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
A quest to live a life of meaning
New feature on ethical travel
Issue 3, 2018
Samille Mitchell, Geraldine Scott
0403 053 768
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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.
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SCOTT AND CHELSEA
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.
Travel with Inspired
Magazine editor Samille
Mitchell to be inspired by
the wonders of nature.
6 22 34
The gift of education
transforms thousands of
Gemma Sisia has put
2000 kids through school
and boarding, funded
education, and sparked
promising futures for
young adults who were
born into poverty-stricken
lives in Tanzania.
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.
Discovering Nepal’s lost
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.
‘Pad lady’ provides
dignity to desperate
Shocked at the shame
homeless women suffered
at being unable to access
pads and tampons during
their monthly period,
launched Share the
Dignity to provide sanitary
items to those in need.
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
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
Spread the love.
Be inspired by what
we’re reading and
Connect with some
of our amazing
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
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
The gift of education
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
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
Opposite page, middle
Gemma (in red), sponsors
and students in the school’s
Opposite page, bottom
The first school building
arises from an overgrown
plot, thanks to teams of
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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
Opposite page, top left
top right The beaming
smiles of the kids keep
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
GEMMA SISIA 9
Top St Jude students
are given a chance at a
Above School of
St Jude graduate
Winrose, and Gemma.
Above right A
St Jude student shows
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
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.”
For more information, to make
a donation or to organise to visit,
10 GEMMA SISIA
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 around you
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
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
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
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
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
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
A kaleidescope of
images from Chelsea’s
Instagram feed pay
tribute to her
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
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.”
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
“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.
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
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
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.
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
zone as fast
as you can.
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.
4–I2 May 20I8
Be inspired by the people
and nature in the pulsing heart
of the Bornean rainforest.
Cost: $3800 includes all flights
24 August–I September 20I8
Connect with the locals and
get behind the scenes to meet
those helping children, dogs
and conservation projects.
For a full itinerary visit www.inspired.org.au/journeys
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.
Geraldine has become
‘mum’ to thousands of
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
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,
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
Cambodia has become
(left and right) Sunrise
happiness and hope.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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
Cambodian kids now
have a new chance at
life. And, like any mum,
Geraldine couldn’t be
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
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.
In Geraldine’s words ...
What inspires me
The indefatigable spirit of the Cambodian
people to suffer, survive and succeed
against all odds.
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
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.”
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.
9 780646 947105 >
AFGHANISTAN’S SKATER GIRLS
Education and smiles for war-wearied kids
ISSUE 1, 2015 $14.95
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FREEING ASIA’S BEARS
From housewife to bear rescuer
DOWN SYNDROME MODEL
Revealing true beauty
SAVING LIVES IN CAMBODIA
Horror at desperate acts sparks action
Risking life to save rhinos
Inspired - Issue 1 cover.indd 1 28/10/2015 3:34 pm
This too shall pass.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Top The antics of
the Matang Wildlife
Above right A local
woman shows off her
skills at playing the
Penan nose flute.
Above Inspecting the
wares of the Penan
Opposite page, top
left and right The
stalactites, shawls and
flowstones of the caves.
Opposite page, right
Getting a different
perspective on the
Mulu Canopy Skywalk.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
main The spectacular
mountains of Nepal.
Opposite page, insert
Conor surrounded by
the kids he’s come
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.
“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
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
“I was just stunned,” Conor says. “It was
emotionally exhausting – seeing all those kids
and realising how huge this problem was – it was
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
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.
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
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
team presses into
mountains to find
families to reunite with
their stolen children.
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.
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
“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.
“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
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.
You can support Next Generation Nepal’s
efforts to reunite trafficked children with
their families by making a donation at
PROVIDES DIGNITY TO
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
You can support Share the Dignity by visiting them online
Send some love into the world
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Love bomb 3_1.pdf 1 17/10/17 1:38 pm
I am sending you an Inspired Love Bomb because:
I think you’re amazing and that you should
hear it all the time.
I’m sorry you’re having a rough time but want
you to know that I’m here for you if you need a
chat / coffee / drink (CIRCLE APPLICABLE)
I’d like to thank you for
I’m grateful for you being in my life.
With love from
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
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
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,”
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,
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.
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.”
In Moira’s words ...
Who inspires me
Mother Teresa. I’ve always loved her.
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,
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
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.
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,”
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.”
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,”
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
MOIRA KELLY 47
Above (left to right)
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.
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
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
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.”
You can support Moira’s work through the
Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.
Designed by MORQ Architecture
Construction beginning in 2018 by SUBIACO HOMES
If we can't be nice we
should just be quiet.
Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre founder
BOOK: HALF THE SKY –
TURNING OPPRESSION INTO
OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN
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
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.”
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.
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.
A Balinese street dog.
Below The street dogs
who’ve captured Linda’s
heart, at home in their
All photos by Patria
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
HOMING ABUSED DOGS
As Linda began to take in more and more dogs,
she realised the need for a more formal operation.
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
“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.”
Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation
Centre runs entirely on donations.
Support its work by visiting
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
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
“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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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
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.”
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
Left The annual ball is the
highlight of the Befriend
Opposite page, top Nick
Maisey, Befriend director.
Opposite page, left
Members connect over
shared interests like cooking.
Tell your story
for your purposedriven
attract a following,
win clients and
change the world.
Use stories to win business, convert clients and
bring in the money your purpose-driven work
Inspired Writing Mentor holds your hand and
helps you to tell your story – whether you’re
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I’m driven by the belief that everyone has a story
to share – and that the world can only benefit
from its telling.
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Share the Dignity founder
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
All photos by Nathan
Top Two of four
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
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.
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.”
In Cosi’s words ...
Who inspires me
Anyone with a passion. I just love
anyone who is passionate about
anything. Passion is infectious.
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
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
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
Above A local
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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