Living the Happy, simply life…

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Originally posted on Happy Simply – a sustainable lifestyle model & education project:
I have finally had the opportunity to live what was once a feeling, that turned into an idea, that turned into a concept, that turned into a poster…

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Radio Interview in Aotearoa New Zealand

I thought I would share this radio interview I did this morning in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. It is basically similar to the 100′s of conversations I am lucky to have with lots of new people in new places.

Our chat covers – travelling, volunteering, polio eradication, cycling, Africa, challenges in the world (and their solutions) and even a bit on relationships on the road… :)

Download it, pop it in your ears when you are out for a walk and let me know if you have any comments, questions or concerns!

I think for those who know me it will put a smile on your face and those who don’t I’m not sure what it will do but it is a nice look into the privileged and engaged life I am allowed to live…

Posted in 2014 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy, simply home #2 – South Australia…!

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Originally posted on Happy Simply – a sustainable lifestyle model & education project:
The Happy, simply. – a lifestyle model and education project looks like it might be building another Happy, simply home! This time in Aldinga, South Australia (just near…

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Happy International Women’s Day to ALL my Sisters

Today is my big sister’s (Lulu) birthday. As I sat down and wrote to her on how wonderful, amazing and powerful she is and celebrating her on her birthday it really resonated with me the incredible role all women play on the planet.

So on my sister’s birthday and a day after International Women’s Day I would like to send all women a message of thanks and celebration for the unique and selfless attributes women have and give to the world…

My two wonderful sisters - Lulu on the left and Jodie on the right

My two wonderful sisters – Lulu on the left and Jodie on the right

To all my dearest sisters on the planet,

Hope you have a lovely International Women’s Day where people celebrate you for the amazing and wonderful human beings you are.

You have always shone the light for me on the potential of what people can do if they put in the needed energy, time, passion and determination into something.

I hope you know you are absolutely remarkable. You show me what inspirational people you are and remind me of the many women I constantly meet from around the world, especially those living in extreme poverty, who face challenges everyday but overcome them, not only with selflessness and smile on their face, but also with a clear agenda to help others and not even be aware of the possible consequences for themselves and on your own lives.

I love giving to others but I aim to give in the way you do, where it has no boundaries and doesn’t need reason or where my own concerns are not even in the equation and oblivious to what impact it will have on me – for the good or the bad.

My dear sisters you are the most important and impacting people in the world and I say this from 14 years and 64 countries of experience. I draw strength, learning, resilience and resolve from the women of the world and you always set the high bar on how much better I can aim to be.

I think so many of you are the epitome and example of why the world needs to celebrate women and how the world benefits from you all!

Please know you think about others and give yourself to others in a very different and powerful way that men don’t – thank you. I am so lucky to have such incredible role models to look up to, try to emulate and aspire to as much as possible.

So on this day, International Women’s Day, it is a day I certainly get to think and celebrate you as sisters but I also speak on behalf of a lot of the world and thank you for your output into the world as it certainly benefits from you in endless ways.

My beautiful, selfless, giving, strong, powerhouse-of-good sisters have a wonderful International Women’s Day as you deserve thanks from the world and we should all celebrate who you are what you do.

With a joyful tear of how happy I am to have you as sisters I send you lots of love and a big warm (and sweaty of course) hug from the jungles of Malaysia and Brunei in Borneo.


Ya lil brother. xx

PS. Brothers this does not mean that we are useless, its just a reminder we have a lot to learn, and be thankful of, from our sisters and it would be good for us to acknowledge this and see all women empowered and treated equally…

Posted in 2014 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solution Swaziland…

Offering hope to those needing a little hand up

100_1204I already mentioned Operation Hope in my previous blog when looking at Situation Swaziland but I really need to dedicate more words and passion to the work of Operation Hope.

I was fortunate to spend a few days with the Operation Hope team on the ground in the communities around Siteki, Swaziland.

Soon after arriving on my first day in Siteki the Operation Team and I took off to meet with families and communities that they work with in the rural areas. 

Our first stop from leaving Siteki was to inspect a new one-room house that had been built for a grandmother (Gogo) who was living in a stick and stone hut with gaping holes in the walls and roof.

Contrast of old and new - simply living and happily living simply

Contrast of old and new – simply living and happily living simply

The new home not only offered a dry, warm and safe place to stay but had also put a beaming smile on the old woman who had never experienced such luxury probably in her entire life – just four walls and roof!



In addition a hygienic pit latrine was being completed as we were there. A warm farewell from Gogo and also the local builders who were very happy to be a part of this process as well as supporting their livelihood.

See more on their Build-it page:


The second stop was to drop off a mealy-meal – a survival package of 25kg of maize flour, a bottle of cooking oil, soup mix, sugar and a large stick of soap. In general, food aid is not the best approach to development as we prefer to teach a man (especially a woman) how to fish than to give them a fish but in this case and the 6 other families who receive this assistance you can see there is no other solution and people just need food in their stomachs to be able to have access and opportunity to other things in their life. 100_1196

These two situations have a story to tell not just of these families but a familiar story for many communities throughout Swaziland and Africa.

This is then exacerbated by the AIDS epidemic that critically swept through Africa and particularly Swaziland. The mealy-meal mother/grandmother is one of those who lives the effects of HIV/AIDS on a daily basis as she now provides for 9 children as her daughter and many others from her family have passed away from AIDS. The children in this one guardian family were loved and cared for but they wore beaming smiles as they returned home from school to see friends, Operation Hope, knowing they were going to have at least one meal a day in their tummies for the coming month. They also spoke proudly of their achievements at school and sadly shared that in the six months Fi and Chris had been away their mother had passed and others in the community.

100_1197In the week spent with Fi, Chris and their amazing local team of Nomsa and Shiny I witnessed and loved:

  • their listen and learn approach to the needs of communities and families,
  • the long-term commitment of working with people empowering them to empower themselves and
  • working in collaboration with the local government and authorities so they are supporting and strengthening a system that needs to take on full responsibility for all their citizens into the future.

It was a privilege to see Operation Hope at work and the effects it has on the people and communities it is serving. We all hope that Operation Hope didn’t have to exist and that it won’t be needed in the future but at the moment it is providing hope to those who otherwise would not have access or opportunity to it.

To see the wonderful effective work of Operation Hope be sure to see the programs they are a part of:

  • Operation Sister Act – producing and distributing sanitary pads to encourage girls to continue on to high school and not see them drop out of education due to embarrassment100_1199
  • Operation Mealy-Meal – the survival packages for the most desperate in the region
  • Operation Training – capacity building training on a range of topics and skills working towards securing livelihoods and active community participation
  • Operation Build It – when and where possible building one or two-room dwellings for the most needy in communities100_1192

Fi and Chris are tireless founders and volunteers using their own limited financial contributions. They have great integration, respect and inclusion of the people they are serving in one of the best models of development I have seen across many countries and many programs. The local Operation Hope team is the main driving and powerful force and Fi and Chris do their utmost to support that leadership as they know best who the experts are in Swaziland and the rural communities.

100_1203So for those of us not on the ground all the time and there to support in person we can make important and worthwhile contributions in other ways.

  • One obvious way is to donate to Operation Hope, and I can guarantee it will directly contribute to seeing more people and communities empowered to get themselves out of extreme poverty.
  • Another is to learn more about what they do and to gain knowledge from a great development model.
  • Also we can share this blog and the work of Operation Hope and help them in their advocacy to include and connect more people to the work they are doing.

For more please see the Operation Hope website and contact Fi  If you think you might be able to help out in donations, fundraising, awareness raising or connecting them with others who can support the people of rural Siteki in Swaziland.100_1198

Posted in 2014 Life, Travels, Uganda | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Situation Swaziland…

Swaziland was a fascinating two-week experience and made special by two wonderful but separate experiences – one with a local NGO called Operation Hope and the other with my Swazi friend, Anson, and his family.

100_1183My first week in Swaziland was an interesting one spending time with Anson, a colleague from the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program, at his home in Manzini. For my first week in Swaziland I noticed the quality infrastructure of roads, water (you can drink the tap water!), education and health, electricity reaching majority of places and constant and a general way of life that seemed to be above the basics in life and above the surrounding countries.

It was a lovely week with Anson’s family where I learnt a lot about the history, lifestyle and customs of a Swazi family living in comfort in the largest town in Swaziland.

100_1205dIn my second week I then made my way to the smaller town of Siteki not far from the Mozambique border. There I met with Fi, my former colleague from the Global Poverty Project in Melbourne, and her husband Chris.

Fi and Chris are on the third or fourth trip to Swaziland and have greatly entrenched their NGO – Operation Hope in the community of Siteki and surrounding region.

On the exterior Swaziland seems to be a very peaceful, progressive and positive country, particularly when compared with its surround neighbours of South Africa and the crime that exists there and Mozambique which has seen so much conflict in the past.

However internally Swaziland isn’t completely the wonderful place it seems for those who just pass through the main towns and its wonderful game parks. I certainly wouldn’t say all is bad for the rural populations of Swaziland but certainly extreme poverty is the reality for a good number of those trying to get by on subsistent farming or any means to provide for themselves and their families.

100_1191Some statistics for you, taken from the NGO guba website:

Swaziland is a small, landlocked country where:

  •  over 70% of the population live in rural areas
  • 40% are estimated to be unemployed
  • 26% of the population aged between 15 & 49 years are HIV+
  • 69% live on less than $1 per day
  • 70% of adult females living in rural areas are illiterate
  • while 24% rely on food aid to survive. 

This is the situation and unfortunately people need some extra support from outside Swaziland as the well to do in Swaziland have only just found their feet and are servicing their own families without having the wealth for it to greatly extend to other communities just yet.

Luckily Fi, Chris and Operation Hope had the expertise, empathy, commitment and energy to learn and work with impoverished communities to give them hope and an opportunity to get themselves out of poverty.

After my week in Manzini with Anson I arrived in Siteki and on my first afternoon I visited some rural homes with the Operation Hope team. I saw not only the level of extreme poverty you will see in east Africa or the world’s poorest regions but also the critical emotional, financial and community support that Operation Hope offers.100_1203

To see the active role they are playing in the solution for Swaziland please see my next post soon – Solution Swaziland…

So in my brief time in Swaziland these were my contrasting experiences, both rich learning opportunities and both very privileged to have seen some real insights into the country and the people.

Please take a look at the work Operation Hope does in my blog following this one, Solution Swaziland and visit their website: and I particularly love their Operation Sister Act program to see more girls go confidently and happily into high school…

Posted in 2014 Life, Travels, Uganda | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Painful Purchases and Grateful Gifts – Part 2 Grateful Gifts

:)  Part Two – Grateful Gifts  :)

To counteract Painful Purchases and if we feel the need to reward ourselves or have the pleasure in giving to others, we can do it with benefits to everyone involved, especially the earth, with grateful gifts.

The best give I can give, myself

The best give I can give, myself

I’m sure there are loads of similar ideas like this out there but I didn’t have access to them while hiking in the mountains and forests in South Africa so these are the ideas and examples that I came up with…

I think the best grateful gift you can give anyone is yourself. This can be in service, companionship, knowledge, experience or expertise.

This model kind of follows the idea of time banking, sharing, volunteering, community service, etc but I think it can also be just a little more personal. A gift should recognise thought and caring about someone else. One of the nicest possible gifts is to give selflessly to another instead of showing appreciation or thanks with a thing!

I plan to use Grateful Gifts with a few guidelines attached:

  • A Grateful Gift are hours of yourself you are giving to someone else
  • It can include up to $20 per hour that you can spend on or with that person
  • Nothing material is to be accumulated at the end of the gift unless it was made for them
  • The gift can be anything from 1 to 5 hours you are giving them  and max $100
  • The hours can be split up into hour blocks and used over time but can’t be split into tiny bits of time
  • The time is to be extra on top of time you would be spending with that person anyway
  • The choice of what to do is that of the person receiving, within reason and consent :) but it is a gift where they get to do something they really want or need
  • You can’t combine service delivery and money together – for example clean the person’s room and buy them an ice cream while they watch
  • The value of $20 per hour must be the total cost and if that involves both the receiver and giver – for example cooking a meal maybe to be shared by both you and the receiver
  • As much of the time as possible should be doing something together – not always just 5 hours of doing something for them without them

I know in my own thought process I immediately thought of how I would have people do jobs for me and stuff I don’t like to do – like back up my hard drive, service my bike, etc but after a little while of thinking it changed to stuff I can get that person to do with me exclusively like have a creative planning discussion to get feedback on ideas I am hatching, to ride a bike with me, etc.

In the short time I spent dedicated thinking about this I came up with a list of possible examples of how to use the Grateful Gifts. I hope people will add to this and I know I would either love giving this gift or receiving it – it is kind of like turning someone into a genie for 5 one-hour wishes that you will both cherish, probably far more than a ‘thing’.

In my life where experiences are the richest thing I own I think Grateful Gifts would be a dream gift to receive from anyone!

Examples below of Grateful Gifts (either in hour blocks or all 5 hours at once). I would love to see this list explode so please add away…!

  • Clean their room, toilet, car, dishes, bike, house, dog, etc…
  • Take them on a picnic with a packed meal you have prepared
  • Take them out to the pub with $100 on the bar (for you both) for 5 hours!
  • Offer to drive them home after a night out – number of times depends on cost of petrol
  • Go on a bike ride or walk (be sure to visit a bakery somewhere in there as well)
  • Do some gardening for / with them and pay for the new plants, vegetables, tree, flowers that is being planted
  • Go to the movies together
  • Take them out to dinner
  • Make some kind of craft together
  • Cook for or with them
  • Take them and do charity work together – volunteering, cooking, cleaning, fundraising, writing, etc
  • Go and see some live music, performance, sport, etc
  • Visit together the zoo, art gallery, museum, amusement park, etc
  • Take them for a drive
  • Give them lessons on something they want to know, do, practice – either with you or a professional (if under $20/hour)
  • Write and perform a letter, poem, prose, ballad, blog, video, etc for them
  • Teach them something they might not know but you do
  • Share with them your knowledge or expertise on something they want to know more about
  • Call them at a date and time of their choice
  • Help them with jobs that need doing – tax, decision making, preparing for an event, etc
  • Service or repair things that they just don’t have time to do (if you can do them – they should know if you can)
  • Computer service – back ups, disk cleaning, uploading, etc
  • Gather nice comments and thoughts on them from others
  • Be their work helper – nice way to see what they do and their colleagues
  • Help organise their photos or put together an album for them
  • Tour guide them somewhere you know really well
  • Take them stargazing and hope to see a shooting star
  • Paint, draw, sculpture for / with them – do a commissioned art piece for them (as best you can and they should know what to expect)
  • Spend time with someone they want you to spend time with – sick relative, lonely friend, their children
  • Take on a challenge from them they would like to see (again within reason)
  • Just spend time together talking, listening and sharing
  • Please add more and more…!

We do these things pretty naturally and often but I think it nice to add it as a specific gift you are giving them and spending with them and giving them the full rights and choices of that time!

Happy Grateful Giving!

Posted in 2014 Life, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, Simply Happy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments