Photograph Sunday – Our Local Area

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Warragamba Dam is one of many dams in our local area but it doesn’t supply our water – millions of Sydney residents drink this water.

This photograph was captured on my smart phone, on new year’s day – we thought we would explore a little more of our new area.

Thought in particular GreenEggs would like to see this photo – we have only recently worked out, that I reside where she grew up (but now living abroad).  Cyber world can be equally small.

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You Can Even Recycle Bras!

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An old sports bra lived under my side of the bed for months.  It was my constant reminder to find a way to recycle or reuse all my old bras.

Throwing unneeded items out, is often societies first choice for disposal – but it isn’t mine.  ‘Being time poor’ is not an excuse for producing unnecessary landfill waste – which is where my bras would of ended up, if I threw them out.

After a quick Google search, I found a noble use for my old bras.  Donating them to Upliftbras. From their website:

“In the Solomon Islands it is quite difficult to access a comfortable bra. Some of the second hand shops sell bras but mostly women have to buy their bras from the Chinese Trade Stores. These bras have some problems; they come in smaller sizes, are made of nylon and perish quickly in tropical conditions. You cannot buy maternity bras or mastectomy bras in country. For the women to be given free bras is an unbelievable experience for all of them. Women feel a tremendous obligation to meet the needs of their families, and so for any woman in the village to spend money buying a bra for herself can almost be seen as an unforgivable sin. The priority for women’s spending is food and education needs of children.”
spacer.gif – Rose Wale, 2012, Report of Bra Distribution, Solomon Islands

In Australia we take much for granted, even our waste.

My old bras have now been posted and donated to Upliftbras.

South Facing Home View

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View from our front verandah

Most of my gardening attention has been directed towards our edible garden areas – veggie patches, fruit & nut trees.

Today however I wanted to ‘play’ at the front of our house – garden in our South facing areas.  In Australia,  South facing areas don’t get much sunlight so growing most edible food is not possible.  For this reason (and I didn’t want veggie patches at the front) I am focusing purely on design and aesthetics – what will look nice.

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Ferns are a natural choice as they prefer little light.  To give different heights (not just ankle high ferns), I have planted Magnolia and Camellia bush varieties that can tolerate low light.

Many plants have been transplanted or propagated from plants grown elsewhere in our garden.  For ideas you can visit your local nursery and pay particular attention to plants under cover or shade cloth – plants needing shade is what you want for South facing areas.

For unique plant variety inspiration, (plants you won’t find at your local nursery) check out The Diggers Club.  I have purchased many seedlings and seeds from them and have always been delighted with the results.

Happy gardening.

Who’s Responsibility Are They?

This post is a story of love, dedication and vision.

Rick & Maria Bell have been friends of mine for over twenty years.  Much of this time they have been living in the Philippines.  As Missionaries for Christian Alliance, they have sacrificed the comforts of an Australian way of life, to live and be apart of the community in Manila.

Over the years I have been privileged to hear Rick & Maria share with me their vision and the tremendous need to do more. Back in October last year, I added a post about Rick & Maria’s personal pain not for themselves but for their community when the ‘Philippines Flood’  hit.

Time ticks on and it has been over a year.  The world moves on, media interest has been diverted elsewhere but Rick & Maria and Manila are still there.

I thought I would share with you a recent newsletter email I received from Rick (with permission given from Rick).

Photograph captured by Rick Bell - 'Who's Responsibility Are They?'

By Rick Bell:

As I photographed the boys above, I asked the dangerous question  “whose problem and responsibility are they?” It is a question I have asked myself over and over again as I see sights like this daily as I drive to my home in down town Pasig, Manila.

It was four months ago that I took the time to talk with some of these boys and found so many terribly confused and frightened children.  Their lives are unhealthy in every way. So often they are just moved on by authorities rather than alleviating any of their suffering.  As I also walk the informal settlements of our area and look under bridges and in crowded hidden places I find populations exploding of Children at RISK.  According to new reports  Almost 2 million of Manila’s children younger than 15 years old live on or below the poverty line. 175,000 of these children live on the streets after having run away from home or being abandoned. They beg, steal, scavenge for food, and sell newspapers, cigarettes, and in extreme cases prostitute themselves. These Children,  the hope for the future, I ask again whose responsibility are they?

I do not pretend nor can I truly comprehend to understand these children situations or private pain.  What I do  know however is that time is running out for many of them. If someone does not intervene for them they will become the criminals of tomorrow, the detested in our community, the vulnerable and highly exposed falling all to often to unsavouray influences.    It is incredible for me to see even today that we can still be seeing and living among the children of Dickens’ England.

A friend from Australia recently walked the squatter community we work in and commented that how easy it would be to ‘Lay low’ and do nothing about what he saw ahead of him. ‘Silence’ he said was not an acceptable answer to these major problems.

My heart as a father has been broken many times as I have watched for years these children having to grow up all too fast.  They fill our streets, beg at our windows and suffer the consequences of something they are not responsible for.  When I look at my own situation and I see how my own children have had so many opportunities in life, good education, excellent parents, nutritious food, a safe home and a future that the kids we deal with now could only dream off, I cannot stand by and do nothing anymore. Actually when I read the words of Martin Luther Luther King who said:

“Passivity to accept an unjust system is to co-operate with that system and thereby to become a participant in it!”

 

Workers getting ready the 'Children at Risk Centre'

Getting ready the Children at Risk Centres in Pasig, Manila.

Rick Bell continued:

Last May with these concerns and children in mind, our team were given the opportunity to provide one solution in our area for some of these children.  By faith, we entered into a contract to purchase four townhouses not 900 meters from our school.  They were run down and needed a lot of work.  We saw their great potential for a “Children at Risk Centre” which has been one of the dreams of our school for nearly four years.  The four buildings were offered to us at a flat rate of A$90,000.00 which was nearly half their current value.  The gentleman selling the properties is a Chinese Christian Businessman who desires also to see this type of residential care unit developed for kids at Risk.

By faith, the board of our school agreed to pray and trust God to meet this amount by December 30th, 2010.   We have prayed and trusted and He has already allowed us to raise nearly A$40,000.00, so we are already well on the way to seeing this dream become a reality.

What have we done so far?

The work has begun!

  • To date we have been busy gaining the government permission and a license for an official “Children at Risk Center”.
  • Two months ago we were blessed by the three Aussie Christian brothers who came from Perth, two tilers and a plumber. In just two weeks they
    renovated two of the townhouses by tiling floors, refitted the bathrooms, renewed the kitchens, and all from funds they had raised for the project.
  • Three weeks after this event five more friends came from Australia and assisted in the renewal process.
  • Three months ago now we installed our first set of house parents and moved in 3 boys who were classified at risk.

Young boy who attends Rick & Maria's school

Two weeks ago I interviewed the boys who are already living at the centre.  I asked them what they think of their new place to live and study in and how it is affecting their lives.  Their answers were all too clear, they included:

  • It is a safe place for us! We no longer fear going to bed at night nor do we fear the constant possibility of a flood rising up around us.
  • It has a toilet and a shower!!!
  • The food is great and there is no day that we go without eating.
  • Our house parents are kind, they have time for us, they listen and they teach us to know Jesus and God’s word in a simple yet deep and real way.
  • It is a quiet place that allows us to study well and do our assignments on time with electricity.
  • They also said they now feel so sorry for kids who don’t have this opportunity to live lives like this and they pray more often for kids who are still like they were, and they even pray for more people to be raised up to start homes like this, RISK Centres for more kids who need the opportunity to be protected and given the chance to study and thrive in their lives.

How can you be involved and partner with us?

My hope is that you also sense the urgency with us that something can be done to reach out to these young people.  By housing and educating them we can provide a safe place where they can complete their studies, and look forward to a future of dignity.

All donations to help complete our target to pay for our Children at Risk Centres are greatly appreciated and are tax deductible.  You can contribute at any branch of the Commonwealth Bank (or electronically).  Account Name is CAMA Services Overseas Aid Fund.  BSB is 062 905.  Account number is 10114276.  Please note that 10% is deducted from what is given to World Relief to cover their costs in administration.

Would you like to get in contact with Rick & Maria?

Maria & helpers (Rick is taking the photo)

‘Kraft’ who was the marketing fool behind the boxing kangaroo stunt??

I awoke very early this morning.  Turned on Sunrise Weekend and was dismayed at the footage being broadcast.  According to the reports in the Daily Telegraph this morning, Kraft who are the US owners of Vegemite, sponsored a boxing match between a kangaroo and a human.

The human is the kangaroo’s owner, Javier Martinez.  The report says Mr Martinez baits the kangaroo by pushing it and poking it before placing it in a headlock.  If the kangaroo fights back too much,  another person from behind restrains the kangaroo using a harness and a lead.

This was all part of a Kraft sponsored US event called the ‘Rocky Show Circus’ which was apart of the BorderFest festival in Hidalgo, Texas.  The event was designed to celebrate Australia.

I have to ask “Which Kraft employee was foolish enough to think this would celebrate Australia?”  The footage is upsetting, disturbing and cruel.

Attention Kraft management who may be reading my post – please listen.  I am passionate about Australia and being Australian and for a long time I have been annoyed that Vegemite is no longer Australian owned.  Now I am offended that the US owners of our beloved Vegemite would sponsor an event that would be so openly cruel to any animal, let alone an Australian mascot.  Are you crazy??  Have you any idea what this will do to your brand here in Australia?  Is your marketing team so far removed from common sense and human decency that they couldn’t connect the dots with this one?

I am thrilled that many other Australian early rises, have flooded Sunrise Weekend with complaints.  I know as other Australians awake to the news, that many more will be vocal on this.

All I ask from my fellow outraged Australians is that we become equally vocal on other ‘internal’ Australian animal issues.  We are in danger of becoming a country of hypocrites and I believe this is how we are, or will be viewed from overseas.  Many of our beloved Australian native animals are on the endanged list.  Past reports and footage showing Australian livestock being exported in atrocious conditions.  And of course the footage and photographs that show how kangaroos have been killed here in Australia.

Maybe Kraft’s event which was designed to celebrate Australia was more accurate than we Australians like to accept.

The Daily Telegraph story and footage

Sunrise Weekend news broadcast

More help needed than I can give

Relaxing in bed reading, while listening to the sound of rain finally wash the red dust away from Sydney’s streets.  Feeling grateful for the water that was falling and for being snuggled up under my blankets.

The red light on my Blackberry phone flashed, indicating that once again I have a new email.  My husband knows that I can’t help myself and thus I picked up my mobile to read who the email was from. 

“Are you alright”, my husband asked as he watched my face.  “No I don’t think so” was my reply.

It was only the night before I watched on the news, the floods that was happening in the Philippines and now I was reading a first hand account of the disaster from old and dear friends.  Feelings of peacefulness soon turned to guilt as I knew my good friends Rick and Maria Bell worked as missionaries in the Philippines but it didn’t occur to me until this very moment that they could have been affected. 

My thoughts scatter but I quickly realised this was too big for me to handle.  What do I do when friends need more help than I can offer?

I want to share an extract of Rick’s email to me:

“Today while spending the first three hours cleaning at home for the sixth day and seeming to get nowhere,  I then performed the funeral for a twelve year old girl from our school, Rizza  who died in the flood.  It was a sad sad moment in my life.

Sarhn this situation is so big here we may not recover for 6 months.  The stench is unbelievable. The garbage and people’s belongings are piled in huge piles everywhere.   It truly looks like a war zone and the traffic is overwhelming.  I have never seen such grief and loss, the hopelessness is often too much to deal with and sickness is now quickly following .  We are over exhausted but trust we can continue.

 As you saw in our photos we ourselves have lost our lower household of stuff from downstairs including two cars not even 3 years old.  They were insured but not when it is  an act of God!  To find the cash for cars, a fridge, washing machine, stove everything we had in our kitchen, and furniture, plus everything in our office is something I don’t think I am equipped to deal with yet if ever.  So we have moved out not only due to having nothing to use but also we have no water, no electricity, no phone and a house full of diesel oil.”

I am wondering if you are thinking the same thing as me?  Is it ironic that missionaries lose almost everything they own to what the insurance company calls ‘an act of God’?  Rick and Maria Bell have really dedicated their lives to serving others less fortunate than themselves and now I just want to wrap their family & community in my arms and rescue them but I know this is bigger than I can fix on my own.

Can I be totally honest with you?  With the floods  in the Philippines, earth quake in Indonesia and tsunami in Samoa I am feeling ‘disaster fatigued’.  With all that has happened recently I think many Australians are becoming or have become desensitised.  Personally I have discovered it is easy to dismiss these ongoing horrors we witness regularly on the evening news.

I share Rick & Maria Bell’s story with you not to make you the reader feel guilty or overwhelmed with hopelessness but to remind myself and you that every disaster is personal. 

I have donated money to Rick & Maria before when a cyclone ripped through their community years ago and I will donate to help again.  Whatever I give will be needed but  it won’t be enough.  With that I end asking again “what do I do when friends need more than I can give?”   Their children and community need more than I can offer and hence I write this story to share with you.

 

I will be donating through the World Relief Australia (donations are tax deductible) via the following fund:

Project name and number is ‘0923 Philippines Floods’

Any branch of the Commonwealth Bank or electronically to:

Account name  ‘CAMA Services Overseas Aid Fund’

 

Here are photographs that Rick and Maria took of  their home.  The Youtube video below has some amazing photographs of the disaster.

Rick's Car destroyed in the Philippines flood View from Rick and Maria's Manila house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greenies’ Coke Use A Wrecker

“Greenies’ Coke Use A Wrecker” was the title of an article in Sydney’s MX daily newspaper today.

I am going to include the whole article in this post because I think it is worth a read.  In the past I have personally worked as a volunteer youth worker for over 15 years.  I have worked with not only bright, talented and fortunate teenagers but also the ones people really don’t want living next door as a neighbour.  First hand I have seen time and time again the devastation drugs cause on the user and their families (if they were lucky to have families).

 

Interesting enough over this time, never once had I considered the devastation drugs are causing on our environment.  If drug takers and in particular the social drug takers don’t care about their health, finances or family to stop taking drugs maybe thinking about the damage they are causing to the environment might make them think twice (yeah I know it is a long shot).

 

Here is the article:

 

Does white powder damage your green credentials?  Colombia’s vice president says middle class cokeheads, who recycle and take their shopping home in reusable bags, should realise their habit is wrecking the environment, particularly his country’s rainforests.

 

“These people, who have good jobs and drive a hybrid car or cycle to work because they care about the environment, may go to a party and do some lines of coke and they are thinking it is no problem” Francisco Santos said.  “They are absolutely unaware of the ecological impact of their drug taking and we want to change that.”

 

Colombia launched a campaign to make Europeans aware of the impact of the drug industry on their country two years ago.  But Europeans cocaine use has doubled in the past year and Santos is changing tack and hopes that a pleas to people’s eco-conscience will get through.

 

Santos plans to launch a similar campaign in the US next year.  “We want to show them (cocaine users) destroyed rain forests, wasted land.  Maybe if they don’t care about their own brains, they care about this.”

 

The Colombian government says 2.2 million hectares of rainforest has been cleared to grow cocaine in the past 20 years, equating to about 4sqm for every gram of cocaine produced.


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