I love Aussie rules and cricket, I always have and I still do but until the age of 22 years old that was about all I had a passion for.
Then at the age of 22 I decided to follow up on a newish passion of mine from the previous two or three years and that was climbing mountains. So I chose a small country with big mountains to go to named Kyrgyzstan (also the world’s most difficult country to spell). I was instantly mesmerised by the 7000m mountains that filled my horizons and the beauty of the culture and people. While I was getting my Kyrgyz visa in London one of the consulate staff said they had a friend who I should visit while in there because she was a teacher at a university in the east of the country. I was a newly graduated teacher myself so I thought this would be a good idea to go and visit and maybe volunteer for a week before I then took off to the mountains.
That week has more or less lasted for the past 15 years and now in over 80 countries.
I completely fell in love with volunteering, cultural immersion and working with people to address issues of equality, justice and for everyone to have access to their rights. In my first month of volunteering in beautiful Karakol, in eastern Kyrgyzstan, I worked with an incredible group of women my own age and learnt more from them that I had learnt from anyone else in my life to that point. While I got a degree from a university in Australia it was really the university in Kyrgyzstan that gave me an education in life.
A few months after my volunteering in Kyrgyzstan and then Mongolia I did some paid teaching in South Korea. There was a moment in South Korea that it hit me. Why…? Why me…? Why did the world like this? That moment was when the paper money of Korean Won hit my hand after my first week of teaching. I had just been paid more money per hour than my friends and colleagues in Kyrgyzstan earned in a month, but here’s the thing – I didn’t worker harder than my friends, I wasn’t smarter, I didn’t work longer hours, the only difference between us was where we were born and for me, having been born in Australia, I had access and opportunity to do what I wanted in the world.
When I felt the world shift in such a dramatic moment with the cold facts of reality and injustice it struck me I knew I had to do more to find out answers and work on solutions to the question of why.
My journey since Kyrgyzstan 15 years ago has taken me into two definite strands of life:
- Listening, learning and trying to be of service to communities in developing countries
- Advocating, campaigning, awareness-raising and educating others in developed
What I have found the Campaign for Australian Aid has added to my life is a framework, a unified voice and a community to advocate on why Australian Aid is important, how effective it is and why I care and contribute my time, effort, energy and passion towards making sure we all have access and opportunity no matter where we are born in the world.
In September this year I visited Kyrgyzstan once again for the first time in 15 years. What I saw was a distinct lack of extreme poverty as had been the case. It seemed people no longer had to make terrible choices between less food per day or to buy the medicines they needed. That is the basic kind of choice and opportunity I hope to see for everyone, everywhere and forever.
Australian Aid is an important part of the machine for communities, like in Kyrgyzstan and around the world, to get themselves out of extreme poverty. I strongly encourage everyone to join in using your voice to share with others and especially your local federal MP on why you care about making a difference in the world and be a part of the solution to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and protect the planet.
Upcoming presentations on my Australian-wide presentation tour:
Tues 8 Dec 6-7pm, Australian Volunteers International, Fitzroy, VIC: Teaspoons of Change, the Global Goals and Campaign for Australian Aid. Free event.