Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Two inspirational stories

There were two rather inspirational stories on Australian TV last night that in a sense linked together two of the things that I have talked about this month.

The first story on the 7.30 Report focused on the work of Sydney lawyer Luke Geary. You can find the transcript and video here.

Luke was a partner in a big Sydney law firm who began providing a free Salvation Army legal clinic at the Sydney suburb of Auburn. The pro bono service, dubbed "Courtyard Legal," acts for anyone in need, picking up cases that the cash-strapped legal aid commission can't. The first night they had one client and then it became two and three. After five years, they now see between 20 and 25 clients every Monday night.

The story follows through two cases.

A journalist in the Sierra Leone capital city Freetown, Nabieu Wallace, was persecuted for his political views and, accused of being a rebel army supporter, fled in 1999. Now, the family has been re-united as a consequence of the support provided by Luke.

The second case is that of  Lawrie Collins. Here Luke Geary's work gained Mr Collins' one last chance. 

Luke Geary now works full time for the Salvation Army. The Army itself is setting up a CBD law firm which, if successful, will fund three free legal centres.

The second story was on Australian Story, a half hour ABC program that often has some remarkable stories. This one focused on the work in Cambodia of Tara  Winkler and the Cambodian Children's Trust. You can find the transcript here.

Herself the grand daughter of a Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz, Tara went on a trip to Cambodia at age 18 and became involved with an orphanage at Battambang. Upon return, to Australia she raised $20,000 and took the money back to Cambodia.

TARA WINKLER, CAMBODIAN CHILDREN’S TRUST : I had no idea to the extent of how bad things were, but I had some idea that things weren’t quite kosher. I knew definitely there was corruption happening. I left a phone with one of the older and more responsible girls at the orphanage named Sinet, so that she could contact me if there was any problems. I came back to Australia and this one night I was out at a gig and I got a message from her. It said something like don’t worry about me Tara, I’m being brave. I had no idea why she was telling me not to worry and why she had to be brave. I really didn’t understand, but it set off alarm bells. Shortly after that I got an email from Jedtha that there were some problems happening and he was quite cryptic about what those problems were, but I was very concerned and jumped on the next plane back to Battambang. So when I returned to Battambang I learned just how bad things had become; so bad that I was prevented from returning to the orphanage. I met with the former staff.

Faced with corruption and with the children suffering physical and sexual abuse from the Director, Tara joined with Jedtha Pon, a former staff member, to create an alternative. To do this, they had to find suitable accommodation, create the required structures and find funding. Finally, and with support from the_CCT5347-Copy-page1 Cambodian police, the children were given the choice to move. Tara Winkler found herself with final responsibility for the lives of 14 children and young adults.

Tara Winkler is still only 23, but has seen her work expand into a still small but successful institution - here and here.

I said that these two stories linked together two of the things that I have talked about this month.

In Saturday Morning Musings - the importance of the small I spoke of the importance of individual action, concluding:

These are purely local examples, yet I find them replicated time and time again. At a time when there is so much complexity and indeed negativity, I find find it rather inspirational that history shows the importance of individual endeavour for good as well as bad.

I returned to problems of complexity and negativity in Sunday Essay - too much information.

We live at a time when in many western countries our reporting and attacks on individual and institutional failures and indeed on our beliefs is unrelenting and merciless. There is something wonderfully refreshing for the human spirit in learning of individual successes.    

1 comment:

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