Help me teach the poorest kids to read

I want to share some exciting news with you! I’m overjoyed to let you know my Bill Crews Charitable Trust has launched a brand new reading program for the most disadvantaged children in our community. Called “Everyone Can Read”, the program is specifically designed to fit in with regular school life and its structure makes it even more appealing to the kids who attend. We are rolling the new program out to the most needy kids in NSW and the Northern Territory, with an initial intake of 80 students. We’ve already taught 3,000 kids As I’m sure you know, in the past 20-years we have taught over 3,000 kids to read. Our new and improved program will enable us to give even more children the literacy skills they need to succeed. We have also introduced some important initiatives to support the kids in our “Everyone Can Read” program, like a breakfast club where kids arrive early and have a meal before putting their heads down to catch up on literacy. This is especially important as many of our students come from impoverished families who can’t afford breakfast. Our new program can teach even more I’m sure I don’t need to spell out the benefits of literacy to you. Suffice to say many of our past students have grown and gone on to university and prosperous careers, rather than facing a years on welfare. Indeed, we calculated that over their lifetime these students will save the government $553-million. That is the power of reading and the power of what you and I can achieve together. I am passionate about giving...

RIP Robert Kennedy

Today, June 6, is always a sad day for me. Not only is it 74th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in France it is also (this year) the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy. For many people hope for a better world died with Robert Kennedy.   I will always remember his speech a few months earlier on the death of Martin Luther King. In it he said:- What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.” We could do with a bit of that here in Australia and, come to think of it, in most countries of this world. I, and many others, consider his speech to be the greatest speech ever made. It is up there with the Gettysburg address. I think Robert Kennedy is the greatest President America never had and when we look at the Presidency and the political polarisation today, I grieve for what we have...

With Your Support We Work Wonders

Not long ago I woke up on a plastic mat laid out on the concrete floor of a building near Bangkok’s chaotic Central Railway Station. It’s not the sort of place you might expect to find a church minister, but there I was, among a bunch of homeless street kids. We’d all slept there in that place of safety – a place called The Hub – which your support has brought to life. The Hub in Bangkok is supported by my Bill Crews Charitable Trust. At The Hub we do our best to rescue street kids by providing a place of safety, nurturing and life-changing education programs. Children end up there from all over Thailand and neighbouring countries. Sometimes they are fleeing their home villages, but more often these kids have fallen victim to child trafficking. The street kids turn to us Hundreds of kids turn to us for help. Sometimes their stories have a profound effect on me. I especially remember one young boy named Anurat. His parents loved him a lot, but they were rural and poverty-stricken, and they died very young. This left little Anurat alone and vulnerable. It breaks my heart to tell you that he was a victim of the sex industry. By the time I met Anurat at The Hub he was dying of AIDS. He and I became very close. We would talk at The Hub for hours. His deep understanding of life was at odds with his age. Unfortunately, all my compassion could not save him from the disease that ravaged his little body. I give thanks to you though, because...

When the homeless give you everything

I was sitting at a table in our Loaves & Fishes Free Restaurant for the homeless at the weekend eating lunch with two homeless men. Both were tall, skinny and wore the look of those who had spent a fair bit of time recently outdoors. “I pick up my new dentures tomorrow”, one of them said. “It’s going to make me look so much better and I’m sure I’ll be able to get a job now”. I looked closely at his face and could see the indent in his mouth where the teeth were missing. The centrepiece of his top lip was drawn inwards, distorting his face a bit. I could imagine how a new set of dentures from our free dental clinic would fix all of that disfiguring. “You know”, I said “I know one of the richest men in Australia and he is so lonely and sad. Riches don’t make you happy”. “No”, he said. Then he looked at me closely and said, “You know Bill, I have learned that the purpose of life is to give. You are born into this world with nothing and you leave it with nothing. The only important thing you can do along the way is to give”. “Yeah”, his mate chimed in. “I don’t have anything and tonight I’m sleeping in this boardin’ house but today I feel ten feet tall because I am not drinking. I have not drunk for months now and I feel happier and better than I ever did”. They didn’t know it but at that moment these two who had nothing had given me everything! They had...

My experience washing the feet of the homeless

At lunchtime very Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, in our Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant I wash the feet of as many homeless guests as I can in memory of Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples before he was arrested tortured and executed. I started doing this in protest at the way the church had made a ritual of it where only goodly religious people did it to each other with all the church pomp and ceremony around it, making it, in a way, remote from life itself. I remember, on hearing that I was going to do it, one elderly religious lady asked me if I was going to wear my robes. “No.” I told her. As the guests file into our restaurant I grab them by the hand and lead them to a chair, a tub of water and some towels. They sit in the chair put their feet in the tub and I wash their feet. It is such a moving, spiritual experience for me. As I wash their feet the guests cannot help but tell me their life stories and a real gentle loving bond develops. Every year there is a story that moves me to tears. This year I noticed a hooded, homeless woman walking in for a meal and I knew I had to wash her feet. I lead her to the chair, she took her sandals off and immersed her feet in the warm water. “I have been homeless for a long time” she said. “Not just in Sydney but in other cities too. I have mental issues and...

Let me share something wonderful

I wanted to share something wonderful with you. It almost moved me to tears and it shows how, when we work together, we can give a child a brand new start. Over many years my Bill Crews Charitable Trust has run the MultiLit Literacy Tutorial program in Darwin. It gives lots of Aboriginal kids the literacy skills they need to succeed. At the end of each program we celebrate with a graduation, and what recently happened was extra special. It made heaven sing! One young Aboriginal boy stepped up to read a note of thanks. He’d struggled through the program more than most. Nevertheless he slowly began to read. One word at a time. Expressing his gratitude. To all of us in the audience – his classmates and the parents – it seemed to take forever. But he pushed through and finished with a satisfied smile. Then the magic happened. The audience burst into rapturous applause. The young boy beamed and I’m sure all heaven sung in that moment! Designing even better programs Over the decades the literacy programs I’ve been involved in have taught over 1,000 Aboriginal kids reading and writing skills that have changed their lives. Right now me and my team at the Bill Crews Charitable Trust are exploring the latest educational and support methods, involving earlier intervention as well as more intensive family care. We want to design even better programs. I hope you can find it in your heart to support me in this. I remember one young student telling me that education was her ticket out of poverty. She is now completing a...