I’ve worked in publishing most of my working life, flying to exotic resorts, attending many a ritzy product launch and lunching at some of the finest restaurants.
I was floating around in a cloud of pretentiousness that was blinding. I was losing my way and felt my value decreasing if I wasn’t driving the latest European car, wearing designer duds and flaunting the best homewares at dinner parties.
All in all, I lost my value. This wasn’t anything to do with those around me, but more about me, and probably my lack of confidence in being ‘just me’.
When we moved to Australia for the husband’s job, I felt a sense of relief, freedom to be me.
It was like shedding all the crap and laying my soul bare. I came here working long distance, travelling back and worth to NZ but really didn’t know anyone here.
The turning point
I was socially isolated. There was only one thing for it, head to our local neighbourhood centre and offer to volunteer.
I think my friends were rather shocked, but not as much as me. Not because I didn’t want to help, but to make matter worse I suffered extreme anxiety.
I volunteered for a good few years, I met people I would never had met – salt of the earth people with real struggles, mental health clients that were both endearing and inspiring.
Their struggles were like nothing I had ever seen. I liked it so much I stayed. I became one of a team. I helped out (and still work there) with their programs and marketing.
I obtained grants so we could do more programs for those that need it most. Along with my talented friend Rachel, I came up with the ‘Being Mums’ program – for Mums at risk or suffering postnatal depression.
I got Lifeline and The Gidget Foundation on board, funding from grants, the best psychologist we could find, childcare, support from local doctors, and we now have a weekly program helping these Mums gain confidence and so much more. This has truly been one of my biggest achievements.
My work with the mental health sector has been rewarding, helping with grants for programs like choirs – which help the socially isolated come out of their shells.
I’ve seen people in our group join and not talk, look or interact, to have them now come and chat. It’s inspiring.
Most of all, what this has taught me, is I can still be myself – lover of fashion, tropical island getaway queen, and people love me for being me.
However, the most important thing is, I have meet incredible people of all walks of life who I love, admire and care for. There are many sides to me and I’ve learnt to love them all.
I’m not one dimensional, I’m complex and I like it.
Volunteering and now helping within the not-for-profit sector, and working alongside and with a varied and diverse group has humbled me, enlightened me and given me confidence I never thought I’d have.
I’m lucky, I get to do what I love, publishing and media and not-for-profit work. Yes, the two are very different but it’s a balance that I like.
I highly recommend volunteering, getting involved and being a part of your community.
You never know, it might just change your life and there might be people closer to you than you think, that need help, support or just friendship.
Take a leap of faith, because trust me, the help you give, you get much more in return.
The rewards are endless.
- To find a volunteering opportunity near you, or for more information, click here.