Easter Message from Brother Bill Firman, BoysTown

More than two hundred thousand people died in very few minutes when a terrifying Tsunami struck Asian countries on Boxing Day. A deep tectonic movement had unleashed awesome destruction on many surrounding countries. In among the wholesale devastation and loss of life, there were stories of heroic survival and courage. The twenty-one year old son of one of my close BoysTown colleagues survived by clinging to a tree - and then spent days trying to assist the living among the many dead bodies.

No doubt the survivors – and those gallant people who went to their aid – now have to live with nightmarish memories. One cannot imagine how one might cope with searching for, discovering and identifying decomposing bodies in the weeks which followed. Yet some people had to carry out this gruesome task – ordinary people finding extraordinary, heroic strength in time of need.

There were some positive outcomes. Political and religious differences suddenly assumed less significance. People helped other people simply because they were fellow human beings needing help. The brotherhood and sisterhood of human kind evoked deep compassion and washed away superficial bigotry. Some high profile people with substantial resources made commendably large donations but it was the incredible number of people who contributed that was quite overwhelming. The totals raised by relief appeals far exceeded the expectations of most of us – and the Prime Minister enjoyed popular support in pledging a billion dollars in aid. It felt good to be Australian.

BoysTown took the innovative step of setting up a special Kids Help Line service to take calls not only from Australia but also from Asian countries. The number of calls received was not large but we respond in whatever ways we can. When bushfires shortly after the Tsunami caused great loss and destruction in Port Lincoln, South Australia, we also gave that area priority status for incoming calls providing comfort and guidance for children in need. "We’ve lost our home….our car …. our cat!"

I was caught in the Ash Wednesday Bushfires of 1983 in charge of eighty year nine students. We evacuated hurriedly from our tents to a sports ground. The students were lamenting the loss of their belongings. I still recall meeting people in the confused early hours of the morning – "I can’t find my wife, my kids". Somehow the loss of clothing or other belongings took on a lesser significance by comparison. (In fact the fire missed the campsite and the students’ belongings were later recovered.)

At the time of Tsunami Appeals, a radio reporter asked us:
"Do you think the fact that people have given so generously to the Tsunami Appeals will affect other appeals?"

The only answer we could give is:

"We don’t know. While some may have given all they can afford for this year, there are others who are simply giving people and don’t measure giving."

It was Sir Winston Churchill who once said:
"We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give".

It would be my hope that the inspiring efforts of peoples of all nations to provide Tsunami relief may have awoken in many the conviction that it is good to help others, that the divisions in our world will only be closed and healed by reaching out to our brothers and sisters, no matter what their race or creed.

BoysTown is one of Australia’s largest charities, focusing on assisting young people. Kids Help Line supports many normal kids with the resolution of many normal concerns – anxieties over family relationships, personal development, peer group pressure and so on. It is also set up to help with moments or times of crisis – suicidal feelings, grief and loss, panic attacks et cetera. Other services of BoysTown provide shelter for women and children in domestic violence situations and for kids simply in need of accommodation and care. BoysTown services also extend to helping youth overcome problems deriving from unemployment, anxiety, incarceration and so on.

What you give will be used to help young, people, especially those disadvantaged by their personal circumstances, to address the difficulties and, with a helping hand, become responsible Australian citizens, to make a life.

The Tsunami, great disaster that it was, did inspire us to put aside the things that divide and reach out to our fellow human beings. Let us hope and pray that this message is not forgotten in the months and years ahead.

Brother Bill Firman


About BoysTown

BoysTown is a charity that exists to enhance the lives of young people in need. It provides innovative, practical services for children, young people and their families experiencing social and economic disadvantage. These services are research based and are delivered by professional staff who have demonstrated commitment in advancing the interest of children and young people. BoysTown is an incorporated company managed by a board of directors on behalf of the De La Salle Brothers.

BoysTown community services are made possible through the generosity of BoysTown’s loyal donors and by the support of BoysTown Lotteries ticket buyers. BoysTown donors and BoysTown Lotteries supporters have made a genuine difference to the lives of literally millions of young people in Australia. If you’d like to become a donor or lottery ticket buyer please:

Call the information line on 1800 552 033

Visit the website at www.boystown.com.au