International Volunteer Managers Day is celebrated each year on 5 November. This year's theme was 'Volunteer Managers: the power behind super hero volunteers'.
If you check out the images on the 12 Buckets website, you'll understand why we think that's a pretty apt description of Kathryn Bekker, one of our School Liaisons. Her role not only includes coordinating the students in our program and liaising with school staff, but she is also responsible for the orientation, training and caring for volunteer mentors.
In acknowledgement of International Volunteer Managers Day 2015, we sat down with Kathryn to find out what makes her tick.
How did you come to be involved in 12 Buckets?
I'd always been interested in what Travis was doing, so I was always keen to know what was happening. I'm really interested in anything to do with helping other people. I started volunteering as a mentor so I could be involved, and that led into my job eventually.
Where does wanting to be involved in something that helps other people come from?
I'd definitely say the way I was brought up. Mum and Dad taught us that it doesn't matter how much you have, whether you're wealthy or have no money, it's truly about your attitude and what you're giving back. As kids growing up, we watched Mum and Dad invest quality time in other people, and it was because of that modelling, that we have all gone into professions that are caring for others in some capacity.
Are there people you would classify as mentors while you were growing up?
I would say both my parents were to an extent, but we were also involved in a nurturing, local church community ...
There's one woman who has become my life coach, but also knew me as a child. So she's had a huge impact. She was like a proactive, wonderful auntie. She had a genuine interest when she spoke to me. She gave me eye contact. She picked up on where I was at and she really listened.
But there have been other women, particularly from the church, older grandma type figures who just really got on board ... even when I was highly rebellious. I think people not giving up on you is the key. Regardless of what you're putting them through.
Is there something from that experience of being mentored, even during that rebellious phase, that you've been able to bring to mentoring?
Definitely. The important thing is to look at the bigger picture. Rather than looking at a person's outward appearance and behaviour, I try to look at what's going on behind the scenes. I know that when I was going through my difficult times, on the outside I was skinny, I had bad skin, a shaved head, quite a few piercings. I probably didn't smell so great ... A lot of people would not have had any compassion for someone like me, at that point in my life, but I was still me. I still had my same heart. I still cared about people. I still had an interest in life.
Your life is clearly very different now ...
Most people wouldn't believe it was me.
I guess you've been able to see both sides, haven't you?
I think I've been able to draw on what was instilled in me as a child ... that's been a real impetus to think about those who don't have families. Who else can get involved from an early age and have an impact on those lives? I think it's about giving people hope.
It's someone putting themselves on the line and saying, 'I'm going to stand with you ... and you do have the skills, you do have the talents, you do have a level of self-determination. Let's be an impetus for change in your life and help you find that.'
Any particular stories that come to mind?
One of the kids here [initially] came in not looking at any of us, and then this morning I sang him, 'Good morning, good morning' from Singing in the Rain, and he was trying to stifle a laugh. He's smiling and chatting ... he's found his voice in a matter of weeks because someone has taken the time to sit with him every week, to stand by him. There's been merriment in the room. He's valued. He's part of something.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at 12 Buckets?
I love being with my family. I love being with own children and my husband. I actually love spending time with people from all walks of life. I always have.
I find gardening therapeutic. I love reading books and singing around the house. I've started to draw a bit more and recently began thinking about art therapy.
I love going out for coffee or a meal and getting to know my neighbours. Just being actively part of life.
Kathryn, thank you for being part of our lives through your work at 12 Buckets. Thanks for your enthusiasm, generosity of spirit and genuine care for us. We're grateful for all that you do, and all that you are. You are indeed one of the powers behind our super hero volunteers.