Home' Rotary Down Under : October 2013 Contents www.rotarydownunder.org 15
Former POW finds peace
The humanitarian issues evolving in
Syria present ShelterBox and its partner
agencies with massive challenges.
It’s difficult to conceptualise, even
understand the size of the human
tragedy as it unfolds.
More than five million Syrians have been
forced to leave their homes; that’s twice
the population of Paris and around a fifth
of Australia’s population. More than half
of those are children and the elderly. In
Lebanon for example, more than one in
10 of the country’s population is a Syrian
refugee. Inside Syria, latest estimates are
that there are as many displaced as have
Consider the refugees in the Lebanon,
Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and
adjacent countries. The whole region
is a powder keg. Our mission is to not
be involved in complex political issues,
but to provide for the most vulnerable,
needy and deserving, within our capacity
to do so.
ShelterBox Australia is joining a major
drive from ShelterBox International to
have a massive fundraiser for Syria and
ShelterBox Australia relies upon
volunteers; our Board, Ambassadors,
District and Club Representatives and,
importantly, Response Team members,
are all generous in their contributions.
We are challenging all Australian
Rotarians and every club to:
• Volunteer as a Club Representative or
• Nominate potential Response Team
• Give; Conduct an event to raise funds
to support the Syria Appeal and our
other relief work
• Bring an Australian Response Team
Member or Ambassador to your club
or District as a speaker
Remember, the need never ceases.
Visit our website www.shelterboxaustralia.
com.au to see where else we work, where
you might volunteer and hopefully how
you might donate. Please talk with me
on 0459 959 503.
Support needed for
the Syria Appeal
POST NOTE: Following Bart’s visit to Japan, Assistant Governor Helen Ryan
(D9670) felt it was important to relate the story to Rotary International during
Sakuji Tanaka’s year of Peace Through Service. Helen wrote to the RI General
Secretary describing Bart’s journey, to which she received the following reply:
The General Secretary shared your letter with me and I very much appreciate your
sharing this story with us. It is indeed heart-warming and a wonderful example of
what can be accomplished through Rotary and by Rotarians. I was greatly moved
by this account. Having grown up in Japan following the war, it is especially
meaningful to me to see such reconciliation and healing, bringing a new peace
for Rotarian Bart Richardson.
At the age of 91 my Dad, PDG Bart
Richardson, was offered the chance to
visit Japan. Apart from his age, what’s
unusual about that?
He had been a prisoner of the Japanese
in Changi, having been captured at the
fall of Singapore. He had worked on the
infamous Thai-Burma railway, of which
he says, “Hellfire Pass was my Gallipoli”.
After an initial reluctance to apply he
decided, “After 70 years, maybe it’s time
In preparation for the trip we met
Dr Masahiro Kohara, Japanese Consul
General (Sydney) and diplomat Dr Noriko Tanaka. Dr Kohara was friendly,
warm and understanding. Dad told me afterwards that Dr Kohara was the first
Japanese man he had spoken to in 70 years, and that if the Japanese of today
were like him, he had made the right decision.
Since our return from Japan Dad has given eight talks about our trip to Rotary,
Probus and other groups in his local community. At 93, he now feels at peace,
after 70 years of not being able to come to terms with the thought of Japan and
its countrymen. He says that the “Japanese people were extraordinarily kind and
it was the military who caused so much hardship and resentment”.
Dr Kohara was recently a guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Nelson Bay,
NSW. During his talk he expressed delight at his new friendship with Dad.
They have become firm friends, following several invitations to dine privately
with the Consul General. Dad recently presented Dr Kohara with a handmade
boomerang made by a local indigenous person from local timber and designed
to return. Many of the commercially made boomerangs do not return!
This is truly peace – peace developed through kindness and friendship and a
wonderful example of reconciliation and lasting friendship.
Rotar y Club of Batemans Bay, NSW
with Bob Furner
Chairman ShelterBox Australia
www.rotar ydownunder.org 15
Peace and conflict
Peace and conflict
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