What is your background and how were you nominated for SISTER2sister?
I am the Manager, Critical Incident and Counselling Services for the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) and manage a team of emergency service volunteers who experience a range of responses after being involved in traumatic events, as well as support people through any one or more of lifes events. I joined SISTER2sister in 2009 when I learned about the program from a friend who had been a Big Sister the year before. Earlier in my life I had been a Physical Culture teacher for teenage girls and with my fulltime work being in a mainly male dominated organisation like the emergency services, I found that I really wanted to give something back into programs aimed at girls and women. Mentoring a teenage girl who had not had the same life opportunities as I have had really resonated with me as something I felt I really wanted to do.
What was your greatest experience being a Big Sister mentor?
There have been a number of experiences that I am indeed grateful for as a Big Sister. The one that sits with me most is that of being in touch with reality and not your own personal experience of reality. I have been humbled by the opportunity to be a part of a teenage girls life, and the privilege it is to share probably some of her darkest secrets that she may not have otherwise been able to share. When you get to see life through someone else’s experiences another light is turned on that you can never turn off again.
What impact did your Little Sister have on your life? Are you still in contact with your Little Sister?
I have had four Little Sisters and apart from one who moved away, I still maintain contact, visit and sometimes catch up for breakfast or walks on the beach. They are now aged 21, 19, 18 and 17 and one has a daughter of her own and one more on the way. They all have a special place in my heart and one in particular reminds me weekly that we should never take anything for granted because in a snapshot of time everything can change. I have learned to cherish who I have in my life and the opportunities, because many Big Sisters like myself could easily have been a little sister just in a bigger skin. You never know what has happened in anyone’s life.
Why should someone become a Big Sister mentor?
Because you will grow from the experience and will never ever be able to go back to where you once were and unknow what you know when you become a Big sister. You learn about your own strengths and gain an insight from your own earlier years and will wish you too had a Big Sister, just like you, when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes!
I love that you can choose to volunteer once a month on a yearlong program and see it as an achievable level of commitment. Then choose what else you might like to be a part of with your Little Sister after a year.
Why should people support SISTER2sister?
It is exactly as the foundation frames it – A ‘Life Changing Experience’. The difference you can make can certainly be phenomenal. Only through the continued commitment and support of volunteers and organisations who value volunteers and what they can give of themselves can programs such as SISTER2sister be sustainable. It’s important to not only support the big charities but to look for what some of the others provide. There are some amazing women who run these programs with little or no recognition or expectation to be recognised, that go above and beyond. We need to recognise and understand teenage girls and the hardships and challenges they can face in our communities. Especially those who have been vulnerable or placed at risk of violence, abuse or neglect in their earlier years. It really is an awesome stage of being of being a woman and to be able to share it with someone else as they go through it is just amazing.