"Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people's curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire."
Anatole France


By Vinnie on 18-06-2013

I met someone today. Her name was Aminata. She is a woman from Sierra Leone, former raped and abused refugee. She was outside Paddington central, my local supermarket/go to for everything place on my street.

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She had a stand just by the bus station, and I could see people doing their usual, “I’m very busy and can’t stop sorry” walk past as she tried to get their attention. I myself have played this game sometimes when I feel too guilty to stop and say “I simply don’t have the money but I really do care more than anything”, because who will believe it when it’s an excuse they hear every day?

She was volunteering is UNHCR for refugees in Syria. As I rushed past her (my ‘to do list for the day was more than up there on the hectic scale, as I was returning to NZ the next day and had a lot to organise) I heard her call out to me. I stopped only 10m away at am ATM, and then returned and looked her in the eyes, feeling patient enough to maybe take a pamphlet and listen for a few minutes. That all changed when without saying anything, we both knew I was the person she had been waiting for finally, someone who understood, and I knew I was meant to meet her. Our mutual desire and love of Africa, despite its downfalls was clear in in one second of our gaze. We were sisters of a continent in strife. We traded personal details and promised to keep in touch.

I stood there in my running gear, freezing yet warmed in the chill of the early morning sun (and would happily have done all day) as she described to me her reasons for volunteering for such an amicable cause, her time as a refugee in Sierra Leone, raped and abused, broken and beaten but for one thing. I could sense in her a soul of such strength and resilience, and forgiveness too. Although she is returning to Sierra Leone in August, where there is peace yet still so much poverty and hardship, her dedication to trying to help other refugees, simply based on the help that she received as a refugee years ago, was in my mind, an act of true beauty and compassion. She spoke of her now loving husband and beautiful 5yr old daughter and how happy she was in a family, and wanted to spread this happiness to others.

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This rekindled in me the same desire I have always had to share my good fortune of being raised in a 1st world country, healthy and well with those who aren’t as lucky.

Despite having not a cent to my name, and about to leave the country, as well as my own charity to run and support, I signed up for a one off $200 donation towards education and health are for the refugees in Syria. How I shall pay for this come July 1st I yet don’t know, but I will. The fact that I had just spent $68 for less than ten minutes to see a doctor myself, when this money can do so much for those who really need it brought me back to reality, and helped me to remember what my true passion and love in life is. Helping and caring for those 69 kids that are part of our ACE family. No doubt I would help them all if I could, but as they say, ‘one person alone cannot save the world, but you may save the world of just one person’.

Even if all we get from ACE is just one child, growing into an achieving, educated adult and wanting to share the opportunity they were given as a child would be worth everything to me. My passion is these children, and I would and always will put their lives and potentially fantastic futures before mine.

Maybe that’s what we need to be doing, getting out there on the streets, hassling the daily grinders for donations, finding commitments to sponsorships, just raising awareness of the difficulties that such a huge part of our population face on a daily basis. We are all one people at the end of the day; we need to spread the compassion into the hearts of those less awakened.

Mary Alice Duncan