Thursday, March 17, 2011
Belinda A Collins is grateful
I feel honoured to have Melbourne-based author Belinda A. Collins guesting here tonight about her work with Princess Kasune Zulu in trying to fight AIDS globally through their book Warrior Princess. I've never met Belinda, but we have talked on the phone, emailed and Tweeted as friends and as peers. We once tried to meet for a cocktail in Sydney on the eve of Belinda appearing on Sunrise, but I couldn't find a park anywhere - this is a true story, I kid you not. But just as geography did not stop Belinda and Princess being friends, neither has it stopped us.
I admire Belinda for her passion and drive in wanting to make social change on such an important issue, and all the while maintaining a positive outlook on life generally. Hers is a disposition that rubs off, and I know when you read her gratefuls tonight, you'll feel compelled to be more grateful in your own life.
Belinda says she is grateful for:
For those of you who don’t know the story of Warrior Princess an Aussie gal, (that’s me) & a Zambian gal, Princess Kasune Zulu teamed up to write the story of Princess Zulu’s life. Warrior Princess takes us all the way from the village where Princess grew up to the Whitehouse where she convinced the American government to commit $15 billion to the fight against HIV and AIDS – the virus that claimed the lives of her parents, baby sister and brother and infects Princess herself and has left one in three children in her country an orphan. We wrote the book to highlight the issues around extreme poverty and preventable diseases and to inspire people to make a difference.
Warrior Princess has gone on to be published in nine countries, it is being translated into Korean and French and possibly Zambian native languages as well as being in the top 5 per cent of books for 2010.
Princess and I have just completed a whirlwind media and speaking tour of Australia that coincided with the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day. Our pal Anita Heiss invited us to contribute to her fabulous blog. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on ‘What I’m Grateful For’ out of the Warrior Princess Down Under Tour.
1. Australia’s support for Warrior Princess.
Australia we can’t thank you enough – my home country has been amazing. I don’t know the figures for Australia’s official best-seller lists, but my educated guess is Warrior Princess must right up there. Our publisher, Intervarsity Press, is based in Chicago. We have neither an agent nor a publicist in Australia so the success of Warrior Princess in Australia truly extraordinary and all thanks to you!
Australians the length and breadth of the country, of every age and demographic have taken the story to their hearts. The Australian media have embraced the story of the friendship between an Aussie Mum and a Zambian Mum fighting for the voiceless and fighting to put HIV and AIDS back on the agenda.
We are chuffed at the support shown across this great country – thanks to everyone who attended our events, who bought the book or read a friends’ copy. Keep it circulating – the story is too important for your copy to be sitting on a book-shelf.
Keep in touch via facebook or twitter to let us know what you think – it means the world to us.
2. The support of friends and family:
To enable us to follow our call and our passion we rely on the love and support of so many people. Our husbands Dave (Princess’) and Darren (Belinda’s) call themselves our support crews. They are our cheer squads, our shoulders to lean on when we are tired, our best friends. They keep the home fires burning and care for our children when we are not there – all in addition to leading very busy lives themselves. There is an unmistakable strength of spirit shared by these two men who simultaneously give us our wings while also nurturing and protecting us. How they do it is beyond me, but both Princess and I are eternally grateful they do.
A Peter Allen song, Fly Away, comes to mind. In it, Peter describes a relationship as being like that between and an anchor and a kite. He melodically sings, “You’re the earth and I’m the sky and sometimes I could go to high. But then you pull the string that pulls me back, if not for you, I might loose track.”
I love thinking of Dave & Daz this way – giving us the freedom to soar high in the sky, while keeping a gentle hand on a chord that grounds us –giving a gentle tap to the left or right to keep us on track and cradling us back down to earth when it all gets too much.
Our children, Joy and Faith, Armstrong, Kelvin, Delphia, Rhoda and Sammy Collins who selflessly give their mummies up for children around the world who they will never even meet.
Our extended families, Linda, Paul, Ken & Sue, Darren and Nana, Mary & Neale, Mike & Glenn provide the most precious safety net & cheer-squad you could ever imagine. Mum has even become our voluntary assistant, traveling to Sydney with us so Sammy could be with his mother – it doesn’t get better than that.
Then there’s a multitude of friends and supporters… Vicki Kyritsis at Creative Insights, Laurent Filippini at Studio Bastille, Dianne Clark at Norbu, Burnet Institute, World Vision, Fed Square, UN Women, Rainbow Book Distributors and more who made the trip possible.
3. International commitment to reverse the destruction of extreme poverty and preventable disease
Did you know that our generation has it within our grasp to eradicate extreme poverty and turn around preventable diseases? This is the greatest imaginable legacy for our generation and we thank everyone who has made the commitment to ensure this happens.
For the first time in history, the numbers of people living in comfort throughout the world and the level of resources at our disposal means we can unite and bring and end to the terror of extreme poverty and preventable diseases.
Whether here in Australia, in our neighboring countries or across Africa there is simply no need for people to be dying of diseases we have the luxury of calling preventable in the big cities of Australia. There’s no need for 1 million people a year to die of malaria or 2 million of TB, children should not be dying from drinking unsafe water or because their mothers have passed on the HIV virus.
Peter Singer’s book, The Life you Can Save shows that if each of us in the ‘rich’ parts of the world donated just $200 per year, we’d have all the money we need to banish extreme poverty.
We are grateful to the leaders of the world for committing to pursue the MDGs, we’re grateful to everyone who uses their voice, donates money, time and other resources to make this a reality.
We’re not there yet: our brothers and sisters stand at a tipping point. Without a continued will to make it so, their slow walk forward can slam into reverse.
I encourage you to learn more about the Millennium Development Goals at www.belindacollins.com
4. Women around the World
Travelling together for the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day made the occasion take on extra significance. Our trip to Sydney with deadly Vicki Kyritsis and Sue Richardson became an important pilgrimage for us to take on behalf of voiceless women around the world. There is a common bond that links us all.
We want to thank the women who have gone before us, who fought hard so that we may enjoy the privileges we do today. Princess was shocked to hear that up until 1966 women employed in the public sector of Australia had to quit work when they were married. Today we have a woman as our head of state.
We also want the women around the world who are marginalized, subject to violence or abuse, living in poverty or any form of disadvantage to know we are here to take up the fight on your behalf. Just as others stepped up so that we might face a brighter future, so too are we here to fight on your behalf. We’re grateful for the voices we’ve been given, for the skills and expertise we’ve been blessed to grow that we can now put to good use. We’re grateful for the leadership shown by other women, like our pal Anita Heiss, who gives us inspiration and courage to continue.
5. A sisterhood that knows only hearts not colours
Princess and I describe our relationship as that of sisters, a life-long bond that’s not always smooth sailing. Playing so many roles in each others lives: co-author, confidante, friend, manager, advisor, speaking coach, and all from afar - means our relationship is sometimes like the craziest of roller-coasters.
It’s an enormous decision to entrust the writing of your life story to a friend and first time author living on the opposite side of the world, and that’s the privilege Princess gave me.
Over the past seven years we’ve travelled through Australia, USA and Africa together researching and writing Warrior Princess. Two incredibly strong, independent women from very different cultures, it was a beautiful challenge for us to listen and collaborate over the seas to bring a book to life and tour it together across America and Australia.
When we began, we promised to remember one thing above all others: we love each other and we know each other’s hearts. We know neither of us would intentionally ever heart the other.
This is a great practice for all friendships when misunderstandings creep in. Busy lives mean we don’t always get to speak to our friends as much as we’d like. Or, we can send a flippant text or email that friends can draw incorrect meaning from… before we know it, we can be wracked with doubt and full of insecurities about our relationships. From here, it’s easy to shut ourselves off and withdraw from friends.
This week, make a pact with your friends not to retreat to negative assumptions and fears. We all love and need our friends and hold them fondly in our hearts whether they are near of far.
6. Four incredible new friendships
When you are squirreled away writing for three and a half years, you wonder whether anyone will really care about your finished product? Will anyone want to help our cause?
This tour, Princess’ first visit to Australia since the publication of Warrior Princess saw us grow some vital new friendships that will translate into great outcomes for Warrior Princess and for Zambia – outcomes beyond our expectations.
We are particularly grateful for:
Julia Keady at the Women Donors Network for hosting our event at BMW Edge and for holding luncheons in Sydney and Melbourne that are likely to result in great funding outcomes for Princess’ charity, Fountain of Life. We love Julia’s spirit, passion and tenacity to make things happen –you won’t be getting away from us Julia!
Burnet Institute: Based in Melbourne, this incredible institute has a mission to improve the health of disadvantaged, marginalize, and poor communities in Australia and overseas. They work from the cellular level in high-tech labs conducting some of the most groundbreaking research in the world, and then develop practical, often low-tech, applications that they implement across the world. We have just been named Ambassadors for Burnet Institute and we are bursting with gratitude at this announcement.
Maddocks Law Firm: We have spoken two Maddocks Women in Sydney and in Melbourne over the past few months and we love the passion and energy this law firm holds. Melbourne-based partner Bronywn Weir has become a great champion for us and we look forward to seeing where this partnership takes us.
UN Women: who undertake incredible work in Australia to raise awareness and funds for projects supporting women across the world. UN Women held two great events for Princess and we thank Julia Bowes for her tireless work in the lead up to International Women’s Day.
Tim Costello & the team at World Vision Australia: No social justice cause in Australia feels quite whole without the support of Tim Costello and World Vision. The leadership this team shows in Australia is extraordinary. There is a great responsibility that comes with leading and being a part of the largest NGO in Australia. Both Princess and I have worked with World Vision around the world and can testify to the fact the world is a much better place thanks to the work they undertake. Over the years I have come to know Tim I’m continually amazed at his drive and tireless determination to provide a moral compass for Australia. Tim and the team at WVA, I’m grateful for your support, leadership and commitment