The babe Cadel, the White Mouse and the Awesome Foundation

It’s my Friday off from my Real Life Job* today and I’ve packed it with good things. Today I’ll be out scouting streetstyle, advising companies on how to enhance their visual branding (just drop me a line at cheryl @ if you would like some advice from me too), hanging out in Federation Square with a bubba named Cadel to celebrate his name sake Cadel Evans (only the first Australian to win the Tour de France – in case you are wondering!) and working on this month’s newsletter which will go out this afternoon so make sure that you are signed up for the BusiChic Bulletin to receive all the business chic news, giveaways, discounts!

Today I'll be hanging out with this babe named Cadel to celebrate his namesake, Cadel Evans at Federation Square - the first Australian to win the Tour de France!

Today is also a time for thinking. There was a bit of an uproar in the media and blogosphere last month when one Mia Freedman voiced her opinion that sports people are too often lauded as heroes when there are lots of Australians dedicating their time doing amazing things for others, who receive little attention. Thinking about this, Cadel Evans is a hero in my eyes for having found and trained hard to nurture his talent and perform at his best to beat world-class competitors. However I also like Mia’s definition of hero and so I’ve found two other Australians who I think are heroic in different ways that I’d like to include in this same post as my going to celebrate Cadel Evans!

Something I’ve also spent some time thinking about is how to navigate a path for yourself that may be different to what everyone else you know prescribes to but which is right for you. I think that it takes a lot of conviction, bravery, confidence and street smarts to do this as it is not an easy path. But it is the path that one Nancy Wake, Australia’s most highly decorated war heroine, had the self-initiative and guts to take and execute with aplomb and why she is a personal hero for me.

PHOTO: Resistance fighter: Nancy Wake during World War II (Wikipedia)

There have been a number* of articles about this courageous woman since her death over the weekend, I hope that there will be many more.

Some background: Wake had her smarts together, achieving independence at an early age, leaving home at 16 when she trained and worked as a nurse in order to be independent of an unhappy family home. With the sponsorship of an aunt, she was able to travel to the UK where she trained as a journalist, going onto report on events in Europe such as the rise of Nazism.

Throughout the 1930s, Wake essentially lived two lives: by day she was a hard-working journalist, by night a ravishing beauty living Parisian nightlife to the full.

Peter FitzSimmons

She met and married a millionaire and could have afforded to have seen out World War II comfortably in her mansion with the love of her life. Instead she became a courier for the local Resistance movement and then developed into much more; I recommend that you read this article by Wake’s biographer Peter FitzSimmons for more on Wake’s heroics, using her charm and wit to help Jewish families and downed Allied pilots navigate to safety in neutral Spain.

A woman in male territory, her bravery won over the hardened men who were initially sceptical of having being sent “une femme” to organise their efforts. Her heroics have become the stuff of legend, tellingly one article tells of the time faced with the loss of communication to co-ordinate replenishment of much-need munitions, she cycled more than 200 kilometres to reach another radio operator point; in another article that distance is more than 800 kilometres!

It would take decades before the government of her own country would recognise her efforts on the grounds that “that she was not fighting for any of the Australian services during the war.”

Awesome Foundation Melbourne
This got me thinking about the things that we everyday folk can do to make a difference, we don’t have to wait for our governments to do something, we can take steps to do good, to bring awesome into the world – no matter how small the scale. I was lucky last month to spend some time with the Awesome Foundation.
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The idea started in Boston but is here in Melbourne where a group of ten Melburnians get together for dinner each month to read over applications from other Melburnians seeking funding for their crazy brilliant projects. Each member of the Awesome Foundation puts in $100 so that there is a kitty of $1000 which is awarded to the project the group decides is the most awesome. Previous recipients of the grant have been Rooftop Honey and the Melbourne Macaron project. The night that I was there, the grant was awarded to a school teacher who wants to make food snackpacks for the homeless – sounds pretty heroic to me.

Have a crazy brilliant idea and know how you’d spend that $1000 to achieve it? Applications for the next Awesome Foundation Grant closes August 30 – apply here!

Articles about “White Mouse” Nancy Wake
The white mouse who roared – Peter FitzSimmons
War heroine Nancy Wake dies – ABC

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