It’s been a while since my last post when I decided to ditch my un-planned plan of travelling, chilling out, having some ‘me time’ (as the self help books would put it) and taking a breath. Let me tell you; I’ve been taking a lot of deep breaths in the last couple of months (into a paper bag at times) and it’s not that I haven’t thought about posting it’s just, well, I haven’t quite known how to articulate what’s been going on.
‘Every risk is worth taking as long as it’s for a good cause and contributes to a good life’ Sir Richard Branson
Moving to a new country is hard period. Moving to a new country where you know no-one is harder. Moving to a developing country, where you don’t speak the language, (wine is expensive), know no-one and take on a big job is really hard. It’s also fun and exciting and challenging and rewarding and frustrating and, at times, utterly exhausting.
There have been snakes, mosquitoes, screaming bugs the size of your hand (ok maybe a babies hand) mosquitoes, spiders the size of cats (why let the truth get in the way of a good story?), cat burglars (he’s actually kinda cute and I’m now counting him as a friend) ant invasions, mosquitoes, moth storms, wild dogs, scorpions and did I mention mosquitoes?
There have been friends to visit that I hated saying goodbye to (my liver was pleased, just quietly), amazing people giving their money, time and love, who I now call dear friends, more girls joining our ever growing family and more waiting to come. There have been long days that turned into long nights of working to build strategies, presentations, proposals and websites (check it out http://www.cosasia.org) – all for the single, totally fulfilling purpose, of saving more girls from a life that most don’t want to think about. If I had to put a single word to what’s been going on it would be ‘overwhelming’ in every way.
I’ve had moments of despair, moments of feeling completely humbled and energized by the generosity and kindness of people and of absolute fury at the mean spiritedness of others. I’ve had moments of awe at the accomplishments people have achieved in helping others and I’ve had many of self doubt and questioning followed by moments of total clarity and conviction. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried and I’ve felt totally out of my depth – I have no idea how to deal with teenage girls screaming at each other for god’s sake, I didn’t even hold a baby until I was 20 something! (apparently I still only look 20-something though, thanks Thailand I’ll run with that!)
I’ve had one of our girls come to me in her moment of despair, crying and just needing to be held and then you just…. ‘know’.
I’ve helped 5 girls learn to sing Waltzing Matilda and You’re the Voice before taking the trip of a lifetime to Australia on ‘The Wildest Dreams Tour’ and then… you just ‘know’
And then I wrote a speech for our founder to give in Australia last night which I include here as testament to one of those moments of clarity:
Let me tell you a story.
The story of 5 little girls.
5 innocent little girls.
5 trusting little girls. who loved their parents.
5 little girls who did what they were told.
5 little girls from aged from 9 – 13 years old.
Some of them would come home from school, clean themselves up.
Wait to see if they were going to have visitors that night, visitors that would come to their sack on the floor and use them like an object while their father lay passed out on opium.
Their mothers told them to be grateful they weren’t beaten.
Some would come home to no mother at all
They would be mother to their younger sisters.
The real mother out working as a sex worker along with the older sister she had already sold.
5 little girls.
Their childhoods stolen.
Their dreams limited to a hillside village where at least they weren’t beaten.
But worse was yet to come.
They were going to be sold by the people they loved the most.
The people who knew no better.
Who thought they had no other option.
I started life out as documentary photographer covering every major conflict the world over.
I have seen more atrocities; more acts of evil and more horrors of war than most can possibly imagine.
But nothing has ever affected me like these 5 little girls and the 1,000’s of others just like them.
I rescued these 5 little girls and together with my wife, my little boys and a handful of volunteers COSA was born.
Those 5 little girls were loved and educated and given back their childhoods.
They were given choices.
They now speak English, they sing, they dance, they want to be teachers and translators and chefs.
They have choices.
They are role models in their home villages, the proof that education is the key to a better life.
That there are other options.
The 5 little girls we started with has grown to 25.
Thanks to the support of amazing organizations like Hands Across The Water and the generosity of people like yourselves we will help more than 100 more girls in the next two years.
We currently work in 7 villages, there are 7,000 more out there and thousands of little girls that need our help.
As a documentary photographer I only saw the loss and the hopelessness.
As an activist and father to these girls I see hope, I see change.
I see human kindness and I’m humbled and honored to be here tonight as a partner of Hand Across the Water to personally say
COSA started with 5 little girls 5 years ago and today they stand before you as 5 young women living a life that is truly beyond their wildest dreams.
And right then I just…. knew. I knew that it’s easy to get caught up in what’s right in front of you right in that moment, easy to worry about what other people think when they really have no clue, to momentarily lose sight of what’s actually important and the bigger picture.
So what do I know? I know that I am working with a great team of people for an organisation started by an inspiring man who ‘just knew’. I know that we have a great vision for a great future to give more little girls the chance to dream, to choose, to live, to… ‘know’ and we can achieve it. I just….know.
So whatever it is that you ‘just know’ stick to it, pursue it with passion even if you’re not sure about the ‘how’ yet. Remember the big picture, the dream, and keep reminders around for when you have those moments of doubt. After all nothing worthwhile is ever easy is it?
This guest blog is from My Backpack Has Wheels.
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