15 May 2008: Australian Catholic University's (ACU) Melbourne Campus (St. Patrick's) was visited by Jean Bouchebel, Director of Resource Development at World Vision International, who brought a message of collaboration and personal conviction with him as he addressed a small group of staff and students this week.
Visiting Australia for the first time in over a decade, Mr. Bouchebel, now based in southern California, works primarily with the Arabian diaspora, drawing on his Lebanese roots for cultural insight and his faith for the framework to combat poverty. He is a strong believer in inter-faith collaboration and his exposure to the concept began at an early age.
“My current responsibility is to go where Arabs are, whether they are Christian or Muslim,” Mr. Bouchebel said. “But I grew up without a mother or father in a Catholic orphanage. I owe them a lot.”
Though he now spends his days advocating for social justice, Mr. Bouchebel spent many years in Lebanon and later in Saudi Arabia working in the luxury hotel industry. He describes his Saudi years as a “desert experience,” working away from his family and being disconnected from any sense of community.
It was there that Mr. Bouchebel felt what he describes as “the call of the Lord,” after which he returned home to Lebanon. Many of his friends thought he was crazy to leave such a lucrative position. But despite adversity, and though he was out of work for nearly 4 years, Mr. Bouchebel finally found his passion in serving the poor through World Vision.
“Serving the poor is more rewarding than serving the rich,” he explains. “The rich are never happy or satisfied, but the poor are always more content.”
Mr. Bouchebel eventually became the Lebanese national director of World Vision. He administered joint poverty reduction programs with a large variety of community organisations and learned the value of partnership.
“In the Middle East there is a proverb: One hand cannot clap. We must work in collaboration. If we share resources, the impact is greater.”
“Helping the poor is our shared goal,” he emphasised, calling on ACU students and staff to be urgently aware of global poverty. Mr. Bouchebel maintained that caring for the poor is “our responsibility” and that despite what others may say, “we can do a lot.”
Mr. Bouchebel also highlighted youth involvement in addressing global poverty. “I love to work with the younger generations, who give so easily,” he admitted. Mr. Bouchebel described a number of World Vision programs where young people can help close the gap between the poor and more fortunate. “When children start advocating for other children, it is incredible,” he said.
During the discussion, Mr. Bouchebel reminded the participants that over 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. He cited education and exposure as two critical factors in improving the efforts of groups who confront poverty like World Vision and ACU. “When people are exposed to the poor, they cannot be anything but heartbroken,” he said.
“I come back drained from the all the times I have been privileged enough to encounter the poor, but I also feel invigorated to act.”
Australian Catholic University (ACU) established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.