The Best Gift This Season

richRwandaDuring the holiday season, most of the people I know acquire more ‘stuff’ and enjoy an abundance of food and drink. That’s because most of the people I know do not belong to the 1.3 billion people in the world who earn less than $1.25 a day.

This season is about giving, and yet most of us spend it giving to people who don’t need anything.

Richard Johnson and his family have a better grip on global reality. Rich is an emergency physician and retrievalist based in Australia’s Red Centre. He had a life-changing experience working in Rwanda where he was shown the difference that can be made to communities stricken by poverty when you combine a relatively small amount of money with a lot of effort and love.

You can read his full story here, which is truly inspiring. In 2004, having treated a premature infant, Rebecca, who was expected to die, and subsequently seeing her nursed to full health, Rich dedicated some of his time, energy, and money to seeing that Rebecca and other orphaned children could have a chance at a safe home, medical care, and education.

He recently returned and sent this email to his friends:

I have returned from my trip to Rwanda and have a mind spinning with thoughts and possibilities. I spent three weeks visiting families and communities and seeing very difficult things and making very difficult decisions as to who we can support and who we won’t be able to.

The level of poverty that I witnessed with overt physical signs of malnutrition, poor housing, cholera outbreaks was at times overwhelming. Even though I have lived there and seen it before it seems all the more real and vivid when it is affecting people that you know and care about.

I have left money for emergency food aid, solar lights, paid for a boat to be built and fishing net, arranged for some roof repairs to weather proof houses (it is the rainy season) and arranged for primary and secondary education for some of the children. I have also employed a local man, Prince to manage the projects on the ground and whose family will be providing residential care for Rebecca during school term times to ensure her education. He is an ex-orphan and a truly remarkable man. I will personally pay his salary, the overheads costs of the project and Rebecca’s living costs. All funds raised will go to education and community support projects.

Other projects pending are further housing improvements to allow more efficient fuel use for cooking and sanitary latrines. Water security initially using filters and eventually pumps and wells. Agricultural land investment and the setting up of food and cash crop co-operative. Fishing materials. Secondary school scholarships and board to allow long term life choices via education and qualifications. Micro-finance and investment initiatives to support local enterprises.

I will be compiling a full report for those of you who wish to read it and it will be published through our website here

I estimate that we need around $15000 to set up and between $5000-$10000 per year for ten years to achieve what we are setting out. More will allow us to expand our assistance further through the community.

We have set up a crowd funding website to receive donations so please give what you feel you can and tell everybody you know about it. For those of you in Australia who would like to contribute for whom it would be cheaper to do a direct bank transfer please contact me for my account details or postal address to send a cheque; both of these latter forms of payment can be entered manually onto the website for transparency and clarity and you will receive an email confirmation and thankyou.


As I sat in my safe comfortable house with my full belly surrounded by my well nourished, hydrated, educated and immunised family I couldn’t help be inspired by a man giving a shit and sharing his energy and resources to help those who really need it. It was a tiny effort on my part to make an online donation. I’m not going to miss a few hundred dollars but a kid gets to go to school for a year for that. The next time I see a 92 year old dementia patient from a nursing home who’s been sent in with a blocked gastrostomy tube I might stop deluding myself about the ‘massive difference’ I’m making at work and consider that truly massive differences really can be made when we contribute to projects such as Richard’s.

So if you’re wondering whether you’ve given enough this season, feel free to consider a mosquito net, or a roof, or some schooling.

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