The Most Vulnerable

I was only away for a week, but I came back to a very different Australia to the one I left.

Before I left, concerns were growing rapidly over COVID-19. Even at that stage a lot of travellers were cancelling their plans. There was nervousness in the community.

People were starting to stock up on what they considered to be essential items.

In the days before I flew out, hand sanitiser was nowhere to be found and there were empty spaces in shops and pharmacies where there used to be face masks.

I left Australia bound for the Philippines on the 3rd of March to see Compassion’s work in action. Within a couple of days, people back home seemed to be ratcheting up the panic.

Social media kept me up to date with life in my home country … and it wasn’t pretty.

To be fair, COVID-19 is a pretty big deal and will continue to be for quite some time. There’s a very real need for concern and more than that, for action. I can’t blame people for protecting themselves and those they love.

The difficulty for me was sitting with beautiful, courageous families who are living in makeshift shelters, with no electricity, running water or toilets, and then seeing videos in my Facebook feed of people in Australian supermarkets fighting over toilet rolls.

COVID-19 is stripping away our choices. It is tearing at our security. It is bringing unquestionable pain in the form of job losses, failing businesses, loss of connection and so much more.

When life eventually returns to normal, it will be a radically different kind of normal.

For many, there won’t be the opportunity to pick up where we left off. Unemployment is likely to be the long-term reality for many who previously had secure jobs. Many businesses will be unable to weather this storm and simply won’t be around when the virus has been defeated.

On top of all that comes the anxiety and the disconnection that comes with our isolation. Video catch ups don’t give hugs.

Many of us are likely to either be infected with the virus or be close to people who will suffer from COVID-19. Even worse, some of us will lose loved ones to this horrible virus.

In the midst of all of this, my heart is breaking for the children Compassion serves. Together with their families they are facing even greater risks.

In a time when we’re all feeling vulnerable, I really hope you’ll spare a thought, a prayer, and maybe even a gift for these children. They are the most vulnerable of all.

Past President of Compassion International, Wess Stafford spoke about the vulnerability of children in his book, Too Small to Ignore. While we are hearing that this virus is most deadly for the elderly, I think the paragraphs here still carry a lot of weight.

No matter what the setting, children seem to be a second-rate mandate. No matter what the ill of society, it tends to spiral downward and eventually land with its cruelest and most smothering impact on our littlest citizens.

Small, weak, helpless, innocent, vulnerable, and trusting, they are the waiting victims for our simple neglect and most evil abuse.

No matter what goes wrong, the little ones pay the greatest price.

When hunger and famine strike a nation, adults become weak and hungry, but it is the children who most often starve to death. When disease arrives with all its fury, adults can become very sick, but the first to die are usually the children.

When war erupts over ethnicity or boundary lines in the dust, it is the littlest victims who pay the most tragic price. The wars of the last decade killed more children than soldiers.

Far more children were injured or permanently maimed by our battles. The tragedies go on for years after the last gunshot or grenade blast, as land mines and booby-trapped toys keep wounding, terrorizing, and killing our innocent ones.

The ritual sacrifice of children has been taboo for thousands of years. Yet tragically it is practiced every day across our world.

We sacrifice children on the altars of our most destructive sins. When the sickness of pornography has run to its most evil and destructive end, it takes the form of child pornography.

When prostitution reaches its sickest, most depraved form, it becomes child prostitution. Perhaps a little closer to home is the reality that children are the sacrificial lambs when our homes break up through neglect, anger, hostility, and eventually divorce.

Kids frequently blame themselves for the destruction, carrying deep scars on their innocent spirits for a lifetime.

The last thing I would want to do is minimise the situation we all find ourselves in right now. We’re here through no fault of our own and we are not in control. That’s scary … and it’s pretty much how a lot of those in extreme poverty live their entire lives.

I would simply ask that as we face this unprecedented interruption to our lives, we consider those most vulnerable in our world. Children living in extreme poverty.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading The Most Vulnerable? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

It’s Happening Again

The eighties … a time of big music and even bigger hair. Yes, I’ll admit it. I had a mullet.

As the eighties started heading towards the brave, new world of the nineties, we hit 1987.

It was the year Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1987 the world population hit five billion. It was also the year Microsoft released Windows 2.0. And in 1987, The Simpsons cartoon first appeared as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.

In February of 1987, when I was 23, my mum succumbed to a long illness and passed away at just 66 years of age.

1987 was also the year that I first crossed Australia by bicycle.

Since then, I’ve cycled across Australia in 1988, 1990, 2000, 2003 and last year in 2018.

Let’s do it again.

If everything goes to plan, on Saturday the 18th of September 2021, I’ll begin my seventh bicycle crossing of our nation. I’ll start pedaling from Perth, Western Australia towards Newcastle, New South Wales. Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will bring together around 30 cyclists riding for a common cause.

We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Wednesday the 20th of October.

What is Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast 2021?

It’s a trek of over 4,000km from the beautiful beaches of Western Australia, across the barren inland of Australia, to the bustling east coast city of Newcastle. The participants in the Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will test their stamina, while making a massive difference in the lives of children living in poverty.

The ride is set to start on Saturday 18 September 2021 in Perth and finish at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Wednesday 20 October. There’ll be 28 riding days and five rest days. The average distance to be ridden each day will be 150km, with almost 200km the longest distance for one hard day’s ride.

There is an expectation that all riders will undertake extensive training before the event, pay on-road costs, and raise significant funds for the work of Compassion.

Become involved in Ride for Compassion

To register your interest for the 2021 Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast, please visit the Ride for Compassion website.

Love to be involved, but not keen on cycling? We’re looking for volunteers to help with driving the bus and other support vehicles, preparing breakfast and lunch, first aid, hydration and other tasks.

Does this sound like you? Please visit the Ride for Compassion website for further information.

Why are we riding?

The ride will once again raise money for Compassion Australia‘s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

Registrations for the ride open in early 2020 but if you’re interested in joining me on a bike or as part of the support team, head to the Ride for Compassion website.

I need to get fit. Really fit.

I used to keep a moderate level of fitness by cycling to and from work each day but my job hasn’t really allowed me to do that for the last six years. I need to get myself into better shape than I have ever been. I’m going to have to be strategic and focused if I’m to drop a bunch of kilograms and put plenty of kilometres into my legs. I’ll need to be able to ride around a thousand kilometres a week for just over four weeks.

Taking part in the ride will take a huge effort.

But every effort I make to be part of the ride will be worth it because some things are unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty. In 2021 I’ll once again put my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Head to the Ride for Compassion website or leave me a comment on this post.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading It’s Happening Again? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Can We Get a Refund?

Hey America, I’ve been looking around at all the wonderful days of celebration you have on offer and I’m wondering if we can get a refund. It seems we bought the wrong day.

I’m fine if you have a ‘no refund’ policy. A straight exchange will work just as well.

It seems that here in Australia we’ve bought into the whole Halloween thing you were selling. Yep, I know it didn’t originate with you, but we seem to have bought your version of the day anyway.

Every year in October our supermarket shelves are filled with more and more skeletons, pumpkins, ghouls and ghosts. We’ve bought the whole package from you and every year we see more and more children wandering the streets begging for ‘candy from strangers’, a thing we advise against for the other 364 days of the year.

I know that Halloween is often dressed up as simply a day for dressing up, but I think I’ll pass.

So, back to the whole refund thing, or as I say, perhaps a direct swap.

If we give Halloween back, can we have Thanksgiving?

Again, I know it’s not necessarily an exclusively American thing, but from my long-distance perspective, you seem to do Thanksgiving pretty well.

We have so much to cause us to be thankful in Australia, and while I would love to see a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude all year round, a day dedicated to counting our blessings would be a very good addition to our calendar.

There’s been some excellent work done around a National Day of Thanks down under but unfortunately, it hasn’t gained the widespread acceptance and celebration it deserves.

While I don’t quite get the whole turkey pardoning thing (I don’t even know what the turkey did to need pardoning) I do like the idea of being thankful to God for His blessings to us. I also like the idea of sharing that thankfulness among family and friends around a meal.

Being thankful seems to have so much going for it.

In a world that presses us to want and strive after more and more, pretending that it will eventually bring us some kind of happiness, it’s helpful to look at our lives and see what we already have.

On days when I’m low, a quick reminder of just how good I’ve got it will often get me through. I’m not saying it’s the answer to everything that troubles us but thankfulness or gratitude can have proven, very real, physical benefits.

Psychologists find that, over time, feeling grateful boosts happiness and fosters both physical and psychological health, even among those already struggling with mental health problems. Studies show that practising gratitude curbs the use of words expressing negative emotions and shifts inner attention away from such negative emotions as resentment and envy, minimizing the possibility of ruminating over them (a hallmark of depression). – Psychology Today

The simple act of being thankful and expressing thankfulness can make a real difference in our lives.

Studies show gratitude helps us build stronger immune systems, causes us to be less bothered by aches and pains, lowers our blood pressure, gives us higher levels of positive emotions, makes us more alert, alive, and awake. There are many more benefits including making us more helpful, generous, and compassionate, more forgiving, less lonely and isolated. What’s not to like?

So, maybe we won’t grab every aspect of an American Thanksgiving, but can we pinch the general concept from you?

I would be incredibly thankful if we could see our nation recognising what we have rather than what we don’t have. That doesn’t mean blindly ignoring important issues that need our voice and attention but ensuring that we also give our voice to gratitude and thankfulness.

So what do you say, America?

Do you think we can do a deal? If we try to find the box it came in, can we return Halloween for a great big box of Thanksgiving?


And no matter where you are in the world, I’d love to hear why you’re thankful today? Do yourself and your health a real favour by practising thankfulness and gratitude right now. Leave a comment on this post with some of the things that make you thankful.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Can We Get a Refund?? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

ANZAC Day 2019

Olsens-in-Uniform

It’s here again. ANZAC Day. A day of major significance in Australia when we remember bravery, courage and the ongoing pain of war.

I do hope that this ANZAC Day we’ll honour those who have gone to war in the name of our country but also let the day remind us that war has no winners. Even those who make it home from war return as different people. The scars of war are not only physical.

As our world once again finds itself on the edge of escalating conflict we need to remember the lessons of past wars and commit to doing everything possible before taking up arms against others. The wars and conflicts that are continuing around the globe right now tell us clearly that violence is not the answer.

ANZAC Day, the 25th of April, has been described as Australia’s most important national occasion, a day of real significance for many Australians.
It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. While the date is aligned with that event in the First World War, the day is a remembrance of all those who have been to war to protect our freedom.

ANZAC Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day we remember all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of ANZAC, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. On ANZAC day, ceremonies are held in towns and cities across the nation to acknowledge the service of our veterans.

I’ve watched television coverage of ANZAC ceremonies many times. After all these years, the support for these commemorations continues to grow as the stories of heroism are remembered. As I watch I see the pain of ex-soldiers as they remember their experiences during the dawn services as well as their joy of being remembered as they travel the route of the marches along city streets.

When they see the crowds and hear the cheering as they pass, they know that this country is grateful for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of those who didn’t make it home.
Tom Olsen

Together with my wife and my son, I’ve volunteered to help at a couple of ANZAC Marches through Perth. It’s sobering to look into the faces of those who have risked so much for our freedom. It’s so sad to think that they had to go to war in the first place. Their lives and the lives of those connected to them will be marked by war forever.

Seeing the memories of war in the faces of those marching year by year isn’t the only place I’ve experienced its effects.

Sadie OlsenMy parents served in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. (You can click on any of the photos for a closer look. As well as the individual photos of my parents, the top picture shows my dad on the far right with his father and two of his brothers.)

I’m sure that my father especially would have been a very different man had it not been for his experiences in war. Though he never liked to talk about those experiences I know that they coloured the rest of his life and in turn the life of our family. He was a good and caring man but I know that war changed him.

I’ve only seen a shadow of a glimpse of war but that’s enough for me to know that it’s a horrid experience where no one really wins.

War is a terrible thing, and I’m glad that I’ve never had to fight, but I am grateful for the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for our country. I shudder when I imagine what it would be like to face a hostile enemy, knowing that any moment could be my last.

I would hate to have to go to war. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to say goodbye to my loved ones, not knowing if I’d ever see them again.

Having children of my own, I don’t even want to think about the parents that have seen their children go to war. My hope is that we will continue to work towards finding better, peaceful ways to overcome conflict. War should never be the answer.

ANZAC Day isn’t about glorifying war, it’s about paying our respects to those who put their lives on the line for their countrymen and the generations to come.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading ANZAC Day 2019? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

A Very Long Way to Ride a Bike

I’ve made it to Balladonia … by bicycle.

If you haven’t caught up with what I’m doing, I’m currently cycling across Australia for highly vulnerable children living in extreme poverty.

Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast started in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October.

We’re travelling with 24 cyclists and a support team of 9.

We’ve finished 6 of our 28 riding days and had 1 of our 4 rest days. The average riding distance for our riding days is just over 155 kilometres. Our longest days are just under 200 kilometres.

Today’s journey from Norseman to Balladonia covered almost 192 kilometres. That’s our second longest day of the whole trip. In a few days we’ll ride our longest distance of 195 kilometres.

If you’d like to support my part in the ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading A Very Long Way to Ride a Bike? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂