A Shantasia challenge

I got a text message the other morning from our building manager, saying that an accident had happened at the power plant which meant we had no hot water and no apartment heating. They didn’t know how long it would take to fix, if it could be fixed, so we were looking down the barrel at a very cold winter. It could have been serious. You don’t mess with -45 temperatures. I had visions of me, Kai and Craig (the dog) huddled together in the walk-in robe with all of our clothes piled on us. And that’s how we would sleep for the next 5 months. And then later that day, another message came through saying it had been fixed. And I was happy.

But there are so many in UB who spend their winters cold, and hungry, and I’m sad to say it, some simply don’t make it through.

Take for example the group of people who live right near the dump. They spend their days scavenging for food and materials to survive. They don’t have running water. They don’t have mains power. There is a public shower about an hour’s walk in the next district over, but they’re considered too dirty to use it.

Some of these people have children. If they’re 4 and up, and considered useful, they go to to the dump with them. If they’re not yet crawling and not considered a nuisance, they too go with them. If they’re somewhere in the middle, that is about 12 months – 3 years, they stay at home, sometimes with an older sibling (all of 7) to look after them.

They have no food, no fuel for fire, but somewhere within, these kids still have spirit.


Enter stage left: a woman (who I always say I want to be when I grow up) and her husband and some really kick ass people who have thrown themselves full-force at a project that will build a shelter for the kids who are left at home to go to during the day.

Initially, the shelter will look after 40 dump kids. They’ll be warm, they’ll be fed, and they’ll learn to read, and write, and paint, and have some joy and laughter in their day.

This group of people have been fundraising their asses off to get the shelter built. Take for example the husband of the lady who I want to be when I grow up, Chevy. His wife had never known him without a beard. That’s over 30 years of hairy Chevy.

Then he declared the beard would come off for a substantial fee, and hello Denzel Washington!

FYI: the beard is now back and the shelter is almost built.

I might add that it was built by reformed alcoholics who were more than capable people and who turned their lives around but still couldn’t escape the judgements and shadows from their past. So one Mongolian guy took it upon himself to give these guys a job. There shouldn’t be an Aussie reading this who doesn’t love this ‘fair go’ story.

But just because the shelter is almost built, doesn’t mean the story (or the need for money) ends there. There are ongoing costs for food, power, books and other supplies.

So while I don’t ever think I can be as cool or amazing as Julie Veloo, I can at least put this challenge to my Shantasia readers:

For the next month, go without your lattes or your glossy magazines or your Thai take-away, and give the money to the dump children.

I know it’s Christmas, and I know money is tight, but here’s the thing, what I love best about Christmas is the hope and joy it brings to so many children around the world. Could there be a better Christmas present to these kids than a warm place to stay every day of the year? Before you think that your $5 wouldn’t make a difference, trust me, it can. Some guys at the company I work for passed the hat around in their division and their small change added up to a very big donation.

Oh, and all the money you donate goes directly to the project. Like I said, these Veloo people are amazing, and the overhead tab and admin costs of running a charity is picked up by them, out of their own pocket. So rest assured, your $10 will feed a child or keep one of them warm while they’re at the shelter.

So go on, donate online at the Veloo Foundation blog and check out their Facebook page too.

The only other thing I’d ask you to do is to have a safe, warm and merry Christmas!


PS. I stole these photos from the Veloo Foundation blog. I’m pretty sure I had permission to do it!