Bono's Inspiration

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ROCK star Bono's life changed forever when he met passionate Australian nurse Sue Germein.

The U2 frontman has revealed that the Australian woman's heartfelt commitment to social justice inspired him to become a champion against global poverty and the spread of AIDS.

"She was the woman that got me fired up about these issues," said Bono.

"She had a huge impact on me. Her passion changed my life."

The social worker and one of the world's biggest rock stars met on a plane flight over Ethiopia in 1985.

Sue Germein, raised on a sheep farm, was working with a World Vision emergency medical team when asked to join an tour of the famine-ravished country with "an Irish couple".

"I had nothing else to do so I went along," Sue, now 51, said.

"Boarding the plane I met the couple. The man introduced himself as Bono and his wife as Ally.

"As we went along Bono began chatting away, telling me he was a singer with a band called U2 and that he had only recently been in Adelaide. I had no idea who they were.

"He was very charismatic, a great story teller and so much fun.

"He had been asked to do the original Live Aid concerts, but he wanted to understand the cause he was supporting before he did, so he organised a tour of Ethiopia.

"I began telling him about my experience with the Flying Doctors and the reasons I was in Ethiopia, my concerns, what I hoped to achieve. I explained the severity of the situation to him.

"He was genuinely caring. He wanted to know more and was very curious. His eyes were sincere. His sincerity is what struck me most."

Bono, Ally and Sue struck up an instant friendship.

They spent the next three days together, talking of how they could help change the world. They still talk regularly.

"I'll send him cards at Christmas and vice versa, or he'll send me a note to say 'hi', or 'congratulations' for something like a birth," Sue said.

"Whenever he comes to Australia he makes sure we have tickets for his show. Last year he sent tickets for myself, my husband and my four kids.

"He wanted to meet the whole crew so we went to see him before the show. My kids were really embarrassed, they thought he wouldn't know me.

"Sure enough, he came backstage and jumped on me, giving me a big hug. The girls all got kisses and my son a high five.

"They thought that was pretty cool. We spoke for half an hour or so and caught up and we actually delayed the show's starting time."

Sue and her family sat next to Bono's older brother, Norman.

"I introduced myself and all he said was 'You're the one. You're the reason why my brother's here'. All I could say was 'I don't think so'."

Sue, a humble woman, said her influence on the rock star has been exaggerated. But it is clear her quest to make the world a better place started at a young age.

She first recognised the injustices of the world when she was a schoolgirl on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula.

"I went to a school that had quite a large proportion of Aboriginal students. I noticed that while we were out playing during recess, the Aboriginal children were inside working.

"I thought to myself 'hang on a minute, something isn't right here'," she said.

A secondary school study tour to Papua New Guinea increased her passion for justice.

"The poverty definitely struck me in Guinea. What amazed me was that in spite of this, the people were still remarkably happy. I admired that.

"It did make me realise how lucky we were in Australia and that maybe we could help."

She studied general nursing and midwifery at Adelaide's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, then joined the Royal Flying Doctor Service and later volunteered to nurse in Ethiopia after being touched by a documentary on the nation gripped by famine, drought and disease.

"Life was tough there," she said.

"Sometimes you would be feeding a little baby and it would die in your arms. You could tell who would live and who would die.

"The dying ones have no light left in their eyes. . . no hope."

Tim Costello, the CEO of World Vision, first heard of Sue's extraordinary influence on Bono at a dinner party with some of world's most famous musicians.

"There I was, having dinner with Bono, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Peter Garrett and U2's chaplain," said the Rev Costello.

"It was quite a night. Bono, being Irish, was the life of the party, singing and story-telling all night. He loved talking politics and theology in particular and at times the dinner conversation became very serious.

"It was the story of meeting Sue that he was at pains to tell me," he said.

"He turned to me during dinner and asked 'do you know Sue? You have to meet her'.

Then Bono told how Sue had changed his life.

"Bono went to great lengths telling me about the Australian nurse who had opened his eyes to poverty," said Mr Costello.

"Her compassion and commitment had a lasting effect on the man, who today, is the world's leading voice for the poor.

"It was clear from the way he spoke about this woman, and the fact that he'd stayed in touch with her after all these years, that she was someone he greatly admired and someone I should take the time to meet," he said.

"When I met Sue I understood why. She is still amazingly passionate and committed to justice issues.

"Her picture album of a young Bono and dying kids from this time still produces tears and great anger at suffering and injustice.

"She has been an advocate for the poor and inspired many people through her passion and relentless pursuit of social equality."

Copyright © 2007 Sunday Herald and Weekly Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on August 19, 2007 10:30 PM.

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