Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Luem spends time helping those infected like him

This is Luem Laom. He was one of the first of 275 in his village in Cambodia to be diagnosed with HIV. That was in December last year. 


Out of his immediate 8 family members, 4 of also tested positive with the virus. Luem now helps out as a volunteer offering support and counseling to other affected families.

According to the Cambodian authorities, an unlicensed doctor who re-used syringes and other medical equipment was responsible for spreading the infection to unsuspecting victims. 

Catholic Mission is committed in providing support of these victims of HIV through supporting its local partner, the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, provide Emergency support services. To ensure this project can continue to provide those people affected with AIDS and other chronic diseases in village of Roka and their families, with different tools to help overcome the difficulties they face, we are looking to raise $45,000.

If you can support this cause, click on the link below and go through the various fields. At the bottom of the page, where it has a box for you to give a bit more information, please mention this post and indicate your contribution is for the village in Cambodia. Tell them 'David in Brisbane sent us'. And thanks, on behalf of those inadvertently affected by this awful disease. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Huen's hospital visits are taking a toll

Huen is the wife of the Chief of Roka village. As Chief, her husband combines this responsibility with being a farmer in order to provide their family with sufficient income. Huen is the mother to four children, each of which have been diagnosed with HIV, including herself.

In February, they joined the powder milk program of the Catholic Church’s Health Centre which provides powdered milk to mothers with infant babies and monitors there nutrition and weight.

Huen family is now struggling to survive as she has had to stop working. Every month, she must travel to and from the Provincial Hospital 15 km away is to receive monthly medication for herself and her four children. If they eventually get sick, they will have no support for any sort of transportation to the hospital.  

Huen’s main priority right now is to assure a clean house and access to clean water and food on a daily basis for her family.

If you can support this cause, click on the link below and go through the various fields. At the bottom of the page, where it has a box for you to give a bit more information, please mention this post and indicate your contribution is for the village in Cambodia. Tell them 'David in Brisbane sent us'. And thanks, on behalf of those inadvertently affected by this awful disease. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Despite 'love and care', doctor still spreads HIV among villagers

 The focus for today's post is on Kuu Mau (pictured above). He is the head of his family. Like many of the other people in his village, he also has contracted HIV. As a HIV sufferer himself, what saddens him most is having to witness his 15 year old granddaughter also being diagnosed with the virus.Their home was scarce meters away from the house of the unlicensed doctor who allegedly brought the virus to the Commune. 

Mau knew this doctor personally for many years, so he was especially surprised to hear that he could be the reason for this tragedy. In his own words, the unlicensed doctor “always treated his patients with love and care”. 

Mau’s granddaughter Kaeu Nita (pictured below) is currently living in a shelter home run by the Catholic Church in Battambang, where her welfare is guaranteed as she continues to focus on her studies.

If you can support this cause, click on the link below and go through the various fields. At the bottom of the page, where it has a box for you to give a bit more information, please mention this post and indicate your contribution is for the village in Cambodia. Tell them 'David in Brisbane sent us'. And thanks, on behalf of those inadvertently affected by this awful disease.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Unwitting HIV victims need our help

This is being written on a morning when the world watches in horror as Nepal, a place of mountain ranges and mystery, is rocked by the after-effects of a devastating earthquake. I am writing this blog entry, mindful that there are many calls on the hearts and hip-pockets of people, like you the reader, to give. However, I want to draw your attention this week to a country in the same region, but slightly to the south. 

This week, I would like to introduce you to a number of people from a small village in Cambodia. They won't make headlines but they need our help, as badly as the families affected by the natural disaster in Nepal. They won't have people advocating for them, like the pair waiting to be shot in Bali, but they have each been unwittingly afflicted with a disease that could, potentially, be a death sentence.This is their story.  

Monday, April 27 - In the beginning of November 2014, Laom (pictured) started preparing his rice fields for planting. After a few days of working long hours in the fields, he felt weaker than usual and decided to visit a private clinic in the city for a check-up. The doctor took some blood samples and Laom was diagnosed with HIV. His initial reaction was one of denial, defending that he had never behaved in an inappropriate way and could not understand how this was possible.

He was so ashamed of this diagnosis that he could not face telling his family and instead went to speak with the village Chief and later to consult with the head oaf the village health centre. They both advised him to seek a second opinion on the diagnosis in the Provincial Hospital. The second blood test came back positive again and after receiving this news, he went home and told his family. They supported him from the outset and it was decided to that all of his family members should take precautionary blood tests themselves; Out of his immediate eight family members, four have also tested positive with the virus

If you can support this cause, click on the link below and go through the various fields. At the bottom of the page, where it has a box for you to give a bit more information, please mention this post and indicate your contribution is for the village in Cambodia. Tell them 'David in Brisbane sent us'. And thanks, on behalf of those inadvertently affected by this awful disease.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Use your imagination and let the madmen come running

Over the past weekend, I found myself in Brisbane looking at pretty lights. These were not just decorative pieces of coloured glass, shining from dark street corners or winking seductively in some refurbished inner-city bar. These were lights that crashed and crept, weaved and wandered, exploded and evaporated, on concrete walls of historic buildings. 
Lights on a Brisbane building

The occasion was a campaign called Colour Me Brisbane. It had been developed to mark the forthcoming G20 Summit and was offered as free entertainment in various parts of Brisbane’s CBD. On one night, I was first exposed to the shifting hues of an entire city landscape, from across the river in Southbank. The second time, I approached some of the same locations after being at work, in the heart of the city, and then walking up a few blocks, along a route traversing Charlotte Street, George Street and, finally Queen Street.

Sitting at various locations, watching the exterior of Parliament House and the Casino transform before my eyes, like some high-quality, optical Punch and Judy show, I was reminded, once again, of our capacity to create. As long as humans have the ability to imagine, we will never become extinct. It is through using the torch of our imagination that we come to understand how to shape the world and adapt ourselves to live in it.
The author JG Ballard once said :”I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
"there is indeed a 'truth within us'..."

It is perhaps ironic that a city looking to mark an event all about nations and their economic viability turns to art to celebrate. While the headlines will no doubt see the ‘madmen’ trying to instil confidence in us, we should not be so easily convinced to let go of everything else: there is indeed a  ‘truth within us’ and, together, we can shine a spotlight on those parts of the world that need our faith, our hope and our love. Oh, and our imagination!

You see, that’s the thing about lights: they provide contrast in our lives. Whenever we turn one on, or we see the sunrise over the beach, or a star blazes bright through the night sky, we are reminded that there also used to be darkness, night-time and the endless emptiness of space. Our desk lamp, those sunbeams, the heavenly movement that prompts a thousand wishes – these are all signs of hope and encouragement.
"...that’s the thing about lights: they provide contrast in our lives..."

It is true that none of us can hold off the inevitable hand of death or live with our sense of truth hiding in the cave that is our soul. Instead, we owe it to ourselves, and also to those who love us, to seek illumination wherever, and however, we can. To paraphrase Keats: we can be certain of nothing ‘but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination’.


Monday, November 3, 2014

The tracks of our tears are part of the melody of life

Among the many applications I have downloaded on to my phone is the virtual goldmine known as Spotify. I love this app for the variety of music that it allows me to enjoy and experience.

In the ebbs and flows of life, music is one of those forces that can uplift and inspire, console and comfort, encourage and excite.If you are anything like me, the jukebox of your heart is never short of tracks to listen to and ponder.

Recently, Celena and I had one of those conversations, on a road trip, where we asked each other what songs readily brought us to tears.

Besides the haunting U2 ballad, 'One', I nominated a song by an English band from the 80s, ABC. Their track 'All Of My Heart' was on high-rotation in my room as I grieved over the break-up of my first love. Celena and I both acknowledged that Bon Jovi's classic 'Thank You For Loving Me' brought us undone because it has become our prayer to our daughter, Amber-Rose. Similarly, I cannot listen to Rob Thomas' 'Fire On the Mountain' without being transported back to the day in October 2010 when we laid our son Brodie to rest.

Music may soothe the savage beast but it can also reduce that same creature to a blubbering mess!

Tonight, along with drafting this post, I began downloading some music to iTunes. One of the tracks I 'discovered' was a hidden gem among the greatest hits of Mike and the Mechanics, 'A Beggar on a Beach of Gold'.

Reading the lyrics on-line made me realise that there always will be a song that speaks into the moment. No matter where we are in life, there is a tune that we can turn to, a song that we can sing along with, a lyric we can learn from. For me, this was THAT song.

(Check out the lyrics at

Sometimes, the record that is our life gets a scratch. We still go around and around, like an old 45, but the circumstances are such that we get stuck. And we repeat the same part of the song, over and over. We forget that often, when faced with a recurring challenge, we just need to lift the needle and gently move forward. For as Mike and his band remind us:

"When I was searching for solutions
I found the answer lay in me
I'm a drifter
But I'm drifting on a silver sea."

The essence of this song is that today is a gift. So is tomorrow, yesterday and every day before that. No matter how loud the drum roll of doubt may become, or how faint the chorus of hope may be, we are alive and we need to cherish each and every moment.

"Are you out there now on empty
Feel you've nothing left to give
Sick of trying
Have you lost the will to live?

Don't be drowning in the shallows
With the beach so near at hand
Hear the voice say
Stand up get up
And join me on the gilded sand."


Monday, October 27, 2014

The noble art of living with tension

Earlier today, I had a massage. For some time now, I have been experiencing tightness in my calves and the visit to a local physiotherapist was aimed at trying to ease the pressure, particularly on my left leg. At the library where Celena works, they have massages available every fortnight. It is 20 minutes, every two weeks, that she refuses to miss.

We all live with some degree of tension in our lives. Whether it is experienced physically in our shoulders or our feet, mentally in our head space or emotionally in our hearts, tension seems to be as much a part of modern living as texting and taxes. But should we be as keen to rid ourselves of tension as we seem to be?

In his book The Holy Longing: The Search for A Christian Spirituality (Image, 2008), Ronald Rolheiser, contends that tension is an integral part of the Christian experience. In fact, Rolheiser argues, tension is part of the “nobility of the soul”.

“We are better persons when we carry tension, as opposed to always looking for its easy resolution. To carry tension, especially great tension, is to ponder in the biblical sense.”

Part of the examples Rolheiser gives are based on anecdotes that involve sexual behaviour and our identity as sexual beings. They include an episode from an American TV show and an exchange between an academic and some of his students. The specifics are not important. What is significant, however, is the conclusion that tension, particularly unresolved tension, heightens our capacity for...well, everything. We appreciate the beer more after we have delayed that first sip; we feel closer to our partner after we hold off on giving into our immediate desires; that hug from an absent friend seems so much more powerful and comforting if we been apart for a long period.

In movies and television, the unresolved sexual tension between two characters is a key ingredient in keeping the audience engaged. Writers know that to keep the pages turning, the reader has to feel the tension of that comes from wondering where characters are heading and how plots are unfolding.

Jesus was no stranger to living with tension. His life was often characterised by waiting for someone to arrive, or delaying His departure for a destination (remember how he waited to go and see Lazarus, even though He had been told he was gravely ill?). Rolheiser acknowledges this, claiming that the message of Jesus contained a “strong motif of waiting, of pondering, of chastity, of having to carry tension without giving in to a premature resolution.” The most vivid example of that motif occurring was in His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

But why? When muscles are tense, or we crave companionship, why should we carry the tension? What is wrong with giving into the desire for release?

“The real value in carrying tension for the sake of love,” Rolheiser writes, “is that it is a gestation process.”

“By pondering as Mary did, as she stood helplessly beneath the cross, and by enduring suffering as Jesus did in the garden at Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to turn hurt into forgiveness, anger into compassion, and hatred into love.”

In other words, without some sort of death, a willingness to give up and let go, we cannot experience a resurrection. New life comes out of dying to ourselves. Carrying tension means that we are letting things – and people - be as they are, not as we would like them to be.

Ever since Amber, and then Brodie, died, I have been living with tension, a revelation or a sign as to what the greater purpose was in their deaths. In vain, I have looked for ways to massage away the ache in my heart.

Rolheiser concludes his chapter on tension and pondering as a form of prayer with a quote from a Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, who said:

“ of the great spiritual tragedies is that so many people of good will would become persons of noble soul, if only they would not panic and resolve the painful tensions within their lives too prematurely, but rather stay with them long enough, as one does in a dark night of the soul, until those tensions are transformed and help give birth to what is most noble inside of us – compassion, forgiveness and love.”

I seek nobility. Until then, however, I will live with the tension!