If we can shift our focus from the problem in front of us…to the God we serve that is the change of perspective required
It’s a story that you may have heard dozens of times. Jesus was in the temple, watching people put money in the collection box. He was watching them give. That sounds really odd. But this was how it happened – it was in a place where people could see it and some people used it as an opportunity to show how great they were by giving big bundles of cash caused a commotion. At the same time, a poor widow approached the box and almost ninja like, drops in two coins. Most people would not have noticed because she wasn’t there for the applause of the masses and didn’t cause a ruckus.
Jesus noticed. He took time to highlight her action. He said that she ‘had given had given more than all of the others’ because she gave all she had to live on, whilst everyone else gave a tiny bit out of their surplus.
So what does that mean? What do we learn from that story?
Here’s what I think. Giving money out of surplus, when it doesn’t impact us financially either way, whilst a good thing to do, is not generosity. True generosity is costly. There’s an old saying, ‘give till it hurts’ which doesn’t paint generosity in a particularly positive light, but perhaps that is a good place to start. If you don’t know how much to give, give until you feel it, when it becomes a sacrifice – there is something deeply powerful about a sacrificial gift.
When is the right time to buy a house, or sell one? Should I invest in shares instead?
We think incredibly analytically about our money when it comes to the “serious” things in life. But there are other elements of finance and spending which don’t bring about too much thought and analytics. Like spending it on entertainment, going out for dinner, buying new clothes…
When we give money away, generally this falls into analytical, serious part of finance, which is how it should be. But often we consider if we give or how much we can give away, depending on how our income looks at that moment. There are even times throughout the year which are considered to be the time to give and be generous. Christmas is one of those times.
We try to watch the market to figure out the best time to buy and sell property, shares and other investments. Sometimes we can do something similar when it comes to giving, when is the best time to give? When should I be generous?
The real answer to that question is that generosity isn’t restricted to a certain time of year, or fluctuation of the market. Sure, these things can be helpful in that they provide a time and opportunity to give, but true generosity is a way of life. It is something that we live and breath. It becomes part of who we are and it starts as one intentional act. What is your intentional act of generosity?
Written by Kelsie De Haan, Political Intern, Opportunity International Australia
Language is one of the most powerful tools that we can employ. Words have the power to build people up or to tear them down. They can be liberating, oppressive or bring about much needed change. That is why the discourse surrounding refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia is such a powerful one. This conversation upholds systems which abuse human rights and oppresses a vulnerable group of people and it needs to be recognised as such.
“Illegal immigrants”, “queue jumpers”, “boat people” and “potential terrorists” are just a few of the terms that have been used to describe asylum seekers and refugees. These terms have become interchangeable without anyone stopping to think about what they actually mean. They are used to portray this group of people as an enemy, an inconvenience and a threat. They are loaded with negative connotations, which can be used to manipulate the Australian public to hold particular prejudices. If we think of asylum seekers and refugees as law-breakers it dehumanises them and can shut off any compassion we would otherwise feel. It also allows those in power to deny the responsibility they have to uphold the rights of those seeking asylum in Australia. Instead, asylum seekers and refugees are positioned as a threat to Australian sovereignty and framed as a political issue not a humanitarian one.
The most blatant lie we are fed is that seeking asylum is illegal – it isn’t. Rather it is a basic human right outlined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The international community has time after time condemned Australian asylum seeker policy, deeming it an abuse of this basic human right, specifically the practices of indefinite mandatory detention, children in detention and the separation of families in detention. In fact, in 2012 Australia was found guilty of 143 violations of international law regarding their treatment of refugees. Further, Australia’s current approach costs $400,000 per-refugee, per-year and costs for running the offshore detention program between 2013 and 2016 cost $9.6 billion. We spend horrendous amounts on an oppressive and unjust system that violates human rights rather than using these funds wisely to ensure the protection of this vulnerable group.
But, rather than empathising and caring for refugees and asylum seekers who have had to flee their homes, we call them illegal and imprison them indefinitely. We treat them as criminals rather than victims and instead of protecting them, we physically and mentally abuse them.
How did we let it come to this? We underestimated the power of words. Dehumanising and threatening language is used to place these people outside of our scope of justice. Asylum seekers and refugees have been placed outside of our moral boundaries, meaning we have been influenced to believe that fairness and justice don’t apply to them. We have been taught not to care.
With over 22.5 million refugees in the world, fleeing from war, persecution and violence, we need to expand our scope of justice again to include them. We need to care. Every day, 28,300 people are forced to flee their homes, running from war and persecution into systems of oppression and injustice. The refugee and asylum seeker threat is not to our national sovereignty, but the threat is to their wellbeing. Change is needed to ensure the safety and protection of these people; we need to ensure our government policy upholds the rights of this vulnerable group.
Written by Kelsie De Haan, Opportunity International Australia Political Intern
Everyone should have access to the most basic of rights. That much we can all agree upon and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights backs me up on that on. It outlines what people are entitled to simply by being born human. It also outlines the responsibility the state has to uphold the rights of their citizens and provides a guideline to moral and ethical behaviour.
In 2005, a report was released outlining the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) which demonstrates how rights and responsibility play out at a global level. One of the key components of this is the state’s right to sovereignty which is forfeited if they do not uphold their responsibilities to their citizens. For example, to protect them from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It doesn’t stop there. Those who uphold the first responsibility are then given the added responsibility to help other states uphold it. Again, if they fail to prevent these atrocities or even perpetuate them, the international community assumes the responsibility to protect through intervention.
The right to sovereignty carries enormous responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens and we rightly expect this from our leaders. We readily criticise leaders who perpetrate human rights abuses and citizens pressure their own governments to take up the responsibility to intervene. For states to have the right to self-determination and self-government, first they must demonstrate their fulfilment of responsibility to promoting peace, protecting citizens and caring for the environment.
Somehow, things seem a little different at an individual level. The concept of responsibility tied to rights is often overlooked. We tend to be so quick to declare our rights and then dismiss our responsibilities. We expect the right to welfare as a citizen but we don’t like the responsibility of paying taxes – some even avoid paying tax and therefore impede on another’s right to receive adequate welfare. We love that we have the right to free speech, but are quick to shoot down other opinions that are different from ours – even attempting to silence through intimidation and violence. We revel in the right we have to live in freedom and safety but bemoan a speeding fine we receive when we put the safety of others at risk.
When we claim our individual rights without considering our responsibilities to those around us, it becomes very dangerous. It can lead to a place where the responsibility to respect another’s rights and protect their freedoms is overshadowed by the idea of ‘my rights over your rights’. Or in other words, ‘me first, you are not as important’. When this rhetoric is used, conflicting rights become the norm and solutions become less clear. It’s complicated. We see this daily in Australia where an individual’s right to seek asylum is in direct conflict with a state’s right to sovereign borders, or the right to free speech versus the right to live free of fear and hate speech, and even the pro-choice versus pro-life debate as it reflects the conflicting rights of a mother and her unborn child.
How do we justify privileging one person’s rights over another? It sounds awful when it gets stated like that, but we do it every day. I’m sure we would like to think that the ‘good guy’ always wins, but unfortunately it is more often the person with the most power who has their rights recognised and prioritised. When the responsibility to consider the needs of others is removed from the equation, conflicting rights are resolved through oppression of the disadvantaged by those in power. History shows us that oppression of a minority and the suppression of their rights appears to be the default setting, changing only when someone in a position of power draws attention to the injustice and allows an oppressed voice to be heard.
If being powerful is the prerequisite to exercising rights, this leaves women and children in a very vulnerable position. Fortunately, there are organisations like Opportunity International Australia and others whose sole purpose is to uphold their rights and empower them to a life free from injustice and poverty. Yet for many other minorities, oppression and silencing of rights is a reality they face every day as a result of our reluctance to accept responsibility – responsibility to care for others, to make sacrifices for those in need, to listen to others and to simply be a responsible global citizen.
So, know your rights. Ensure that you have access to them. Make a stand for them. But don’t stop there. Know the responsibilities that you have because of your rights. Ensure others have access to their rights (no matter who they are or if you agree with all of their opinions), and make a stand for them. Use your rights to uphold those of others, not to oppress them.
I love a good story. If I can lose myself in and engage with someone’s journey, that speaks powerfully to me. But, in saying that, often we can underestimate the numbers behind each individual story.
For example, our recent history of the fight against poverty.
In 1970, we are told that there were 60,000 children under the age of 5, around the world, who died every single day, due to basic illness, malnutrition and other easily curable diseases. 60,000. It is unimaginable and heartbreaking; how could such a reality exist? I’m so grateful that at the time, people were motivated to act, and join those who were already taking action.
Fast forward 20 years to 1990, the figure was closer to 33,000 a day.
Another 20 years on, in 2010, it was down to 22,000.
Today that number is around 16,000 per day. Still unimaginable and heartbreaking, but it is a phenomenal improvement. Especially when you take into consideration the population explosion.
Globally, the population was at 3.6 billion people in 1970, which grew to 5.3 billion in 1990 and then 7.3 billion in 2015. The growth over the last 45 years has skyrocketed but the number of children under the age of 5 who are dying every single day has plummeted.
In other terms, it looks like this, 10% of the global population currently live in extreme poverty. 45 years ago it was over 60%, 12 years ago, it was 21% of the global population in extreme poverty. Generosity is winning.
We are making a difference. We are getting somewhere. I didn’t wake up this morning and discover poverty, as a world we have been fighting it for decades, centuries. We still have a way to go but we are in a much better place than we were – we just need to keep going.
As we get closer to the end of financial year, there has never been a better time to fight the injustice of poverty than right now. Opportunity International Australia provides mothers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines with small loans to build businesses, put food on the table, send their kids to school, and work their way out of poverty. Be part of a hand up. A gift as small as $70 can be life-changing.
“Don’t read the comments.” It’s something I say frequently to my wife, especially when reading an article online on a topic that she cares about. Even just a short amount of scrolling through the comments is enough to ruin your whole day. People can be incredibly mean-spirited about any issue and are quick to come up with witty remarks to discredit and embarrass. It’s just easier and less taxing to not engage in it.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take my own advice and it just about did ruin my whole day. I was reading an article about Andrew Forrest and how he made the largest philanthropic donation in Australian history. $400 million. Unbelievable. To a number of different causes which is ultimately going to impact thousands, if not millions of people. This was a day to celebrate with joy and laughter. But then I read the comments.
Andrew was accused of many things and hatred was heaped on him about issues of tax evasion right through to grandstanding. All I felt was sadness. Now Andrew is a big boy, he can look after himself and I don’t think comments on the internet will have an effect on him, but my sadness was more about the state of our culture and how we respond to people doing good things. Again we see the pervasive tall poppy syndrome rearing its ugly head, as attempts are made to tear down anyone who shows any sign of leadership or a desire change the world. I hate that part of our culture. We complain about a shortage of strong leaders in politics and business, but we kill them off before they have a chance to develop. Surely there is a way we can foster an environment where we can develop strong leaders without expecting perfection or begrudging them when they are doing well.
No living person in the history of Australia has done anything like this. It is without precedence. But at the same time it is not an isolated event. There are a number of wealthy Australians who give consistently and generously, but they like to fly under the radar. We wish that they wouldn’t. Generosity is something that we should celebrate. The more we know about it the more we can celebrate it and normalise it. The hope is that because Andrew and Nicola Forrest have opened up about what they are choosing to give away, others will begin to do the same. The more we can normalise generosity, the more generous we will become and that is how we change the world.
How do we function as people after seeing some of the things this world has to offer? Many have seen such devastation and experienced trauma beyond what can be articulated. For some it is a daily experience, for others it is an occasional glimpse which jolts the brain for a while.
In relation to poverty, we all know it exists but when we are not confronted with it regularly it is so far removed from our daily life that it has little to no impact on our thought process. If you have ever travelled to a developing country and been exposed to those living in extreme poverty, or spent time with the homeless in Australia, then no doubt you will be struck by the contradiction that we live in each day. I recently spent some time in the Philippines and I was confronted by the gut-wrenching conditions that people find themselves in. I walked through a few slums and something within me disconnected. For me to continue to function in that moment, surrounded by one of the things that I hate most, I held my breath and kept walking, lest I stop and become so overwhelmed by the devastation that I emotionally journey to a place that I can’t make it back from. That was my coping mechanism; I’m not proud of it but that’s what happened.
In retrospect one of the hardest things to comprehend was this…
Poverty begets poverty. It sounds strange but it’s true. One of the main causes of poverty is…wait for it, poverty. If you are poor and don’t have enough food to eat today, it is most likely that tomorrow you will be poor and won’t have enough food to eat. Poverty is perpetually keeping people from working their way out of poverty.
It’s not just physical symptoms either. Poverty removes any sense of self-worth, any idea of what could be possible if the situation changed, any hope and dreams of what life could be like. It is the cruellest of task masters which only allows you to focus on survival for today, takes you hostage and keeps you captive in your current reality. How can you hope if your experience has never given you anything to hope for? How can you dream if you have never been taught to?
This is what life looks like for 767 million people living on less than $1.90 a day. Can you imagine what could happen if all of these people were empowered to reach their full potential. We have all witnessed the force of one or two people who are thriving and creating an amazing life for themselves and others around them. Imagine that multiplied by 767 million.
If we are honest with ourselves, we would all recognise that any success that we have achieved in life has only come about because someone invested in us and allowed us to believe that we could. Be it a parent, relative, teacher, peer, etc. For many it would most likely be more than one person, in fact a number of people at different times. Not to mention the head start of receiving nutrition, education and an opportunity for recreation. All of this adds up to a great head start, which is what we can offer to those living in poverty.
Poverty begets poverty, unless a hand up is given.
It’s not uncommon for me to be confused by a mix of emotions. I’m getting used to the mixed bag that comes up during this time of year. Australia Day, Easter and now Anzac Day, all bring with them joy and sorrow, often at the same time. It has created a new emotion in me, I call it the ‘happysad’. Most of the time I will try and avoid it, but any emotion avoided only builds up to appear in other ways, creating unexplained grumpiness and ruining the day. In an attempt to enjoy Anzac Day this year, to somehow remember and celebrate the sacrifice of so many in the all-too-many wars that have happened and continue to happen, this is me sitting with the ‘happysad’ mixture.
It starts with a question, which, like the new emotion, is complex and doesn’t make much sense.
How do you honour the sacrifice made without glorifying the violence and devastation, mixed sometimes with pure evil, but not forgetting that we exist because of what has gone before, without condoning the use of young men and women as pawns in a greater battle of egos, but acknowledging that we owe a great deal to brave men and women who have faced something I never have (and hopefully never will), although recognising that it’s not right that they had to face that either?
Or, to put it more bluntly, how is it possible to hate something (like war) with such a deep seeded passion, but enjoy its fruits because I live a luxurious life of freedom in Australia?
Here’s what I have so far.
You remember it well. That involves stopping and reflecting on what has been. Listening to stories, honouring those who were there and embracing it as part of our history. Avoiding this reality will only serve to show disrespect for those who have taken part in any war, and their families, friends and communities.
You learn what you can. For me, war teaches that life is valuable. That should go without saying, but it is true. Every person killed as a result of conflict, large or small, is a loss for all of us. In saying that, there are very few winners in a war. The side that claims the victory is the side that has lost the least. That hardly seems like winning. Everyone gets damaged in a fight, when the scale of the fight is larger than a few people, those who get damaged the most are often the people on the sidelines who aren’t involved. Collateral damage is not the cost of doing business, it is a long list of people in the wrong place at the wrong time, who have names, a family, hopes and dreams that will never become reality.
You live well. Without a sense of guilt or shame, but with a strong sense of responsibility shaped from the understanding that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Whether we like it or not. The least we can do is to live in such a way that we benefit those around us, near and far, through a generous life.
It’s not a complete list, but it’s a starting point to embrace the ‘happysad’ day that is Anzac Day.
I often start the week with the conversations about how my weekend was. There are many times when I actually have to sit down and think about what I did over that 48-hour period. It just seems to come and go so quickly with distressing monotony. Each Monday I find myself asking, what did I achieve with my time off? Surely I did more than hang around and get coffee?
There is something about being intentional with your time and achieving outcomes in your downtime. I like rest too, don’t get me wrong, but I like the feeling of accomplishing things. Even if it is to improve myself or grow in some way.
The best part of my job is meeting with some of the most amazing people. In my time with Opportunity International so far, I have been amazed at the calibre of people who are supporting us as part of the Opportunity family. So much so, that I go out of my way to spend as much time with them as they will let me…before it becomes awkward.
People have so much to offer, experience, wisdom, insight, passion, energy.
Late in 2016 it struck me that it was a shame that I couldn’t bring people that I knew with me to meet with these incredible people, ‘I could sell tickets’, I thought. Little did I know that this was the birth of the Women4Women Conference – instead of taking people with me, I decided to arrange for us all to meet in one place, with more space than a café or an office board room.
That is what we have done. We have invited Suzzanne Laidlaw, Rabia Siddique and Kirstin Bouse to be our speakers on Saturday 13 May. All three are inspirational leaders and mothers.
Suzzanne is one of the most recognised and successful business coaches in Australia with more than 10 years’ experience coaching individuals, business coaches, managers and CEOs, as well as having 25 years’ experience within key business management roles. She is an Opportunity Ambassador and has a strong passion for inspiring people to turn their dreams and ambitions into reality through business re-education. Suzzanne is driven to live an authentic, fulfilled life that motivates others to do the same. In 2016, Suzzanne was nominated as one of WA’s most inspiring women, having her story published in the book 16 Inspirational Women by Creatavision Publishing.
Rabia is an Australian human rights and criminal lawyer, former terrorism and war crimes prosecutor and retired British Army officer. She’s also an international humanitarian, hostage survivor, professional speaker, coach and published author. Having undertaken human rights and community aid work in the Middle East, South America, United Kingdom and Australia, Rabia received a Queen’s commendation in 2006 and was also named one of Australia’s Top 100 Women of Influence and an Australia Business Woman of the Year Finalist. Rabia is committed to peace, gender equality, inclusion and education. She is a mother to young triplet boys.
Kirstin is a clinical and forensic psychologist with 20 years’ experience. She is the owner of Life Resolutions Morley and Wembley and leads a team of six psychologists who work across both practices. Kirstin also owns The Conscious Mother, a heart-centred business supporting women at all stages of their motherhood journey, whether they are experiencing difficulties or not. Kirstin has authored The Conscious Mother: A simple guide to mothering with self-awareness, authenticity, confidence and connectedness, and has recently launched her online program #motherhoodonline. She also facilitates four-day The Conscious Mother retreats in Perth and on the East Coast to give mothers the opportunity to connect with one another and grow in ways they never expected.
Having these three women in one place at the same time is a phenomenon. This day will be significant and will change your life. Both men and women are invited, so be intentional about Saturday 13 May at Lifestreams Christian Church from 9am. You can get tickets here: Women4Women Conference
Times are tough. This is always going to be true for someone, somewhere in the world. Even if the global markets were growing at record rates, things would be hard for some sections of the community. If my one term of Economics at University taught me anything, it’s that growth in one area usually means that other areas of the economy may be struggling. It’s a delicate balance but when things are tough we can hope that another part of the market will expand.
When times are financially tight, we adjust our budgets and often the money that we have allocated for giving is repurposed. If the Federal Government is any example, then you can hardly blame people for doing this (Australia now gives less in Foreign Aid than in any time through the 60 years that Australia has been supplying aid). Let us also not forget that, ranked according to Gross Domestic Product per capita, Australia is the 15th wealthiest nation in the world. Not bad for 24 million people floating on an isolated island in the Southern Hemisphere. Even if we weren’t in the top 20 wealthy nations, we can always find room to give.
Don’t get me wrong, there is wisdom in handling our money well but being generous is a core part of being financially wise. There is a World Giving Index which measures the generosity of each country based on an average score of the amount of people who have helped a stranger, donated money and volunteered some time in the last month. For the third year running, the most generous country in the world is Myanmar. I know, I was surprised too. Sure, the US, Australia and New Zealand make out the rest of the top 4 but Sri Lanka is number 5. Also, the most generous country when it comes to helping a stranger is Iraq. Think about that for a while. If you could nominate of a country that might possibly have an excuse for not trusting a stranger enough to help them out, surely Iraq would be at the top of that list. But no, 81% of Iraqis had helped a stranger in the last 30 days. You don’t need to have all the money in the world to be generous.
Giving is a part of life. Generosity is a life philosophy. What I have learnt from those living in some of the poorest parts of the world is that you can never be too poor to be generous. The amount of money you earn does not shape how generous you are, your mindset does.