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.



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What am I going to do with a goat?

(This is an updated post from previous years.) If you’ve been to a shopping centre recently or watched any television, you’ll know that Christmas is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of businesses that are keen to ‘help you celebrate’ with their products. While the big day is still just under a couple of months away, we know that it all starts to ramp up from here.

Once again, I’m conflicted. If I’m honest, I don’t really need anything for Christmas. If no one bought me a gift for Christmas or any other occasion, I could survive. In fact not just survive but continue to thrive.

The conflict comes from the fact that I still enjoy receiving gifts. I love the unwrapping and the excitement of having something shiny and new. I also love the fact that people care enough to choose something for me.

It concerns me that while I’m enjoying lovely new things that I don’t really need, there are people in many parts of the world that don’t have the basics that they need to get on with the daily task of just keeping their families alive.

If Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, surely we should be doing something that honours him and his heart for the poor, rather than overindulging while most of the world goes without.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we should all be miserable and not fully enter into the celebrations at this time of year.

Balance

I suppose that’s where we all need some kind of balance between the giving and receiving of gifts between friends and loved ones and our wider responsibility to those in need around the world. We live in a global village but most of the villagers are missing out.

Those of us who’ve been blessed by simply being born in the right place should spare a thought for those who only ask for the gift of life this Christmas.

I might not have a lot of use for a goat but for a rural family in a developing country, the simple gift of a goat could be just what they need to break free from poverty.

Compassion

So where do you buy a goat and how do you get it to someone who needs it? Compassion Australia’s Gifts of Compassion is open and ready for business. Their gifts help people who are battling desperate poverty.

They can take your money and turn it into a very real solution to poverty. You can buy everything from mosquito nets to a toilet block with lots more in between including chickens, cows, toothbrushes and baby vaccinations.

Your support really does make a difference.

I’ve visited churches partnering with Compassion in seven of the 25 countries where they’re working and I can personally vouch for the work they do. When you support those in poverty through Compassion, the aid really does make it to those who need it.

In fact, it was after seeing the work of Compassion that I decided that I would do all I could to advance their work which is why I’ve now been working full-time for Compassion for the last six years.

This Christmas I do want to receive something for myself, wrapped in thought and love, but I also hope that someone will give me a goat or a chicken or a health bundle for someone I’ll never meet.

What about you?

Go on … you’ve thought about it before but unless you let your loved ones know now it’ll never happen. Ask those you love to buy something for someone else this Christmas.



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Loving the Philippines

It’s been a little quiet around here lately so I thought I’d add a few short videos from my visit to the Philippines in September.

I was there seeing the work of Compassion, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

You can click play on the three videos below.




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25 Years on from the Horror

It’s been almost five years since I visited Africa. I was there around the time of the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It remains a filthy stain on the history of our world. It was a time when voices were crying out but the world refused to listen.

While I was in Rwanda I met many people who are still suffering the effects of the events that turned such a beautiful land into a place of unspeakable horror.

While the killing had already been going on for some time, the 100 days of Genocide against the Tutsi began on the 7th of April 1994, ending on the 15th of July.

The world is currently remembering what happened in Rwanda and commemorating 25 years since the Genocide against the Tutsi.

In 100 days more than 1 million people were murdered.

But the genocidaires did not kill a million people.

They killed one, then another, then another….

day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute.

Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere was being murdered, screaming for mercy.

Receiving none.

And the killing went on and on and on….

10,000 each day,

400 each hour,

7 each minute.

Kigali Genocide Memorial 

My mind keeps returning to the Rwandan Genocide Memorial I visited in the hills outside Kigali. There are many thousands of people buried beneath the church and surrounding area.

I walked into the church and saw some of the belongings left behind by victims of the genocide including the blood-stained clothing they were wearing when the murderers took their lives.

I then walked down steps into the area below the church where I was surrounded by coffins stacked five or six high.

The church (pictured above) has become a permanent memorial and while everything I saw made the genocide very real, it became very personal when I met someone who lost most of their family in that building.

When the trip to Rwanda was planned I knew that I’d meet people who still carried the emotional scars of the genocide, but meeting a woman my own age who carries very obvious physical scars gave me a glimpse of what some people faced twenty years ago.

Even before she was introduced to us we knew that she had suffered. She carries a very long, deep scar down the left side of her face with other deep marks to the right side of her face and the back of her head. She now only has sight in her left eye.

Esther (not her real name) was a wife and mother. She had five children, the youngest just a baby.

Life as Esther knew it instantly disappeared on the 15th of April 1994.

Just over a week after the genocide began, thousands of locals sought refuge in their church, a place that should have been a safe haven. That only made their murder easier when the killers arrived and threw grenades into the assembled crowds.

Esther’s husband and three of her children died that day. She was injured and dazed lying among the dead. It wasn’t until the 18th of April that she finally made it out of the church building. She’d been left for dead but somehow survived.

That was just the start of her horror.

After crawling out of the church Esther found an empty home where she went to hide. The genociders returned and killed her other children in front of her in ways too graphic to describe here.

They then took their machetes to her and again left her for dead. Although she was suffering horrific injuries she survived and found another hiding place.

Some days later more killers arrived. This time it was people she knew. People from her own area. Neighbours. They told her to go away and die somewhere else. It took all her energies but she made it out, eventually finding another home in which to hide.

The next time her hiding place was discovered was in June. She was barely alive and weighed only 19 kilograms. She couldn’t walk because she had been hiding in a cramped position for so long.

Thankfully this time it was members of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), the group which was seeking to halt the genocide. They rescued Esther and took her to hospital where she stayed recovering for around six months.

Esther told her story with far more detail and while it was hard for us to hear her story, it was obvious that remembering the details was even harder for her.

Another place I visited in Rwanda was the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It tells the story of genocide in Rwanda as well as other genocides through history. If you’d like to know more about what happened over those 100 days in 1994 you can visit the website for the Kigali Memorial Centre.

The genocide resulted in the deaths of over a million people.

But death was not its only outcome.

Tens of thousands of people had been tortured, mutilated and raped; tens of thousands more suffered machete cuts, bullet wounds, infection and starvation.

There was rampant lawlessness, looting and chaos. The infrastructure had been destroyed, the ability to govern dismantled.

Homes had been demolished, belongings stolen.

There were over 300,000 orphans and over 85,000 children who were heads of their household, with younger siblings and/or relatives.

There were thousands of widows. Many had been the victims of rape and sexual abuse or had seen their own children murdered.

Kigali Genocide Memorial

Thankfully Compassion was working in Rwanda before the genocide and continues working there.

In fact, it was just after the genocide that the church where Esther’s family was killed called on Compassion for help. They were there within a few short months, ready to walk the the journey of recovery with local people.

Following the Genocide against the Tutsi Esther had another child, a daughter. When we met Esther, her daughter was in her final years of sponsorship with Compassion.



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RetroRadio – Ada’s Story

RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio segments from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.

Hopefully, the segments spark a few memories and a few thoughts.

This Thursday, 98five is running Sponsor a Village, seeking to see a hundred children from the Philippines sponsored through Compassion Australia. I do hope that you’ll get involved and sponsor a child.

We hear a lot about ‘reality television’ these days but I still reckon radio is a great way to convey real stories. You don’t need a full production crew with cameras everywhere to capture reality for radio. A small audio recording device is a lot less intrusive than a camera or three and so people can tend to open up a lot more. Of course, having worked in radio for over 25 years I’m probably biased.

In 2008 when I was working for 98five, hosting the morning program, I saw the work of Compassion for the first time when I was invited to travel to Haiti and Dominican Republic.

DominicanRepublic

With Sponsor a Village coming up this week I’m remembering that very first trip where I was gathering stories about Compassion to be used on radio.

Today I want to highlight just one of the stories that came out of the trip in 2008.

I’ve interviewed dozens of famous singers, authors, personalities, politicians and celebrities over the years but if I had the chance to choose one moment from my radio career that stands high above the others it is the opportunity to tell Ada’s story.

Ada’s Story

The story of this young girl will break your heart then give you renewed hope in the difference that each one of us can make in the lives of others.

I beg you to take just fourteen minutes to listen to Ada’s story. I know that for many, setting aside fourteen minutes is too much to ask. If you’re one of the few who takes the time, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

If you want to hear something to lift your spirits just click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

The whole story is worth hearing but I’ll warn you now that it will really start to touch your heart around half way through.

Ada is a girl I met and interviewed in Dominican Republic. She was a beautiful twelve year old with a bright future. I wish I could show you the picture I had taken with the two of us but I prefer to keep her identity somewhat private. You’ll understand why as you listen.

I talked to Ada, I visited her home and talked to her parents. I’m sure that all of us that visited her home on that day will remember the warm hug she gave each one of us as we left. She was a remarkable young girl.

Back then, I managed to track down her sponsor in Australia and shared Ada’s story with her. Lisa’s reaction to hearing her sponsored child’s voice is priceless. Hearing Lisa describe how she feels when she hears just how much of an impact she has had on Ada’s life is inspiring.

I don’t know what else I can say but to again beg that you take the time to hear this amazing story. If you do take the time, please let me know.



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