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...

My speech in support of the Kurdish people – 10th Feb, 2018

I regard myself as an ordinary Australian. Nothing more and nothing less. I do not regard myself as left-wing or right-wing, nor am I a member of any political party. I am an Australian and proud of it. Being Australian and probably because of our beginnings being rooted in prisons, chains and the lash I firmly believe in freedom of the individual. That is freedom to be who we are, believe what we believe as long as it brings no harm to anyone else. However, my life has taught me that there is always some bugger trying to take your freedom away. There is always some tin pot despot wanting to make you conform to what they regard as the way to be. They want you to toe their line and if you don’t they will try to punish or destroy you.  This may be religiously, politically socially but often it’s not the way most of us want to be.  In other words, they want to impose on us ways of life we don’t necessarily want to take up.  We are quite happy to live by the code of “Don’t do anything to anyone else you wouldn’t want done to you”. To achieve these aims, despots use fear in all forms of threats, armies, walls and structures they regard as strong, brutal, impregnable and forceful. But the smell of freedom is like love, it’s like the wind. The wind blows where it blows. It blows through the windows of buildings; through the cracks in and over the walls and in the hearts many of those who hold the weapons....

Walking the line in Bangkok

As many of you know, through my work with homeless, abused and traffickerd children I am on the Board of Childline Thailand. I do this through my Bill Crews Charitable Trust, of which I am the founder and CEO. Last Friday night my friend Ilya Smirnoff, CEO of Childline Thailand and I went for a walk amongst the slums and squatters areas of Bangkok. Eventually he led me to under a tollway and to walk along a railway line which snaked towards the port. All along the Railway line, within inches of the railway carriages which would pass by were huts, shacks, also tin and corrugated iron coverings under which were shops, laundromats, beauty shops, hairdressers; the makings of a whole economy. We could see inside many of the buildings where hair was being done and the crates and crates of soft drink and goods for sale. As we walked along the line I could not believe how lucky I was to see this and be part of it. What I notice about this and other similar communities is the sense of connection everyone has with each other. People there feel part of something we in the west have lost to our detriment. There is a community here. That’s not to say its all good though. As there were many kids playing, many on the railway track itself, I thought of all the toys we had and Ilya suggested that we set up a toy library so that we can keep an eye on the kids as they come to swap the toys. Many of them contact Childline when...

My Christmas message

This Christmas many children won’t share our good fortune. They’ll endure bleak conditions of grinding poverty, but I have good news. My Bill Crews Charitable Trust has already given thousands of kids like this a better future and with your ongoing support we’re well placed to help even more. I’m sure you know that I’ve been striving to improve the lives of the poor and the vulnerable for 45 years. I gave away my trade as an Electronics Engineer to help abandoned youth in the Sydney’s red-light district of Kings Cross. Today my commitment to homeless and at-risk young people is as strong as ever. Support through education Thanks to your support, the innovative work done by my Bill Crews Charitable Trust is saving kids through education. Literacy literally changes their lives – no matter where they live. Over 3,000 desperately needy children in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory have benefited from The Bill Crews Charitable Trust MultiLit Literacy program in the past 20 years. An exciting new way to help Now we are about to embark on an exciting new venture. A program of support that goes beyond literacy to include family therapy and other cutting edge techniques designed to break the cycle of poverty. I’m dedicated to giving vulnerable youngsters a new start. I know it’s the greatest gift of all, especially at Christmas. That’s why I’m asking you to support my work with a Christmas donation today. Your Christmas gift will enable me and my team at The Bill Crews Charitable Trust to lift even more young people out of poverty. It will give them...