zoo

keeper at Perth Zoo in Western Australia, when he

was offered the job of orangutan keeper. Things

were different back then, safety standards laxer.

So Leif had no idea that some people regarded

these human-like apes as dangerous. He thought

nothing of entering their enclosure to have lunch

with them. And it didn’t take long for a mutual

admiration to emerge. For Leif quickly came to

realise orangutans weren’t like other animals. Here

was a highly intelligent, emotionally and culturally

complex creature, with DNA that is 97 percent

identical to humans.

Not only did he come to love the orangutans, it

appeared they felt the same way about Leif. “We

really got along,” Leif says. “What I discovered

is that orangutans are people – they are as

intelligent as a five or six year old [human]. They

are self-aware. I realised they didn’t belong in

captivity. They needed to be free in the wild.” And

so began Leif’s quest to save them.


Leif’s fascination with orangutans grew the more

time he spent with them. He recounts the story

of one female orangutan at the zoo who seemed

intent on escaping. She’d remove every third

brick from the wall to create a ladder which would

enable her to climb the wall to freedom. However,

she had enough guile to know Leif’s job was to foil

her bids for freedom. So, this wily orangutan would

keep a look out for Leif and rush to replace the

bricks she had prised lose whenever she saw Leif




Another orangutan did manage to escape from

its enclosure into the halls of Perth Zoo. The first

thing this orangutan did with a taste of freedom?

Rush through the halls and attempt to unlock the

cages of his fellow orangutans so they too could

be free. These were no ordinary animals.


Around the same time Leif started visiting the

jungles of Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo

to see orangutans in the wild. Here he came to

realise that different orangutan populations have

their own unique societies and cultures. Unlike

other animals that are born with instinct and

quickly leave their mothers to fend for themselves,

orangutans must learn the tools of survival from

their parents. A mother orangutan will nurse her

offspring for six years, a time in which she also

instructs them on which plants to eat, what tools

to use – a cultural toolset for living.

The problem with this lengthy maturation is that

orangutans are the slowest reproducing species in

the world. Combine this trait with the fact that 80

percent of their habitat has been decimated in the

past 20 years and you have a creature destined

for extinction.


Smitten with the wild orangutans, Leif began

making more trips to Indonesia to study them.

He realised that big corporations were destroying

the rainforest for short-term profits. He came to

learn of the horrific fate that awaited many of the

refugee orangutans.

So he launched The

Orangutan Project

(TOP) to fund efforts

to save the baby

orangutans left

orphaned. It’s no small

task – more than 2000

orphaned orangutans live

in care centres in Borneo

and Sumatra today.

Aside from rescuing orphans,

Leif started working with the

Indonesian Ministry of Forestry,

the police and the army to rescue and

rehabilitate captured orangutans.

He remembers one incident in which he got wind

of a young orangutan kept in a cage at a bitumen

factory, destined for sale on the black market. Leif

attended the site with local police in an attempt

to rescue the hapless creature. Leif’s job was to

guard the orangutan to prevent its capturers killing

it before release – a spiteful yet common move

often involving poison. At this particular rescue

the offenders refused to hand over the key to the

orangutan’s cage. So, while the police grilled the

offenders, Leif snapped the lock and freed the

creature. He took him back to the TOP-funded care

centre where he was released into a safer area for


Like all male orangutans, this one wandered,

eventually roaming out of the safety zone into

an illegal logging company camp. Here the

“While most of us

realise that orangutans are

at risk from deforestation

for logging and palm oil

plantations, fewer people

understand just how

terrible their fate.”


loggers took to the orangutan with machetes,

slashing great wounds into his flesh. He managed

to escape, crawling back to safety. While his

physical wounds recovered, it took much longer

to heal his mind. Like human refugees exposed

to trauma, orangutans need rehabilitation to

recover both mentally and physically. Again TOP

helps. But how to provide psychological help to an


The answer is simple – shower it with love. “They

need touch, love and affection for their mental

wellbeing,” Leif says. Human carers provide this

love to the infant orangutans – with plenty of

cuddles and affection. Older orangutans are paired

with compatible groups where friendships develop

and love heals mental wounds.


Leif quickly came to realise TOP’s main aim

should not be simply to rescue orphaned

orangutans but to prevent their becoming orphans

in the first place. And the only way to do this is to

protect their habitat. With this in mind, TOP is now

leasing vast swathes of rainforest in Sumatra to

protect orangutan homes. It already protects some

2900 orangutans in 150,000 hectares of forest.

But just leasing the land is not enough –

orangutans also face the menace of poachers

seeking orangutan infants for the pet trade and

of illegal loggers slashing down the leased land.

In Leif’s words ...

What inspires me

Compassion for all living beings.


Compassion, protection, freedom.

To safeguard the areas it leases, TOP also funds

wildlife protection units to patrol the rainforest.

Last year alone the organisation rescued

65 orangutans, cared for 157 orangutans in

rehabilitation centres and released 26 orangutans

back into the wild. It helped launch 10 legal cases

against deforestation and funded 20 community

development projects to help save the land

through organic farming practices, and more

sustainable agriculture. And it reached 100 schools

and community groups in a bid to educate locals

about these magnificent creatures and the need to

save them.


As TOP grew, Leif was able to resign from his

position at Perth Zoo and work with TOP fulltime.

He soon found himself not only rescuing

orangutans but other creatures as well.

“With deforestation you might have 120

elephants who’ve got nowhere to go and so they

start raiding crops so the people start shooting

and poisoning elephants and the elephants start

killing people,” Leif says. “And while we’re here

to save the orangutan you can’t do this while

elephants are killing people so all of a sudden we’re

in the rescuing elephant business as well.”

The case was the same with tigers, silver gibbons,

bears and the Asian rhino. It wasn’t long before

Leif was supporting aid agencies for each of

these creatures, all operating under the umbrella

organisation Wildlife Asia.

“We’re about trying to make a better world for all

living things,” Leif says. And those ‘living things’

include people. Leif says it’s the subsistence

farmers who often suffer the most when big

corporations swoop in, clear the forest and replace

it with palm oil plantations. The destruction of

native habitat causes floods, drought and erosion.

and damages food production for millions.

Leif is dumbfounded at how people can cause

such destruction to people and animals. “The

suffering is beyond our comprehension,” Leif

says. “This is my gripe with humanity – that

seemingly normal and decent people are causing

unimaginable suffering in the world. Our capacity

to be wilfully blind to our effects on other living

things is unbelievable. It’s not a case of wildlife

versus people or environment versus economy, it’s

about letting a few greedy people get richer at the

expense of all other living beings.”


Leif dreams of gaining enough funding to

purchase 1800 square kilometres of land as safe

orangutan habitat. This would be sufficient to

protect 8000 orangutans with enough genetic

diversity to protect them from extinction. It would

also require the employment of 180 wildlife

protection rangers.

We take care

of your finances

so you can look

up and grow.




Get involved

To do this he needs money, and a continuing flow

of it – some $20 million a year. For this he relies

on people making regular donations to fund TOP’s

work, people ‘adopting’ orphaned orangutans, and

guests on eco-tours who raise money to fund TOP

and travel to see its efforts firsthand.

Leif says people get swept up in the high of

helping to save a species. “Happiness is only

achieved with selflessness,” he says. “When people

see how their money is affecting the change they

want to see in the world they feel happy, they are

making a difference. This is what it’s all about.

Without wanting to sound like an old hippy, it

really is all about love.”

You can support The Orangutan Project’s

work in several ways, including ‘adopting’

an orangutan orphan, providing regular

donations or participating in an eco-tour to

see these magnificent creatures firsthand.

Find out more by visiting the website

Opposite page,

right Leif’s love for

orangutans seems


Opposite page,

bottom An adult

male orangutan.

Opposite page, top An

orphaned orangutan in

The Orangutan Project’s



Give it a crack!


Orange Sky Laundry founders




It was nearly six years ago

that a then 38-year-old Melissa

Simpson walked into her

bedroom and discovered her

husband dead on the bed. He’d been

sick for some time, but they’d never

regarded it as terminal. At first, Melissa

ceased to function. She’d spend whole days on

the couch, not moving, numb. But she eventually

pulled herself together. She had to. She had three

young daughters to bring up.

Melissa also looked to her own mother, who’d taken

anti-depressants since her mum had died – a move that deadened

the severity of emotion, but meant she never quite dealt with her

mother’s death and instead went through life burdened by a

sadness she couldn’t shake. Melissa did not want that for herself

and her own daughters. She was determined to shun the Western

tendency to avoid grief, to hide it, to pretend it didn’t exist. Melissa

believed there was real power in grieving properly and healing

well. She would feel her pain, accept it, and move forward.

So powerfully healing was the experience that Melissa dreamt of

helping others to grapple with grief in healthier ways. The result of

that dream is Give Grief Words.

Give Grief Words is an online platform where people can learn

how to grieve healthily, a haven to turn to when seeking resources

for help, a loving community in which people share their grief

stories and support each other in their own grief journeys.

Give Grief Words encourages people to share their grief, to

acknowledge it, and to experience the healing and growth that

results when we free ourselves from the urge to run from the pain.

Lucas Patchett and Nic Marchesi



Two 21-year-old mates have launched a free mobile laundry

service to wash clothes for the homeless. In the process they have

captured the imagination of the public, not only for washing

clothes, but for spending time with people who are down on their

luck. Their efforts saw them win the 2016 Young Australian of

the Year Award. But they say their biggest success is helping the

homeless regain two things they crave most – dignity and respect.

It’s 6.30am as the bright orange van pulls up

by a park in inner-city Brisbane, Australia. Two

21-year-old lads bound out. They stride over to

the homeless people who’ve slept in the park last

night. “How ya going mate?” they ask one man.

“Got any clothes you need washed?”

Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi have

launched Orange Sky Laundry – a free mobile

laundry service – to help people sleeping rough.

They welcome people to their van, wash and dry

their clothes for free and, while they are waiting,

spend the hour chatting with the person who’s

down on their luck.

This simple formula – cleaning clothes and

chatting with the homeless – has proven a winning

recipe. Since launching last year with a single van,

Orange Sky Laundry now has 10 mobile laundry

vans and a mobile shower van for the homeless.

They’ve rallied together a team of 622 volunteers

who have together washed 215,000 kilograms

of clothes and spent 54,000 hours washing and

chatting with the homeless. In the process the duo

has helped return dignity to the lives of people

doing it tough.

What drives these two best mates to spend their

free time doing laundry and hanging out with

people that most prefer to ignore, rushing by with

eyes downcast?


As youngsters growing up in privileged homes,

Lucas and Nic knew they were lucky. But it wasn’t

until they started volunteering with the food

vans through their high school that they realised

just how fortunate they were. For here they met

homeless people face to face and, for the first time,

realised they were no different from anyone else,

except for a series of misfortunes. So, when they

left school, they were keen to continue helping.

But without the school organising the logistics, it

became more difficult to volunteer.

Their solution? Come up with their own plan to

help. At first they considered starting their own

food van. But there were already lots of food vans

doing a good job of feeding Brisbane’s homeless.

What else could help these people? “We just

thought ‘the first thing we do in the morning is get

up and put on a fresh set of clothes – imagine if

you didn’t have the option of doing that’,” Lucas

says. “So we thought, ‘imagine if we could bring a

mobile laundry to these people’.”


They jumped online and started Googling

commercial-grade washers and dryers. But the

prices were much higher than they anticipated,

and the service schedules put them off. The

idea stalled. Lucas went travelling overseas, Nic

continued to work full-time. But when Lucas

returned home with a month to spare before

starting university, the idea surfaced once more.

“We just thought ‘if it doesn’t happen now it

will never happen’,” Lucas recalls. So, again they

researched commercial laundry equipment and

this time they met with a supplier, Richard Jay

from Laundry Matters. Within 45 minutes they’d

sold their idea and Richard offered them a free

washer and dryer to equip their van. “We couldn’t

believe it,” Lucas says. “They were the first people

to believe in it.”

Bottom Lucas and Nic in

the doorway of an Orange

Sky Laundry van.

Below Kitting out a van

with washing machines

to wash clothes for the



“Fired up about

making a difference,

they bounded into the van,

drove to a local park and

pulled up ready to change

the world.”


Now, to install a

washer and dryer

into the back of Nic’s

old van. They were

advised it “should”

fit, but it was going

to be close. The duo

spent their weekends

doing trips to the local

hardware store, cutting

wood and painting to build

a platform that would hold the

laundry equipment, all the while

desperately hoping it would work

out. And it fitted. Just.

Next, getting power to the equipment.

They approached Kennards Hire and were again

gobsmacked by the support when Kennards

donated a free generator.

Fired up about making a difference, they

bounded into the van, drove to a local park and

pulled up ready to change the world. “When we

rocked up it was a bit late and most people had

dispersed but there were these two guys there,”

Lucas says. “Nic went and said g’day while I fired

up the machines. But the guys just said nah and it

was all a bit strange and they didn’t want to do it.

And in the meantime I’d managed to fry both the

circuit boards in the machines.”


But they’d come this far, they had to give it

another shot. With the power supply now worked

out and the machines repaired they again set out,

earlier this time, to the park they’d visited with the

school food van. Again they approached some of

the homeless. Again they were met with confusion.

What? You want to wash our clothes? Why, the

homeless people asked. But one fellow took them

up on their offer.

They got to chatting with him. Again Nic and

Lucas were astounded at how easily life can

change. “He’d been to a private school in Brisbane,

he’d studied a similar subject to me at university

and then there were a few life turns that didn’t

go his way and he found himself living in a park,”

Lucas says.

“I just thought that could be me in 10 years’

time. Sometimes it can only take two or three

little things to go wrong – a medical bill, or a car

to break down or losing one or two pay cheques –

and you could find yourself homeless. Every night

in Australia there are 105,000 people sleeping on

the streets.”


The first couple of washes made them realise

this service wasn’t just about washing clothes. It

was more about spending time with people – an

antidote to the averted eyes that the homeless

usually experience.

“We thought we might really be onto something

– it was a really unique opportunity to have this

conversation space,” Lucas says. “I’d say it’s 90

percent about the talking and 10 percent about

the washing. Some of the volunteers say they feel

lazy just sitting around talking but we think it’s

the most important part – that’s where the impact




Buoyed by their first day’s success, they returned

the next day and washed a couple more people’s

clothes. They started visiting different places,

testing to see where the service was most needed.

They got a list of all the service centres catering to

the homeless in Brisbane and parked beside them

– food vans, outreach teams, welfare agencies.

Along the way their three main goals crystallised.

They made Orange Sky Laundry about three

things – restoring respect, raising health standards

and reducing strain on resources.

Opposite page A couple

makes use of Orange Sky

Laundry’s services.

Above left Fitting out a


Above and left The

service’s strength lies not

just in washing clothes, but

in talking to the homeless

and showing them respect.


While parked outside a Salvation Army outreach

centre, Nic and Lucas got to talking to a staff

member who was impressed by their efforts. She

wondered if they’d be keen on parking the van at

the centre for the day, after they’d completed their

morning rounds of the parks? That way people

could bring their washing to the centre, a move

that would make them more inclined to access

the services on offer for the homeless. The van

now operates from 9am to 3pm at the Salvation

Army centre, doing 10 to 20 loads a day, on top

of the morning rounds. “While they are there they

can grab a feed and have a chat about things like

housing solutions,” Lucas says.


In the meantime Nic and Lucas began posting

their efforts on Facebook – mostly silly shots of

themselves fitting out the van. But their wild idea

caught the public imagination. Someone shared

it on social news website Reddit. And before they

knew it one post had more than one million likes.

People across the globe started offering money.

Emails poured in. Others wanted to sign up as

volunteers. A social investor approached them.

They bought another van and kitted it out for

work in Cairns. “There were all these people who

believed in us – that was the first time we thought

‘shit, we’re really onto something’,” Lucas says.


Then, in early 2015, cyclone Marcia smashed

Queensland. Again Nic and Lucas saw an

opportunity to help. They drove the Cairns van to

Rockhampton and began washing the clothes of

people left homeless by the storm. “We went to

this house in Yeppoon that had been really badly

damaged and said, ‘let us wash your clothes’,”

Lucas says. “The whole roof had ripped off and the

external walls were torn apart. All their clothes were


In Lucas and

Nic’s words ...

Who inspires us

People who find simple and

creative solutions to problems

and people who are constantly

challenging the way in which

things are done.

Best advice

Give it a crack! We all have

ideas, it’s about getting that

idea into action – that’s the

difficult thing, so just get in

there and do it.

Above Lucas and Nic

atop an Orange Sky

Laundry van.

Get involved

wet and they knew they wouldn’t be able to wash

them anytime soon, so they’d all be ruined. They

had three kids under 10.”

So they washed the family’s clothes. Word

spread. Interest soared. Nic and Lucas worked

relentless hours to wash 1000 kilograms of clothes

in four days.


Media began to take an interest in the duo and

their unlikely service. Who were these lads from

Brisbane with this madcap idea that was making

such a difference? They featured in newspapers, on

radio and TV. They were in demand to give talks

and presentations.

It wasn’t long and they’d launched another

Orange Sky Laundry van on the Gold Coast, fitted

with two washers and dryers. Then came another

van in Melbourne, one in south-east Victoria and

one in Sydney. Soon they had 300 volunteers a

fortnight on the books.

You can support Orange Sky Laundry’s efforts by making

a donation, or volunteering. Find out more via the website

All the while Lucas continued his university

studies and part-time job while Nic worked fulltime.

They still pinch themselves at the realisation

of how it has grown. “I remember when we were

driving into Melbourne, into this community where

we knew no-one, and being able to wash these

people’s clothes in early July – when it was really

cold and these fellows were doing it really tough,”

Lucas recalls. “And we thought ‘we’re just two

blokes from Brisbane who had a crazy idea and a

few people believed in us’.”


So do they ever have doubts? Do they ever wish

they were spending their weekends at the beach

and bars like their mates? “There have been a few

nights when we’ve had no sleep when it gets hard,”

Lucas says. “And we can feel a bit uncomfortable

when we’re interviewing people for volunteer roles

like service managers – some of these guys have

resumes twice as long as me and I’m interviewing

them! It’s scary but it’s also exciting – no-one is

doing this anywhere else in the world so it has

world potential.”

Nic and Lucas have also started hiring the

homeless to help operate the vans – a move they

hope to expand so that, eventually, at least 70

percent of their staff are people who once slept

rough. And they’re constantly inspired by the

people they meet, whether it’s a homeless person

or the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation. But

for them the main reward is helping give homeless

people two simple things that they all crave –

dignity and respect.



We don’t need to

resist the suffering,

we have the ability to

cope with the big shit.


Parenting educator and author

Love Bomb

Spread the love ...

At Inspired, we’re all about feeling good. And we believe it feels good to do

good. You don’t necessarily have to launch a charity to fight world poverty

(though that would be seriously awesome). Sometimes it’s the sharing of

sincere compliments, warm smiles and random acts of kindness that can

make others feel great and, in the process, fill us with that wonderful glow of


To help you spread the love, and enjoy the warm and fuzzies that result,

we dare you to drop an Inspired Love Bomb.

Simply remove the card from the page opposite, fill it in, and spread

the love. You may choose to post it in the mail, put it under someone’s

car windscreen wiper or pop it on their keyboard. Just think of the smiles,

warmth and love that will result. Makes us feel all mushy just at the thought.

Take a photo of you gifting your Inspired Love Bomb, or your

recipient receiving it, and share it on our Facebook page for a chance to win a free

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Here’s to spreading the love. Xoxo

Getting high on the idea of Inspired Love Bombing someone?

Order more Inspired Love Bombs to spread the love. Visit Order a 10-pack for $15 plus postage.




Love bomb 4.pdf 1 15/11/2016 9:35 pm


I am sending you an Inspired Love Bomb because:


I think you’re amazing and that you should

hear it all the time.






I’m sorry you’re having a rough time but want

you to know that I’m here for you if you need a

chat / coffee / drink (CIRCLE APPLICABLE)

I’d like to thank you for




I’m grateful for you being in my life.


With love from

You can order

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Love Bombs from


Anja Ringgren Loven

This young Danish woman has dedicated her life to saving

Nigeria’s ‘witch children’. From one day to the next these

children are branded witches, ousted from their families,

often tortured, sometimes murdered. Outraged at the

horrific practice, Anja moved to Nigeria to rescue accused

children. She then homes those she saves in an orphanage

and seeks to overcome the horrors they’ve endured with

the healing power of love.

Anja Ringgren Loven was slumped in the

back of the car on the way home from an

aborted ‘witch-child’ rescue mission in

Nigeria when she received the phone call. Already

distraught with the disappointment of having

failed to rescue the child, Anja could scarcely

believe what she was now hearing.

There was a boy, maybe two or three years old,

who was near dead, said the voice on the phone.

He’d been branded a witch, abandoned by his

family, and left to die in the streets.

Every year Anja and her team at African

Children’s Aid Education and Development

Foundation rescued dozens of Nigeria’s ‘witch

children’ – children whose families turned on them

overnight, and tried to murder or torture them

because of superstitious beliefs that their child had

suddenly become evil. But never before had Anja

heard of someone so young being outcast.

Anja and her team normally took days to plan

such rescues – careful to protect the lives of the

rescue team as well as those they were saving

from fanatics hell-bent on purging ‘evil’ from their

lives. But there was no time to plan the rescue

of this child. Anja instructed the driver to divert

course. She wasn’t going to let another child fall

victim to this terrible curse, not today, not after

the failed rescue, which she’d called off to save her

rescue team’s lives.

Left Anja Ringgren Loven with a group of the

children once outcast as ‘witches’.

Above Anja provides a near-dead ‘Hope’ a drink.

Top Anja cradles Hope

in a blanket before fleeing

with him to aid.

Top right Slowly, Hope

gained strength.

Right Anja helps scores

of children abandoned or

tortured in Nigeria.

Below right Anja with

her husband David

and son Junior.


Of course today wasn’t their first failure. In 3.5

years at this game, Anja had experienced her

share of devastation: times when they’d arrived

too late, the accused children already dead from

starvation, from exposure, or burnt alive, drowned

in rivers, hung in trees, hacked with axes. It was

her desire to stem such horror that brought Anja to

Nigeria. She’d been sitting in her home in Denmark

– one of the most peaceful countries in the world –

when she saw a documentary about the plight of

Nigerian children who’d been branded witches.

Appalled at what she saw assaulting her TV

screen, Anja knew she had to do something. She’d

already gained aid experience living in Malawi

for three months, and helping to rennovate a

village school in Tanzania. So she sold her every

possession to fund a trip to Nigeria where she’d

work at an orphanage for children accused of


It was here she’d meet David Emmanuel Umem

who would go on to be her husband. David was

a Nigerian law student who’d been fighting for

human rights in his country since he was 15.

Burning with a desire to do more, and avoid the

corruption they’d witnessed at this orphanage, the

duo determined to open their own orphanage to

help the shunned witch-accused kids.

They eventually fundraised enough money to

buy a plot of land in 2014 that today houses 50

abandoned children in a hostel, with room for up

to 200. The orphanage, called Land of Hope, also

houses 10 staff and Anja, David and their son

Junior. Most of the orphanage kids are aged from

six to 18 years old.



In Anja’s words ...

Who inspires me

My [late] mum. She showed

compassion and love to everyone.

She taught me the value of being

thankful for what you have got

instead of complaining of what you

don’t have. She always told me to

work hard and be strong.

Best advice

Work hard, show love and think



David was at Anja’s side as they averted their

course from the failed rescue mission with hope of

rescuing the abandoned toddler. They knew they

couldn’t just swoop in and pluck the boy from the

streets without reprisal. They’d need to be smarter

than that.

Normally Anja’s staff handled the rescues as

Anja, a white woman with striking blonde hair,

tattoos and long pale limbs, attracted too much

attention. But perhaps this time it could work in

their favour. They decided to pose as missionaries

and visited a man selling dog meat, close to

where the boy was last sighted. While speaking to

the dog-meat seller, one of the team spotted the

forlorn figure of what could only be the abandoned

toddler. Anja risked a furtive glance and felt her

body freeze in shock at the sight of him.

Used to playing this game by now, Anja

composed her face into a mask and feigned

interest in the plants and trees, asking the dogmeat

seller to walk down the street to explain the

plants they passed by. She guided him towards

the boy until his emancipated figure was directly in

front of her.

Anja commented that the boy looked like he

needed some food and she knelt down in front of

him. “By now there were lots of people who’d come

out to see the white people,” Anja recalls. “We

were surrounded and the tension was really high. I

kneeled down to give him some water and biscuits

and he smelt so bad – he was more dead than

alive. I said ‘I think this child needs medical help’

and asked if I could have a blanket to wrap him in

and take him to a health clinic.”

Relieved at the man’s affirmative response, Anja

gathered the tiny body in her arms and ventured

back to their van. But at the last minute the dogmeat

seller changed his mind. No they couldn’t

take the child, he yelled. “I just thought we have to

get the hell out of here,” Anja says. “This could not

go wrong now.”

David ran down the street, flinging his arms in

outrage and demanding to know how the man

could be so selfish as to deny the medical care.

Amid the confusion Anja, David and the camera

crew travelling with them piled into the van and

fled, a rescue worker cradling the boy’s near-lifeless


But it seemed the rescue was too late. The boy

was too weak to suck juice from a straw. His body

was covered in hair – a sign his insides were dying.

Anja considered where to bury him. She didn’t

want the child to be buried nameless so, when it

came to registering his name at the hospital, she

came up with a name that epitomised their desires

for him – Hope.


Looking back, hope had driven Anja’s work in

Nigeria from the start. Hope of rescuing children,

hope of preventing others being branded witches.

Hope of educating the superstitious to show them

another way.

Anja does not blame the families for ousting their

children. She says they are innocent, uneducated,

and superstitious, brought up to fear a world

seething with the terrors of evil. Like those in the

Western world in medieval times, these people

blame witches for any manner of ills – from poor

harvests to sickness – and witchdoctors and

Above Anja’s work is

based on providing hope

and love.


Top Victims often need

support to overcome

their physical and

emotional scars.

Above Hope is now a

thriving, cheeky toddler.

Above right Anja and

her team work to

raise awareness and

advocacy, rather than

bring condemnation.

pastors often profit from attempts to exorcise the

‘demons’ from those they’ve branded.

It’s these people, those who profit from the

exercise and promote its belief, with whom Anja

takes issue. But she must not risk deriding them

in Nigeria – not if she cares for the safety of her

family, her staff and the children in her orphanage.

Instead of condemning witchery, Anja and her

team work on advocacy – on letting people in the

villages know to contact them if a child is accused.

On giving them an alternative for the child who

was often a beloved family member just days

before the branding.


Anja will never forget the first boy she helped

rescue. The boy had been hiding in the forest for a

month, too scared to venture out to anyone. But

eventually Anja and her team found him, standing

alone, his t-shirt torn with holes, his body caked

with dirt. “There was no blood, no sign of torture,

but he looked so, so scared,” Anja recalls. “That

look of fear, of absolute loneliness, it was like a

knife went through my heart. I just thought how

can someone abandon a nine year old?”

While the physical and emotional healing takes

time, Anja is amazed at the children’s strength



of character and ability to recover from such

treatment. She cites the case of an 18-year-old

boy in the orphanage’s care whom they found

three years ago. His uncles had held him down

and hacked at his body with an axe, eventually

slicing through his head to within millimetres of his


The boy’s broken body mended with time but

his mental wounds proved much harder to heal.

Like everyone at the orphanage, this boy received

love and encouragement and slowly he started to

recover. Today that boy is top of his class at school

and plans to study law at university. “If you could

have seen him when we rescued him to what he is

today, you’d be so amazed,” Anja says. “He makes

me so proud.”


With the orphanage’s emphasis on education, the

boy is one of several kids at Land of Hope who are

excelling at school. Their bright eyes and wide smiles

continue to astonish Anja. “When we rescue them

they are like wild animals,” she says. “But we take

them in, they go to school, they become happy and

they smile every day. When I feel down they say

‘are you ok?’, I just think I’m not even entitled to

feel this sad – I’ve not gone through what they’ve

gone through, and look at their smiles.”


Watching Hope’s emancipated body in the

hospital, Anja doubted he’d live, let alone come

to smile. With her own similar-aged son to care

for, plus an orphanage full of other children, she

left Hope at the hospital in the care of one of the

orphanage’s rescue workers, Rose.

Rose stayed with Hope 24 hours a day for a

month. She lay beside him, sung to him, prayed

for him. Two weeks into his hospital stay his heart

faltered and they feared the worst. But, remarkably,

Hope lived up to his name. Anja’s face warms into

a smile at the thought of him. He’s unrecognisable

from the waif she swept into her arms 18 months

ago. He is now a chubby toddler, his face full of

cheeky smiles, at home at the orphanage.

Thanks to a photo taken at his rescue, shown

alongside a photo of him today, which went viral

across the internet, Hope has come to stand

for everything Anja hopes to achieve. For if one

so young, so fragile, so vulnerable, can recover,

surely there’s hope for the others still to endure

the accusation of witchcraft. Surely there’s hope

that such horror can be overcome with education,

understanding and love.



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Have the courage

to be kind.


WA Australian of the Year



Rebel Black

life in

full bloom

Rebel Black sat in the GP’s consultation room, yet again

discussing the stomach pains that knifed through her core,

the complex dietary requirements her body seemed to

demand, the exhaustion and the depression.

Few people knew she was here. On the surface she had it

all – a gorgeous husband, a series of business successes, close

friends. Rebel was the kind of high achiever others looked up to

in the small New South Wales community of Lightning Ridge.

She’d moved there as a 21-year-old editor of the local paper

and gone on to establish award-winning and six-figure-earning

businesses, launching one after another as her whims changed

and she looked for a new challenge.

But Rebel’s body was screaming its protest. She was fed up

with searching for a way to fix herself. Now, sitting in front of a

visiting GP, she yearned for a solution. But, instead of prescribing

medication, the doctor posed a question. “What if you stop

looking for what’s wrong with you?” the GP offered. “And instead

start looking for what’s right.”


The simple suggestion sparked a personal revelation. “I thought

I was a problem to be fixed,” Rebel says. “But when I considered

mind, body and spirit together I realised I’m perfect just as I am,

and my whole world changed.”

Rebel became so invigorated by the physical and mental

changes that she couldn’t help but share what she was learning in

her already-burgeoning life coaching business. She discovered the

power in recognising the patterns that held her back, and releasing

them. She realised she had everything she needed inside.


Rebel yearned to help still more people, particularly women

like her living in rural Australia. Her clients were experiencing real

transformations, but Rebel didn’t want to be the one with all the

answers. She dreamt of creating a space where these amazing

women could meet to support each other, to thrive, heal and

evolve. The result of this dream was the launch of The Rural



“I’d met all these really

amazing rural women doing

incredible things but they

just lacked confidence,”

Rebel says. “They are so

smart, and have so much to

offer that I felt a real calling

to help them.” The Rural

Woman brings these women

together in an online world

in which they share learnings,

encouragement, and impart



As The Rural Woman membership grew, Rebel decided to

create a nurturing yet intensive program for women who are

ready to get serious about living life to their full potential. The

result is the mastermind course Full Bloom. This nine-month

program delivered by nine coaches takes women on a journey

of personal, health, spiritual and business growth. Rebel is awed

by the transformations.

“At the core of this program is the wisdom that ‘all answers

lie within’ and that we are the experts of our own lives,” Rebel

says. “The transformations are amazing; seeing women

overcome their fears to expand businesses, to take risks in their

lives that pay dividends in their health and finances, to speak

up when normally they would have been quiet – to ask for

help and to receive it. These small shifts by degrees make a

massive difference in the long term. The impact of the women’s

participation in this program will be rippling for generations.”

Get involved

Learn more about

The Rural Woman at

“At the core of

this program is

the wisdom that ‘all

answers lie within’

and that we are

the experts of

our own lives.”

Cristal Logothetis

Shocked at the horrors of the Syrian

refugee crisis, a young American mother

is easing the burden for scores of

refugee families by donating thousands

of baby carriers to people fleeing their

war-ravaged homes. Through her now

burgeoning charity Carry the Future,

Cristal has not only helped refugees but

also been personally transformed from

a cynic to someone who is continually

amazed by people’s genuine desire to

do good in the world.

Cristal Logothetis was a young mum, happy

but somewhat cynical about the world, when

the now infamous image of the drowned

three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi flashed

up on her Facebook feed. Alan and his family had

been fleeing Syria in search of refuge in Greece

when their boat overturned.

At first Cristal felt angry at having witnessed the

picture of the tiny body lying face down in the

sand. She went out of her way to avoid depressing

news reports – after all, it seemed hopeless, there

was nothing she do. Yet here before her was news

of the most depressing sort. Not only did she feel

betrayed personally at having to view the photo,

she felt outraged on behalf of the boy whose

terrible death was being flashed across screens

around the world.

Cristal tried to push the image aside. Yet it

occupied her every thought. She was the mother

of a nearly two-year-old boy. Her husband came

from the tiny Greek island of Kos, to which Alan

Kurdi’s family was fleeing in search of refuge.

But what could she or anyone else do? And

suddenly it occurred to her – baby carriers. Surely

refugees could only benefit from this device she

relied on daily with her own son. The idea captured

the public imagination and took Cristal on a

journey which has not only eased the journey for

thousands of refugees carrying children but also

restored Cristal’s faith in humanity.


It just so happened that Cristal had recently

returned from a trip to Europe in which she’d

travelled alone with her toddler son. Her friends

had been impressed by the adventurous

undertaking but Cristal knew she’d only been

able to manoeuvre through airports with luggage

thanks to the baby carrier with which she’d

transported her son.

Navigating airports was one thing, but fleeing

a war-ravaged country was quite another. Would

the Syrians respond to the offer of donated baby

carriers? Cristal first shared the idea with Facebook

groups formed around baby carriers. “And man

did they shoot me down,” Cristal recalls. “They

said I should help the veterans first, that middle

easterners were not a baby-wearing culture, to try

to keep your privilege in check. I warred with this

for a few days because I thought ‘what if they were

right?’ but a little part of me said ‘listen you can

barely carry your son for 15 minutes in the store if

you don’t bring your baby carrier’. I thought these

women can’t be that different from me. I knew if I

was in their shoes and fleeing my country and had

miles to go I would want a baby carrier.”


Cristal decided to go ahead and launch a

crowdfunding campaign that soon went viral.


Donations of baby carriers and funds poured in.

While Cristal initially planned to mail the baby

carriers, such was the level of support that she

embarked on a trip to Greece in September last

year to distribute the baby carriers to refugees

arriving by the hundreds aboard ferries in Kos.

She travelled to the tiny isle to hand out the

first of the 500 donated carriers. “By then my

campaign had gone viral – I had raised $7000

overnight and thousands of people were sending

me their baby carriers,” she says. “Everything was

riding on my idea that these refugees would want

my baby carriers.”

Wearing a baby carrier with a doll inside to

model how it worked, Cristal approached the first

family – would they like a baby carrier? No, came

the confused reply. Worried, Cristal approached

another family – a man who spoke excellent

English, who was travelling with several women

and children – and offered him the free carrier. “I’ll

never forget his face,” she says. “He just said ‘really

it’s for us, why?’ I said ‘it’s from America, a mother

donated it to you so your wife and your child can

be comfortable’ and his face kind of froze with

this look of gratitude that you just can’t explain,

mixed with grief – that’s when I knew I was onto

something.” She went on to distribute all 500 of

the baby carriers.

In Cristal’s words ...

Who inspires me

[The drowned three-year-old] Alan Kurdi. To me he wasn’t just a Syrian

refugee; he could have very well been my own son.

Best advice

Solidarity work is only tough at first. Once you get to work your mind

settles whatever disputes it may initially have on the issues of morality,

pros and cons, good and evil and the merits of what you are doing. And

when the mental dust settles, your reward is the tremendous and unique

satisfaction that can only be obtained by helping a fellow human being.


In the meantime, donations of baby carriers and

funds continued to flood in at home in America.

It became obvious Cristal would need to form a

public charity – and Carry the Future was born.

With the carriers and money came pleas from

other mothers desperate to help. Cristal gathered a

team of 10 volunteers and they returned to Greece

several months later with 2500 baby carriers to


On this trip Cristal met one family with two mums

– an older woman with three teenage daughters

and a younger mother with a baby son and two

young girls. Cristal saw the young mother as she

entered the heaving Athens port and watched

panic cloud her eyes. The woman met Cristal’s

gaze and, in limited English, she pleaded for help.

“Something snapped inside me and I just said ‘yes

let’s do this,” Cristal says. “I stuck the family in two

taxies, took them to my hotel and paid five nights’

accommodation with money someone donated to

help refugees.”

While Cristal had met hundreds of refugee

families by now, she’d never spent time with any of

them. These women were her first real experience

in getting to know the people behind the headlines.

While their own houses had not been bombed,

their kids hadn’t gone to school for months, their

friends had been kidnapped, their country was in

chaos, and their husbands had fled ahead of them

to set up new lives for their families in Germany.



“Your house doesn’t have to be bombed to want to

flee,” Cristal says. “But if you look out your window

and your country’s in a state of chaos and there’s

no hospitals and no schools you’re going to want

to get out of there.”


These women and others like them shattered

Cristal’s preconceptions of refugees. “We assumed

because they are refugees they would be sad but

it’s just not the case – a lot of these people are

very, very grateful to be alive,” she says. “Maybe

they’re sleeping in deplorable conditions but at

least they’re safe and don’t have the threat of a

bomb being thrown on their head at any minute.

So there’s a lot of cheerfulness. The refugee camps

are kind of chaotic – from the outside it’s horrible –

no three meals a day, people haven’t bathed in a

month – but it’s better than where they’ve been.”


All the while Carry the Future continued to

grow. Women who had volunteered to help

have transformed from fearful and hesitant

to empowered in their ability to make change.

Several have gone on to launch their own offshoot

charities to help the refugees in other ways.

But perhaps the biggest transformation has been

Cristal’s own. Just eight months ago she could

never had dreamed what she’d be doing today. “I

used to be a very, very cynical person,” she says.

“I didn’t think I could make a change in the world.

Whenever I saw anything bad in the world I’d think

I can’t fix it, no-one else can fix it, humanity kind

of stinks. But doing this work and constantly have

people reach out to me desperate to help has

shown me that humankind is, at its core, good. It’s

really changed my outlook on life. I feel like I live in

a much better world.”


Presented by Clara Harris

Previous page A Carry the Future volunteer fits a Syrian

refugee with a baby carrier.

Above right A refugee shows off her new baby carrier.

Opposite page, top Cristal (centre) with her team.

Opposite page, bottom A Syrian family are all smiles

with their new baby carrier.

Get involved

You can support Carry the Future by

making a donation and volunteering –

visit the website

Clara Harris shares her family’s heart-warming

tale of life with their son Sam, who is 18 years

old and has autism.

Clara takes listeners on an emotional

journey from diagnosis to near death,

from medication to mental health, and

from disability to ability.

This presentation NEEDS to be seen in

your school, in your workplace, and in

your family home.

“I would urge anyone who is able to get there to

attend this talk; not just to be inspired and

humbled by what is a story of a family’s love for

their amazing son, but also to gain an insight

into autism.” - Sue Gliddon McColl, Geraldton

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Ron Finley

‘Gangsta Gardener’ Ron Finley is leading a movement

in which people across the globe are transforming

abandoned blocks, roadside verges and unloved pieces

of vacant dirt into gardens and vegetable patches.

The craze is not only beautifying forgotten areas but

bringing people together, providing fresh produce in areas

dominated by fast food and reminding people that they

have the power to shape their own future.

Travel across the skyline of Los Angeles,

beyond the glitz of Hollywood, over the

ghettos patrolled by hunch-shouldered

youths, not far from the shopping strips jammed

with fast food outlets where people groan with

the weight of their own obesity, and descend into

South Central LA.

Here sits an unassuming house, amid a street

of modest homes. Out the front, tending to the

garden on his verge and chatting to his neighbour,

is Ron Finley – an artist and fashion designer who

has risen to fame as the ‘Gangsta Gardener’.

Ron has led a movement in which people across

the world are transforming abandoned areas into

gardens. With shovel in hand they are turning

forgotten blocks into vegetable patches and

roadside verges into flowerbeds.

But this movement is about more than gardens

– it’s about bucking the system, empowering

people to design life in the way they want it, about

helping them to realise they don’t have to do

things the way they’ve always been done.

Ron says drive-through fast food outlets are

killing more people than the drive-by shootings

that dominate media headlines in his LA home. It’s

the preventable diseases caused by poor diets that

are bringing down the people of his neighbourhood.

Imagine, he thought, if residents could take

matters into their own hands. If they could plant

their own food on forgotten patches of dirt?

Left Ron has earned a name for himself as a ‘gangsta

gardener’ after transforming abandoned pieces of dirt

into vegetable gardens and colourful flowerbeds.

In Ron’s words ...

What inspires me

Air inspires me every day. It’s the most important thing in life and

it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

Best advice

Use the garden as your canvas, to tell the story you want to tell.


It was 2010 and Ron Finley was sick of the sight

of the lawn on the verge in front of his home. He

was sick of mowing it. Sick of picking up rubbish.

Ron wanted to create something beautiful,

somewhere he could seek refuge, that pleased

the eye. So he ripped up the grass and planted a

garden. “It became a meditation,” he recalls. “It

became my solace. I was seduced by it.”

But the LA authorities were not so smitten. They

demanded he remove the garden, claiming the

sidewalk was not his to beautify. Ron refused. They

insisted. He ignored them. They issued a warrant

for his arrest.

“I just said ‘bring it’,” Ron recalls. “This was the

second time it had happened – I’d taken it out before

and I was not taking it out again. It was ridiculous –

what was wrong with beautifying the verge?”

Supporters rallied to Ron’s side, gathering 900

signatures on a petition. But it was the media

interest that sparked change. Ron’s bid to beautify

his verge and bring the community together

through gardens stirred public interest. The

bureaucrats buckled. Ok, they said, but you need

to buy a $400 permit.

“I just said ‘I want to beautify it and now I have

to pay you?’” Ron says. “I didn’t have to pay them

when there was trash there and I picked it up, I

didn’t have to pay them to mow it. I just said, ‘no

I’m not subscribing to that’.”


Ron’s stubbornness prevailed and he eventually

received permission to continue his garden.

But the public stand-off led to far more than a

pretty verge. For Ron had realised the power of a


He began planting gardens – particularly

vegetable patches – in unloved pieces of dirt

across the neighbourhood. Other people joined

in. This was an area where you had to travel half

an hour to buy a piece of fresh fruit. No wonder

the kids were fat, the adults were sick. Why not

surpass the obstacles to healthy living by taking it

into your own hands and planting your own food,

Ron questioned? Why not help kids understand

what real food is? Why not eat food that’s not

made up of ingredients so complicated they are

near impossible to pronounce? “If kids grow kale,

they eat kale, if they grow tomatoes they eat

tomatoes,” Ron says.


Ron dreamed of a world where everyone planted

foods and started sharing their produce – I’ll give

you a lettuce in return for your carrots. He dreamed

of people taking their health into their own hands,

and at the same time saving money, meeting

neighbours and forging a sense of community.

“I want to open people’s eyes,” he says. “I want

kids to know that a lettuce doesn’t come out of



the stores. I want them to have the opportunity

to make the choices they want to make. I want

people to realise they don’t need meds, they need

a garden.”

Ron’s vision spread. Others started to plant veggie

patches in median strips, along sidewalks, in vacant

blocks. Soon dozens, then hundreds of gardens and

veggie patches had sprung up across LA.

Ron gave a TED Talk on the Gangsta Gardening

movement and his vision spread still further. Soon

people in other American states caught on. Before

long people in the UK, Africa and Korea were

taking part.


So what next? “World domination,” Ron quips.

“This is not about food. It’s about people. Soil is

the catalyst to get people together, to change

them, to let them see another way. It’s a way of

getting them to see that life is a canvas and they

can paint it in any way they want.”

Opposite and this page, all The Gangsta Gardening

movement is not only beautifying areas, but forging a

new sense of community.

Get involved

Find out more at the Ron Finley Project



Carina Hoang

Carina Hoang fled South Vietnam in the

aftermath of the Vietnam War, endured a

traumatic escape from which she barely

survived, and now returns to the Indonesian

isles to which she once escaped on an annual

pilgrimage to uncover the lost graves of

other Vietnamese refugees. Guided by faith,

spiritual belief and the knowledge it was so

nearly her laying in an abandoned grave,

her efforts are bringing desperately awaited

relief to families yearning to give a proper

burial to long-dead loved ones.

It’s 1998 and Carina Hoang has returned to the

place of her nightmares. She thrashes through

the jungle, the guide hacking through the fortress

of trees with a machete to reveal long-forgotten

graves. These overgrown tombs mark the bodies

of Vietnamese refugees who fled in their hundreds

of thousands after the Vietnam War. Eventually

she finds it – the grave of her cousin who died here

nearly 20 years before.

News of the find spreads. Pleas from other

Vietnamese families trickle in. Can Carina help find

the graves of their loved ones?

Now, each year, Carina returns to tiny, remote

and little-known Indonesian isles to search for

more graves. She’s made seven trips, discovered

more than 100 graves and taken 20 families to the

final resting place of their loved ones. She does it

out of her own pocket, in her own time. Why does

she return to this place of the dead? Because she

was very nearly one of them.


Rewind to 1975 and 12-year-old Carina’s life had

turned upside down. Her dad, a former police chief

in South Vietnam, had disappeared. Some people

whispered that he’d killed himself. Others said the

communists had captured or killed him. Still others

said he’d escaped. His military involvement during

the war meant he was a wanted man by the

communist government.

Panicked, Carina’s mum destroyed all evidence

of their former lives. She amassed everything –

marriage and birth certificates, photos, papers

and burned them. She gathered all her treasures,

all the gold this once-comfortable family had

accumulated, and hid it in jars and toys.

They lived in fear that each knock on the door

was a communist coming to take them to a South

Vietnamese ‘re-education camp’ for political

prisoners. They knew there’d be no trial, no


They were forbidden from working or passing

their school tests, yet selling on the black market

was illegal. They knew hundreds of thousands

of city people were being rounded up by the

truckload and dumped in ‘new economic zones’ –

uncultivated fields with no shelter, no food – and

told to forge a life for themselves.

Then, in 1978, the war with Cambodia broke out.

Carina’s mum knew her children would be drafted

as soon as they reached 16 years. Carina’s mum

first organised for Carina’s older sister and younger

brother to escape – they fled for safety in Malaysia

aboard a small fishing boat where they hid in a

hull packed with ice.

Several months later it was Carina’s turn. She was

15 years old and would have to take her 11-year-old

brother and 10-year-old sister with her. Carina’s

mum would remain behind with her two youngest



First, Carina attempted to flee on the same

boat on which her siblings had escaped earlier,

but someone tipped off the police and the boat

left without Carina. Next Carina and her younger

siblings joined a group of escapees who fled via

train, on foot and in a truck, dodging military

checkpoints, to a secret beach where they waited

for small taxi boats to ferry them to a bigger

vessel. But when the taxi boat did not return after

a second group had been transported they knew

something had gone wrong. They fled into the

forest but police caught most of them. Carina and

her siblings were among the few who escaped.

By January 1979, they were ready to try again.

But they’d been lied to – after handing over her

mother’s gold to the people smugglers, Carina

discovered the boat was being rebuilt and not

ready for the journey. Carina was stuck hiding in

the country, hundreds of kilometres away from her


“I could not contact my mum, I could not go

home, could not leave the house, and my mum

did not know where to find me,” she says. “Almost

daily, I saw lines of escapees who were led by

policemen, walked by the house with their hands

tied behind their back. I remembered thinking it

would only be a matter of time [before I was] one

of them.”

A month later, Carina was returned to her

mother, the gold replaced with nothing but a set of



Ever resourceful, Carina’s increasingly desperate

mother wrangled another escape opportunity.

Carina and her siblings would pose as Chinese

Vietnamese who were being exiled from the

country. In May 1979, a by then 16-year-old Carina

and her younger brother and sister boarded a

25-by-five-metre wooden boat, along with 373

others, including 75 children. The boat operators

forced the refugees into the bowels of the boat

where they’d remain for seven days.

The first night a storm struck and the terrified

passengers became violently ill. With no room to

lie down, it wasn’t long before they were covered in

vomit, urine and faeces.

After recovering from the storm they were

attacked by Thai pirates. They’d heard stories

of such attacks – babies thrown overboard,

men murdered, women raped – so the women

and children rushed to cover themselves with

excrement in a bid to deter would-be attackers

from approaching them.

By the third day the boat approached Malaysia

and spirits soared – it seemed freedom was in

sight. But Malaysia had just introduced a ‘push

back policy’ towards boat people. They’d been

instructed to shoot to kill to deter the refugee

Opposite page, top

Carina at a grave of a

Vietnamese refugee on

Kuku Island, Indonesia

in 2010.

Opposite page,

bottom Carina’s

refugee ID photo on

Kuku Island in 1979.



Above Carina has gone

searching for clues on

Kuku Island, 2009.

Right Indonesian islands

are home to many stories

of tragedy and triumph.

“I remember

thinking it would

be best if my

brother and sister

died first and

then I could kill


boats. Carina says the Malaysian police boarded

her boat, towed it back out to sea, stole the

refugees’ valuables, then cut the rope and warned

them never to return.

At one point a soldier aimed an M16 at Carina’s

brother’s head. “I can’t get that image out of my

head,” Carina says. “The solider put the M16 to

my brother’s head because he wanted his gold

necklace. I just said ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot’ – I

was so fearful he’d shoot my brother.”


The boat operators decided to try for

Indonesia. But by the sixth day they’d run

out of food and water and people started

to die, their bodies tossed overboard.

“I watched this woman’s body being

tossed into the ocean and her family was

screaming and begging them not to,”

Carina recalls. “They were hanging onto

her feet screaming that they wanted to

bury her.”

After seven days at sea, the boat reached

a small island fishing village in remote

Indonesia. The boat operators sank the boat

so they could not be returned to the ocean. Ten

days later the local government put them aboard

another wooden boat and said they’d be taken to

a refugee camp. Instead they were dropped off on

a remote island beach and left to survive in the



At first they refused to believe it. Surely the

boat had gone to get fuel before returning to

take them to the ‘real’ refugee camp. They sat

on the beach and waited – a great ocean spread

out before them and dense jungle behind them.

Afraid of encountering wild animals in the jungle,

they remained on the beach, shivering through a

monsoon storm that night. By day they’d keep

their eyes glued on the ocean, looking for signs of

a returning boat.

After several days braver folks started venturing

into the jungle. It turned out two other boatloads

of refugees had already been dumped there.

Eventually villagers arrived, offering shellfish, fruit

and vegetables to the starving refugees in return

for their valuables.

Then another boatload of people was abandoned

there, and soon another. Food became scarce.

Malaria and diarrhoea broke out. People began


Carina and her siblings sat alongside a 21 and

23-year-old couple with an eight-month-old baby.

It wasn’t long before the baby died. “I remember

holding this dead baby in my arms. I washed

her and changed her. Every day someone died,”

Carina says.

“We just laid out in the sand in the open – really

hot and really cold with malaria, and I’d take

my siblings’ stuff to the ocean to wash out the

diarrhoea. It was more than a nightmare. I knew

our lives were being counted by the day – I didn’t

think we’d survive.”


Carina remembers sitting there the night after

they’d buried the baby, imagining the scene of

her own death. “I remember thinking it would be

best if my brother and sister died first and then I

could kill myself,” she says. “I was so desperate

and scared. I just wanted them to die first – if I died

and they lived who was going to look after them?

The thought of those little kids having to bury their

sister was unbearable. In retrospect I think it was

them that kept me alive.”

After three months on the island a Red Cross

helicopter arrived, distributing medicine, food

and plastic sheeting for shelter. But the trio would

endure another seven months on this forgotten isle

before they were processed as refugees and flown

to Philadelphia to forge a new life.


While elated at their survival and at being



eunited with their brother and sister who’d

escaped before them, Carina remembers their

struggle with the language barrier and culture

shock. “I felt destitute, inferior, I had no confidence,”

she remembers. “I was struggling with all the usual

stuff of being a teenager as well as this massive

culture shock. I missed my mum and dad very

much and worried about them a lot. But survival is

an amazing thing. When you have to do it you do

– I knew I had to do well so I could help my family.

I had to see them again. I didn’t want my parents’

sacrifice to be in vain.”


Carina threw herself into her studies and excelled.

She earned a scholarship to university. She found

work. Yet images of the family left behind haunted

her. By this stage she knew her dad was alive, but

in prison, and her mother had been imprisoned

for helping her children escape. Her grandma had

cancer – if she died, what would happen to her two

youngest siblings left behind?

“I worked really hard, saved my money and sent

it home for my sisters,” she says. “And my brothers

and sisters did the same.”


Eventually both Carina’s mother and father

were released from prison and Carina flew back to

Vietnam to sponsor their move to America. It was

12 years since Carina had fled – yet now the entire

family was reunited. “It was so overwhelming to be

together again,” Carina says. “We were so happy,

so relieved. I don’t think any words can describe it.

We finally felt safe.”

As Carina forged a career for herself, she was

invited to return to Vietnam for a research project

– a trip during which she’d meet her Italian-born

husband, who had grown up in Australia. The duo

married and returned to the US before moving to


Here Carina published her award-winning book

Boat People: Personal stories from the Vietnamese

Exodus 1975 –1996, published books for others,

won a scholarship to study a PhD at Curtin

University on the history of refugees in Hong Kong

and was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of

Fame as one of the state’s most inspiring women.

And it was from here that she has made her return

trips to the desolate isles that haunted her dreams,

to search for Vietnamese refugees’ graves.


Together with her brother and cousin, Carina

began planning her return to Indonesia to find her

dead cousin. She knew he had died on an island

called Terampa. But in a country with around

18,000 islands, only a third of them named, it

seemed impossible they’d locate this one. It

didn’t appear on maps, no-one they questioned

had heard of it. No matter, they’d make the trip


In Carina’s

words ...

Who inspires me

My mother, she is the

most courageous person

I’ve ever known.

Best advice

Don’t ever give up. We

all have incredible inner

strength: until you are

tested, you will never

know how strong you

can be.

Left Carina has written a

book about her incredible

journey and tales of other

Vietnamese boat people.



Someone overhead them talking at the

Indonesian consulate in Singapore and thought

the island may be part of the Anambas

archipelago. So they flew to one of the biggest

islands in the group. Based on rumours and vague

directions, they caught a ferry that would bring

them closer to their intended destination.

Next they found two pilots who agreed to fly

them still closer to Terampa, but the pilots would

only take money for a one-way ticket as they

couldn’t be sure they’d be returning. After landing,

the captain of a navy boat heard of their quest

and offered to take them direct to Terampa.

Finally there, the trio hiked into the jungle and

began their search. The first day they found many

graves, but they all appeared to be Indonesian.

The next day a local farmer offered to help. He

knew of eight graves that could be Vietnamese.

With hundreds of graves strewn across the island,

they decided to start with these eight. But they

only had permission to excavate one grave – and

if it wasn’t their cousin they’d still have to take the

remains back with them. It seemed impossible

they’d find him.

After hacking through the jungle to reveal the

abandoned gravesites, the farmer asked which one

they’d like to excavate. Carina, her brother and her

cousin each privately considered which grave to try

– by chance they’d all picked the same one. Here

was their one chance to find their lost cousin.


They knew they’d be able to identify their cousin

because he was buried in a wooden coffin – his

mother had been gifted wood by fellow refugees

who no longer needed it as they knew they were

evacuating the island the day after Carina’s cousin

had died. They didn’t believe anyone else would

have been buried in a coffin. Her cousin had also

been wrapped in a military blanket before burial.

After digging for some time the shovel suddenly

struck wood. Their hearts leapt. Surely they

couldn’t be this lucky. Further excavation revealed

a body wrapped in a military blanket. “It was

amazing, we just had this sense of absolute

disbelief – not only that we’d found him but that

we’d done it so quickly. I have to believe we were

guided by spirits.”

Right Carina helped

a family find the grave

of their 14-year-old

sister who died two

days after she arrived

on Kuku Island.

Below The remains

of Carina’s cousin.


The find made Carina think of those she’d

come to know on the island on which she’d been

stranded – those like the eight-month-old baby

she’d cradled and helped bury all those years ago.

But she had no idea where that island would be

amidst Indonesia’s island-studded seas.

It just so happened that the captain of the ship

that had transported them to Terampa knew of the

island where Carina had nearly died – Kuku Island

– and it wasn’t far away. He offered to take her

there the next day.

She raced to the markets to buy incense and food

to offer the dead. And as she set foot on the beach,

images of the dead and dying swirled through her

brain. Her heart became heavy with sadness. She

felt the spirits of the dead all around her. “I sensed

that the spirits of the island were there,” she says.

“They helped me find my cousin, and they’ve

helped me to find so many others.”

Guided by the spirits of the refugees who died in

their desperate bid to escape, Carina is determined

to continue her annual pilgrimage to these remote

Indonesian isles to reunite Vietnamese families

with their long-dead loved ones.

Get involved

For more information and to order Carina’s book

visit the website



Don’t just believe in

miracles, expect them.


Parenting educator


Elizabeth Gilbert




A follow-on from Elizabeth Gilbert’s

amazing book Big Magic: Creative living

beyond fear, this podcast is part of Gilbert’s

quest to help more people do the stuff that

makes them feel good, that lights the fire in

their belly. It’s about conquering fears – fears

that you’re not good enough, that someone else

already did it better, that you won’t be respected.

Gilbert invites people struggling to live

creative lives to share their pain, then provides

advice on overcoming their obstacles through

offering her own wisdom and that of big-name


In Gilbert’s words: “The universe buries strange

jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to

see if we can find them. The hunt to discover those

jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on

that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates

a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

The often surprising results of that hunt – that’s

what I call Big Magic.”

“It is what

you read

when you

don’t have

to that


what you will

be when you

can’t help it.”

Oscar Wilde


Cheryl Strayed

Wild recounts the personal and physical

journey of Cheryl Strayed as she trekked the

Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast of America.

She started the 1800-kilometre hike as a battered

26-year-old, struggling with personal demons

– the loss of her mother to cancer, the break up

of her marriage, sexual promiscuity and drugs.

She had no experience of hiking, or wilderness

survival, and the trek would test her physical and

emotional strength in ways she could never have


But as Strayed walked – and battled weather,

physical strain, loneliness and her inner self – she

found hope. She discovered that she could put

her life back together. She realised she had it in

her to be the promising girl she once was. She

found the strength to give up the cycle of selfdestruction.

Strayed portrays her journey with

searing honesty, recounting scenes so anguished

you want to cry and others laugh-out-loud funny.


Tara Mohr

This book is based on the notion that there are

all these amazing, talented, wondrous women out

there who don’t live their full potential because

they don’t consider themselves worthy, or an

expert, or capable enough. They are too ‘nice’ to

strive for their dreams, too concerned with pleasing

others to unleash their magic on the world.

Tara Mohr aims to give readers the tools to step

up and be their best selves. She says “this book

was born out of a frustration and a hope. The

frustration? Brilliant women are playing small. The

hope? That the world could be changed – for the

much, much better – by our greater participation.”

Her advice ranges from tips to overcoming selfdoubt

and not listening to your inner critic to, my

favourite, listening to your ‘inner mentor’ – that

wise internal voice that’s unconstrained by fear.

I feel like Mohr wrote this book especially for me

and so many of my friends. I can’t recommend it

highly enough.









As a kid Katie O’Malley sat in front of the TV in her family

home watching the Australian TV drama A Country

Practice. Katie watched a woman on the show sit under

a triangle, her legs crossed, her eyes closed and her face a

picture of tranquillity. Intrigued, an 11-year-old Katie raced to her

bedroom and decided to give meditation a shot. Breathing in,

and out, she found the stillness she craved. The world seemed to

melt away. Her mind settled. She felt peaceful. It was welcome

relief for a girl often overwhelmed by an avalanche of thought

and emotion.


Fast forward nearly 30 years and Katie has built a career for

herself as a mindfulness practitioner. Today Katie helps women

find that same sense of peace she gained an inkling of as an

11 year old. But the path to finding her calling wasn’t easy.

Despite the positive meditation experience, Katie spent years

seeking to distract herself from the feelings of inadequacy

that threatened to swamp her. She sought escape in dance, in

partying, in busyness.

By the time she was 30, Katie was married with four beautiful

girls, investments, great friends – a picture-perfect life. Yet

one day she found herself in the bathroom of her lovely home

considering all she had, and feeling that she was dying inside. “I

felt like I was living from behind a masked face,” she says. “I had

everything I wanted, but nothing I needed.”


Through meditation and mindfulness, Katie came to

understand that, despite a loving upbringing, she’d always felt

she wasn’t enough – not a good enough wife, a good enough

mother, a good enough friend. But now she simply became

mindful of the realisations, instead of distracting herself from

them. She made the space and the time for stillness – and she

allowed her own inner wisdom to arise from the space she’d

created. By allowing her wisdom to speak to her, Katie began not

only to heal but also to bloom.

Later, after working with thousands of women as a

mindfulness practitioner, Katie realised most women struggle

with some kind of notion they are not enough.

And she came to understand that all

women have the power to overcome

such beliefs by accessing their

internal world and listening to

their innate inner wisdom, if

they can only create the time

and the space to listen.


Today Katie helps other

women to discover their own

inner beauty, wisdom and

strength. Through one-on-one

sessions, group mindfulness

programs and retreats, and

transformation workshops, Katie

helps women become the grounded,

connected, purposeful humans they were meant to be. And she

is in awe of their transformations.

“It’s just amazing to see another human being lit up in

their potential,” Katie says. “I watch them go on to enjoy

more fulfilled, deeper relationships, to find the clarity of who

they really are. They realise everything they need is inside of

themselves. It’s beautiful to witness.”

Get involved

Katie helps women

become the grounded,

connected, purposeful

humans they were

meant to be.

Learn how you can use mindfulness to access your inner

wisdom and transform your life by contacting Katie at

Photo by Celia Galpin Photography

Alex Cearns

Pet portrait photographer

Alex Cearns travels the globe

photographing rescued animals

to raise money for their care and

promote their protection. She

volunteers 40 percent of her

time to philanthropic causes and

relishes the chance to present

animals in their best light.

Alex Cearns had recently started volunteering

to photograph abused RSPCA animals

when she realised her life calling. She’d been

asked to photograph a severely neglected dog,

found with one of her starving puppies dead in the

food bowl beside her, to help with the prosecution

of the dog’s owners. But where others saw horror,

Alex looked past the protruding ribs and the sad

eyes and saw beauty. Instead of highlighting the

dog’s desperate state, Alex sought to portray her

loveliness. “I didn’t want people to look at her and

not see her as beautiful,” she says. “She was so

kind. It just broke my heart that she’d been treated

so terribly but she was still so trusting.”

While she would never have dreamed it at the

time, the job of photographing the abused dog

ignited a flame that would eventually see Alex

leave her long-standing police and government

jobs for a career as a professional animal

portrait photographer. It would spark a volunteer

arrangement with RSPCA and other charities that

sees Alex donate 40 percent of her time to animal

charities, rescue and welfare organisations. And

it would launch a globally recognised role as an

animal photographer who has now published

several coffee-table photography books. A

photographer who travels the world promoting

and photographing rescued animals and raising

thousands of dollars for animal shelters. A

photographer who uses her growing recognition to

speak out for animal rights, to advocate for animal

rescue, to urge others to follow their passions to

create meaningful and fulfilling lives.

In Alex’s words ...

Who inspires me

Those who work tirelessly in animal rescue organisations – the selfless

people who devote their lives to making a difference to animals. It can be

a thankless task, a hard, relentless slog, but they persist. Their generosity

towards, kindness to, and endless tenacity for creatures in need makes them

living angels. They are people I respect immensely and aspire to be like.

Best advice

A quote by Ellen DeGeneres along the lines of “Ignore the lovers, ignore

the haters – just do what you do”. To me it means just get on with it and

get on with it well and don’t let your ego overtake you.


Not that Alex would have guessed what life

had in store for her when she was a teenage only

child growing up in the remote Western Australian

mining town of Tom Price. While she’d long

been an animal lover – one of her first memories

is of dressing up Chirpy the pet chicken and

pushing him in a pram – she’d never considered


She received her first camera at age 16 and took a

couple of bad photos and forgot all about it. After

finishing school she entered the police service. But,

after a good friend and fellow police officer died on

the job Alex needed a career change. She became

a crime analyst, helping source information to aid

homicide, armed robbery, child abuse and major

fraud squad investigations. While she loved the

challenge, after working in the child abuse unit

and witnessing its horrors, she again sought out

a career change. So, in 2005 she started working

with the federal government, auditing airports for

their counter terrorist security measures.


In the meantime, Alex had also started searching

for an interest outside work. She tried writing a

book, thought about playing soccer, and then



considered photography. “A friend invited me

along to take family photos at a local park and

when I was meant to be taking a photo of the

child doing a ballet pirouette I was trying to take

photos of a bird flying past,” she says. “I realised,

as soon as a creature walked into my space, that

what I was pointing my camera at and gravitating

towards. They became the focus of my lens.”

So it seemed animal photography was her thing.

But where to find more animals? Alex looked up

RSPCA and Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

in Perth and began photographing their animals,

especially those that could become rescue pets.

In the meantime she also started photographing

people’s pets. Her weekends became jammed

with pet photo shoots at parks, backyards, the

beach. Then, while auditing an airport at the

Cocos Islands, she took a shot of some stunning

blue clams in a rustic breeding facility. The photo

ended up winning several photographic awards,

prompted two gallery owners to ask to represent

Alex’s work and sparked a line-up of people

wanting to buy a limited edition print for $1000

each. “That was a big turning point – it was the

first time anyone really wanted to pay money for

what I did,” Alex says.


By this time Alex had started photographing

RSPCA animals in a studio set up for the

organisation’s marketing and promotional

material. This was more like it. She loved

that she could control the environment,

the lighting, even the subjects to a

certain extent. So she set up a tiny

room in the bottom of her garden as a

pet photography studio. At the time she

dreamed of spending two or three days a

week at her government job, and another

two or three days doing pet photography.

But the demand for her pet photography

became so high that something had to give.

Alex loved her jobs, but the stress of working

long hours was too much.

Terrified, Alex decided to resign from her

government job and launch what has become

Houndstooth Studio. “I’d spent 19 years in

government, had superannuation and sick

leave and a fall back,” she says. “But to be

honest I should have done it a year earlier.

I think, as soon as we create space for

something it gets filled. If something is only

part-time or a hobby you can only ever treat

it as that. If you’re only giving 50 percent of

your time to something, you’re only getting

50 percent back.”

Alex gave 110 percent and the demand for

her studio pet photography skyrocketed.

“I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get

to do this,” she says. “Yesterday I had a

gorgeous 16-year-old bull terrier with a

sulphur-crested cockatoo come in for photos. What

a dream shoot. To capture them together for that

client was just so special.”


On holiday in Bali, Alex approached Bali Animal

Welfare Association (BAWA) about photographing

their animals. She wanted to take the rescue pets

from their chaotic surrounds and photograph

them individually against a bright, white studio

backdrop, in the way she did for RSPCA at home.

“I wanted to show that Bali animals were as valid

and worthy as our pets back at home, and how

they deserved the same things our animals need

to live a safe and happy life – food, shelter, vet

care, a soft bed and a kind hand,” she says. She

set up makeshift studios in the BAWA clinic and

BAWA founder Janice Girardi’s jewellery shop in

central Ubud and photographed so many animals

at such a rate that one of her large studio lights

caught on fire!

Among the pets was a puppy with severe mange

held in a big pen of about 60 dogs. Alex selected

the pitiful creature for a shot, removed her from

the chaos and noise, and placed her against the

white backdrop. Away from the pack of dogs,

with some attention lavished upon her, the puppy

All photos Alex

Cearns’ photos portray

animals of all types in

their most beautiful


transformed. It started ‘high fiving’ with Alex, and

captured her heart. With its protruding stomach,

near hairless body and adorable eyes, the puppy

became a pin-up for rescued animals. “The photo

of her was my first pic that went viral globally,”

Alex says. “She looks adorable but pitiful, you

want to hug her, and she had this look that just

drew people in.”

Alex conducted a fundraising exhibition to sell

copies of the photos she’d taken at the shelter.

Some 350 people crowded the exhibition, earning

$15,000 for BAWA – most of the funds raised from

selling prints of that one puppy.

The next year Alex tried something similar in

Cambodia. She photographed exotic rescue

animals such as tigers, elephants, otters and

bears at Wildlife Alliance’s Phnom Tamao Wildlife

Rescue Centre, which is also home to Free the

Bears Funds’ main south-east Asian bear rescue

sanctuary. This time the exhibition attracted 700

people who, in three hours, bought enough photos

to raise $25,000.

While happy at the money raised, Alex is

reluctant to bask in the success. There are always

more animals in need, there’s always more work

required. “I love that we’ve raised money and

appreciate that’s what we’re able to give, but

there’s always more that needs to done,” she says.

“Our exhibition donation to Free the Bears paid

for formula for all of their resident bear cubs for 12

months, and the annual salary of their keeper. But

what about the bear cubs in a year? When that

money runs out they’re going to need more.”


Through Free the Bears Fund, Alex met its

founder Mary Hutton who recommended Alex as

a photographer to World Expeditions, which runs

visits to Free the Bears sanctuaries on some of its

itineraries. Alex was excited to donate her time as

lead photographer on an animal photography trip

to India, which raised nearly $10,000 for Free the


Honoured to have been selected for the trip,

Alex was gobsmacked when World Expeditions

asked what other destinations she’d like to visit

as expedition photographer.

“Scott, the World Expeditions

representative, said ‘great, we’ll

do India and what about the

rest?’ I said ‘what do you mean?’

He said ‘let us know your top six places

you want to go and we’ll organise it.”

Alex couldn’t believe her luck. She’s since

led a trip to Antarctica for World Expeditions,

trips to Cambodia and Vietnam, and will take

photographers on a trip to Sri Lanka to see

bears and leopards, and visit a baby elephant

orphanage in 2017.

For Alex, the best part of the trips is spending

time with people who share her love of animals.

“I remember in India … we stopped in Jaipur and

there was a stunning palace built in the middle of

a lake,” she says. “My tour group was standing at

the railing on the edge of the water and I heard

them calling out to me. They were so excited and

I looked and they were pointing their lenses down

in the mud to rats – water rats had made tunnels

in the muddy embankment. They were so thrilled

to see the water rats poking their heads out of

their mud homes. And I thought ‘oh my goodness,

these are just the best bunch of animal people. I’m

definitely in the right company’.”


While she relishes the chance to travel, Alex is

conscious it’s her paying pet portrait clients who

enable her to live the life she loves. She sees her

pet photography not just as her lifestyle, but as

a way of promoting the joy animals can bring to

people’s lives. This is also the ethos behind Alex’s

books – Mother Knows Best – Life Lessons from

the Animal World; Joy, A Celebration of the Animal

Kingdom’; and Zen Dogs.

“Whether they are local endangered wildlife,

abused farm animals, unwanted old pets in

shelters, malnourished Balinese street dogs or

Asian bears with missing paws, my intention is to

capture their faultless spirit in a fresh, new way,”

she says. “The right image viewed by the right

person can mean a dog is re-homed, a donation

is made, or that media will run a story to increase

awareness, which hopefully, ultimately, will inspire


Get involved

For more information on Alex and her work visit

her website

Maggie Dent


Parenting educator and author Maggie Dent has earned

the love of a nation’s parents for her funny, practical and

insightful advice on how to raise healthy and resilient

children. What life path has Maggie travelled to become such

an advocate for saving our stressed-out modern-day kids?

Maggie Dent has her audience in raptures as she

strides across the stage, recounting hilarious tales of

parenthood and sharing the practical, no-nonsense

parenting advice for which she has become so revered. Though

she loathes the title ‘parenting expert’, Maggie has captured the

hearts of parents and teachers across the nation for her focus

on building resilient kids – kids who spend their time outdoors,

who get dirty, who have been given the chance to fall, fail and

recover, and therefore build the confidence that comes from

learning for themselves.

Maggie’s wit and talent as a speaker, educator and author

make her appear a master of confidence. But she hasn’t always

been this way. For Maggie battled a self-esteem so low that

she once attempted to take her own life. How did she rise from

despair to eventually lead a movement that is guiding the

nation’s teachers and parents?


Growing up on a farm in country Western Australia, Maggie

spent her time outdoors, roaming the open spaces, or tagging

alongside her beloved father, enchanted by the stories he

shared and influenced by his strong sense of communitymindedness,

equality and social justice.

She developed her own sense of justice early. She remembers

standing up to her teacher as a seven year old, her fists scrunched

in anger as she berated the teacher for shouting at a fellow

student and making her cry. Maggie spent the rest of the class

sitting under the teacher’s desk as punishment.

She hung out with the Aboriginal kids whose parents worked

on her family farm. She argued with her mother. She played

with her five siblings. She did farm jobs. She helped her dad with

agricultural science – thinking nothing of helping with tasks like

measuring the scrotums of rams.


Despite this robust childhood, by the time Maggie reached her

teenage years she felt her self-esteem falter. Her bum was too

big. She wasn’t into partying. She’d prefer to stay at home than


She consoled herself that at least she was good at school. She

was smart, she earned good grades. “School was my mask that

I was ok,” Maggie says. She relied so heavily on this mask that,

when she failed a politics essay at university, she unravelled. “It

was like something shattered in my mind,” Maggie says. “I had

pegged my hat on this thing that I was going to be clever and

when that mask cracked I thought ‘oh my God I have nothing …

there’s no point living’,” Maggie says.

Previous page Maggie

is all about encouraging

kids to be kids – with

days filled with outdoor

freedom and fun.

Above A younger Maggie.

Above right Maggie

with three of her four sons

when they were young.

Opposite page, top

Maggie and her

four boys.

Opposite page, bottom

Maggie is now a highly

sought-after parenting

educator and speaker.

Devastated at the fail and what she made that

mean for her self-worth, an 18-year-old Maggie

took a bottle of pills and downed pill after pill in a

suicide attempt. But one of the pills cracked in her

mouth and the foul taste caused her to vomit. “I

remember laying there in the foetal position, in this

really dark, low place, sobbing, snot everywhere,

completely alone and all of a sudden this light

shone into the window onto me and I felt that

happened for a purpose,” she says. “I sat up and

thought ‘well I’m not supposed to die’.”


The experience made Maggie realise the fragility

of the teenage mind – just one failure and a life

was at risk. It made her determined to do what she

could to prevent others from making the mistake

that had so nearly cost her life. So Maggie became

a teacher.

“Teaching was so much fun,” she recalls of her

time as a high school English teacher. “I couldn’t

believe I was having so much fun. I just got my

students, I could read their masks, I could make

learning fascinating and fun, and I really valued

each one of them.”

As a teacher, Maggie came to realise there’s a

‘spark’ inside everyone that needs nurturing. “It’s

a bit like the human spirit – it’s this pulsing place

within us that I could see in kids,” she says. “Inside

every single child there’s this pulsing place of

potential that I think we’re buggering up.”

Maggie sees the results of this spark being

quashed every day, particularly in the women she

encounters. “I’m often nudging women saying ‘is

there something in you, something that was shut

down as a kid or in your early teens and you need

to bring out because you’re going to be restless

until you have a look at it?’. I still think that’s some

of the best work that I do.”


A few years into teaching, Maggie started

producing her own little sparks of human potential

– four boys of her own. While revered as a parenting

‘expert’ today, Maggie scoffs at the notion.

“Parenting is the hardest job on the planet,” she

says. “And a house without conflict does not exist.”

One day she found herself overwhelmed and fed

up, with her hand raised to smack her two-year-old

son. She stopped and realised she wasn’t being the

parent she wanted to be. She questioned where the

anger had come from. And she went on to launch

a deep and long-lasting personal inquiry into her

own childhood and why she’d become the person

she had become. This inquiry would help Maggie

realise she’d made up ‘stories’ about herself that

were not real. She realised she had the capacity to

design her character and her life in the way she’d

like – something she encouraged other women to

do by going on to lead women’s retreats.


When Maggie’s third boy was 14 months old,

she had a near-death experience which would

shape the way she would go on to parent. It was

Christmas Day and her three boys were home with

chickenpox, or ‘chicken pops’ as they called it, and

Maggie was watering the lawn when she felt blood

trickling down her legs.

As the blood poured out of her, Maggie called

a friend who realised something was drastically

wrong. At hospital they thought she’d suffered

a miscarriage. But the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

Maggie began to vomit. Her blood pressure dived. “I

remember being so close to death – I saw a golden

tunnel and everything,” Maggie recalls. “I remember

in that moment thinking I can’t do this anymore

and giving up but then remembering the three

boys. If you have a near-death experience your

experience as a mother is transformed forever.”



In Maggie’s words ...

What inspires me

I get inspired by kindness – wherever I see it, hear about it

or sense it, it just makes my heart expand and I cry tears of

pure joy. I feel blessed to have been gifted my four sons … so

I am also always deeply grateful.

Best advice

Well, I have two pieces of advice that I have come to live

by. Don’t just believe in miracles — expect them! Secondly,

never put anything off – do it now ‘just in case’. In my death

and dying work I have met so many people who thought

they had so much time – to play more, to have great

holidays, to work on a dream …

After recovering from what turned out to

be a hormonal dysfunction that mimicked

a miscarriage, Maggie began to regard the

experience as a blessing. “I was so grateful to

be alive,” she says. “I started to drop the little

meaningless stuff. There were days I’d leave the

washing and go to the beach or the park. I got

used to the noise, I got used to the chaos. I let the

kids put their own clothes on – I didn’t care if they

were dressed badly or I hadn’t wiped all the mess

off their faces. Who cares if they’ve got Vegemite

on them? I encouraged their own thinking. I

started letting them do more for themselves. And

I discovered that they were wiser than I thought.

They were more capable than I realised.”


No longer teaching full-time while she brought

up her boys, Maggie sought other ways to fill her

time and fulfil her search for a sense of purpose.

She came across a brochure calling for volunteers

at a palliative care hospice. “I just thought ‘who the

hell would do this’ and threw the letter in the bin,”

she says. “But about four nights later I woke up in

the night absolutely crystal clear and thought ‘you

need to do this’.”

She signed up, did the training and started the

volunteer role as a bereavement coordinator.

While she was uncomfortable with the physical

and medical care, she came to realise the role she

could play by simply being there, being honest,

accepting suffering, and avoiding the temptation

for false cheeriness. “I had a knack for making

people comfortable, but without the bullshit, not

sympathy but empathy,” she says. “I could sit with

people quite comfortably in complete silence.”

The role also taught her the value of honesty

and of people’s remarkable capacity to withstand

suffering. She remembers a 10-year-old boy with

a brain tumour who was nearing his final days – a

boy the same age as her oldest

son – who helped her learn the

power of being real. “He was the

most beautiful, bright, shining,

caring boy … and every day I’d

think ‘shit I’m having to put a

fake face on’,” she says. “Then one

day I just said to him ‘you know I’m

actually sad that you’re so sick. I don’t

want to pretend that I’m happy. I can still

laugh with you but I just want you to know

that I am sad’ and he turned to me and said

‘thanks for being honest’. He really appreciated

that. That’s where I started my resilience

understanding. I realised we don’t need to resist

the suffering, we have the ability to cope with the

big shit.”

“Inside every

single child there’s

this pulsing place

of potential.”



Above Maggie

and her husband Steve.

Right Maggie considers

herself a messenger and

has penned six books.






Maggie cemented the realisation that suffering

is an important part of the rich tapestry of human

life in her work as a celebrant for funerals. Again

she saw the value in allowing people to feel their

pain, in being real, in holding a safe space for

people who are suffering.

And the skills she learned as a celebrant stood

her in good stead when she returned to teaching,

where kids sought her out when they wanted to

“talk about the big stuff”. “I realised anyone can

teach how to write paragraphs but no t everyone

can help a young teen w ho wants to die,” she says.

So Maggie embarked on a postgraduate diploma

in counselling and ended up leaving teaching to

counsel kids full-time.


As a counsellor Maggie started to notice a new

trend in children – stress. She held a seminar for

parents to help them guide their stressed-out kids.

The talk was a hit and almost accidently Maggie

fell into a role that would see her go on to deliver

parenting and teaching seminars across the nation

and author six parenting books.

Maggie does not consider herself an expert,

but rather a messenger. She loves studying the

research on child development and disseminating

it in a way others can understand. She says one of

her biggest jobs is challenging parents to ask “who

is the child who has turned up, and how can you

help them be the best expression of who they are,

rather than who you want them to be?”

She warns of the modern-day trend to ‘over

parent’. “Kids do need to experience life,” she says.

“We are over-parenting, we’re doing our kids’

homework for them, we’re dropping them off so

they’re on time.”

But she believes perhaps her greatest role is

helping parents realise they are normal. “I just

normalise what they thought was something

terrible in their house,” she says. “In nearly every

house it’s chaos getting ready for school, there’s

not something wrong with you, you’re not failing

as a parent, it’s just what childhood can be like.

I think that’s an important message for any

parent to hear – we’re all doing the best we can,

everyone’s doing it, so why not just sit on the

couch and have a cup of tea and lighten up a bit

and say ‘right, this is parenthood’.”

“Our kids are more capable than we give them

credit for.”

Very proud

graphic designer of 0403 053 768

Get involved

To find out more about Maggie and

order her books visit her website


Thank you

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