Founder of international charity VOW, philanthropic musician
Finalist, WA Local Hero 2011
Damien Thornber is the CEO of VOW Educational Services Inc - a non-denominational, not for profit, non-governmental organisation for the poor/orphaned children of the world.
The sometimes sales consultant, licensed auctioneer, real estate agent, musician and former professional pearl diver works to provide free education for children who would otherwise never have those opportunities. This he achieves through a variety of means, including 100% of the profits of his own music CDs. In so doing, Damien and his team of volunteers hope to offer children greater employment possibilities, relief from impoverished circumstances in the future and protection from the child sex tourism industry.
The concept of VOW began in 2005 when Damien travelled to the Philippines and Indonesia. He was moved by the poverty he witnessed and decided to try to help those who needed it.
Once back in Australia, Damien set up VOW and secured sponsors for the children of Karangasem village in Indonesia so that they could attend school. He and his team offer opportunities to learn English, music and basic computer skills through the contribution of donated appliances and curriculum from sponsors.
He created a volunteer rotation system for the development of curriculum by registered teachers from the west. Teachers help to develop gifted children or learning interests through higher education opportunities and graduates are offered employment back into the facilities after completion of education.
Damien has now written and recorded over 35 songs, built a recording studio, established the VOW Executive Committee, established international contacts, and filmed over 40 hours of footage in seven countries for a documentary called Time Flies to create awareness about the conditions of orphaned/underprivileged children and the concept of VOW.
In 2008 Damien and his partner, violinist Emily Minchin, travelled some 7500 kilometres from Perth to Kununurra, reaching several remote communities and playing in pubs in Halls Creek, Kununurra and Broome along the way. With two cars, a trailer full of PA equipment and with indigenous all-girl band Moana Dreaming, they delivered music workshops to over 500 children in remote communities. They felt that shy children could be made more confident and ready to accept schooling by participating in fun music exercises.