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News update July 2014

In July we are releasing All Shall be well o line. We have updated it and remastered it from the original ( Fount Religious Paperbacks 1986 )

 

Icross Annual Review 2013

Click here to view the ICROSS annual report

Surprised By Joy

Surprised by Joy is going to be re released by www.eye-books.com later this year and will be available on line. Michael Meegan currently updating the book adding another chapter.

Here is an extract from Surprised by joy

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

In the summer of 2005 I was preparing for a trip to Africa to record a series of interviews for my HARDtalk programme on BBC TV. All the talk in London that June was of Bono and Geldof; their Live8 extravaganza and Tony Blair’s ambition to put global poverty at the top of the agenda at the forthcoming G8 summit in Gleneagles.
I had already fixed a series of interviews with prime ministers, opposition leaders and top diplomats---the typical big men of Africa--- but something told me I needed more: a different perspective, a fresh voice.

An American journalists, Jennifer Glass, Whom I’d known as a brave and tenacious colleague in Baghdad but who had previously spent years working in Nairobi, gave me a steer for which I will forever be grateful. ‘Try a guy called Michael Meegan,’ She said. ‘He’s doing unbelievable work in the Kenyan bush, and I guarantee he’ll give you an interview you’ll never forget.’

Three weeks later my crew and I were rattling down a dirt road into the shimmering heat of the Rift Valley. But as we headed towards Meegan’s remote clinic in the desiccated Maasai country my mood was gloom. In the previous days I’d had encounters that confirmed my worst fears about the crisis in African governance. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi---anointed by tony Blair as the very model of progressive African leadership-had defended his security forces’ suppression of opposition protests with lethal gunfire. ‘A necessary defence against criminals’ he called it, with more than a trace of menace. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries on earth, was it seemed, in danger of sliding into political chaos.

In Nairobi I’d found a Kenyan Government and opposition trading accusations about rampant corruption. The official charged with investigating allegations of kickbacks, money laundering and ministerial graft had quit, claiming intimidation. Ordinary Kenyans, facing a savage drought across much of the country, appeared to have little, if any, expectation of honesty or competence from their rulers.
And so I brought to my encounter with this Irish/English doctor, of whom I knew very little, a whole bagful of preconceptions. Another do-gooder I thought; a white outsider with a bleeding heart, fuelled by anger and guilt. An aid peddlar engaged in an ultimately futile attempt to overcome the failings of Western and African political leadership.


And then I actually met Michael Meegan.
He was youthful and wiry. If he was burdened with the woes of the world’s poorest people, it didn’t show. And he was, from the very first moment, a compelling, barely-pausing, continent-hopping teller of stories. He talked as if energised by the African sun itself.
Our conversation didn’t develop in the way I had anticipated. I’d expected anger, cynicism and frustration. What I found was hope, wonder and yes, even joy. I asked questions about hopelessness and despair. I got answers about love and kindness.
Michael Meegan is no idle dreamer. I’ve seen the work he does; the local staff he’s helped to train. His work on disease control has helped countless thousands, not just in Africa but across the world. But what sets him apart is how he’s chosen to make his journey. With his heart open. With a conviction that love is the greatest healer of all. For those of us infected with cynicism, sometimes weary of a broken world, Meegan’s life offers more than inspiration. It points us towards a cure.

--- Stephen Sackur, Hardtalk, BBC Television.

PRAISE FOR SURPRISED BY JOY

‘Surprised by Joy isn’t a breath of fresh air…it’s a fierce, passionate, tender Sirocco blowing straight from the beating heart of Africa. It tells the story of one man’s extraordinary journey from suburban Dublin to the Africa bush, and his spiritual quest for fulfilment. Michael Meegan practices what so many only preach: how to show compassion, feel love, give hope. This book blasts through our preconceptions of poverty and suffering and explains ways to help Africa help itself. Both humbling and inspiring, it leaves you wondering who really are the poor of this earth: those who have nothing, or those who do nothing to help.’ –
Lise Hand, The Irish independent

‘There are many wounds on the face of this earth. Our world is starved of love. It longs to be held and healed. Mike Meegan has heard this call and embraced it without prejudice. In reaching out to those who are most vulnerable, he has touched a profound spiritual truth that service to another is an expression of the search for a unifying love, and not just a desire for social change.’ – Liam Lawton, Composer
‘ Mike Meegan’s life story is testament to the authenticity of his humanity. This is a story of love, spirituality and hard humanitarian graft in the poor world. In these pages we are reintroduced to the sacred within all of us and to the awesome life-altering power of grace. The book is also an important scholarly work on the effectiveness of Aid to the global poor grounded on medical-based research.’ –
Liz O’Donnell, Former Minister of Development, Irish Republic.


ICROSS Kenya 35 years old today!

Together with Dr Joe Barnes, Fr Paul Cunningham and the dedication of local communities ICROSS has flourished and grown in rural areas across Kenya and Tanzania over the last three and a half decades.

A new year of new challenges for us all.

2013 has seen huge changes across the Globe. Great advances in science and renewed hope. It has also seen the rise of fundamental intolerance and persecution in a rising number of countries. The poverty gap continues to widen at a time when people are reducing their contributions to charity because they too are struggling. Thousands of charities and NGOs have closed over the last three years at a time when they are needed more than ever to fight poverty and suffering.

In many of my lectures I am asked about ALL WILL BE WELL and SURPRISED BY JOY. I am asked why I think all will be well when there is so much cruelty and hate, so much darkness. I am also asked what else am I surprised by.

When we see State oppression and cruelty, introduction of new draconian laws in Uganda, massacres in Sudan, the spread of violence in the middle East there is a lot that we do need to act upon and get involved in. There are many incentives for us to become personally engaged in something, but we all need to be actively involved. When no one could see hope in South Africa those like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu did. When few saw hope for reform in the Catholic Church no one expected a Francis. There is a lot of heroism and greatness working all the time against oppression and darkness.

I am surprised about the extremes of human cruelty and unkindness, the relentless injustice against women and the greed of corrupt Governments. So too am I astonished at the numbers trying to do something about it.

2014 will be a year full of enormous challenges across the World. As regimes continue to hurt their own people as in North Korea, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, Syria we must do more than just listen to the news. As poverty further separates the most vulnerable from the21st Century we must help lift people from the grips of hunger and disease.

My resolution for 2014 is to redouble our efforts to serve and to act in every way we possibly can focusing our personal energy in the specific things we can do about the causes we feel deeply about.

This year, May we be aware more than ever about what is happening around us, in front of us , in our own families and faraway.
May we each add our drop of action creating a great ocean of change.
May we become compassion and become the hope we pray for.
It is easy seeing so much suffering to be overwhelmed but may we find the strength to help at least one person each day.

May we each find the fire and passion to reach out despite our own troubles and problems.

May you be blessed with inner joy and filled with light, enfolded by love, may you always be awake to those who love you and see beyond their mistakes always forgiving. May you be still and rejoice in the little things around you. Every day may you be surprised and full of wonder at the gifts you have been given.


A Blessed 2014

 

Our work in images

Washington DC photographer, Seth Rubin, has provided many photographic insights into our projects over the years. Our ongoing partnership has created awareness of our diverse aid work throughout Kenya to new audiences around the world.

Seth has created a range of stunning images that give an insight into the lives of the rural and urban communities we serve. As part of an expanding initiative, Seth shares a collection of these striking and thought-provoking images on his website at http://www.sethrubinphotography.com/ESSAYS/ICROSS-AID-NGO/1/

Seth's ability to capture the daily lives of those suffering from disease and/or in extreme poverty is vital to creating awareness of the living conditions and struggles of those who lack the most basic necessities.

Much of the compassion and spirituality in Michael Meegans books is focused on love in action, personal involvement and passion. Seths images capture much of that passion and energy. They are in a rich sense a call to action, a call to serve.

As ICROSS projects continue to work towards the Global millenium goals in partnership with local communities, we also work with professionals like Seth to put faces to the statistics and share the people behind the numbers . . . effectively communicating the reality of Africa now. If you would like to know more about the field projects or how you can help http://icrossinternational.org/ or our partner charity http://nwiuk.org/

You can order books written by Michael Meegan here or through http://www.eye-books.com/author/michael-meegan/

 

Nelson Mandela

One of the few Human beings that has embodied forgiveness and love has passed into light changing Worlds and becoming his full self as part of pure light.

The passing of Nelson Mandela is a grace to all of humanity and a blessing to us all. In his great ability to share love and compassion uniting where there was hatred he transformed fear into love. It is with great joy and celebration we remember his light and grace to us all.

He said " There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. "

We join our brothers and sisters around the World especially in Africa in rejoicing in Nelson Mandelas life.

 

ICROSS WORLD AIDS DAY 2013

One of the tragic things about yet another World AIDS day is the apathy and indifference that has emerged over the last few years. Initiatives like the Global Fund and PEPFAR , MARPS and comprehensive care have made a huge difference but there is a growing danger of complacency among both Governments and those who are most vulnerable. Despite education there is dreadful ignorance and ranging from fundamental Christian groups and Russian authorities to young sexually active men in Europe and Africa.

AIDS has caused more suffering and death across Africa than the last century of Wars. The scale of destruction has magnified poverty and reversed much of the progress of the last 50 years with life expectancies falling decades across the continent. ICROSS was at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention and fighting prodigies and intolerant in the 80s, it continues a very different fight now. ICROSS was among the first to establish Home Based Care and support programmes for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

There are 2.5m new cases of HIV/AIDS every year. 40% of new infections are between 15-24 years old. Over 75% of people living with AIDS are in Sub-Saharan Africa and Africa still count for a half of all AIDS related deaths. One of the growing tragedies is the rapid rise of HIV among the teenagers.
Fear, ignorance and the danger of social rejection are growing problems in Africa. While the vast majority of new cases is heterosexual. There are sexual minorities that are specially vulnerable. ICROSS together with its partners seek to provide increased support systems to those most vulnerable.
The Kenya government (National AIDS Control Programme) identified key communities most at risk. What was left out of these was the very population with the fastest increase, teenagers.
Men who have sex with men and present population make up 15.2% of new HIV infections. In 2014 we will target the National AIDS Control Programme priorities. This will include strengthening our systems our existence HIV AIDS programmes.


Since 1984 ICROSS has worked in international collaborations fighting HIV and AIDS. ICROSS was involved in the first scientific research into rate of sexual partner exchange in collaboration with Prof Roy Anderson of imperial college and has been doing ground breaking in HIV research ever since.
ICROSS has reached over 130,000 HIV patients and established one of the earliest home care programs in east Africa.

Long before the idea of absorbing AIDS orphans into local communities, ICROSS teams were implementing cultural appropriate support programs. Decades after identifying this epidemic, ICROSS remains at the fore front of innovative research. One of the tragedies about world AIDS day is that it has become a passing fade in the minds of most people; it is largely remembered by HIV organizations. Over 33 million people suffer with HIV, a small fraction of those who suffer from starvation and hunger.


The tragedy of categorizing illnesses is that you cannot categorize the total burden of poverty. Years after ICROSS began working in the area of HIV and AIDS, UNAIDS was formed in 2004. The misleading illusion of Word AIDS Day themes has in our believe been unhelpful. We cannot separate youths, women, girls, men or lobbing issues. It is not helpful to have an AIDS awareness months, there needs to be a coherent integrated sexual health strategy not divided by 300 well-funded foundations and organizations. World Aids Day completely misses the point of the primary problem, there are almost a billion people suffering from hunger today, and there are 400 million living in slavery. ICROSS is committed to seeing human beings not as a disease of a clinical diagnosis but as equal deserving our respect and support.
As Africa support and funding decline dramatically these feast days invented by multilateral organization remain increasingly unhelpful to the poor. The international aid organizations and inept structure like USAID live in lucrative while the poor they serve receive a tiny fraction of public resources, that purport spent in their name, Dr Michael Meegan the founder of ICROSS has advocated for the last 24 years that the vast resources allocated to HIV and AIDS should be channeled directly through local communities without the extra ordinary overhead wasted by the us government.
World AIDS Day like the 740 conferences a year is kittle more than the exploitation of the poor and the continued feeding of wasteful and often corrupt bilateral aid programs in his ground breaking work loads of poverty graham Hancock challenged the betrayal of public trust, in this ground breaking book (1989) he warned that very little of the money ever sent to Africa would ever reach the poor.


One of the problems with things like World AIDS day is we often forget about it the rest of the year. We all face big issues in our communities about increasing unsafe sex especially among the young and the increase in STIs in the gay community and other sexual minorities. An equally dangerous thing is a complacency and indifference to emerging trends that are quietly spreading. The persecution and cleansing of the voiceless, this time not an ethnic or religious minority but a sexual one.


We have become immune these days to all the suffering in the World. We are numb to the litany of cruelties and abuses that fill the media. One of the things that distances us is the scale of everything, we feel powerless looking at the numbers of crimes and injustices. When it comes to human rights abuse across the world it seems that most states are guilty of atrocities too. When we hear the statistics and listen to the constant stream of tragedy we are left immobilised, drowned in numbers simply left feeling useless and often angry.


Over eighty countries still criminalize consensual homosexual sex, or “sodomy” as it’s often called, including most African and most Arabic countries.
Punishment includes torture, stoning, public flogging, imprisonment, and in about a dozen jurisdictions, the death penalty. The most extreme state violence is Muslim countries. Despite some small gay communities that have emerged in major African cities being gay remains a life-threatening nightmare for most gay people on the continent.

Often violence against the gay community goes unreported or suppressed though there are poignant examples.

In July, Eric Ohena Lembembe, Gay activist, author and journalist was the most high-profile African gay rights lobbyist to be killed since 2011, a year that saw the deaths of Uganda's David Kato and South African lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza. The brutality and savagery of these murders is hallmarked by a hate and rage feeding the most unspeakable torture. While attacks across Africa against sexual minorities are rising, prosecution of hate crimes is rare.

A growing climate of hate often fueled by Christian and Muslim fundamentalist groups has encouraged a new generation of homophobia, indifference by authorities, judiciary and senior politicians has created an environment where police rarely protect gay rights. In one of my books (Changing the World) I recounted the story of a young South African man who had been held for six months on remand on charge of prostitution of which he was found innocent. During that time he was in the company of hardened criminals, repeatedly raped, his teeth removed so that he could be “used”, He was repeatedly victimized and beaten and by the time he came to our health services he had already developed AIDS. This is tragically not a rare story, many young vulnerable gay men or those perceived as gay are brutalized and tormented in the vilest of ways and for many life is a lonely living hell. Michael Wines writes “crowded cells where inmates sleep in shifts; warders who ‘sell’ juvenile offenders for sex with other cons “Wasting Away, A Million in African Jails” (November 6, 2005) New York Times 11. And across Africa the most vulnerable prisoners are repeatedly raped without condoms and with little interest from prison authorities. The International Journal of human rights warns that this crisis among the most vulnerable is worsening exponentially (Prisons in Africa: An evaluation from a human rights perspective, Jeremy Sarkin )

One young Ugandan man Olino, 22 was beaten and chased from his home by his brothers who burnt his clothes and his identity documents, school certificates. They told him he was dead to the family and to the village. He had developed HIV, his family belonged to an evangelical group and told him that he would burn forever in hell, that was when he was 18. Of course we don’t need to go far even in our own country to encounter such hate and bigotry but what is a thing of the past is the collective anti gay hate that feeds on fear and in the name of God commits the most dreadful crimes. What is worrying is that hate feeds hate and these minorities across the world including places like Russia and the Caribbean are hunted, sought out tortured and despised. There’s no shortage of hate campaigning and Youtubes like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjnrLt3VuSM are common but worse these are widely held views across Africa and they are being encouraged from the pulpits.

Seoen was a young Sudanese man diagnosed with HIV. He tried three Government health facilities and a mission looking for help but was turned away every time with staff refusing to treat him, he was unashamedly gay and was removed from his school after students reported that he was gay. He had no money for a bus so walked the 14 miles home. When his father heard the story he told Seoen that he had to leave the next morning as he was a shame to the family and he was not welcome inn his own home. The following morning his mother found him behind the small outside toilet, he had taken rat poison. In his pocket there was a note, which simply read


“ Mum Dad I love you, I am sorry, maybe I can be happy if God wants me “

In my thirty something years in Africa I have seen many examples of heart breaking cruelty against minorities, it is so often the oppressed that becomes the oppressor. But even when you look at the overwhelming odds there are unstoppable changes taking place. All the hate and brutality in the World will not stop the tide of basic rights. With growing momentum heroic movements are springing up with over 400 gay right activist groups working often under state persecution. It is pointless to know these things if we can do nothing about them. Many African Governments have recently introduced initiatives for those most at risk, targeting most at risk populations. These initiatives are only as good as the leaders and health workers driving them. Not enough is being done and as long as most African countries criminalise and persecute gay and lesbian people they will continue to be mistreated.

I once recounted the end stages of young man dying of AIDS, his name was Atria, I initially told the story in the Journal of the American Medical Association and expanded on it in a selection of reflections in ALL WILL BE WELL ( www.eye-books.com )

I tried to express the reality of what it meant to die of AIDS putting a person not a statistic before us. The title was “I held him in my arms and wept”
All movement is acutely painful and distressing. Intestinal worms are back again. Atria's limbs are stiffening and his back is covered with ulcers that leak and bleed but do not heal, impossible to manage in a small hut. His issues are controlling pain, managing extreme distress, reducing humiliation, creating dignity, reducing multiple infections, reducing cross-infection to others. But the worst thing is loneliness. To die of AIDS in Africa is an intensely humiliating ordeal, slow . . . obscene. Atria is now in his last days of life. His tear ducts have dried up, his hair has fallen out, his bones are brittle. He has no muscle or fat and his heart is 70% weaker than pre-HIV. He has been eaten alive and he has no resistance. All of Atria's senses are shutting down.

His fingernails and toenails have fallen out. His skin is blistered and scaly, and scabs cannot form. The bedsores and ulcers have spread, sources of multiple deep infections. Breathing is almost impossible and the slightest movement is slow and full of dreadful anxiety. I give him water drop by drop through a straw.
I hold his frail, stiffened hand. He is cold, he has no tears. I look into his eyes. I whisper to him, and kiss him. He slowly inhales, half closes his eyes. He breathes out, very slowly.

The tragedy we see in our work is that so many of these people live in fear and anguish, rejected and vilified. In many countries there is a rising tide of hatred being fed by lies and fear, ignorance and increasing violence.

A few weeks ago I was with a young man who could not stop trembling , his recent HIV diagnosis had caused him to flee his village in Uganda and he had nowhere to stay, no one to help him, he was vomiting with fear. I was able to put him in touch with a growing network of support and he is now I am delighted to say safe and among friends.

We can all do something, we can all get directly involved and help. We need to work directly with these groups, provide practical support, and help lines, technology, and advice and health services. Organisations like the International gay and lesbian human rights commission http://www.iglhrc.org/ and their partners are among the growing co ordinated efforts making a difference.

There are also a myriad of small local NGOs quietly campaigning, supporting small groups of gay and lesbian people who are in danger and living in fear. The issues of these rights concerns each one of us and I hope that the flickering flame of hope can be nurtured and kindled by our own personal action. There are many voices coming together, one of the first in Africa was Mandela

Desmond Tutu said recently “I think it’s as utterly unjust as racism ever was.” He went on to say “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I’d say sorry. I mean, I’d much rather go to that other place.”

There are too many Eric’s, Olinos, Seoens, too much trembling alone and to many tears. There is simply too much unkindness in the World and it will take us all to reach out and find a brother, a sister, someone desperately in need of being understood, accepted, to know that they are not alone.

 

ICROSS internship program 2014

http://icrossinternational.org/news.aspx?id=158


 

Today (Nov 13th 2013) we celebrate the 99th birthday of a close friend, Dr. Joe Barnes MD. Having worked in Africa for over 40 years across the continent. Dr Barnes (Emeritus Professor of Tropical Medicine in the Royal College of Surgeon Ireland) founded ICROSS (International community of starvation and suffering). Dr Barnes was working in Leprosy clinics during the Second World War in Nigeria where he returned during the Biafran war. Together with Dr Michael Meegan he established the ICROSS Research unit and pioneered diarrhoeal research publishing extensively. He was knighted by the Pope for his services to the poor. Joe remains an example of living compassion and selflessness.

For over 35 years he has worked together with Michael Meegan bringing health care to new generations of Africans. Dr Jow is an inspiring example of spiritual energy and love having given his life to the poorest of the poor.

Today the ICROSS teams in Kenya celebrate the co-founder 99th birthday by planting an acacia tree at the Joe Barnes clinic and maternity unit in longosua, masailand.

Speaking at the ceremony the ICROSS Country Director Danny Ngwiri said “I had the Horner to meet Dr. Burns in Ireland and share with him our work, he remains actively interested in all of our programes and he has continued to support all of our work here for the last 35 years.

The Joe Barnes clinic was opened by Pro. Ronan Conroy in 1997 has been serving the remote rural communities for many years. We have trained over 240 community health workers and 180 Traditional Birth Attendants in the area.
Each year ICROSS awards the Joe Barnes projects to a need community since 2005.

Dr Michael Meegan who co-founded ICROSS with Dr. Barnes said today “we will carry on the work and legacy of Dr. Joe Barnes, and we remain committed to long term comprehensive health care, I spoke with Dr Barnes last night to wish him Happy Birthday.


"Dr Meegan who is also the International Director also thanked the Maasai communities for the partnerships and the Ministry of health for its dedication and collaboration."

 

 


ALL SHALL BE WELL : MICHAEL MEEGAN
1986 FOUNT RELIGIOUS PAPERBACKS
Translation by Philip LaFortune

Available to view below in PDF

Tout ira bien


Eye books will soon re publish Michael's Autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY. First published in 2005 it has drawn wide acclaim following the BBC interview http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4675531.stm

The latest version has a further chapter that is inspirational and disturbing, uplifting and powerful. The Forward is by the broadcaster, Journalist Stephen Sacker of the BBC who has also added to his introduction.

http://www.eye-books.com/author/michael-meegan/

We have forgotten the secrets of happiness and have lost the art of wonder. Our world is in pain, and the gap between nations grows. The problems seem overwhelming." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" When we are caught in the microcosms we can miss the majesty and vastness of the universe." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" There are many intelligences, many dynamic paths that illuminate our way." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy "Unless the mindset that has dominated charity in Africa changes, the model that governs response will remain unchanged."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" With everything in me I believe that the only path we to joy is the way of serving each other without looking for anything in return."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" There is far too much misery in the world, too much anxiety, and we need to open ourselves to becoming agents of joy."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" It is easy to think of all the things we canít do, but every one of us can do something, and we can do something about everything."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" If I decide not to reach out to a child in a slum because the rich politician has a Mercedes, I punish that child because of the greed of his oppressor."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" The world needs to become a community, to relieve the tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering that is tearing us apart."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy

Drawing on his own experiences Michael Meegan recounts an extraordinary life and brings home to the reader in a forceful way the realities of life for the poorest communities of this world.

Michael Meegan has spent much of his life tending to the poor and the sick of Africa and this book is an impassioned plea for help to continue the work. He begins his account by recalling his idyllic childhood, his family's move to Ireland when he was still a child, and the richness of his lifestyle, enjoying travel, sport and generally having a good time. He also, however, from an early age was engaged in a spiritual search that saw him spend time in Cistercian monasteries and also enter the communities of the White Fathers of Africa and the Jesuits. Although he stayed with neither community, his search led him to a conclusion on which he has since based his life: "I can see no better way to spend a life than in pursuit of this, the most momentous and epic of all ambitions - to be kind".

While the book sets out to engage our minds in the need to help the poor of Africa it is not simply a plea for financial aid, for Meegan learnt early the futility of throwing money at a problem and voices criticism of the administration of aid offered by a number of countries. Instead he urges us all to come to realise the gross inequalities of life and to understand that we all have a duty to correct those inequalities. He nudges the conscience of the reader by giving startling statistics of the imbalance, for example the fact pointed out by the World Bank, that the six richest people in the world are richer than the six hundred million poorest. He also describes in riveting detail the realities of the Aids virus and its effects on both individuals and communities.

However "Surprised by Joy" is far from all statistics and harrowing stories of deprivation and disease, though there are plenty of these. The author's own spiritual journey, the examples he has met of the innate goodness and joy of mankind, and portraits of the many people who have positively influenced his life, make of this an inspiring account of what is being done and what can be done by everyone for those to whom life has dealt a poor hand. The underlying call is to each one of us to recognise our responsibility towards our fellow-humans, a responsibility that Meegan has met with compassion and with practical help through the establishment of ICROSS, the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering. It should be added that his book also has its lighter moments, as in his efforts to teach the importance of safe sex, and his wonderful description of the "barking mad" former wildlife photographer Michaela Denis, "like Bette Davis on speed".

As we begin to understand these different selves we begin to acknowledge and value all the different abilities that we have in our lives. At the same time, we recognise the special things that we find in those we love. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One.

We become more aware of the particular talents and gifts of individual friends. All of these things work in harmony allowing us to become more aware and complete. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One

The more we become conscious, the more we are able to find the right balance for all the different parts of our lives, we might need to create more space to be alone, we may not be sleeping much, or working too hard, not making enough time for the things that make us relaxed. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One

In time we will learn to adjust the different parts of our lives so that they balance. Only then will they help to generate each other finding a natural synergy. You may find that you spend too much time on the internet, or far too long answering emails, you might be too abrupt in conversations, or not spend enough time talking to your partner. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One

Listen to Michael Meegan here