Inspire Travel

The Message That Left Me Sobbing On A Train Platform

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Back in August two British backpackers were murdered in an Australian hostel. I was glued to the news reports imagining myself in that situation, not only because I’d just come back from a solo trip to Australia staying in hostels but because the types of people you usually meet when backpacking wouldn’t hurt a fly – let alone murder their dorm mates.

I immediately knew I wanted to do something to help the two families so I decided to sell off my unworn wedding dress hoping it would raise some cash for them. This glam gown had been hanging in my wardrobe for the past few years after my wedding was called off and I was spurred on to travel and live a while new and very different life. After sharing my idea on the blog and Facebook I crossed my fingers that someone would bid for it. It’s always scary putting yourself out there not knowing if you’re going to fail spectacularly or not.

Amazingly people did bid, the sale of the #jiltedweddingdress was picked up by quite a few news sites and I had loads of messages of support for what I was trying to achieve. It was so overwhelming knowing that people could understand exactly why I was selling such an important item for this very close to home cause.

Ten days after placing the ad on eBay it was sold to the highest bidder. No amount of money would bring back Mia or Tom but I hope that the donation from the sale of my wedding dress will be of some comfort to the two families. It allowed me not only to help these families but also to finally get closure on knowing that dress wasn’t hovering about in the background anymore.

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It’s taken a lot longer that I’d like to send the money off (including delays such as moving house, eBay admin and bank stresses) but I was finally able to split the cash and send a note along with the cheques telling Tom Jackson’s parents and Mia’s mum how much their children touched the lives of so many people – myself included – and that they should spend the money however they wished.

I never expected a reply but a few days after sending the money off I received one from Tom Jackson’s mum, Sandra. I was on the way to London when my email pinged with the most loveliest message; one which had me failing to hold back the tears on a busy train station platform.

Sandra thanked me for the kind gesture and explained that the cash from the sale of my wedding dress along with other donations they’d been sent is being shared between four charities- End Violence Against Women, Live Life Give Life (organ donation), The Whitechapel Centre (a homeless charity in Liverpool) and the Red Cross in Australia. Please click on one if you would like to make a donation directly.

Sandra wrote: “Life is a struggle at the moment as we try to get use to a new normal but we are so grateful to have had him in our lives, he was a very special person. Our wonderful son was awarded the pride of Cheshire award on Friday evening from Silk 106.9 FM. I’m so glad what he did is being recognised by our local community.”

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Courtesy: Liverpool ECHO

Mia’s mum, Rosie Ayliffe is also making sure that her daughter’s name is not forgotten. She’s launched a campaign (also promoted by Tom’s family) to raise awareness of the living conditions backpackers face when working on Australian farms. You can sign the #safefarm4mia petition here or find her on Twitter here.

She wants the Australian government to regulate the work visa scheme, saying: “My daughter Mia was working under extreme duress in a highly charged and aggressive atmosphere at a hostel in Townsville when her life was tragically cut short. The conditions which these youngsters are enduring in order to obtain a second year visa to stay in Australia are unacceptable.

“The problem seems to be that the farmwork is largely unregulated in terms of health and safety, and due diligence to workers.   My daughter was working in cane fields in Queensland, the notorious domain of a variety of poisonous snakes and spiders, and had no health and safety induction.

“In some instances young people are not allowed to drink adequate quantities of water while working, and can therefore end up hospitalised from heat exhaustion and sun stroke. Some pay exorbitant fees for unsanitary hostels, others meet injury and even death through inadequate training in the operation of the machinery they are employed to use. Snakes are an everyday threat in Australia generally:  Mia had no induction in how to deal with a snake bite, and farms do not keep anti-venom on the premises.

“There are even cases of financial and sexual exploitation of young people in exchange for the signing off of visa documents.”

From such an awful and tragic event I really hope that everyone gets behind what the families are trying to achieve and signs the petition and/or donates. From one backpacker to another let’s make a difference for Tom and Mia.

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