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...

Government neglect made Martin Place homeless inevitable

The tent city in Martin Place arose out of a perfect storm of events. Events which not only result in an inevitable rise in homelessness, but also tend to make us all feel more fearful of the future. People are noticing a widening gap between the rich and the poor. They are wondering why a relative few receive increasingly huge salaries while their own pay packets remain stagnant in the face of rising costs of living. Rising house prices and rents leave many fearful that they are only one pay packet away from catastrophe. A significant proportion of homelessness can be attributed to the housing crisis. With mortgage rates at record lows and many families being in debt, my guess is just a small increase in interest rates will add many more people to the list of homeless. Seeing pictures of the tents in Martin Place must leave many people with a nagging feeling in the back of their minds: “This could be me”. The face of homelessness is already changing. Up to 40% of all homeless people now are women, many with children, escaping domestic violence. One bright spot amid this societal gloom is the public concern expressed over the plight of those genuine homeless in Martin Place. It shows that compassion for the underdog is alive and well, even amongst those whose economic circumstances are not a source of concern. I know many wealthy people are very worried about the way they see society heading. They understand all the authorities can do is move homeless people on from one place to another. Like Moses looking for the...

Dalai Lama’s religion will outlast the Chinese occupation of Tibet

Take a look at this photo. Take a careful look. The face of Lobsang Lozin. When I first saw it I was struck by the kindness reflected in it. It’s a very compassionate face, yet there is an element of devil may care in it too. It’s like the face of someone who would go to the wall for you.  Strong, cheeky and brave. To me, it’s the face of a son every man would love to have and every mother would treasure. I looked him up on the internet to try and gauge if I was right and all I got was “Lobsang who has been described as an exemplary student with an excellent track record in his monastic studies set himself on fire at around 12 noon near his monastery’s main prayer hall and began walking towards the local Chinese office before falling down.” I saw his face on a wall in the Tibetan Museum in Dharamsala. His was one of 147 faces of Tibetan monks who had self-immolated in protest over the intolerable burden of being under the Chinese Government’s occupation of Tibet. We all know today that Tibet is basically a Chinese Government gaol. The native Tibetans are being strangled in their own country. They have no freedom to be themselves and they are being overrun by countless foreigners being moved in to make a minority of the very people who have lived there for countless generations.  They are punished if they even have photographs of their leader, The Dalai Lama. The pain they must be suffering both psychological and physical cannot be described. Yet,...

Give a child a better future

You might not realise it, but your support is giving impoverished children one of the greatest gifts of all – the ability to read and imagine a better tomorrow. It’s already happened to over 3,000 kids who’ve completed my Bill Crews Charitable Trust MultiLit Literacy program. Just last week 11-year old Susan proudly turned to me and said: “I can go to university if I keep this up!”. She can and a future way beyond her wildest expectations awaits. The kids are in poverty It all starts with 6 months intensive reading tuition in one of our centres. Because the kids all come from such poor backgrounds we don’t charge any fees. That’s why your ongoing support is crucial. A group of three young Aboriginal brothers recently completed our program. The poverty they suffered is hard to describe, but spite everything they had a drive to succeed. One by one they learned to read and the eldest boy won the Northern Territory Chief Minister’s Award for the greatest improvement in literacy. I had tears in my eyes when I was told of it. Their potential needs unlocking If you give, our successes can be limitless. I have lost count of the number of mothers who’ve thanked me for the change in their son or daughter. I love helping these kids and their potential needs our support to be unlocked. When that happens the results are remarkable. One of our students went on to get a post-graduate degree in medicine. Many others are at university. Former students from our Gladstone centre have grown up to get great trade jobs and...

My hour with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Yesterday I went to visit my old friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, Tibet. It was an absolutely beautiful morning as I spent time waiting for His Holiness on the veranda of His residence. I could see He was in a side room being filmed in conversation with a group of people. As He came out of the room His face lit up when he saw me. “My dear friend from Australia” He said, “Come with me” as we hugged tightly and I kissed Him on the top of His head. He led me to a large room at the end of the veranda. On a carpet were two lounge chairs and a coffee table where He motioned for me to sit. There were only two other people in the room. Chimmi, His private secretary and a translator. They were seated on smaller chairs near the wall. As we sat down He motioned to the cups of tea, looked at me and said “Welcome to my home, my dear old friend”. He then told the interpreter and Chimmi how I had called Him a good Christian (and I think He is) and how He thought I was a good Buddhist (which I am)! As we were sitting He drew a beautiful watch out of a small bag. “This was given to me by some people at a conference”, He said, “And I want to give it to you”. He tried to put it on my wrist but the band was a bit too tight. He was determined to put it on properly. “It’s okay like that”, I...