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Overcoming adversity and finding hope beyond despair
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Overcoming adversity and finding hope beyond despair


Two stories, not about recovery from drug addiction, it’s true, but nevertheless compelling tales about two young men who overcame adversity, found hope beyond despair, who each have something important to say to young people today.

Youth today faces challenge. There is the challenge of drugs, challenge to the family unit as the cornerstone of happy communities. It can be a challenge to find appropriate employment, to maintain a positive sense of self worth and value in society today.

Many young people, who feel the pressure, might resort to negative behavior, rebellion, anger and drug use, not because they are bad people, but because everyone has a need to find identity, friendship and bonding somewhere within the community.

Young people are at risk of being misunderstood, when they engage in anti social behavior. There is always a better way to speak out, have a voice and make our needs known than by acting out in a destructive, self harming way, that ultimately causes distress to all, and fails to heal our wounds.

Using the path of substance abuse to overcome despair does not provide the social inclusion and acceptance that we crave.

The first story is about Nick Vujicic, born without arms or legs in the December of 1982. There was no reason, no particular cause as to why of all his siblings, Nick was born with the rare condition of Tetra-amelia Syndrome. His life could easily have become an endless night of helplessness, without hope of being able to live anything like a “normal” life.

Nick has his mother and father to thank for their grim determination, that whatever happened in Nick’s life – they would do their best to treat him as normal, and encourage others to do the same. Nick had no special favors, no demeaning pity – he went to an ordinary government school, studied the usual lessons, and managed to bear and overcome more than a fair share of teasing and bullying. Life was not always kind, and by an early age Nick had faced up to the demons of loneliness and depression, had considered suicide.

However, Nick went on to graduate from Griffiths University in Accounting and Financial Planning, and wrote many inspirational books such as Life Without Limits. Nick has sporting achievements to his credit, has moved to live in California, where he runs the motivational charity, for the help of others, known as Life Without Limbs.

Nick is a sought after motivational, public speaker in Canada, most recently appearing in Edmonton in January 2012, at the Shaw Conference Center.

After a long relationship, and engagement to Kanae – Nick and Kanae were married in February 2012.

Nick Vujicic
Nick Vujicic

Another young man, who says that charity is and will always be part of his life, is Pacharo Mzembe.

Pacharo Mzembe was born in Zimbabwe and at the age of five became with his family, a political refugee, eventually settling in Australia. Although Pach has successfully graduated from an Australian High School, and since become a famous TV personality – starring as “Nigger” in the Melbourne gangsta TV series “Underbelly”, he is all too aware of the poverty, the lack of educational opportunties back in his homeland.

Pach sees himself as having been favored with opportunities, denied to young people who live in Third World poverty.

What drives Pach to forsake his movie career – and run across Australia – hopefully covering just over 4,000k in around 70 days – participating in the Run of Awareness, is what he sees as an urgent need for all young people to be given a good education.

As part of the run, Pach intends to visit at least one hundred schools and to speak to adults and children on behalf of the two charities – Room to Read, and Youth Off the Streets. He hopes to finish his run on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, and deliver a speech to children about the importance of education.

Yet Pach, the only non-white in acting school, was told to expect limited acting opportunities for African people. However, Pach gained many roles due to his acting ability, and has also returned to Zimbabwe.

Pach says that aside from acting, he does everything that he can to help his father to build the school he has half -constructed in Malawi, in memory of his mother.

Two young men, two very different people, at first glance, but think again. The biggest issues that we have to face in life concern relationship, belonging, and loss. At a deep level, all young people can relate to the themes presented of isolation, loss and separation.

Many young people have a need to create, with very little support, a life structure, and a purpose, and to find a way to come to terms with loss and grief. Young people can use what they learn in the process to go on to become better, stronger more connected people.

Those who have chosen the road to substance abuse and addiction might see in these stories the light of hope – but not know where to go, to make a new start in their life.

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