Updated: Jun 5, 2018
John Murphy was visiting Hobart and the Bethlehem House on 28th July 2014. This is the largest centre for homeless men in Tasmania, providing crisis services and support for men aged twenty years and older, 24 hours a day.
It was here that John met Jeff Bendall, a case worker at Bethlehem House. John was not on any kind of benefits at the time, instead spending much of his day simply ‘surviving’. With Jeff’s assistance, John soon had access to regular meals, laundry and shower facilities, a lounge room and computers, which are all provided onsite. John began to discuss his skill set with Jeff, and soon after, another artistically inclined resident encouraged John to create a mural for the laundry room.
The mural began initially with a basic lighthouse concept in mind; however it developed considerably, coming to depict a beautiful scene featuring the Iron Pot, Hope Beach, Betsy Island and Bruny Island. Alongside these typically Tasmanian features, John added a seagull, some binoculars, a fence and a ladybug.
Visiting Hobart inside Bethlehem House
Jeff informed John that ladybug symbolises the passing of someone significant, and the fact that John had spontaneously featured one in his work revived a wave of philosophical thinking within him. For John, the mural began to engender feelings of hope and guidance and became a source of both comfort and purpose.
A couple of months later, Jeff’s sister Jane visited Bethlehem House and had a chance to view the finished mural. She began speaking with John and told him how she would love her passion for travel to be illustrated on the blank wall of her travel agency office. After giving him her card, she explained the concept of her charity, which gives mosquito nets and life straws to third world countries.
Soon after, John, who was sleeping in his car at the time, contacted Jane and suggested he complete the mural they had previously discussed. Jane’s charity work had provided food for thought, and he began working on his new project straight away. The mural took around a month to complete, and, displaying John’s interest, empathy and artistic talent, it featured an assortment of evocative scenes, including endangered animals and renowned worldwide destinations.
John visiting Hobart
Although they parted ways afterwards, John reached out to Jane to inform her that because of the opportunity he had been given, he felt he had returned to a straight and narrow path. Since working with Jane, he has been given job opportunities to do other murals, and has had consistent work with house painting.
John wanted to tell his story so that others would be inspired to seize opportunities as he had done, and to encourage others to remain hopeful in more difficult times.
John’s daughter, Anna Murphy – a graduate hairdresser – has particularly been affected by her father’s story. She recently made the decision to attend Bethlehem House in order to provide haircuts to the residents there who otherwise would not be able to afford this luxury. Grateful to Bethlehem House for assisting her father regain his lust for life, she will hone her hairdressing skills while helping the men to regain and retain a confident and positive self-image.
Homeless center in Hobart
When completing the mural on the wall of the Travel with a Cause office, one of the endangered animals that John chose to paint was a butterfly. The philosophy of Travel with a Cause is based on the Butterfly Effect; that one tiny act of goodness has the power to affect the lives of many, as a ripple effect is created. It would appear that John’s story is a perfect example of this in action, as one decision he made led first to a chance meeting, then an opportunity, followed by further prospects and the choice his daughter made to give back to the community.