Inspired Magazine vol 3

samille

Inspired Magazine issue three takes you across the globe to meet the inspirational people striving to do good for the world. We meet the can-do Aussie Gemma Sisia, transforming lives for Tanzania’s bright but poverty-stricken children with free schooling. We travel into the pulsing jungles of Borneo on an ethical travel experience. We learn of the backstory to American man Conor Grennan’s bid to reunite stolen Nepalese children with their families. And we learn tales of courage, passion and contribution from Cambodia to Bosnia, from Perth to Bali. May the stories inspire you by what’s possible. May they remind of you the incredible people working to do good in our beautiful world.

ISSUE 3, 2018 $14.95

NEPAL’S LOST CHILDREN

Reuniting trafficked kids with their parents

SAVING BALI’S STREET DOGS

A life dedicated to dog rescue

FEARLESS MOTHER OF THOUSANDS

One woman’s quest to help Cambodia’s orphans

LIVE

YOUR

LEGEND

A quest to live a life of meaning

Inspired Travel

BORNEO

New feature on ethical travel


SAMILLE MITCHELL

Inspired founder


Issue 3, 2018

PUBLISHERS

Samille Mitchell, Geraldine Scott

EDITOR

Samille Mitchell

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Rhianna King

rhianna.king@bigpond.com

www.rhiannaking.com.au

0403 053 768

PROOFREADER

Joanna Sercombe-Moore

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Inspired aims to uplift, empower

and inspire by countering negative

media with stories about inspirational

everyday people and projects. For

more stories and to subscribe, visit

www.inspired.org.au.

If you know of someone who is really

going above and beyond to make our

amazing world more special and you

think they might make an interesting

profile for Inspired, please contact

us. They may have overcome tragedy

with triumph, be fighting for social

justice, be protecting the environment

or battling for human rights. It doesn’t

matter where they live, what they

are doing or even if you know them

personally but if their efforts really fire

you up, please feel free to contact us

with your suggestion.

Hello wonderful people

Issue 3!!! Can you believe it? We’re beyond

excited to be producing our third annual print

magazine to showcase the work of the courageous

people striving to make our world great. And what

incredible people they are. Despite the diversity of

areas they operate in and causes they promote,

these inspiring individuals are each united by their

belief in a better world. We sincerely hope sharing

their stories reminds you of what’s possible and

inspires you to step up and be your best self.

I’m always particularly inspired by the

unintentional heroes – people who stumbled across

a cause that resonated so closely with them that

they couldn’t help but take action. I think it’s because these people seem so

normal, so like me, that they give me hope that more of us can do our piece

of good for the world. They are people like Conor Grennan, who volunteered

at an orphanage in Nepal in a bid to impress his friends and ended up risking

his life to reunite trafficked children with their families. Or those like Geraldine

Cox, who once dreamed of a life of glamour and travel, yet found herself

staring down the face of AK47s and confronting military tanks to stand up

for forgotten Cambodian children. Or what about Linda Buller, who was so

shocked by the sight of an abused Balinese dog that she ended up dedicating

her life to saving Bali’s street dogs?

Then there are those who were always destined to be inspirational. People

like Gemma Sisia who, even as a kid, knew she wanted to help African children

and went on to found The School of St Jude in Tanzania. Or Moira Kelly, who

dreamed of following in Mother Theresa’s footsteps and went on to help

disabled, sick and dying children.

Together such people prove just how much is possible when we have the

courage to take action, how much impact an individual can make, and how

many lives we can change for the better when we dedicate ourselves to a cause

and work with those whose lives may be less privileged than our own. May they

inspire you by what’s possible. May they encourage you to spread kindness.

May they empower you to do your part for world change.

Thank you for reading Inspired.

Samille

EDITOR

Inspired Magazine and Demeter Legacy –

a perfect match

Inspired Magazine has found its perfect match! We’re now

partnered with the non-profit philanthropic fund – Demeter Legacy.

Demeter Legacy is a charitable fund that supports people striving to

help vulnerable people, animals and habitats – the kind of inspiring

people we feature in Inspired Magazine. Inspired now promotes the

generous businesses and individuals who contribute financially

to Demeter Legacy Fund.

FOREWORD 1


CONTENTS

SCOTT AND CHELSEA

DINSMORE

Changing the world by

living their calling

Chelsea Dinsmore has

fought through the grief of

losing her young husband

Scott to inspire thousands

of people across the globe

to live a life of legend.

3

EDITOR’S LETTER

14

30

INSPIRED TRAVEL

Travel with Inspired

Magazine editor Samille

Mitchell to be inspired by

the wonders of nature.

6 22 34

2 CONTENTS

GEMMA SISIA

The gift of education

transforms thousands of

Tanzanian lives

Gemma Sisia has put

2000 kids through school

and boarding, funded

students’ university

education, and sparked

promising futures for

young adults who were

born into poverty-stricken

lives in Tanzania.

GERALDINE COX

Fearless mother

of thousands

Australian woman Geraldine

Cox has rescued Cambodian

children from jungle war

zones, stared down the

face of AK47s to protect

kids without parents and

remained in a city in the

throes of a military coup to

stand up for the thousands

of kids she’s come not only

to protect, but to love.

CONOR GRENNAN

Discovering Nepal’s lost

children

American man Conor

Grennan became an

unwitting saviour to

hundreds of trafficked

kids in Nepal after what

began as a bid to impress

his friends morphed into

an ongoing attempt to

reunite parents with

their stolen children.


ROCHELLE COURTENAY

‘Pad lady’ provides

dignity to desperate

women

Shocked at the shame

homeless women suffered

at being unable to access

pads and tampons during

their monthly period,

Queensland woman

Rochelle Courtenay

launched Share the

Dignity to provide sanitary

items to those in need.

LINDA BULLER

Saving Bali’s street dogs

Linda Buller has dedicated

the past 20 years of her

life to saving Bali’s abused

street dogs and is awed

by dogs’ ability to forgive

humans for abuse, and

remain open to healing

and love.

COSI COSTELLO

Cows for Cambodia

breaks poverty cycle

Andrew Costello is changing

the lives of hundreds of rural

Cambodians and breaking

the poverty cycle by

donating one thing that can

make a massive difference

to rural Cambodian’s longterm

prosperity – cows.

40 54 66

44

LOVE BOMB

Spread the love.

53

INSPIRED REVIEW

Be inspired by what

we’re reading and

listening to.

7I

INSPIRED DIRECTORY

Connect with some

of our amazing

partners.

46 60

MOIRA KELLY

Helping desperate, disabled

and disadvantaged children

Moira Kelly has offered hope

and love to the kids most

people have forgotten –

from HIV AIDS-infected

babies, to disfigured

children, to kids suffering

life-threatening injuries

from war.

NICK MAISEY

Befriend: Growing the

magic of connection

When Nick Maisey realised

the pain of disconnection

and loneliness that

scars so many people in

our modern society, he

created a social network

that would welcome

people from all walks of

life to experience the joy

of friendship.

CONTENTS

3


Gemma Sisia


The gift of education

transforms thousands

of Tanzanian lives

When a young Aussie girl visited Africa two

decades ago with dreams of helping the

less fortunate, even she would never have

guessed at the way her life would unfold.

Yet Gemma Sisia went on to found The

School of St Jude, which has put 2000

kids through school and boarding, funded

students’ university education, and sparked

promising futures for young adults who

were born into poverty-stricken rural homes

or garbage-ridden urban slums.


Gemma Sisia sat at a Tanzanian school

graduation ceremony two years ago

watching 61 students graduate from their

final year of high school. As they strode across

the stage to receive their graduation certificates,

Gemma beamed at the great smiles flashing

across their young faces and delighted in the

sight of their eyes dancing with dreams for the

future. She couldn’t help but think back to when

she’d first met these now promising young adults

12 years ago, when they were scrawny youngsters

who signed up to be among the first students at

The School of St Jude.

Gemma had met the graduating class members

when they were bright but poverty-stricken

children with little hope of completing primary

school, let alone high school or university. Despite

their brilliance, these kids were condemned to

continue the poverty cycle into which they’d

been born. That is, until they met Gemma – an

adventurous, determined and compassionate

Aussie awash with dreams of changing the world.

Previous page The

School of St Jude selects

academically bright,

but poverty stricken,

Tanzanian kids and

gifts the chance of a

prosperous future through

free, quality education.

Above Of the first

group of 61 high school

graduates from St Judes, 50

are now at university.

Right The School of St

Jude opened in 2002 with

three kids and two staff -

Gemma and this Australian

volunteer Angela Bailey.

Opposite page, top

Celebrating a new

bus purchase.

Opposite page, middle

Gemma (in red), sponsors

and students in the school’s

early days.

Opposite page, bottom

The first school building

arises from an overgrown

plot, thanks to teams of

Australian volunteers.

Gemma had come to Africa as a 24-year-old

school teacher, brimming with dreams of helping

the less fortunate. She signed up to volunteer

at a private girls’ school in Uganda. While she

relished the experience, she was frustrated that

more students couldn’t access quality schooling.

This frustration, combined with what she now

regards as the blissful ignorance and optimism of

youth, resulted in this young Australian woman

determining to do something about it. She would

see more African kids offered quality schooling.

How? She’d start her own school. How hard could

it be?

YOUTHFUL CONFIDENCE SPARKS ACTION

Several years later, Gemma stood on a patch

of dirt her then Tanzanian boyfriend’s father had

gifted her. She gazed at the overgrown paddock

around her, visions of a future school swimming in

her mind.

Recalling the moment today, Gemma laughs at

her youthful confidence. “Even today I’d say The

School of St Jude exists because I was young when

I decided to build it,” Gemma says. “Before leaving

for Africa, I remember selling my car, paying off

my credit cards, closing my bank account, buying

my ticket, having $200 left over and having not a

fear in the world. When you’re that blissful mid-20s

age, you’re in the prime of your life, you’re fearless

6 GEMMA SISIA


and infallible and think everything’s going to be

alright. And thank God I was like that because I

had no idea what I was in for.”

THE BEGINNINGS

Armed with youthful enthusiasm and helped by

a team of volunteers from Rotary Clubs home in

Australia, Gemma set to work erecting the first

classroom, despite never before having built more

than a guinea pig cage. She had married the

Tanzanian boyfriend who’d captured her heart,

Richard Sisia, and they lived together in a tent

on the school. It wasn’t long before Gemma was

pregnant with their first child.

Slowly, a structure with a roof and walls emerged

from the tangled undergrowth to form the first

School of St Jude classroom. Six months of toil,

and one baby later, Gemma and a young school

graduate volunteer from Australia, Angela Bailey,

threw open the doors of The School of St Jude. It

was 2002 and they had three students. “We were

just so excited to be open,” Gemma says. “We

didn’t even think it was little. We were thrilled to

have started.”

GROWTH

By the end of the year students numbers had

swollen to around 50 kids. By the second year

the school had 100 students, who would have

otherwise had no future beyond merely trying to

survive. “[I remember] our first little children were

now entering [Year 2] and you could see their

confidence growing by the day,” Gemma recalls.

“At morning tea and lunchtime they kicked balls

about and swung on swings, like carefree children

everywhere, a far cry from their home lives of

chores and responsibilities.”

The next year still more children applied for a

School of St Jude scholarship. The following year

still more. Parents of potential students began

swamping the school gates on registration days to

have their children enrolled for a chance to alter the

course of their futures.

Gemma had to enforce a strict admission policy,

providing schooling and boarding to those who’d

proven their poverty, as well as their potential for

academic success.

And with every new kid came new funding

requirements. They’d need new classrooms, new

teachers, new school buses. Gemma would rally

her network back in Australia to raise funds,

with Australian families signing up to pay for

students’ schooling.

TOUGH TIMES

Of course the growth didn’t come easy.

Gemma had ongoing battles overseeing shoddy

builders, with teachers who didn’t live up to her

expectations, in raising the money to cover the

ever-swelling numbers of students. She and

GEMMA SISIA 7


In Gemma’s words ...

What inspires me

The smiling faces of our students

every day they’re in school.

Best motto

“This too shall pass” – it’s my

favourite quote and it has got me

through a lot of very tough times.

Richard also had their own two boys to raise, and

Richard also ran a safari company for tourists.

At one point, after the death of her father and

the loss of her unborn child, Gemma felt the

optimism that had characterised her for so long

evaporate. She questioned the point of it all – here

she was helping just a tiny portion of the hundreds

of thousands of Tanzanian kids who needed an

education. But a friend gave her a reality check.

“She helped me realise there was no point looking

at the big picture – in Africa that’s the way to go

crazy – but if I concentrated on the little picture, on

improving the lives of a handful of children, of even

one child, then I was doing my job.”

PASS!

By 2006, the first School of St Jude class had

progressed through four years of schooling and

was ready to sit the nationwide Year Four testing.

Any student in Tanzania who fails this testing is

unable to continue schooling. For those who fail,

there’s no chance of escaping the extreme rural

poverty or garbage-ridden urban slums from

which they’d come.

This was crunch time for The School of St Jude. The

entire grade passed. “When we found out you would

have thought we’d won the lottery,” Gemma laughs.

NEW CHANCE AT LIFE

As that same class reached the end of their

primary school years, Gemma and The School

of St Jude board decided to extend the school to

also offer high schooling. Then, as that same class

finished high school two years ago, the board also

agreed to fund their university placements.

Today, more than 50 of that year group of

61 graduates are now at university studying

subjects ranging from aeronautical engineering

to physics and medicine. Gemma says Tanzania

is in desperate need of science education –

most schools deem the cost of teaching science

too expensive so simply forego it in favour of

8 GEMMA SISIA


subjects that are cheaper to offer. This has

resulted in situations like Tanzania having just

94 gynaecologists to serve a population of 21

million women. Gemma believes it will be the uni

graduates who have a real chance of changing the

course of Tanzania’s future.

GIVING BACK

Most of that first pool of high school graduates

took a gap year before beginning university to

volunteer to teach at other schools. Gemma

remembers watching one such student standing at

the front of a class of around 70 students, a cracked

blackboard behind him. The students, many of

them taller than their new teacher, hung on his every

word, rapt at the chance to learn from someone

educated. Gemma couldn’t help but smile at the

enthusiasm of both teacher and students.

She says the graduates relished the chance

to offer other children a chance at what they’d

been gifted through St Jude’s and their Australian

sponsors. And, despite the difficulties of teaching

such big classes with limited resources, and just

a week crash course in how to teach, not one of

the volunteer teachers dropped out. In fact they

asked if they could extend the job for another three

months. Now every graduating class at St Jude’s

completes a year’s community service before

attending university.

A LIFE TRANSFORMED

While there are many individual stories of

students plucked from the most extreme poverty

Above Students at play

at St Jude’s.

Left Cheeky faces of the

kids who’ve captured

Gemma’s heart.

Opposite page, top left

Gemma Sisia.

Opposite page,

top right The beaming

smiles of the kids keep

Gemma motivated.

Opposite page, middle

The School of St Jude

places a heavy emphasis

on science – an education

sector many Tanzanian

schools forgo because

of its cost.

Opposite page, bottom

Education, boarding and

food help Tanzanian kids

to be kids – happy, carefree

and confident.

GEMMA SISIA 9


Top St Jude students

are given a chance at a

bright future.

Above School of

St Jude graduate

Winrose, and Gemma.

Above right A

St Jude student shows

off produce.

to get a real chance at life, the story of Winrose

is the first that springs to Gemma’s mind.

Winrose’s mum had died when she was 10, but

she’d continued to excel at primary school – a

near impossible feat in Tanzania. How had she

managed to continue her schooling at all, let alone

do well, Gemma pondered?

Before Winrose’s mother had died, she’d taught

Winrose how to sew. Making the most of this

knowledge, and desperate to learn, Winrose would

approach her school teachers and offer to sew their

clothes in exchange for textbooks and tutoring.

After being accepted into the School of St Jude

and excelling throughout her schooling, Winrose

accompanied Gemma on a trip to Australia where

she met the Australian couple who’d funded her

education. “It was so emotional,” Gemma says.

“It always is when a sponsor meets the students

they’ve helped.” Without the sponsors’ help, the

bright young woman before them may have

been sentenced to a life of poverty and domestic

drudgery. Instead, Winrose is now working for

The School of St Jude in a marketing and

sponsorship role.

CHANGING LIVES

Winrose is one of about 2000 kids who’ve now

attended St Jude’s, which currently houses about

1400 boarders, provides 1.2 million meals a year,

and has 600 computers, 26 school buses and a

staff of 300. The school also welcomes visitors to

stay in onsite accommodation where they can visit

the school and see its workings firsthand.

Looking back on the past 15 years of dedicating

her life to The School of St Jude - the tears, the

bloody hard work, the triumphs and the lives

changed - Gemma has no regrets: “When you

work with the students every day, there’s no way

you can have regrets,” she says. “Some days are

harder than others – and we’ve had our challenges.

But at the end of the day we are providing a

free, high-quality education to more than 1800

students who would not have had a chance to

attend school – and that’s why I do it.”

Get involved

For more information, to make

a donation or to organise to visit,

visit www.schoolofstjude.org.

10 GEMMA SISIA


Join us

demeterlegacy.com


Chelsea Dinsmore


Chelsea and Scott Dinsmore

CHANGING THE WORLD

BY LIVING THEIR CALLING

Scott Dinsmore set the world on fire for thousands of people across

the globe by encouraging them to forgo mediocrity to live a life they

love, through the online platform Live Your Legend. While living his

own version of a dream life with his vivacious wife Chelsea, Scott

was killed in a climbing accident, aged 33. Chelsea fought through

her grief to step up and inspire thousands in her own way. This is

their story of dreaming, forging, and living a life of legend.

CHELSEA DINSMORE 13


“... when your

life becomes

better, everyone’s

life around you

becomes better.”

Chelsea and Scott Dinsmore were in

their early 20s strolling down the

beach together in Santa Barbara,

California, hand in hand, dreaming of

their future together. As the sun set,

the young lovers tossed up visions of

their ideal futures. What does success

mean to us, they pondered? What do

we want from our lives? They realised

the traditional definition of success

– the corporate job, the white picket

fence and kids – didn’t excite them. They

dared to dream of a life of adventure, of

travel, of contribution. They wanted to make a

difference in the world, to grasp life with both

hands and experience all of its crazy, wild and

glorious riches.

Despite their dreams, it was another seven

years before they made such a life a reality.

The result is the online platform Live Your

Legend which inspires thousands of people

across the globe to change the world by

doing the work they love. The launch of

Live Your Legend and its consequent rise to

success set Chelsea and Scott on a whirlwind

adventure across the globe. They couldn’t

believe they were actually living the life they’d

once dreamed of – travelling to visit Live

Your Legend local groups from Panama to

Bulgaria, France to Kenya.

However, two years ago, just over halfway

into their 12-month globe-trotting adventure,

Scott was killed as the duo climbed Mount

Kilimanjaro together. A shattered Chelsea returned

home to America where she found solace in

continuing Scott’s dream of inspiring people to

live their calling through Live Your Legend. As

she’s battled with the grief of losing her husband,

Chelsea herself has turned to Live Your Legend’s

ideals to map out her vision for a future without

Scott, a new future based on discovering and

leading her true calling.

DREAMS OF ESCAPING RAT-RACE

Rewind to not long after that walk along the

Santa Barbara beach, and Scott and Chelsea

had returned to their corporate jobs, continued

their long-distance relationship and wondered

what they were doing climbing up their respective

corporate ladders to positions that didn’t

excite them.

It wasn’t until after they moved in together in

2009 and married a year later that Scott met

people who were making a living online doing

what they loved, and helping others. Scott met Leo

Babauta of the website Zen Habits and Corbett

Barr of Fizzle. Here were people living the life Scott

had dreamed of. Hell yes, Scott thought, this was

the life for him. He got serious. He rebranded a

website he’d started to Live Your Legend. And he

announced to Chelsea that we was going to quit his

job to work on Live Your Legend full-time.

A CRAZY VENTURE

“I thought he was totally crazy,” Chelsea says.

“I remember we’d just got married and were living

14

CHELSEA DINSMORE


together for the first time and he was going to bed

at 2am and waking up at 5am working on this

thing that was making no money. I was like, what

did I get myself into here? There was a period of

time where I was not buying into it – I didn’t get

how websites make money. Then when Scott

said he was going to quit his job to go full-time

on Live Your Legend, we needed to have one of

those conversations!”

But Scott could be passionate and oh-soconvincing.

And when Chelsea started to see the

difference Scott was making to people’s lives, she

too was hooked. “I could see the pureness of it,”

she says. “It was impossible not to be on board

when you could see that. It was a pure, genuine

message he was using and adding value to, to

turn it into a business.”

Chelsea says the Live Your Legend ideal is

not just about quitting a job you hate to take

up something you love. She cites the case of a

woman who approached her in Toronto to say

she’d been suicidal before attending a Live Your

Legend local meetup. “She said it was the first time

she’d ever felt like she’d belonged,” Chelsea recalls.

“That was so moving and so powerful. There are

so many stories of people who have come across

our stuff and it’s made them make really tough

decisions but ultimately led to the quality of their

life becoming better. And when your life becomes

better, everyone’s life around you becomes better.

You become a better person, a better parent,

a better sister.”

SPREADING THE MESSAGE

As Live Your Legend grew, Scott was invited to

give a TEDx Talk about what he was trying to

achieve through the website. This talk captured

the hearts of listeners. “Scott was definitely a force

of nature, larger than life,” Chelsea says. “That talk

became popular because people really connected

to him and felt an authenticity. But it didn’t go

viral – he worked really hard to get the talk spread

out.” Some 3.5 million people had watched Scott’s

TEDx Talk by the time Scott died. Today more

than 8 million people have watched it to hear

Scott’s message.

DREAM BECOMES REALITY

As life charged on Chelsea left her corporate

career and started doing what she loved – teaching

yoga with Jill Dailey at The Dailey Method, where

she also started social media marketing for the

business. As they both worked on their careers,

Scott and Chelsea would return to the vision they’d

dreamed up on the beach all those years ago. They

knew they wanted to travel and live abroad. Scott

was now working online with Live Your Legend and

Chelsea arranged to do the same with The Dailey

Method. After a decade of dreaming, they were

ready to make their dream a reality. They sold their

possessions, threw a big party and gave away the

rest of their stuff. They then boarded a plane with a

one-way ticket to South America.

“We had no routine, we didn’t know where we

were going to sleep, we were running businesses

but the internet was super inconsistent, and

Previous page

A kaleidescope of

images from Chelsea’s

Instagram feed pay

tribute to her

colourful, brave

and adventurous life.

Opposite page Scott

and Chelsea on their

year’s travel adventure.

Above Scott and

Chelsea travel the

globe visiting Live Your

Legend local groups.

CHELSEA DINSMORE 15


Above Chelsea has

found solace in silence,

nature and reflection.

Opposite page Chelsea

has found new strength

and wisdom, while

maintaining her zest

and spark.

everything takes longer when you’re on the road so

it took a little while to get into it,” Chelsea recalls. “It

also took us a little while to get on the same page.

Scott had this life-is-short attitude whereas I’m

more laissez faire saying like let’s spend a month in

this little remote village in Argentina and he was like

but then there’s Chile and Ecuador and Patagonia

and … So we had to get on the same page. But

then we got in our groove and it was great.”

The couple travelled through South America

for three months, visiting Live Your Legend local

groups in Argentina, Chile and Panama.

They journeyed through Europe, visited Morocco

and ventured into Eastern Europe during five

months’ of travel – a glorious whirlwind of ancient

cities, fired-up people and fascinating encounters.

Chelsea remembers visiting a Live Your Legend

group in Bulgaria and being struck by the

similarities between people the world over. “It’s

really unbelievable that you go to these places

in the world that, for a lot of people in the States,

seem 10 million light years away and people

literally believe in the same thing,” Chelsea says.

“This belief, this vision that Scott was wise enough

to come up with in his youth, it’s something that

transcends all religions and backgrounds and

cultural upbringings. The reality of it is that it taps

into part of the human spirit. We all know that

when we get out of our own way, and get out of

our own heads, we have a purpose in life. That’s

what Live Your Legend is all about – finding and

living your purpose.”

TRAGEDY

Fired up by their travels and the difference they

were making, the duo arrived in Africa, excited

about a hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

They rose at 3.30am on the day of the summit

attempt, and climbed for three hours through the

darkness. Stopping as the sun rose, they removed

their head lamps before making the final assault

on the summit. Not long afterwards, they heard a

shout from above and looked up to see boulders

thundering down the mountain.

Chelsea dove to the right from their single file line

and looked back to where Scott had been standing

behind her. He was no longer there – his form

laying prone further down the mountain.

“I remember the moment of looking back down

at him, I think it was the last moment I didn’t

realise the severity of the situation,” Chelsea says.

She flew to his crumpled body. At first he was

breathing. But his breath faded as Chelsea started

giving him CPR. Her frantic efforts brought him

back for a moment. “I see that moment as a gift,”

Chelsea says. “Because I had the chance to say

I love you.” Then, near the top of a mountain in

Africa, Scott was gone.

POWER TO GO ON

Chelsea then endured a five-hour return trek

down the mountain. Porters carried Scott’s body.

As tears streamed down her cheeks a voice in her

head whispered: “You can do this Chelsea, you

can do it.” Next came a blur of police, hospital,

questioning by the authorities and a 36-hour flight

home to America.

“The human spirit is a crazy resilient thing,”

Chelsea says. “I tell this story and I know I lived it

and breathed it and experienced it but it wasn’t

me, it was a part of me that is so much deeper

than the shell of me. I think we don’t tap into that

place until we have to. It’s amazing when you

realise the power of it.”

FINDING THE STRENGTH

Chelsea returned to America to no house, no

possessions, no husband. “If someone had said

ahead of time that this would happen to me I

never would have said I could overcome it,” Chelsea

says. “But in the moment that event happened I

became a fundamentally new person. A core part

of you changes and it’s that part you have to tap

into because that’s the part that knows the power

and strength you have.”

Chelsea says several factors motivated her to

claw her way back from grief. “Firstly, I knew at

a level that most don’t how short life is,” she

says. “It’s not some cliché phrase to try to

motivate me. My physical body knows every

moment of life is precious. Secondly, I really

aligned myself with this idea that the best way to

honour Scott and continue to love him in this new

dimension was to be me, because he loved me. He

loved this Chelsea – the smiley, the radiant and

goofy Chelsea.

“And thirdly, I had been close to depression and

suicide growing up and I made a decision at a very

young age that that was a path I’d never go down.

16

CHELSEA DINSMORE


In Chelsea’s words ...

Who inspires me

People who are living examples that your

external circumstances do not equate to

your happiness, like Nelson Mandela or

Viktor Frankl. These people are proof that

happiness lies within, no matter what is

going on around you. I am also inspired by

the everyday people out there on a mission

to live their legend, to not accept mediocrity

and make the choice to live their life with

intention.

Best advice

You always, always have the choice to focus

on what you do have or what you don’t.

And you can make the choice to appreciate

what you do have in any given moment.

I was never going to be a victim of life. I was going

to take whatever life handed me and turn those

lemons into lemonade. I was a little too close to

seeing how you could let external circumstances

lead you down the road of victim. Now I see that

as such a gift.

“It’s a gift because I was not in a good place

when I got home. Suicide wasn’t an option but I

wanted to die. I would wish that cars would run

over me, I’d wish that a tree would fall on me – I

did not want to live on this planet. And I couldn’t

live in that place for long. I got there, I felt the

depths of it and I said I cannot live here. It wasn’t

a ‘should’, or I’m going to figure it out, it was a

freaking must.”

OUTPOURING OF LOVE

Chelsea also gained solace in the support of the

Live Your Legend community. “I could never have

imagined the amount of love and support and

grace from all walks of life that came at me,” she

says. “I couldn’t believe it. I co uldn’t believe the

kindness of humans.”

Wanting to give back to these people who’d

supported her, she decided to write a blog post

of her own to the Live Your Legend community

explaining, in her own words, what had happened

in Africa. The responses made her realise her

writing could actually help people. By sharing her

pain and her journey she was helping others. So

she continued to do so. Chelsea took on Live Your

Legend herself, not just out of love for Scott, but

also for a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

FINDING HER PURPOSE

Recently, Chelsea has felt ready to step away

from the urge to hide behind Live Your Legend and

instead take its core advice – to determine her own

life calling and gift the world by living her purpose.

She has brought partners on board to help run

Live Your Legend while she figures out her future.

While she plans to stay involved with Live Your

Legend, she is also up for new callings life may

have in store for her. “The best thing I could do for

the business is to live out its philosophy,” she says.

“I feel like I’m at stage one of Live Your Legend.

Maybe I’ll start a little B and B, cook and teach

yoga and offer some kind of sanctuary. I’m about

the simple life. Scott was the big dreamer – the one

who wanted to change millions of people’s lives,

I’m good one on one. I’d love to help people who

come into my space – that’s where I shine and can

make the biggest difference.”

You could imagine that Scott would approve.

Speaking to his Live Your Legend audience online,

he said, “Imagine a world where 80 percent of

people love what they do – what would that look

like? What is the work you can’t not do? Discover

that, live it, because that is the work that changes

the world.” That is living your legend.

Get involved

Find out more about Live Your Legend and use its free resources to

determine your own calling at www.liveyourlegend.net

CHELSEA DINSMORE 17


Get out of

your comfort

zone as fast

as you can.

COSI COSTELLO

Cows for Cambodia founder


An Inspired Journey is no ordinary holiday. We

take you behind the scenes to meet the

inspirational people striving to make the world

better. We’ll meet world-changers, eco-warriors,

peace-makers and love-spreaders – diverse

people united in their belief in a better world.

And we’ll roll up our sleeves to help them.

Borneo

4–I2 May 20I8

Be inspired by the people

and nature in the pulsing heart

of the Bornean rainforest.

Cost: $3800 includes all flights

(Perth-Kuching-Mulu-Kota

Kinabalu-Perth), accommodation

and transfers.

Bali

24 August–I September 20I8

Connect with the locals and

get behind the scenes to meet

those helping children, dogs

and conservation projects.

Cost: TBA

For a full itinerary visit www.inspired.org.au/journeys


Geraldine Cox

Australian woman Geraldine Cox has rescued Cambodian children

from jungle war zones, stared down the face of AK47s to protect kids

without parents and remained in a city in the throes of a military coup to

stand up for the thousands of kids she’s come not only to protect, but to

love through her work at Sunrise Cambodia.

Opposite page

Geraldine has become

‘mum’ to thousands of

Cambodian kids.

It was 1997 and the Cambodian military had

staged a coup against the Cambodian royal

family. As tanks stormed the streets of Phnom

Penh, the royal family and all of their staff fled.

Except one. A red-haired, middle-aged Australian

woman – Geraldine Cox.

Geraldine had been working for the Cambodian

royal family, and helping look after 60 kids at a

nearby orphanage. As the military unleashed terror

throughout the city, a bus of ex-pats tore down

the street to Geraldine’s house, people screaming

out of the bus windows for Geraldine to flee the

country with them. But with the royal family and

its staff already gone, who would look after the

orphans? “I could never sleep another night if I left

those kids and didn’t know what had happened

to them,” Geraldine says. “That was a real turning

point. I realised these kids and Cambodia were my

destiny.” She shook her head and shouted back to

the bus passengers. She’d stay. The bus sped off

without her.

SHOCK ARRIVAL

Geraldine’s split-second decision that day would

spark decades of work in helping Cambodian

kids through the launch and operation of Sunrise

Cambodia. It would lead this woman, who thought

she’d never be a mother, to have hundreds of

children call her mum. It would show her that

happiness comes in service, in compassion,

in kindness.

Not that it had started out that way. Geraldine

arrived in Phnom Penh as a 25-year-old in 1970.

She’d recently discovered she was unable to have

children so she determined, if she couldn’t be a

mother, she’d opt for a life of glamour and travel.

She joined the Department of Foreign Affairs with

dreams of an exotic and sophisticated life in Paris,

or maybe Cairo or Rome. “But I found that I’d

been posted to Cambodia just a month after the

Vietnam War started,” she says.

As the young Aussie stepped into the embassy

car awaiting her at the airport, she was shocked

to watch the drivers check the underside of the car

for bombs. “That was my arrival,” Geraldine says.

“There were rocket attacks every night. There were

amputees bleeding in the streets. There were whole

villages fleeing from the carpet bombing with all

the animals in the streets. There were soldiers with

gun belts and grenades walking around. I felt like I

hyperventilated for the first couple of weeks.”

Yet there was something about this country that

captured Geraldine’s attention. On that first trip

Geraldine stayed in Cambodia for two years. And

even later, when she was posted to Manila, to

Bangkok, to Tehran, and Washington, she found

herself in the file rooms searching for the latest

dispatches from Cambodia.


Below After years

of globe-trotting,

Cambodia has become

Geraldine’s home.

Opposite page

(left and right) Sunrise

Cambodia offers

Cambodia’s orphans

happiness and hope.

A DAUGHTER

While in Cambodia Geraldine had adopted a

daughter. The seven-month-old baby had been

found in the street, crying and circled by dogs.

When Geraldine met her in the orphanage, she

was smitten. Geraldine adopted the girl, named

her Lisa, and took her home. Within two months

she noticed Lisa didn’t seem to be reacting to

noise. She tried cleaning the wax from her ears. No

change. So she took Lisa to an American doctor.

“He just looked at Lisa and me and said ‘why

would you want to adopt a child with cerebral

palsy? She’s got cerebral palsy, she’s profoundly

deaf and dumb, autistic, epileptic, diabetic and

severely mentally challenged.”

Shocked, Geraldine took Lisa home and, for the

next seven years, attempted to raise Lisa as she

travelled to foreign posts for her work. Eventually

she realised she couldn’t continue to care for Lisa in

the way she needed. Consumed by guilt, Geraldine

took Lisa back to Australia and arranged for her

full-time care in South Australia. Lisa continues to

live there today.

SACKED

With Lisa now in care, life charged on. Geraldine

did Australian embassy postings alone in

Bangkok, Tehran and Washington DC and resigned

from public service in 1987, before gaining work

with Chase Manhattan Bank in Sydney. “I’d gone

from politics, wars and civil disturbance, to working

in Sydney in a bank and found it so boring,” she

says. “Eventually my attitude towards my work

reflected that. And I got sacked three weeks before

my 50th birthday. I thought ‘oh my God, I’m fat

and 50. How am I going to compete with all these

young lovely, long-legged, 30-year-olds going out

for the jobs I am going after?’”

With little idea of what else to do, and still

suffering from the guilt of putting Lisa into care,

Geraldine returned to Cambodia in 1995.

CHILD RESCUE

Before the coup, Geraldine worked for Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, son of King Sihanouk, who

had been elected prime minister – the same Prince

who’d been landlord for Geraldine’s embassy

apartment in the 1970s. “I used to go to him and

his Princess wife every month to give him that

embassy check and say things like ‘hello Your

Highness, my toilet is broken, can you please send

someone around here to fix it’,’ she laughs. “So we

had, I wouldn’t say a deep friendship, but we knew

each other and had a few laughs.”

Back in Cambodia in 1995, Geraldine regained

contact with the Prince and asked for work. He

asked her to help rescue a group of 24 children

abandoned on the Thai border. The kids, aged

from two to 18, had no parents or guardians, and

had taken up residence in an abandoned school,

with the Khmer Rouge fighting around them.

“In fact, when I first went there you could hear

the fighting from the Khmer Rouge close by, while

we were shivering in our beds,” Geraldine says. “It

was a very scary place to be.” The kids were sent

to a site in Phnom Penh. This group of rag-tag

children would form the beginning of what would

later become the first Sunrise Cambodia residential

care centre.

MUM LOVES US

Fast forward to the coup of 1997, after Geraldine

had refused to board the bus with the other expats.

Geraldine found she had to wait three days

for the fighting to ease before she could reach the

children. Fearing what she’d find, she drove into

the grounds where the kids were staying, beeping

the horn in the same manner she did every time

she entered. “When I did that the kids came from

everywhere – from the laundry, from the kitchen,

the dining room – they just ran out. They were just

screaming ‘look mum’s here, she didn’t leave us,

she loves us’ and they practically lifted me out of

22

GERALDINE COX


the car, crying and laughing. From then, I knew

I’d done the right thing in staying.”

But not long after, tanks rolled into the centre’s

grounds and AK47-wielding soldiers lined up

the kids as they kneeled in the dirt, praying for

their lives and urinating in fear. Unbeknownst to

Geraldine, the Prince had given the land to house

the children illegally – it was in fact military owned.

And the military wanted it back. As the children

whimpered on their knees, Geraldine marched

towards the soldiers and confronted them. “I just

looked them in the eye – they were so young –

and said ‘does your mother know what you’re

doing here today?’” Geraldine says. “But that

didn’t have any effect.”

In the end, the soldiers left. Why? Geraldine

asked the kids. “Your hair saved us,” they said.

Apparently, and much to Geraldine’s amusement,

Cambodian women with unfaithful husbands

go to a famous witch who shrinks the adulterous

husbands’ penises to the size of a pea. Unlike

most people Cambodia, excepting Geraldine,

the witch has red hair. The soldiers decided

not to take any chances.

PLEA TO THE TOP

While chuckling at the result of her red hair,

Geraldine knew she couldn’t rely on her hair alone

to keep the children safe. She’d need to go the

top – to the man who’d mounted the coup in the

first place, Hun Sen. There was only one problem.

She’d been on international TV condemning him,

likening him to Pol Pot. Regardless, Geraldine

penned him a letter, apologising for her actions

and requesting an audience. She took the kids

with her, had them dance for him, and explained

their plight. “And I found him to be a really good

man,” Geraldine says. He not only apologised for

the way the soldiers had treated the kids at the

orphanage but gifted them 10 hectares of land for

a new residential care centre, supplied electricity

and arranged for the King to give Geraldine

Cambodian citizenship, under a Royal Decree,

saying the Cambodian children needed a

mother like her.

“I think he liked me – I was cheeky and

Cambodian women aren’t like that,” Geraldine

says. “I think he enjoyed my different personality.”

Later, when he asked Geraldine how else he could

help, she asked him to organise a rich Cambodian

husband – the only request he’s yet to gift!

GROWTH

That first orphanage, named Sunrise Children’s

Village (now Sunrise Cambodia), has now grown

to three residential care centres housing more than

200 kids. Sunrise also schools a further 3000 kids

whose parents can’t afford schooling. It installs

village wells, builds houses, provide bikes for kids

to ride to school and offers free health clinics. It

also helps pay the cost of wedding receptions for

orphans who’ve been through its care, and funerals

for those whose families can’t afford a burial.

Thousands of Cambodian kids now have a new

chance at life. And, like any mum, Geraldine

couldn’t be prouder.

SUCCESS STORIES

Among the hundreds of

stories that have captured

Geraldine’s heart is the

story of one boy, Tai, with

cerebral palsy, whose

mother had sold him to a

begging ring in Thailand.

Tai came to Sunrise as

a nine-year-old, with

crippled legs but a sharp

mind. Geraldine once

asked the kids what they

would wish for if they

had the chance to talk to

“Thousands of

Cambodian kids now

have a new chance at

life. And, like any mum,

Geraldine couldn’t be

prouder.”

GERALDINE COX

23


Buddha. Most kids dreamed of motorbikes, jewels,

cars or lovely houses. But Tai asked if Buddha

could make him a very good person in this life

time. Why? Geraldine asked. He responded,

“Because I must have been very, very bad in a

past life for my mother to throw me away and

for me to not be able to walk like other children. If

I’m very good in this lifetime maybe in my next

lifetime I’ll have a mother who will love me and I’ll

be able to run with the other kids.”

Or there’s the story of Waew, whose mother sold

her in Thailand aged around eight-years-old.

Waew remembers her mother pushing her towards

an old lady, taking some money from the woman’s

grubby fingers and saying ‘she’s your mother

now.’ The woman kept Waew with a roomful of

other kids, fed them but kept them dirty and sent

them out by day to beg on the streets before a

car rounded them up at night to return to the old

woman’s house.

Above Sunrise funded the rebuilding of this bridge to

enable kids to access school and parents to get to work.

Left Waew was sold to a Thai begging ring as a child,

had her face doused in acid and was dumped on the

streets before eventually making it to Sunrise Cambodia.

She has now graduated university and spoken about her

experience on the world stage.

24

GERALDINE COX


In Geraldine’s words ...

What inspires me

The indefatigable spirit of the Cambodian

people to suffer, survive and succeed

against all odds.

Best motto

There’s a crack in everything – that’s how

the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen).

The begging ring operators were unhappy with

Waew’s efforts so, in a bid to make her appear

more desperate, they doused her face in acid. With

no medical attention, Waew was forced back to

the streets to beg. But the begging ring operators

remained unhappy with Waew’s income. One day

the car failed to return to collect her. She was eightyears-old,

horribly disfigured and left on the streets.

The Austrian Consul discovered Waew on the

streets and, thinking she was a Thai girl, put her

into a Thai orphanage. When the orphanage

directors discovered she was Cambodian, she was

put into an immigration prison. “She’d been sold,

abused, tortured, rejected and imprisoned all by

the age of 10,” Geraldine says.

When Waew finally ended up at Sunrise,

Geraldine realised her disfigured face meant she

would suffer the taunts of children at school,

so Geraldine organised a private tutor. It soon

became apparent that Waew was smart. She

has since graduated from school and started a

Cambodian university degree in International

Relations. And she was recently the keynote

speaker in English at the International Burns

Survivor Conference in Geneva and received a

standing ovation.

When Geraldine asked her how she was faring

in the outside world, away from Sunrise’s

guardianship, Waew replied, “Some days are

good, some days are bad. People point at me and

whisper but I stand up straight and say to them

‘what I look like is not who I am’.”

MUM FOR LIFE

Despite the successes Geraldine, admits it’s

becoming harder to raise the $2.5 to $3 million

a year she needs to keep Sunrise running at its

current level. She relies on donations, mostly from

Australia, to continue her lifesaving work.

But, now in her seventies, she has no plans to

leave. “I say to the kids I want to be cremated

here, put in a jar and placed in the dining room so

I can hear all your gossip every night,” she says.

“Cambodia is my home and this is where I want to

end my days.”

Get involved

Above Geraldine.

You can support Sunrise Cambodia’s efforts by making a

donation online at www.sunrisecambodia.org.au.

Sunrise Cambodia is undergoing a reintegration program.

Where it is safe and possible, it is returning the children in

their care back to their relatives and the villages they came from.

That way Sunrise Cambodia is supporting the family and

village, not just the child.

GERALDINE COX

25


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This too shall pass.

GEMMA SISIA

The School of St Jude founder


SEDUCED BY THE

WONDERS OF NATURE

A trip with Borneo Ethical

Adventures leaves Inspired

Magazine editor Samille Mitchell

inspired by the jungle people

of Borneo, the individuals

working to protect Borneo’s

people and animals and, most

overwhelmingly, by the wonders

of Mother Nature herself.


Night is closing in as we trek through the

jungle and the night creatures begin their

chorus. As darkness envelopes us, a wind

whips through the treetops and fat raindrops begin

to pound the forest canopy above. The noise of the

rain combines with the cries of unseen armies of

insects to build to a pounding, shrieking, moaning

and trilling crescendo.

It’s an exhilarating symphony that pays tribute

to the diversity of life in this pristine jungle. I can’t

help but laugh out loud and feel my heart expand,

almost drunk on the sheer feeling of aliveness. For

here, in the pulsing, teeming, breathing womb of

the jungle, I’ve fallen under the spell of the world’s

greatest enchantress - Mother Nature.

new

Inspired

feature

SMITTEN

Here in Mulu World Heritage Area, Mother

Nature is at her most spellbinding. She has created

a world that is so extraordinary that it is one of few

places on earth that meets four criteria for World

Heritage Listing. I’m here as part of a Borneo

Ethical Adventures tour into Sarawak, Malaysia,

which aims to not only introduce visitors to the

wonders of the Bornean jungle, but also to help the

very people who have long called the jungle home.

Borneo Ethical Adventures founder Alison

Pritchard found herself similarly smitten by the

area after working here for two years as a Mulu

National Park manager. When she left, she pledged

to return. Only this time she would work for the

people she’d once employed, bring new people to

see their jungle home and donate 10 percent of

profits and a contribution from each tour to the

Bornean charities that had captured her heart.

KUCHING

We start our tour by falling under the charms

of Sarawak’s capital city Kuching, perched on

the banks of the Sarawak River. Kuching’s river

promenade is more reminiscent of Europe than the

chaos of other Asian cities I’ve visited. Here, no-one

harasses you to buy, instead they greet you with a

simple hello and a smile as you stroll the riverside.

The streets beyond the promenade offer a wonder

world of fascinations – traditional medicine shops,

tiny cafes, street food hawkers, basket weavers

and Chinese funeral suppliers with an array of

cardboard goods to send with loved ones into

the afterlife (think cardboard glasses, bow ties

and, heck, even cardboard beer cans if you fancied

a drop).

Among Kuching’s back streets we admire the

wares of one of Alison’s sponsored groups –

Helping Hands Penan. A group of ex-pat wives in

neighbouring Brunei formed Helping Hands Penan

to support the Penan people of the Bornean jungle.

Helping Hands Penan buys and sells weaved bags,

baskets and mats made by the Penan womenfolk,

in the process empowering the women to use their

traditional skills to support themselves and their

families. Purchasing their wares is not just about

doing good – the products are so stunning that

we struggle to fit them into our luggage on our

return flights.

Main Walking through

Mulu National Park.

Insets (left to right)

One of the charming

orangutans of Semenggoh

Wildlife Centre; showing

off a tiny butterfly; green

crested lizard; giant

pill millipede.

TRAVEL

29


Top The antics of

the Matang Wildlife

Centre orangutans.

Above right A local

woman shows off her

skills at playing the

Penan nose flute.

Above Inspecting the

wares of the Penan

Village markets.

Opposite page, top

left and right The

magnificent stalagmites,

stalactites, shawls and

flowstones of the caves.

Opposite page, right

Getting a different

perspective on the

Mulu Canopy Skywalk.

ORANGUTAN ANTICS

We’ve also visited Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

to fall in love with its resident orangutans. The

sanctuary was established more than 40 years ago

as a rehabilitation centre for endangered animals

and now has expanded to become a research facility

into orangutan biology and behaviour. We’re

lucky enough to see two mothers and their babies

emerge from the semi-wilds of their jungle home.

Their antics have the adoring crowd in raptures as

a youngster clowns around on rope, and a mother

orangutan allows us the odd glimpse of the tiny

baby clinging to her back.

We learn still more about orangutans from

Project Orangutan at Matang Wildlife Centre.

This rehabilitation centre and sanctuary is home

to rescued orangutans, and also receives support

through Borneo Ethical Adventures. Here, founder

Leo Biddle regales us with information about

the creatures to whom he has dedicated his life.

It’s the kind of conversation I dream of having

more often – a mix of fascinating information,

philosophical pondering, challenges posed and

suggestions formed.

We also have the chance to make ‘gifts’ for the

orangutans. We wrap a handful of food in leaves,

newspapers, material and socks for the orangutans

to unwrap. The packages provide stimulation for

these highly intelligent animals, many of whom

have been deemed unable to be released into the

wild. We throw the packages to the orangutans

and watch the shenanigans that unfold as each

orangutan reveals its personality type.

There’s the overweight madam orangutan,

who saunters off with her package and carefully

unwraps it, seemingly reading the newspaper

wrapping before draping the papers across her

head and body like an ungainly diva on a fashion

shoot. Or there’s the greedy matriarch who steals

packages from unsuspecting younger orangutans

and delights in guarding them all to herself. Or the

boisterous youngster who commando rolls away

from would-be package thieves, puts one of the

socks on his feet and monkeys around on ropes and

equipment. We are smitten, enraptured, entranced.

MULU WONDERLAND

Next we head to Mulu National Park and World

Heritage Area, where we meet the village school

kids that Borneo Ethical Adventures supports by

offering funding and equipment. Here we learn

local cooking skills from the women in the school

kitchen, and join the school staff for lunch, laughs

and a chat.

Later we visit Alison’s friend Lydia, who

prepares a traditional Bornean feast for us to dine

on in her jungle home. We arrive at Lydia’s by

longboat just in time to beat the rain, which pounds

outside as we tuck into wild boar in lemon grass,

Penan chicken and other local dishes.

30 TRAVEL


DAZZLING UNDERWORLD

But the star of the trip is Mother Nature

herself. Here at Mulu she has carved out great

amphitheatres deep within the earth. The cave

systems’ cavernous reaches soar hundreds of

metres high and snake hundreds of kilometres

underground. One such cave has a river charging

through its base – silent rushing waters racing

through the cave’s darkness.

Another such cave is home to millions of bats

who pour from the cave entrance on dusk, twisting

and swirling in great mists of black into the

darkening twilight.

Still another is home to a richly decorated

Aladdin’s cave of stalagmites, stalactites,

shawls and flowstones that Mother Nature has

painstakingly fashioned over unimaginable

stretches of time – ever patient, ever perfect in her

bid to create such breathtaking works of art.

And each of these caves has entrances ringed by

ethereal worlds of foliage, all the more enchanting

as you emerge from the darkness and back into the

jungle’s filtered green light.

The mix of cave underworlds, teeming jungle

and riotous insect life combines to transport you to

another realm. This is a return to Mother Nature as

she should be – primordial, pristine and intact.

Go on. Do it.

We loved this Borneo Ethical Adventures tour

so much that we’ve teamed up with Borneo

Ethical to offer our first Inspired Journey in

2018. We’ll interview charity founders, see

their operations firsthand and roll up our

sleeves to help. Find out more on page 21 or

by visiting www.inspired.org.au/journeys.


Conor Grennan

American man Conor Grennan

became an unwitting saviour

to hundreds of trafficked kids

in Nepal after what began

as an attempt to impress

his friends morphed into an

ongoing bid to reunite parents

with their stolen children.


Conor Grennan is the first to admit his trip

to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage was

never meant to make him a genuine hero. “I

really went out there to impress people,” he laughs.

Little did he know, the experience would end up in

him embroiled in a dangerous bid to stamp out

child trafficking and reunite stolen children with

their families.

SHATTERED PRECONCEPTIONS

Things didn’t go quite to plan from the moment

Conor swaggered into Little Princes as a 29-yearold

in 2004. “I’d never been to an orphanage before

and I’d never really had anything much to do with

kids before so I had no idea what to expect,” he

says. “Before you go you’ve got an image in your

mind and for me the image was it would be like

black and white and there’d be soft music playing

and I’d go in and there’d be orphans in the corner

and I’d go over and pet their head or something …

and soothe them and make their life have

meaning, and then I’d just go and read a book.”

As Conor arrived at the orphanage with this

image in mind, an avalanche of kids descended

on him in a tangle of limbs and squeals of laugher.

This was a teeming, squirming, hilarious and

boisterous mass of life. Conor didn’t know what

had hit him.

FALLING IN LOVE

It wasn’t long before Conor realised the

immensity of what he’d signed up for. In this

tiny orphanage, he and a handful of other

volunteers were 100

percent responsible for

the children. There was

no-one else to defer to, no

knock-off time. The kids were their

responsibility. Conor found he was

actually needed. And, to his surprise, he

realised he was enjoying the experience. “I

was really genuinely happy there,” he says.

“It was a really simple life where you weren’t

distracted by things. It was great to be in a

place where you’re not envying or coveting

something. Happiness or discontent comes from

seeing things you’d like to have or like to be and

can’t have and all sudden you’re in a little village

where there is basically nothing – that was an

extraordinary life experience for me.”

And of course there were the kids. “When I’d

heard people talk about the orphanages and how

wonderful the kids are I thought they were full

of it,” Conor says. “I thought you just had to say

that or you’d sound like a jerk. Then I really got to

know them. I didn’t fall in love with them because

they were sweet, I fell in love with them because

they were people – they were hilarious and they

were frustrating and they were really annoying

sometimes and they were funny sometimes and

thoughtful sometimes.”

SURPRISE VISITOR

While he’d loved the experience, by the end of

Conor’s three months volunteering stint he was

ready for the rest of his 12-month journey of world

travel. But, breaking the first rule of volunteering,

he promised the orphans he’d return.

His world travels were everything he dreamed

they’d be – jammed with adventure and action

and experience. But, remembering his promise, he

decided to return to Nepal before heading home to

start ‘real life’ in America.

It was during this return trip that a woman

visited the orphanage. Clad in rags, and obviously

from a rural area, the woman began asking after

her two children. “She came down the path dressed

like something out of National Geographic,” Conor

said. “And when she started asking after her kids I

felt bad for her. I was thinking you’re in the wrong

place, this isn’t like a school, it’s an orphanage –

the kids here don’t have parents.” But the woman

pointed to two children on the terrace and

insisted they were her children. As they stood

before her, there was no denying it. They were

her spitting image.

SHOCK REVELATION

Through a translator, the woman revealed how

she’d come from a remote area of Nepal – a

place reachable via an arduous trek through the

mountains, with no electricity, no running water,

no cars and mud huts for homes. Here, deep in the

mountains, Maoist rebels had invaded, and started

seeking out children to join their ever-swelling

army. They would storm schools, kill the teacher

and kidnap the students.

Frightened for their children’s lives, families

flocked to a man who wandered through the

region offering to save their children by escorting

them to Kathmandu and putting them through

school. Families rushed to enrol their kids, selling

their possessions, their homes, their land in a bid

to pay the rate required to ensure the lives of

their children.

Little did the families know, the man was a child

trafficker. He’d steal the children, dump them in

homes in the seething metropolis of Kathmandu

and hide them where their rural parents, who’d

never before travelled, had little to no hope of ever

finding them.

CHILD TRAFFICKING RIFE

The same man later discovered he could make

still more money by selling the kids as domestic

slaves. And later still he and others like him raked

in bigger dollars through adoption agencies who’d

offer ‘orphans’ to the West in exchange for around

$20,000US, including a $5000US donation to

the orphanage. Traffickers would forge death

certificates for trafficked children’s parents so they

could be sold as orphans.

Opposite page,

main The spectacular

mountains of Nepal.

Opposite page, insert

Conor surrounded by

the kids he’s come

to love.

CONOR GRENNAN

33


Above Overlooking

Kathmandu.

After the adoption racket was uncovered, the

traffickers set their sights on volunteer tourists.

They’d send out so-called orphans to find Western

tourists and invite them back to their ‘orphanages’.

Appalled to see the kids living in destitution, the

well-meaning visitors would ask how they could

help and start sending money from home. These

‘orphanages’ had Facebook pages and websites

and looked legitimate, yet the money went

straight to the pockets of child traffickers.

SEVEN LOST CHILDREN

Reeling from the information they were

discovering Conor and fellow volunteer at Little

Princes, Farid Ait-Mansour, knew they had to do

something. They started by taking the two boys to

visit their mother regularly, as she had no money

to look after them. One day, after lumbering for

two to three hours on a bus through Kathmandu’s

streets to visit, Conor discovered the mother living

with another seven children. The same trafficker

who’d stolen the women’s children had dumped

other children with her. “You have to understand

that if powerful man tells a woman from a rural

area to do something, they do it,” Conor says.

Realising the mother could not feed the other

children, Conor started bringing them food. He

couldn’t fit them into Little Princes but he’d found

them a home with another reputable orphanage –

the Umbrella Foundation.

Umbrella Foundation staff were due to pick up

the children, aged from six to about 12, when,

in 2006, the Maoists invaded Kathmandu.

“Everything closed while the Maoists tried to

overthrow the King,” Conor says. “It got dangerous

very quickly. Soldiers started shooting protesters.

I left the country along with everyone. I came back

to the US and watched it all unfold on CNN.”

After weeks of violence the Maoists overthrew the

King and Conor received an email from a contact

at the Umbrella Foundation. They’d arrived to

collect the seven children a day too late. The

traffickers had reached them first and kidnapped

them. Again these kids disappeared into the

teeming back alleys of Kathmandu.

HELPLESS

“At that point I felt pretty helpless,” Conor says. “I

had two choices – to say ‘wow, how tragic and isn’t

it horrible a lot of bad stuff happens in the world’ or

I could take personal responsibility,” he says. “It’s

not like I’d been looking for an opportunity to start

a not-for-profit or that I even wanted to go back

and change the world – I was done with Nepal. But

if I didn’t go back there wasn’t anybody who was

going to find those kids.”

ENORMITY OF PROBLEM

After spending a summer forming a not-for-profit

organisation and fundraising to pay for the search,

Conor returned to Nepal with no idea where to

start searching for the seven lost children. He had

photos of the kids and simply started asking until

he came across a man on the child welfare board

who agreed to help. He knew of several illegal

orphanages and agreed to take Conor there in

search of the children.

On the back of the man’s motorbike they tore

through the backstreets, up a nondescript back

alley to screech to a halt at a battered metal door.

Pounding on the door, the child welfare board

34

CONOR GRENNAN


member demanded entry, screaming at the man

who answered it and forcing his way in. Inside they

discovered a dark room filled with about 20 kids,

heads shaven, lice-ridden and hungry.

Conor scanned their gaunt faces. The seven

kids he was looking for weren’t among them. The

welfare board member prepared to leave, intent

on searching the next illegal orphanage. But

Conor stared at the kids. He couldn’t just leave

them. “What are you going to do?” the child

welfare board member asked. “We don’t have

the resources to care for them – at least here they

might eat.”

“I was just stunned,” Conor says. “It was

emotionally exhausting – seeing all those kids

and realising how huge this problem was – it was

just overwhelming.”

LUCK STRIKES

After visiting several such places, and becoming

increasingly disheartened, Conor heard from a

woman who ran another volunteer organisation

who believed she may have spotted one of the

girls among the seven children.

Conor bused to the village where she’d been sighted,

but as he roamed the streets he realised it was

useless. She could be anywhere. Shaking his head at

his own naivety for coming, Conor couldn’t believe it

when he looked up and saw the girl on the street.

Within the next few months he’d found six of the

seven children.

NEW HOME

In the meantime Conor and Farid had started

a new house to home more trafficked children

in Kathmandu, next door to the Umbrella

Foundation. They called it Next Generation Nepal.

They soon rescued another 20 kids and realised

they would need to try to find their families. But

they’d been stolen from one of the most remote

regions on earth. Conor had no desire to go there.

It would be dangerous for a start. He didn’t even

know if news of the Maoist ceasefire had reached

the remote mountain villages. But no-one else was

willing to travel in search of the parents.

MOUNTAIN QUEST

Conor eventually convinced a Nepalese man to

join him and together they hired an airplane to

reach one of the remote villages. Stepping into the

village, Conor felt as though he’d entered another

world. “I’d never seen anything like it,” he said. “I

just didn’t know the world looked like this. It’s just

mountains, no roads or bikes or cars. It’s like going

back in time.”

Although they’d obtained written permission from

the Maoists to visit, Conor remained worried about

attack. He was also concerned about the traffickers,

who had so much to lose by Conor telling the

families about the child-trafficking racket.

Amassing a team of helpers to join them and

help carry the supplies they’d need, Conor began

a 10-day journey on foot, pressing still deeper into

the mountains.

DISCOVERING PARENTS

As he scrambled down one particularly steep

mountainside Conor injured his knee and had to

rest for the day. But he couldn’t stay for long, lest

the winter snow make the return trip impossible.

Forging on, they came across a village where they

Above left Traffickers

had stolen the son of

this family, who Conor

found in the mountains

of Humla.

Above Conor’s

team presses into

remote Nepalese

mountains to find

families to reunite with

their stolen children.

CONOR GRENNAN

35


In Conor’s words ...

Who inspires me

The parents in the remote areas of Nepal who

work so hard to provide a life for their children.

Best advice

Try something that you don’t think you’ll like –

you could end up surprising yourself.

Above Conor (middle)

and his guide Rinjin (left)

meet the family of one of

the stolen children.

sat on the ground outside a mud hut as people

gathered to stare at them.

Showing a village elder a photo of some of the

kids from Little Princes, the man recognised a

face and called forward a couple – the parents of

one of the Little Princes children. After telling them,

through an interpreter, what had become

of their child, the parents wept and wept, relieved

to hear he was healthy but devastated at what

he’d endured.

“These parents loved their kids more than

anything else,” Conor says. “They were trying

do what was best for their kids.” Finding these

parents would be the first in a string of discoveries

throughout the mountains.

JOYOUS NEWS

“It was so fricken hard to walk up and over these

mountains to find a family but when we did – it

was easily a highlight,” Conor says. In one village

the parents of a boy, Jagreed, with whom Conor

had particularly enjoyed bantering, came forward.

Conor was confused. Jagreed thought his parents

were dead. He had the death certificates. Yet here

they were before him.

“That was unbelievable, and also kind of

strange,” Conor says. “I couldn’t just call home

to tell this boy. I knew I’d have this information

for weeks. I had all these letters that parents had

written to their kids. And knowing I was going to

take them home to the kids was amazing. That

moment of being able to share with them, that

was unbelievable.”

REUNITING FAMILIES

After that first trip to the mountains, Conor and

his team helped the younger children from Little

Princes and Next Generation Nepal return to their

parents. The older kids wanted to study in the city

so they returned on scholarship. The oldest one

is now in graduate school studying to become a

dentist. Jagreed has become a lab technician.

As Conor and the Next Generation Nepal team

discovered more and more trafficked kids, the

numbers of children at Next Generation swelled,

forcing Conor to open still more homes to house

them. But they soon realised they wanted to close

homes, not open them, and reunite trafficked kids

with their families. While today they have around

20 kids in a transit home, they aim to return them

to their families within a month of rescue.

So far they’ve reconnected some 550 kids with

their families. Yet there’s no easy way of doing this.

Teams have to put on a backpacks and trek into

the mountains to look for the parents.

INSPIRED BY CHILDREN

In 2007, three years after he’d first come to

Nepal, Conor was confident Next Generation

Nepal was operating well. He decided to return to

America, where he now works as dean of students

at the New York School of Business. Yet he remains

in charge of fundraising for Next Generation Nepal

and holds a position on its board. He keeps in

contact daily with Next Generation and visits when

he can. And, while he is now married and with his

own kids, the lost children of Nepal remain at the

front of his mind. Their smiles, their thirst for life,

their spirit in the face of what they’ve endured,

continue to inspire him.

Get involved

You can support Next Generation Nepal’s

efforts to reunite trafficked children with

their families by making a donation at

www.nextgenerationnepal.org

36

CONOR GRENNAN


wealth


Rochelle Courtenay

Pad lady

PROVIDES DIGNITY TO

DESPERATE WOMEN


Shocked at the shame homeless women

suffered at being unable to access pads

and tampons during their monthly period,

Queensland woman Rochelle Courtenay

launched Share the Dignity to provide sanitary

items to those in need. Along the way she

learned of the link between homelessness and

domestic violence and so turned Share the

Dignity’s attention to also helping families

grappling with violent homes. This once everyday

mum is now embroiled in some of the

country’s most traumatic domestic violence

cases, but is driven by seeing the difference that

restored dignity makes to people’s lives.

It was a sunny day as Rochelle Courtenay sat

in her comfortable Queensland home scanning

her computer screen. She scrolled through the

items on the popular women’s website Mamamia,

reviewing headlines, celebrity gossip and news.

But Rochelle’s bright world darkened as one

article glared from her computer screen. The

article revealed the shame that seizes thousands

of homeless women each month during their

menstrual period.

With little money and no bathroom of their

own, these women hide in public toilets and

stuff newspapers and paper towels into their

underwear in a bid to stem their menstrual flow.

As someone who’d battled the trauma of heavy

monthly periods with endometrosis, Rochelle was

horrified. Surely such indignity wasn’t happening

in Australia? Surely this was a basic hygiene

requirement for which these women could

get help?

Rochelle felt her heart contract with sympathy

for these women and the indignity they suffered

each month. She pledged to do something to help.

And what began as a one-off drive to encourage

the donation of pads and tampons for women in

need has morphed in to the national phenomenon,

Share the Dignity. “I guess I was bewildered about

how you could read something like that and not do

something about it,” Rochelle says. “I didn’t set out

to start a pad empire or become known as the pad

lady but I knew that every packet I could provide

would help.”

Today Share the Dignity not only provides

sanitary items to disadvantaged women, but

also pays for the funerals of those killed through

domestic violence, funds activities for children

of domestic violence and lobbies for the rights of

domestic violence victims and their families.

Such is the impact the charity has had on

disadvantaged Australian women, that Rochelle

was named Cosmopolitan Humanitarian of the

Year for 2016. Rochelle is quick to downplay the

award, crediting it to the army of 1100 volunteers

she has now gathered around her.

This once everyday personal trainer and

suburban mum now spends her days embroiled in

some of the country’s most tragic circumstances.

What drives Rochelle to dedicate so much of her

life to helping women she has never met?

BECOMING THE ‘PAD LADY’

“I just thought I’d do that one drive [for sanitary

items] and that would be the end of it,” Rochelle

says. But several months after donating 450

packets of pads and tampons, Rochelle received a

phone call from a friend who worked with victims

of domestic violence. Did she have any sanitary

pads left? No, but she could do a call-out to

those who’d helped before and see what they

could collect.

This time the drive went viral. Rochelle began

fielding calls from all over Australia from

women who wanted to help stockpile the

nation’s biggest stash of tampons and

pads to gift to women in need. One

woman in Darwin worked at a service

station and was saddened by the sight

of women stealing tampons, then

shuffling to the bathrooms, a trail of

blood in their footsteps. Distraught at

the sight, the woman turned a blind

eye to the theft. Another woman called

from Melbourne. She too wanted to

help. There were calls from Sydney,

Adelaide, everywhere. They started

veranda collections, in which people would

Above Rochelle shows

the fundraising handbags

she sells to raise money

for her cause.


unwanted bathroom products such as shampoos

and moisturisers to give to people in need.

Above Yoga for Dignity

raises funds for homeless

women and domestic

violence victims.

Right Rochelle and her

friend Hannah, fundraising

for the cause.

FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO HOMELESS

In 2015 Rochelle was manning a Share the

Dignity stall at a Gold Coast Homeless Connect

event when a 45-year-old woman approached

her for help. “She asked me for pads and tampons

and, when I gave them to her, she looked at me

like I was fricking Santa,” Rochelle says. “I got

talking to her and found out she had two kids who

went to school and they were living out of their car

on the Gold Coast.” After eight years of beatings

from her partner, the woman had garnered the

courage to leave, preferring life in the car to that

of her violent home. She’d cook on free barbecues

along the Gold Coast foreshore, and shower herself

and her kids in public bathrooms before sending

them to school. She had no idea there were people

she could call for help.

“Her story made it really apparent how many

homeless women were out there because of

domestic violence,” Rochelle says.

put a box on their veranda where others could

donate pads and tampons.

As the idea gained momentum Rochelle became

swamped in requirements for licensing, permits,

boards and constitutions. With the help of her

fiance she formed a board. And the right people

kept approaching her to help. A barrister and an

accountant put up their hands to join the board.

An academic with a PhD in world menstrual health

looked her up. Who knew such a title existed? Yet

they too soon joined the Share the Dignity team.

“I surrounded myself with the people with the

skills I needed to have,” Rochelle says.

PAD EMPIRE EXPANDS

Today Share the Dignity runs two drives a year,

through its partner Terry White Chemists, to

provide sanitary packages to 1500 charities across

the country. It has launched 30 custom-designed

tampon vending machines in areas that homeless

women often frequent, to enable them to access

sanitary products.

Share the Dignity sells specially designed

handbags to raise money for more sanitary

items, and it packs bags with donated new and

FUNERALS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS

Move on to 2016 and Rochelle was in her car

listening to the news when she heard the story of

mother-of-six Michelle Reynolds from Redcliffe in

Queensland being slaughtered by her husband.

Here was yet another case of domestic violence

that had ended in death. Rochelle’s eyes flooded

with tears as the voices of Michelle’s loved ones

rang out from the airwaves, pleading for help to

cover the funeral costs for their slain friend. “I sat

there crying in my car,” Rochelle says. “I couldn’t

believe this was happening to them.”

Rochelle again embarked on research. She

discovered that Michelle’s case was no one-off. She

learned that morgues won’t release bodies until

they get the okay from the funeral home that the

cost for the funeral is covered.

Rochelle couldn’t shake the image of grieving

families facing the added trauma of being unable

to pay for the funeral of their loved ones. So Share

the Dignity expanded its offerings and stepped

up to pay for the funerals of people killed through

domestic violence.

FUNERAL HELP

Share the Dignity helps with cases like that

of a little boy murdered by his father, after his

father gained joint custody, despite the mother’s

desperate warnings that her son wasn’t safe.

Share the Dignity paid for the return of the boy’s

ashes to his grieving mother, ensuring the ashes

were delivered in the teddy bear urn his mother

had requested.

Share the Dignity also recently paid for the funeral

of an Aboriginal woman killed through domestic

violence in January, her body left in the morgue for

40

ROCHELLE COURTENAY


In Rochelle’s words ...

Who inspires me

My daughters. I always wanted to raise strong, kind,

considerate, independent and funny women and that’s

exactly how they’re turning out to be.

Best advice

Kindness is free, sprinkle it everywhere.

months because no-one had the money to pay for

the funeral of their loved one.

And Share the Dignity stepped in during the case

of the Teresa Bradfield murder in Queensland – a

case that shocked Rochelle, along with the rest

of the country, when the mother of four was

murdered after her husband was released on bail,

confirming Therese’s terrified predictions that his

release would result in her death.

EASING THE TRAUMA OF TRAGEDY

“The Teresa Bradfield case really stands out for

me,” Rochelle says. “We contacted the family five

days after she was killed to let them know we

could pay for the funeral. But that was the easy

part. At one point her brother had to buy a wig for

Theresa for the burial. We said don’t worry – we’ve

got it covered. We had it bought, coloured, cut

and restyled over the weekend. Then, they were

told they needed to go into the house where she

was killed – to enter the crime scene – and clean

it and remove Teresa’s things. Can you imagine

dealing with this stuff when your sister has been

murdered? So we put out a call to the Share the

Dignity community and had 20 women turn up

and clean the house in two hours. That’s the power

of what women will do for each other.”

Shocked at what the family had to endure,

Rochelle began lobbying for a checklist to be

provided to the families of those killed by domestic

violence, listing Share the Dignity, lawyers,

counsellors and more to ensure grieving families

are aware of their rights and the help available to

them. “They have the worst possible thing that

could happen to them, happen, and then they

are left to deal with it on their own. That needs to

change, and we have the ability to change it.”

funds sports, music and camps for kids affected

by family violence.

“Every day, in thousands of homes across

Australia, children are exposed to domestic

violence that will scar them for life,” Rochelle says.

“They hide in their bedrooms or, being too afraid to

move, they watch on as their mothers are beaten

by abusive partners. By participating in healthy,

positive, social activities where they feel cared for,

these traumatised children are given a ray of hope

that their futures can still be bright. It just gives

them a chance to be a kid, to smile and laugh for

a while.” One of Teresa Bradfield’s children has now

taken up archery under the Activities 4 All scheme.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Of course funerals and scholarships are not

cheap exercises, and Share the Dignity remains

committed to funding sanitary items as well. So it

has ramped up its fundraising activities. As well as

selling Handbags with Heart to raise money, and

conducting Dignity Drives, Share the Dignity now

offers fundraising Yoga for Dignity events and ‘I

Stand Up’ comedy nights.

It’s a massive commitment for Rochelle. “If we

lose 80 women every year to domestic violence,

that’s $800,000 we need to raise to cover funeral

costs. And every time we spend money we say ‘oh

my God that much money could buy this many

period packs’.”

Despite the immensity of the task, Rochelle says

she’s driven by a sense of purpose. “My ‘why’ is

really easy,” she says. “It makes a difference to

people. When I’m tired and cranky I tell myself

to calm down – I’ve got a house, I’ve got a car,

I’ve got friends, a family and food on the table. I

say suck it up princess and move on. There are so

many more people out there waiting for help.”

Above Rochelle amid

a pile of donated items

for women in need.

SMILES TO TRAUMATISED CHILDREN

Even before working with people like the Bradfield

family, Rochelle had realised the extent of

devastation families of domestic violence victims

were left to deal with. And she felt so deeply for the

children left to continue life without their mum. So

Share the Dignity launched Activities 4 All, which

Get involved

You can support Share the Dignity by visiting them online

at www.sharethedignity.com.au

ROCHELLE COURTENAY

41


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Moira Kelly

Moira Kelly

HELPING DESPERATE, DISABLED

AND DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN


Moira Kelly has saved the

lives of hundreds of children

and transformed the lives of

thousands more through her

work in some of the world’s

darkest corners. In areas

from which most people flee,

Moira has offered hope and

love to the kids most people

have forgotten – from HIV/

AIDS-infected babies, to

disfigured children, to kids

suffering life-threatening

injuries from war.

As a seven year old growing up in suburban

Melbourne Moira Kelly sat in her humble

home watching a documentary about

Mother Teresa. Images of the saintly woman caring

for others shined from the TV screen, and a young

Moira felt her head and heart fill with longing.

That’s what she wanted to do with her life, she

determined. She too would live a life in service

to others.

This was no passing whim. For Moira has since

charged into the most desperate corners of the

globe to help the world’s neediest people. While

others flee, Moira has volunteered everywhere

from the Bronx of New York City where she’d cradle

AIDS and drug-affected babies in her arms, to

the refugee camps of Bosnia where she’d treat

people ravaged by war, to Romanian orphanages

to nurse AIDS-infected children, to the slums of

Calcutta where she’d tend to the dead and dying.

Her work has also brought her home to Australia

where she saves the lives of sick

and disfigured children from Third

World countries whom most deem

too hard to help. She fundraises

for the medical evacuation

and care for the children and

has also welcomed several

into her home. Among these people are the

conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna, who brought

Moira widespread recognition when they were

successfully parted by surgery in 2006.

While Moira has seen humanity at its worst, she

has also seen it at its kindest. When she looks back

on her life today she declares that, while she may

not be rich, she is living the best life in the world.

DETERMINED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

As a kid, while other girls her age discussed

makeup and boys, Moira would volunteer at a

workshop for disabled kids or hand out food

at soup kitchens. By the time she was 19 Moira

had worked hard, saved madly, sold her car and

booked a flight to Calcutta. “I told my mum I had

a great place to stay and a great place to work –

what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her,” Moira

laughs. In reality, she had no real plan – simply to

arrive in the seething mass of humanity in Calcutta

and ask where she could find Mother Teresa.

VALUE OF LIFE

The plan worked and it wasn’t long before Moira

was volunteering in a children’s orphanage in the

mornings and at a home for dying and destitute

men and boys in the afternoons. She’d visit the

railway stations to seek out the desperate and

get them to the home for care. “I’d do things like

change the dressings of the boys and men in

the home for the dying and destitute – maggotinfested

wounds, amputating a couple of toes that

had nearly fallen off anyway, that kind of thing,”

Moira recalls.

SMILES TO THE NEEDIEST

While visiting home in Melbourne during her twoyear

stint in India, Moira learned how to put on a

clown performance and returned to India where

she earned a name for herself and her travelling

clown show. She’d visit orphanages, leprosariums

and old people’s homes where she’d attract

crowds of up to 400 people to see her clown

show. She revelled in bringing smiles to the

faces of those who were suffering most.

During this time Moira also got to know a

chap with contacts at a private hospital

for the wealthy. In the manner for

which she would become renowned,

Opposite page,

clockwise from top left

Emmanuel and Ahmed

Kelly with Moira; Moira in

the Bronx; Moira’s family

three years ago; Moira in

Albania; Shahd is being

cared for in Moira’s home;

Moira with one of the

children she cared for in

the Bronx, New York.


Above Moira in Botswana.

Right Moira in the

Bronx of New York.

she convinced a doctor there to treat the povertystricken

patients. “We’d sneak patients to this

hospital where poor people shouldn’t go and hide

in a surgery – we couldn’t be seen in the waiting

rooms,” she said. “We’d then sneak patients in

between wealthy patients.

AFRICAN POVERTY

After two years in Calcutta Moira felt called to

help elsewhere. She returned to Melbourne and

again worked and saved like crazy to fund her

next trip of service. She first travelled to Botswana

where she spent six months helping the Kalahari

Bushmen and then three months in Johannesburg

working in soup kitchens in the city’s most

desperate slums. She remembers looking out of

the sea of ramshackle homes, smoke rising above

the rooftops, and being struck by the sheer depth

of the poverty. She also recalls the violence – and

how quick uprisings could flare up among people

grappling with the frustration of daily life there.

DRUG AND AIDS-AFFECTED BABIES

Africa was simply a stopover en route to a place

that had long called to her – the Bronx of New York

City. Here she yearned to help babies withdrawing

from the crack cocaine habits of their mothers with

HIV/AIDS – a problem that was rife in the 1980s.

Moira made her way to a nursery in a New

York Hospital which homed these babies. She’d

spend all morning there cradling and playing

with the newborns. “You can never underestimate

the importance of being held,” she says. In the

evenings she’d venture out in a soup van to feed

those living rough on the streets.

ROMANIAN AIDS KIDS

Moira adored her time in New York and could

have stayed forever but, two years after she

arrived, she received a phone call from a priest in

Ireland. Could she come to Romania to coordinate

the volunteers at a Romanian orphanage for kids

infected with HIV/AIDS? At the time Romania had

one of the worst HIV infection rates in the world.

Moira couldn’t resist the calling.

She travelled to Romania in the early 1990s

to work in a building that housed an infectious

disease hospital with three floors filled with sick

and dying children. All had HIV. Moira organised

for babies to be homed on the bottom floor, a

palliative care ward on the middle floor and the

kids with the best chance of survival on the top

floor. “It was one of the most wonderful times in my

life,” Moira says. “And one of the saddest times. We

lost quite a number of children. Sometimes it was

the healthiest kid and the last one you’d expect

to go. Romania was a poor country with the most

beautiful people who are rich in spirit. But they fell

into these terrible circumstances with their children.

While I was there I met some of the most amazing

people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.”

A DEFIANT CHRISTMAS

Moira’s time in Romania was just after the reign

of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who’d outlawed

Christmas with a promise to imprison anyone who

dared celebrate it. Not one to be told what she

couldn’t do, Moira decided to put on a Christmas

celebration for the Romanian AIDS-infected kids.

She and the volunteers adorned the orphanage

with Christmas decorations, organised a doll and

new clothes to be gifted to every child, played

festive music on every floor, and enjoyed a

Christmas breakfast together. “That was really

special,” Moira says. “To see the kids – I’d never

seen them so happy.”

46

MOIRA KELLY


In Moira’s words ...

Who inspires me

Mother Teresa. I’ve always loved her.

Best advice

Little things can mean a lot. Do little things in great

ways. Also, we always see the good in others before

we see the good in ourselves.

BOSNIAN WAR ZONE

Meanwhile the Bosnian War had broken out

between Serbs, Croats and Bosnians in the 1990s.

As fighting erupted throughout the country,

thousands of people were driven from their homes,

held in refugee camps, raped, tortured, deported,

or killed.

While others fled the war zone Moira booked her

ticket there. She set herself up in a refugee camp

for six months – the only non-refugee living there.

She lived in a porta-cabin amid a sea of tents that

housed whole families fleeing the terrors unfolding

throughout Bosnia. Many were sick or injured in

the war.

Moira set up a kindergarten, organised fresh

fruit and vegetables for the refugees with aid

money from Australia and nursed patients with

amputated limbs, heart defects, and shrapnel

injuries. Most of the refugees were women and

kids. Many of the injured were babies and children.

Some had no chance of surviving if they stayed in

the refugee camp.

MEDICAL EVACUATIONS

Among the sick and injured children was a girl

with a chronic illness who would go totally blind

without medical intervention. Moira organised for

her to travel to Ireland for an operation to save her

sight. Next she raised money to send a group of

15 sick kids to America where she’d convinced a

number of hospitals in Boston to treat them.

Later still she met a boy and his desperate

mother. The boy had lost his leg in the war, and

his father had died. Their plight prompted Moira to

self-fund their medical evacuation to Melbourne.

She sent children to Ireland, Canada, England,

Austria and the United States in increasing

numbers to get them the medical help they

needed. Despite the trauma of their wounds and

illnesses and the shock of travel, the children were

incredibly resilient. “These kids have gone through

war and they’re sick, so for them it seems like a

miracle to be sent to another country for help,”

Moira says.

BEAUTY AMID EVIL

The work in Bosnia was perhaps Moira’s most

challenging so far. “I saw things there that I’ll never

share with other people,” she says. “But sometimes

you can go to such a dark place and in the midst

of it all there’s these stories of the most amazing

and compassionate people.”

Moira would remind volunteers who were

struggling with the atrocities they witnessed how

fortunate they were. “I’d just remind them that

they had a passport and could leave whenever

they’d like,” Moira says. “But the people there

couldn’t do that – for them there was no way out.”

BRIDGING DIVIDES

Among Moira’s most treasured memories in

Bosnia was organising annual holidays for the

children to leave the refugee camp for a week’s

getaway by the sea. “It was so wonderful to be

able to take them out of a refugee camp, out of

a terrible war and get them away from all that,”

Moira says.

On one such trip she set tongues wagging by

organising for Catholic and Muslim kids to travel

together. She was spurred into action when a

Top Moira in Botswana.

Above Moira in

Australia with amputees

from Bosnia.

MOIRA KELLY 47


Above (left to right)

Trishna, Moira

and Krishna.

Catholic child expressed shock that Muslim children

had also been injured in the war. In disbelief he

said, “But no-one hurts Muslims – they are the

ones that kill Croatians.” After Moira revealed there

was fighting on both sides he tugged at her shirt.

“Moira,” he asked. “What does a Muslim look like?”

With that one innocent question, Moira determined

that the children of both religions should meet –

to give the opposing side a human face. The trip

together was a massive success.

Moira stayed in Bosnia for four and a half years.

GLOBAL AMBULANCE

As the Bosnian War drew to a close, Moira was

called to Albania. Here she spent three years

helping the underprivileged, especially disfigured

children. From her laptop in this poverty-stricken

corner of the world, Moira would plead, urge, cajole

and convince friends, volunteers, doctors and

hospitals to treat the children before returning

them home again. She estimates she sent some

200 children for medical treatment during her time

in the Balkans.

BECOMING A MOTHER

During her time in Albania, Moira took over

guardianship of two boys of her own – Ahmed and

Emmanuel from Iraq. Both orphans had serious

disabilities and Moira organised multiple surgeries

and provided a loving home. Ahmed is now a

world record-holding Paralympian swimmer and

Emmanuel has recently signed a music record deal

in the United States.

Having sent children the world over, Moira

decided to establish a home in Australia especially

to house those in need of life-saving surgery. In

2001 she opened the Children First Foundation,

which has since helped more than 350 children

to be treated for critical conditions including

those requiring open heart surgery, bowel

reconstruction, plastic surgery, amputations

and new prosthetic limbs.

During this time Moira also met the twins Trishna

and Krishna, born conjoined at the head in

Bangladesh in 2006. She organised their medical

evacuation to Australia where they underwent

ground-breaking 38-hour surgery that saved their

lives. Moira says she was their aid worker, then

their nurse and, along the journey, she became

their mum.

The twins now live with Moira in Melbourne and

their biological mother and younger brother live

with them too, so the twins have two mums.

They call Moira “Mummy” and their mother “Ma”.

Trishna is now in grade four and Krishna attends a

developmental school.

LUCKY IN LOVE

By 2007 Moira was ready to focus more on

her adopted children. She handed over the reins

at Children First Foundation and, with the help

of friends and fundraisers, obtained a house in

Melbourne. Here she not only nurtures her own

adoptees but also welcomes in those whom others

deem “too hard.” “There are always going to be

people bringing in kids like Trishna and Krishna

who are too easy to say no to,” Moira says. “They

are the ones I want to help.”

Moira has recently launched her own foundation,

the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation. She

has taken in a woman from Africa who was

trafficked to Australia, separated from her children

and recently gave birth to twins. Then there’s

the seven-year-old from Palestine with a horrific

skin condition that appears like burn scars all

over her face whom Moira now homes. And the

five-year-old with a condition that gives her the

world’s biggest feet. Plus more. Together they

live in a busy house that’s a gorgeous chaos of

nationalities, laughter and love.

“I’m the happiest I’ve been in many years,” Moira

says. “I look around at all these beautiful people

I’ve got living with me and it keeps me young. I

love getting up in the mornings to them all. I think

I’d have to be the luckiest person in the world.”

Get involved

You can support Moira’s work through the

Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.

Visit www.creatinghopefoundation.org.au.

48

MOIRA KELLY


TORII HOUSE

Designed by MORQ Architecture

Construction beginning in 2018 by SUBIACO HOMES


If we can't be nice we

should just be quiet.

LINDA BULLER

Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre founder


BOOK: HALF THE SKY –

TURNING OPPRESSION INTO

OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN

WORLDWIDE

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

If you read one book this year, make

it this one. Pulitzer-Prize winning

journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl

WuDunn delve deep into the plight

of oppressed women throughout the

developing world. The book looks into

sex trafficking, domestic violence and

health care by zeroing in on the stories

of individual women. While the stories

are heartbreaking, they are also uplifting.

For the book shows us the way forward.

It showcases the stories of inspirational

women who’ve made change, despite

the obstacles. It reveals the power of

education to overcome oppression. It

highlights the need to embolden women

to demand another way. And it provides

a toolkit to show how we in the Western

world can help. After reading Half the Sky,

you can’t help but feel fired up to make

a difference. For, if we help women, we

help their children, their families, and their

communities. If we help women, we help

the world.

PODCAST: THE SLOW HOME PODCAST

When I first stumbled upon this podcast I binge

listened on a six-hour car trip like a crazed woman

soaking up all its wisdom, which is kind of ironic as

it’s all about simplifying, being present and slowing

down. Hosted by author Brooke McAlary and her

husband Ben, the podcast features interviews with

inspirational people as well as general musing

on what it means to live a slower life. While they

advocate for minimalism, the podcast is not about

scarcity. Rather, it’s about living a richer, more

fulfilling life by slowing down. It’s about enhancing

our personal relationships by being present. It’s

about helping the environment by consuming

consciously. And it’s about conscious and

compassionate living in general. While virtuous in

her intentions, Brooke relates to her listeners in a

way that’s delightfully free of righteousness. She

has also recently released a new book, Slow, and

blogs about slow living at www.slowyourhome.com

“A capacity, and taste,

for reading gives access

to whatever has already

been discovered by others.”

Abraham Lincoln

MAGAZINE: DUMBO FEATHER

Ok, it may not be business savy to promote

another magazine, but I’m so in love with

Dumbo Feather that I couldn’t resist. This

Australian quarterly print magazine features

conversations with extraordinary people doing

amazing things in the world – eco-warriors, filmmakers,

humanitarians, activists and everyday

people making real impact in their own way. The

stories are presented in a question and answer

format rather than journalistic articles. However,

unlike traditional Q and A’s, Dumbo Feather

interviewers also put forward their own opinions

and thoughts to result in truly philosophical,

informative and inspiring dialogues. You can’t help

but feel uplifted after reading these inspirational

conversations. I truly believe that conversations

like this have the power to change the world.

www.dumbofeather.com

REVIEW

51


Linda Buller

Linda Buller has dedicated the past 20 years of her life to saving

Bali’s abused street dogs. As a survivor of abuse herself, she is awed

by the dogs’ capacity for recovery – at the way they can forgive

humans for abuse, and remain open to healing and love.


Previous page

A Balinese street dog.

Below The street dogs

who’ve captured Linda’s

heart, at home in their

BARC refuge.

All photos by Patria

Jannides Photography.

Linda Buller was on her first trip to Bali, high

on the beauty of this tropical isle and miles

from her painful past, when she came

across what would become the first of thousands

of abused street dogs. The wretched creature

staggered by the side of the road, barbed-wire

thin, mangy and with its brain exposed to the air

from where someone had taken to its head with

the blade of a rice slasher. She couldn’t shake the

image of the dog from her mind. It wasn’t just that

she was a dog lover, it was that she could identify

with the creatures. Abused, damaged, depressed.

Like the dogs, these were labels she’d battled

since childhood.

Linda didn’t know it at the time, but sighting that

dog would rekindle the fierce sense of justice that

had stirred within her as a child – the overwhelming

urge to stand up to wrongdoers. So strong did

this sense of justice become that eventually Linda

would go on to found Bali Dog Adoption and

Rehabilitation Centre (BARC), homing hundreds of

sick and dying dogs in Bali, healing them, loving

them and attempting to find them new homes.

FIGHTING INJUSTICE

The urge to fight for the underdog began early.

As a kid Linda remembers chasing down boys

who had done the wrong thing and berating them.

Someone had punched her cousin. A seven-yearold

Linda beat him with her umbrella. Some had

started a fire and stolen some jewellery. A sevenyear-old

Linda chased him down and beat him in

a fury of small fists.

She’d fight people close to her too. She says one

man would creep into her room, even when her

smaller sister lay sleeping on the bottom bunk, to

try and sexually and physically abuse her. One

day, as a teenager, Linda braced herself against

the bunk’s strong wooden uprights. “I held onto

both beams and rolled backward using my legs as

a spring and when the door opened I let him have

it, both feet shot out into his midriff and down he

went,” Linda says. While this only served to further

enrage the man, she was determined to stand

up to him. She was terrified that submitting to

him would rob her of what remained of her spirit.

Without her spirit, she’d be crushed.

ESCAPE

So bad did the abuse become that Linda

contemplated suicide. But what would happen to

her dog and her crow?

The trauma of Linda’s childhood would spark an

adulthood of ongoing crises. An abortion at 16. An

attempted overdose at 20. Married by 20. A mother

by 20. A heavy drinker by 22, institutionalised in a

54

LINDA BULLER


mental home by 23, divorced at 24. By 30 Linda

had remarried and again fallen pregnant. She gave

birth to a premature girl, Francesca. The tiny child

died within hours of her birth.

HOPE

Unable to cope with the grief that swamped her

after her daughter’s death, Linda left her husband

and, after winning a contract to paint a mural,

she spent her new pay cheque on a month-long

escape to Bali. Removed from the scenes of her

haunted past, the fierce fighting spirit that had

saved her as a child resurfaced. Maybe, just

maybe, she could turn her life around. Maybe she

had the chance to refuse to be defined by her past.

Linda also met a Balinese man whom she’d go

on to marry. Back in Australia, she set up a mobile

massage service in Melbourne which became so

popular she trained her own team of staff and

they’d massage VIP guests in swanky resorts.

“There was no hanky panky,” Linda says. “We

all had uniforms, we were professional, we used

good quality essential oils and had a respected

reputation.” During these few years Linda enrolled

in university and also studied traditional Chinese

Medicine, receiving her Diploma of Traditional

Chinese Medicine in 1990.

While on the surface Linda’s life seemed more

positive than ever before, she couldn’t contain

the mental anguish of her childhood. She again

divorced. Her drinking intensified. She let the

business fall apart. Then her son, by then 17 years

old, become addicted to drugs.

DESPERATION SPARKS CHANGE

This was the wake-up call that finally made

a difference. Linda took herself to a 12-step

rehabilitation program. She was able to stop

drinking. “Once I’d given up drinking some sanity

started to seep into my brain,” Linda says. “That’s

when I started picking up the poor sad puppies.”

Back in Bali, Linda would take abused dogs in as

her own, try to heal them, take them to the vets.

But it wasn’t long before she came to appreciate

the enormity of the problem. Many Balinese liken

street dogs to vermin infesting their streets. They

believe the dogs’ poor actions in a past life mean

they deserve the life they endure today.

Linda says recently such people have attempted

to kill stray dogs by beating or stabbing them.

Often they succeed, but often their attempts leave

the animals alive though hideously wounded. She

says officials also conduct their own ‘clean-ups’,

leaving some dogs to die agonising deaths from

poisoning, and resulting in piles of dog bodies left

in the streets.

In Linda’s words ...

What inspires me

This amazing planet and all its intricate diversity of stunningly clever life, and

every kind person who fights for integrity and the underdog with courage.

Best advice

If we can’t be nice we should just be quiet.

Above Linda has dedicated

her life to Bali’s street dogs.

Left An abandoned puppy

gets a new hope for life

at BARC.

HOMING ABUSED DOGS

As Linda began to take in more and more dogs,

she realised the need for a more formal operation.

LINDA BULLER

55


She launched BARC as a no-kill shelter in 2006 to

provide vaccination, education, sterilisation and

medical help to rescued animals.

Today BARC also operates a street sterilisation

program to help stop the relentless flow of

unwanted puppies. And it conducts education

programs in the Balinese community to help shift

attitudes towards the indigenous Bali street dogs.

As the centre grew, Linda opened a basic clinic in

central Ubud where the non-emergency cases are

treated and receive care, as well as an adoption

centre and retail outlet, from which all profits go

directly to the care of the animals.

BARC also operates a sanctuary known as

‘Warrior’s Legacy’ in the mountains, which is

home to 60 adult dogs, as well as rescue horses,

pigs and monkeys.

Above A BARC volunteer.

Above right Vets who

work with BARC deal with

horrendous cases of abuse.

Right Medicine time

for a BARC puppy.

INSPIRED BY DOGS

With BARC now operating for 11 years, and

Linda at 65 years of age, she is exhausted. Yet

she remains driven to rescue the dogs with which

she so closely identifies. Linda is constantly awed

by dogs’ ability to love, despite the abuse they

have endured.

“They can be virtually dead, lying there dying,

and you walk up to them and their little tails wag

as they take their last breath,” Linda says. “Despite

what we humans have done to them, they are

full of gratitude and God-given forgiveness –

all the things we wish we were. For us to treat

these perfect companions in this way is just

heartbreaking. These animals need as much love

as anyone else in this world. They need someone

to fight for them.”

Get involved

Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation

Centre runs entirely on donations.

Support its work by visiting

www.barc4balidogs.org.au

56

LINDA BULLER


Nick Maisey

GROWING THE MAGIC OF CONNECTION


When Nick Maisey realised

the pain of disconnection

and loneliness that scars

so many people in our

modern society, he created

a social network that would

welcome people from all

walks of life to experience

the joy of friendship. That

network, Befriend, has

now transformed the lives

of thousands of diverse

people united by one simple

craving – to truly connect

with a fellow human being.

Tim was a 23-year-old man, sitting in his

Perth home, mustering the courage to

write an email. Tim had cerebral palsy.

His disability meant he needed visual tracking

software to write. The computer scanned through

the alphabet and Tim clicked on an individual

letter to select it. The computer then returned to

‘A’ and the process began again for the next letter.

It took him hours to write a two-sentence email.

But he persevered. For Tim was desperate. He was

sick of being alone. He craved friendships. But

everyone he met saw only his disability.

I like watching movies, Tim wrote. I like going to

the beach. I’d like to learn to surf. I don’t have any

friends. Would anyone be interested in getting to

know me?

Across the city an occupational therapy student,

Nick Maisey, checked his email. Someone had

forwarded Tim’s message. There was no mention of

his disability, just a simple plea for friendship. The

simplicity and honesty of the message resonated

with Nick. Why not meet him, Nick thought.

PAIN OF LONELINESS

Not long after Tim sent that email in 2009,

Nick entered Tim’s family home, and realised the

length Tim had gone to, to write his email. As they

chatted, Nick began to understand the pain of the

loneliness and disconnection that swamped Tim’s

everyday life.

“I think we’ve all had those times in our life when

we feel lonely or disconnected or that we don’t fit

in or don’t belong – it’s a really human experience,”

Nick says. “I saw the impact his isolation was

having on his health, his wellbeing, his sense of

self, his identity and it really made me see how

fundamentally important relationships are for our

lives. I saw his determination, but I also saw this

sense of sadness – this is the life he’d been living

for 23 years. People just see him as the ‘disabled

guy,’ they see him as different, they don’t see him

as a potential new friend. This need is not about

having a disability or mental ill health or having

a particular disease or a diagnosis – I see it as a

basic human need we all have to belong and to

live a connected life.”

EXCLUSIVE NETWORKS

Later, Nick couldn’t stop thinking about Tim

and his simple plea for friendship. Nick started to

look into existing groups to help people like Tim.

But he soon found that most existing networks

categorised people according to their social

segment, their disability or their disease. And they

were dependent on funding – when funding dried

up, the social circle went with it.

“There really wasn’t a lot out there in terms

of opportunities that were truly inclusive and

welcoming to all people,” Nick says. “Most were

programs that offered nice fun activities [for

people of defined segments of the population] to

pass the time rather than catalysts to form lasting

relationships. And Tim was saying ‘why should I

only hang out with people with a disability, that’s

Above Befriend book

lovers catch up in

Fremantle and trade

their favourite books.

NICK MAISEY

59


In Nick’s words ...

Who inspires me

I am inspired by the many people who get

up every day, and do all of the big and little

things for and with others, that form the

foundations of community.

Best motto

One of my favourite quotes is this gem from the

wise Margaret Wheatley: “Human conversation

is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate

the conditions for change – personal change,

community and organisational change, planetary

change. If we can sit together and talk about what’s

important to us, we begin to come alive.”

just one aspect of who I am, it shouldn’t limit my

opportunities to meet other people who don’t have

a disability’.”

BEFRIEND SOCIAL CLUB

After six months of investigation Nick decided

to launch Befriend as a simple social club that

would welcome anyone of any background to get

together through social gatherings. He started with

a series of Sunday barbecues in a park.

About 20 people attended that first barbecue

on a sunny day in 2010. Many of the people

were those whom Nick had interviewed for more

information on social isolation, after he’d met

Tim. Others were new to Perth. One woman had

broken up with a long-term partner and was

seeking a new friendship circle. Others were young

adults looking for a new social experience. They

ate, they laughed, they chatted. And, in that

simple barbecue, strangers experienced the

magic of connection.

EXPLOSION OF DEMAND

Soon demand grew so great that Nick began

to enlist friends to help host events. Then those

who attended Befriend events began to host their

own events, with Befriend’s support. Today, seven

years after it started in that Subiaco park, 6000

people are connected through the Befriend Social

Network, attending some 30 to 40 Befriend events

across Perth every month.

They meet to eat together, attend events, walk

their dogs, sing sea shanties, do yoga, play

music – activities as varied as the people who

60

NICK MAISEY


attend them. “They do almost anything you can

imagine an Australian doing on their weekend,”

Nick says. “And it can be [attending] something

simple like that, that makes such a difference to

someone’s day or week. It’s a starting point, an

opportunity. What you do with that opportunity

is up to you.”

JOY

Befriend informs its network of upcoming

Befriend gatherings via its website and an

email newsletter and operates a simple

RSVP service. It supports hosts to host their

own Befriend gatherings and continues to

welcome an ever-expanding pool of people

looking for friendship.

Perhaps nowhere is the success of Befriend

more evident than at its annual ball in which

people from across the Befriend network come

together for a night of exuberant dancing, laughter

and joy at having experienced genuine connection

and friendship.

MAGIC OF CONNECTION

Befriend has resulted in several marriage

proposals among people who’ve met at Befriend

events, it has sparked friendships which thrive even

outside the Befriend gatherings, it has reminded

everyone of the simple magic of experiencing

connection with a fellow human.

“I think a lack of connection is one of the

biggest issues we face in society,” Nick says. “It’s

something that can shape every day of your life.

It’s something that sits in your gut when you wake

up in the morning. It’s something that shapes

all of your hopes and dreams for the future. So

there’s something really special in seeing people

truly connect, regardless of our backgrounds,

regardless of our ethnicity, regardless of our

health, disabilities or the labels others put on us.

It’s almost impossible to explain the magic of the

Befriend community. It’s something you really

have to witness.”

Get involved

Find out more about Befriend and make plans to

get involved at www.befriend.org.au.

Above left Weekly knitting

and crocheting means

members can catch up often

and work on their projects.

Above The monthly Subiaco

sizzle is Befriend’s longest

running event.

Left The annual ball is the

highlight of the Befriend

social calendar.

Opposite page, top Nick

Maisey, Befriend director.

Opposite page, left

Members connect over

shared interests like cooking.

NICK MAISEY

61


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Kindness

is free,

sprinkle it

everywhere.

ROCHELLE COURTENAY

Share the Dignity founder


Cosi Costello


What began as an impulsive bid to see if Andrew Costello could help one

poverty-stricken Cambodian family has morphed into a charity that is

changing the lives of hundreds of rural Cambodians. Cows for Cambodia

breaks the poverty cycle by donating one thing that can make a

massive difference to rural Cambodians’ long-term prosperity – cows.

On his first trip to Cambodia, South

Australian man Andrew Costello found

himself withdrawing money from an

ATM to get the hefty $650US he’d need to buy a

single cow. Cash in hand, he began approaching

random people with cows and asking to buy one.

“But with the language barrier, they had no idea

what I was talking about,” Andrew, better known

as Cosi, laughs.

Undeterred, three months later Cosi again tried

to buy a cow. Again his quest was met by blank

looks and puzzled faces. On his third attempt he

hired an interpreter to help negotiate the purchase.

Success. Cosi had bought himself a cow. Next

task? Give it away.

AN UNLIKELY EXPERIMENT

After holidaying in Cambodia while on break

from his TV travel show South Aussie with Cosi,

Cosi was struck by the extreme poverty that faced

Cambodia’s largely rural population. As someone

with a keen interest in agriculture, and a degree

on the subject, Cosi was interested to learn that

cows are the ticket to prosperity for many rural

Cambodians. Yet most Cambodians can only

dream of cow ownership. At around $650US per

cow, buying one was akin to buying a new house in

Australia. Cosi imagined the difference a single cow

could make to a Cambodian family – one breeding

female could produce calves that a family could sell

each year to transform their lives in the long term.

Left Cosi at Cambodia’s

Roluos Group Temples

with a recipient of

one of Cows for

Cambodia’s cows.

All photos by Nathan

Dyer Photography

COSI COSTELLO

65


Top Two of four

orphaned brothers

who were one of

the first families to

receive a cow from

Cows for Cambodia.

Above A family in the

Cows for Cambodia

program who keep their

cow inside their house.

Intrigued, Cosi determined to see what would

happen if he gifted a single cow. That unlikely

experiment has blossomed into a fully functioning

charity that, 3.5 years later, has gifted 400 cows,

built houses and schools, and fed thousands.

It is also on the road to becoming financially

self-sustaining.

FIRST COW

Of course Cosi had no inkling of all that when he

bought that first cow. At the time, he’d planned to

simply give away a cow and be done with it.

After buying the cow, whom he named Adelaide,

Cosi cruised the streets of rural Cambodia to

find someone to whom to gift his purchase. He

eventually spied a woman sitting in the dirt on the

side of the road selling bottles of water. Cosi got to

chatting with the woman, who invited him to her

home – a single-roomed, palm leaf-roofed shack

where she lived with her children.

“She had virtually nothing in the way of

possessions – most Cambodians just have the

clothes that they are wearing and not much else.

But she had a really neat and tidy yard, which

was well swept with little herbs growing,” Cosi

says. “You could tell she was having a red hot go

at life and she had this smile that would knock

you sideways.” Impressed at her determination to

succeed with so little, Cosi had found himself the

perfect cow recipient.

CHANGING LIVES

Still, when Cosi returned to Cambodia three

months later he wasn’t sure what to expect. “I

didn’t even know if the cow was going to be there,”

he says. “I didn’t know if she would have sold it or

eaten it. But it was there, they’d built a shelter for it

and the cow had put on weight.” Delighted with the

result, Cosi decided to buy four more cows.

“For the first 20 cows we just randomly drove

around Cambodia and we’d see someone and talk

to them and do a bit of a recce to suss out if they

could actually look after a cow,” Cosi said. “And, if

they seemed suitable, we’d give them the cow.”

66

COSI COSTELLO


In Cosi’s words ...

Who inspires me

Anyone with a passion. I just love

anyone who is passionate about

anything. Passion is infectious.

Best advice

Get out of your comfort zone as

fast as you can. We are all dying

here. Don’t waste your life saying

your GONNA do something JUST

DO IT!

Later, Cows for Cambodia started working

with heads of the villages and chiefs of police to

establish which families would benefit most from

cow ownership. And, as he gifted more and more

cows, Cosi became addicted to the feeling of

helping the people who were beginning to capture

his heart.

“When you tell them [that you’re giving them a

cow] they tear up and get quite emotional because

it’s a big thing – it’s the equivalent of me knocking

on your door and saying ‘I’m giving you the

house next door’. And I just thought, if I could give

100 cows that would make 100 families not poor

anymore and, with five people in a family, that

would mean there’d be 500 people not poor.”

DREAM REALISED

Last year Cosi realised his dream of donating 100

cows, and quickly surpassed it to have now donated

400 cows. In the process Cosi came to realise that

the quality of Cambodian cows, for their price, was

no match for the genetics of Australian stock. So

Cosi embarked on a gruelling period of negotiation

to result in a breeding agreement between the

Cambodian and Australian governments. Cosi is

now breeding Australian cows on a station outside

Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory, which will

head to Cambodia in the next six months for the

Cows for Cambodia program.

TRANSFORMING AGRICULTURE

While checking on the health of the cows he’d

donated (Cosi was determined Cows for Cambodia

cows would “be the happiest in the country”) Cosi

realised how much condition the cows lost during

the dry season. So he set to researching alternative

feed types. He discovered a fast-growing and

highly nutritious African grass and, after months of

research and negotiations, received permission to

grow the grass on an irrigated plot in Cambodia.

Within a month the grass was head high, and

ready for baling, chopping and drying. Cosi went

on to buy and irrigate 16 hectares of land to

grow the grass. Cows of Cambodia cows became

among the most well fed cows in Cambodia. And

Cambodian farmers are now poised to grow the

game-changing feed themselves.

SMITTEN

As Cosi continued to work with Cambodians, he

found himself falling for the people he helped. He

couldn’t help but be impressed by their happiness,

despite their poverty. And he came to realise

the futility of Western society’s endless quest for

‘stuff’. “I’m reasonably well travelled and I believe

they are the happiest race of people in the world,”

Cosi says. “They literally have nothing, yet they

are far, far happier than Australians. They are far

happier in themselves, and in their lives and I think

that’s a wonderful thing to learn from them. The

Above Cosi with the

first cow to be gifted.

COSI COSTELLO

67


Above A local

Cambodia girl.

Above right Cosi

pledges to ensure

Cows for Cambodia

cows are the happiest

in the country.

materialistic possessions in your life don’t mean

squat. It’s all about quality of life and time with

family and friends and really engaging. We get

wrapped up in getting a coffee from the right shop

or buying the right dress for the races – we are so

warped with life and how much stuff we’ve got.”

FUNDING EDUCATION

So much did Cosi come to admire the

Cambodian people that he couldn’t help but do

more. He began donating huge amounts of rice

to people struggling to buy food – on his last

two-week trip alone he and a growing army of

volunteers handed out 20,000 kilograms of rice.

After Cosi passed a school a while back – a

three-sided shed with about 16 students

and two volunteer teachers providing free

education – the charity also started supporting

children’s education. Cosi was impressed with

the community’s initiative to have raised the

$300 needed to build the school and, again, he

couldn’t resist helping. He and Cows for Cambodia

volunteers and supporters funded a massive

refurbishment that now sees 250 local kids receive

a free education. And there are plans to double

the size of the school again, to increase student

numbers to 500.

CHANGED PERSPECTIVES

Cosi helps fundraise for Cows for Cambodia by

inviting paying groups of Australians to join him

on holidays to Cambodia four times a year. The

volunteers raise money to donate to the program

and help out when they’re there.

Cosi delights in watching the transformations

he witnesses in the Australians. “I’m not a very

spiritual person but whatever happens when you

trudge around those villages for a few days, it

really changes your perspective on life and it’s

a real positive,” he said. “If only all Australians

could realise that for a couple of days, we’d be

a different place.”

Get involved

Cosi plans to introduce a similar

initiative in the Philippines, or India,

as well as a similar charity based on

goats in Botswana, Africa. He also

plans to turn the 16 hectares he has

purchased in Cambodia into a stateof-the-art

cattle breeding facility that,

once established, will be financially

self-sustaining. The facility will serve

as a base to educate Cambodian

farmers about handling and breeding

their own stock. Cosi dreams of being

able to hand over the whole operation

to the Cambodians to continue as a

profitable enterprise which educates,

and supports Cambodians farmers and,

in the process, transforms their lives.

Find out more about how you can

support Cows for Cambodia, or

join a volunteer holiday at

www.cowsforcambodia.com

68

COSI COSTELLO


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