Rotary in Western Australia Podcast

Rotary in Western Australia Podcast – Episode 2 – James McLeod

Transcript

AMBER: Welcome to Rotary in Western Australia’s weekly podcast. Stay tuned to hear from people in Rotary who are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Rotary in WA has over 2 000 members of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Throughout this series, we’ll hear about their Rotary experience, the projects they are working on and what matters to them and their clubs.

So, this week I’ll be talking to James McLeod. Hey, James, how’s it going?

JAMES: Very well, thank you.

AMBER: Thank you for coming in today.

JAMES: My pleasure.

AMBER: So, you are involved in club development with Rotary.

JAMES: Mmm.

AMBER: You did have an official, like, what was your —

JAMES: Title is Club Development Chair of Rotary district 9455.

AMBER: Ah, and because I’m quite new with Rotary, is that number—is that for a certain club or —

JAMES: Well, if you think about the whole of Western Australia, it’s, basically, split into two roughly around the Swan River and there’s a northern district and a southern district. Northern district is the district I’m in and it takes care of about—it oversees, I should say, about 40 different Rotary clubs. I sit on the board which helps those clubs, essentially.

AMBER: So, all of the northern clubs you kind of help develop?

JAMES: Yeah, everywhere from, say, Belmont all the way up to Broome.

AMBER: Wow.

JAMES: It’s a big district!

AMBER: I was going to say, size-wise I think you got a bit gypped there!You got the bigger one.

JAMES: Exactly.

AMBER: Wow. I was originally thinking just the Perth region, but wow, all the way up to Broome. Do you ever have to —

JAMES: I’m fairly new to the role, so not quite. I need to go up to Geraldton fairly soon.

AMBER: I’m from Geraldton.

JAMES: I might pay your family visit! But, yeah, probably at some stage I will need to pop my head up there or get something happening where we can Skype and chat with them. I’m about six months into the role now so really just finding my feet.

AMBER: Yeah exactly. How long have you been in Rotary for?

JAMES: Well, I’ve been in Rotary now 10 years actually. This is my 10 years. You are right to say, you know, it was a bit deep-endish, but one good thing about Rotary is you get a lot of mentoring. I’ve had people who have sat beside me for a year to make sure that I’m ready to take on this role so it’s all fine.

AMBER: That’s what Jess Karlsson said. She said a big part of Rotary is that mentorship and learning, taking bits away from all the other members, which is something I don’t think, like, I didn’t realise a lot of young people realise is—like, I think we saw it like things to help the community, but she said, yeah, a big part is learning all different manner of skills from every member of Rotary, which I think is great. Have you had much of that yourself?

JAMES: Yeah, well, you know, I started out being a Rotary exchange student. What that means is after high school Rotary sent me away to another country for 12 months. I went to a little town in the northwest of the USA. At that point, there was a lot of personal development because you’re away from home for so long and under the wing of a couple of families who are Rotarians. But, I guess, more recently the biggest investment of leadership I’ve had is when I was a president at a local club. That was just a massive year of personal development and growth and, fortunately, I had a lot of people on my team who were willing to help me and guide me and mentor throughout that whole process.

AMBER: I love that you’ve used the word personal development as kind of a synonym for a lot of work, I’m guessing!

JAMES: Work is one thing, but I think it’s also being forced out of your comfort zone. You walk away from that experience knowing how to run a team, knowing—at that point we had about 80 members in that particular club so it was an organisation in its own right, so conflict resolution and how to influence and motivate people and public speaking. So, all of these awesome skills came through just one year of professional development and personal development.

AMBER: Wow, it’s a lot to develop in one year.

JAMES: But you’re right; it was a big year.

AMBER: I can imagine. I’ve kind of jumped the gun, a little bit, James, because also with this podcast we like to get to know a little bit about the people involved in Rotary, not just their life in Rotary but outside. Like I said, in the first episode we had Jess, and she is the CEO of Cahoots. So, what do you do for a living or we just like to know things like hobbies, jobs all that kind of stuff? Sorry to drop that on you.

JAMES: No, no way. So, in a nutshell I work as a financial adviser at a firm called Capital Partners. I personally look after about 50 families across Perth, Western Australia, and what we do is we make them really clear about what they want to achieve in life and then manage, you know, all the aspects their financial affairs, build a plan to make sure they achieve it over the long run. So, that’s really good. It is a great place to work and really nice clients, being an important part of their life. From a personal perspective, my hobbies, well, that’s a good question, because Rotary takes up a fair chunk of that.

AMBER: I can imagine.

JAMES: But I do have a little son who’s now three, next weekend. He would consume a fair bit of my time too. Add in friends and then maybe there’s—actually there is one thing, I am training for a marathon.

AMBER: Wow!

JAMES: So, that pretty well consumes 100 per cent of my time.

AMBER: Is sleep involved in that?

JAMES: Just a little bit.

AMBER: A marathon? Wow.

JAMES: So, that’s exciting. But, you know, the lead-up to that is obviously requiring a bit more of time —

AMBER: I was going to say, early morning runs, phewf! How big is the marathon?

JAMES: A marathon is 42 kilometres. So, it’s locked in and if I don’t get there, that’s okay.

AMBER: That’s fine. I think I could go about 500 metres before I need an ambulance or something like that. So, this podcast is just to bring awareness back to Rotary but also highlight what Rotary brings to the WA community and what it brings to its members. What would you say would be your highlight in Rotary in WA? Was there a certain project or even meeting or interaction that really sticks in your mind that’s related to Rotary?

JAMES: There’s so many, but probably the biggest one for me is helping to set up a new club. The club that I’m a member of, Rotary Club of Elizabeth Quay, its niche is young professionals. So, we meet in the city and the whole club is just tailored towards young people. The process to actually go away, set that up and grow it has just been amazing and something that really stands out in my life. If I think about projects and other events like that, through the club events we’ve had some really amazing guest speakers. I can think of Sam Walsh who was the former CEO of Rio Tinto, Warwick Hemsley, Fred Chaney, Dr Ric Charlesworth, Peter Klinken. We’ve had all these amazing people who I’ve met and some who I even consider friends now. There’s been that aspect of it as well. Rotary is particularly good at being able to expand people’s social network but also their business networks. Well, that’s the experience I’ve found at least. So, I guess, like, some amazing guest speakers.

And then I guess it’s the projects and the volunteering. For me, there’s been so many. The very first one that I was involved in was quite special. We were raising—my former club, it was our first project actually, but we put together an art exhibition and raised money for homeless people and with the money that we raised we bought street swags. It’s a bit of a band-aid solution, but it’s what we could have done at the time and it was really appreciated by the organisations that we were working with. So, that one was a really special one because it was the first one. Probably the biggest one I was involved with was my former club Crawley, where we put together a huge event. It was, basically, a charity ball called 1 in a Million and because of that event, they ended up raising about $500 000 for their particular charities so it was serious money. So, that was pretty special. My club now, though, are doing a similar kind of thing. It’s a catwalk event. Two years ago, we raised about $50 000 for gastric cancer research and that was different, but really, really fun.

AMBER: I was going to say it’s not something you think of as like a normal charity event is a catwalk.

JAMES: We’re running it again this year, so I’ll have to make sure you get the details so you can come along.

AMBER: I was going to say, yes, we’ll definitely spruik that. As you probably heard in the first episode, we are going to be putting out different events so people know what’s on in Rotary and if they want to come along. So, because you’ve been involved in all these projects, I ask this question even though I pretty much know the answer: Why do you think Rotary is essential in today’s world?

JAMES: Yeah, Rotary for me comes down to the desire to give back and for myself, growing up in Perth, and getting an education and being able to get a job and living in safety and comfort, you know, we are so privileged to live in this place and for me, there’s a little part of me that said, “What are we actually doing to make a difference?” For me that’s Rotary. Sure I make a difference in my job, but to actually help underprivileged people and to make a difference to other people’s lives who might not have as much of a head start as I’ve had, that’s why it’s essential for me. And I think probably for a lot of people in my club that’s why they do it. Being able to work with like-minded people to do things that are worthy and you get that feel-good factor, but it’s also important I feel to give back while you can, not wait until you’re old and have money to give away. I think people can do it now while they’re young and energetic. But that’s the story that I’m hearing anyway.

AMBER: It’s very similar to what I’ve heard from Jess as she said the exact same thing is when you’re involved in Rotary and these projects and seeing how Perth—all the different troubles we have personally, we are quite privileged here and to help someone who’s on, like, a completely different spectrum to us. She was, like, how grateful someone was that they were able to help build this $2 500 house on stilts that was not big, but it was better than their little shanties that they had that were getting washed away every year, and to see the absolute gratitude in something that is so different from what we’re used to. It’s helping the community too, but it’s also helping your own personal growth, getting to see that you’re more grateful for what you do have, you are more open to helping those who have less. So, it seems like such a worthy cause. It’s a very selfless cause. At the same time, it’s very good at helping people and individuals grow within themselves. Every time I’ve asked this question it seems that yes, it is essential in this day and age, and it’s something that is maybe not essentially Rotary, but it’s something that people—aspects people should strive to achieve.

JAMES: At a personal level that would be it, but if you think about the impact that Rotary makes around the world, it’s enormous. The fact that without Rotary, polio might still be an issue. The efforts that Rotary has put into eradicating polio, a disease which our generation probably doesn’t have much understanding of, but decades ago, it struck fear in people. Now there’s malaria. There’s water and sanitation in impoverished communities, there’s economic development, there’s peace and conflict resolution. There’re all these things that —

AMBER: Millions of people.

JAMES: As an international organisation, Rotary is doing, but at a club level, yes, we support that, but we also do other things at a more hands-on level.

AMBER: It might not be solving polio, fixing millions of people, but you’re striving to make people’s lives better in all different aspects. That seems to be the foundation of Rotary is just helping your fellow man in whatever capacity you can.

JAMES: Exactly. But even the polio eradication project, it started with an idea that someone had at a Rotary Club level and it has grown to billions and billions of dollars being put towards that cause. So, I think it’s there’s going to be other things like that where just you or me might have an idea and it grows and 30, 40 years later, it’s a massive thing.

AMBER: Yeah. We could eradicate a disease again, which is—it’s amazing when you put it at such a small level. Just one person had an idea and then later we’ve saved so many people. It’s very heart-warming. I guess that’s part of it. You want to feel good about your community and yourself and I know with Western Australia, it’s nice to know that there are lots of people and lots of different groups that are doing things to help make WA a greater compassionate place kind of thing. Like I said, it’s very heart-warming to see how many people are putting in the effort to do this. I’m sure since you’ve been in many different clubs, you’ve seen all manner of people who have all just come together, who they normally wouldn’t be interacting with in real life or wouldn’t have had the chance.

AMBER: That’s

JAMES: That’s right. Each club and let’s say there’s 40 in just the top half of Western Australia, they’ve all got different personalities and styles and so there’s a lot of diversity in there. Rotary is also changing. A younger generation is coming through and they’re doing Rotary just a little bit differently. Same underlying principles, but they’ve just got a different style about it, the way they communicate, the way they run projects, all very different. So, I think it is diverse, but it’s also changing.

AMBER: Well, you kind of need to in this day and age. Everything changes so quickly. Excellent. Was there anything you wanted to add, bring up any events, anything like that? Is there one really good interesting fact that you want to talk about Rotary? I don’t mean to put you on the spot. As somebody who doesn’t know much about Rotary, I’d love to learn some little titbits.

JAMES: Look, maybe I’ll just leave it at this: Rotary is an amazing organisation, and it can be life-changing for people, like it’s been for me, but it can be whatever you want it to be. So, it could be just coming and volunteering at the occasional volunteer project or getting your hands dirty planting trees or something like that or even just widening your circle of friends or business contacts. On the other hands, though, it could be leading an organisation and learning to become an awesome public speaker and things like that. So, there’s such a wide range. It’s got so much to offer and all you need to do is really understand what you really want out of it. So, that’s probably my piece of advice or titbit.

AMBER: Wow. Excellent. Well, thank you very much, James. Was there anything final you wanted to add?

JAMES: No, it’s been great. Thank you very much.

AMBER: You’re welcome. Well, I’m sure you’ll be hearing from us in the next episode. Maybe James might pop back at some point, just drop that on you.

JAMES: I’d love to.

AMBER: Excellent. Thanks for your time today, James.

JAMES: Wonderful. Thank you.

– – –

If you are interested in being part of a local Rotary project, event or club in Western Australia or being part of an international movement, which is creating positive lasting change, check out Rotary in Western Australia’s Facebook page or go to Rotarydistrict9455.org for more details.

 

 

Rotary in Western Australia Podcast – Episode 1 – Jess Karlsson

Transcript

AMBER: Welcome to Rotary in Western Australia’s weekly podcast. Stay tuned to hear from people in Rotary who are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Rotary in WA has over 2 000 members of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Throughout this series, we’ll hear about their Rotary experience, the projects they are working on and what matters to them and their clubs.

So, today we’re speaking with Jess Karlsson, who is the chair of marketing and PR with Rotary and she’s also the CEO of Cahoots. And so welcome today, Jess. How are you?

JESS: Yeah, great, Amber. Thanks for having me here.

AMBER: Most welcome. I may as well dive right into it. As this is the first episode, it would be probably a good idea, before I ask questions to you about why you joined Rotary and such, to find out what exactly Rotary is.

JESS: Right; that’s a good question and I’m sure a lot of people particularly in your demographic, and I will say Amber is a young woman, maybe on the younger side of 30.

AMBER: Yes, thank you very much.

JESS: Definitely.

AMBER: Definitely, yes.

JESS: Yes, glad I went for that way. So, a young woman is and a lot of people in your demographic would have no idea about Rotary. We actually studied this earlier—last year now, in 2019, and it was shown that although people have a positive perception of Rotary, they really have no idea what it is, what we do, why we do it. So, it’s good to have this opportunity to share with a little bit more detail and, hopefully, enlighten people throughout Western Australia. So, Rotary’s vision is about a group of people working together to create long-lasting positive change in the world in local communities both locally within your suburb, within your local community, within your state, and then nationally and also internationally. And the way that we do that is through a number of different projects.

Rotary internationally works on five kind of broad strategic priorities, which enable us to do almost anything that’s long-lasting and good in the world. But an example of projects locally would be focused on mothers and their children, so there’s a great project that I know Rebecca Tolstoy will talk about later in the series called Path of Hope, which is about helping women escape family and domestic violence with their children. Rotary also helps with homelessness and has a number of projects working together for Perth homelessness. Also, small things like raising money for the local sporting club, we sponsor children and young people to have international exchange programs and experience new things. So, I suppose to explain Rotary, in one sense I would say that we’re all about like-minded people, a diverse range of like-minded people, working together to create positive and lasting impact throughout the world.

AMBER: Wow. Definitely a good mission.

JESS: Yes, pretty aspirational as well as an inspirational mission, I think.

AMBER: I am sure that ties into the next question—I’m sure it has to do with part of it, which is: why did you join Rotary?

JESS: Why did I join Rotary? So, this is going back about 10 years for me, and I’m also classified as a young woman still, I think, although I’m on the other side of 30 to you. At the time I was in my early twenties and I’d studied exercise physiology. I was living in Queensland where I was born and grew up and I suddenly was put into this management role. So, I was managing a gym and we were about to open another gym locally, and so I was overseeing a staff of about 20 or so people, most of them twice or even three times my age. I had no idea what I was doing and one of my personal training clients at the time was an older gentleman who’d owned his own businesses and was sort of semi-retired at this point; he was quite a few my guru or my mentor before mentors were a formal thing. Bruce, his name was. So, Bruce, my personal training client and my informal mentor, probably unwilling mentor as well, inflicted on him. He was a Rotary member and he used to just give me heaps of tips. If I had to have stern words with an employee or I had to change someone’s contract or if we were going to, you know, start selling a new product or something like that, he would help me with it.

Eventually, he probably had enough of giving me these three advice sessions, coaching, when I was supposed to be coaching him. I think actually when I reflect upon it, Bruce didn’t lose a lot of weight when I was coaching him, but I did learn a lot, so I think I benefited a whole lot more from this relationship with Bruce! He eventually said, “Look, Jess, you should come along to my Rotary Club.” It was in Hervey Bay, a place on the Fraser Coast in Queensland. “There’s a bunch of old blokes there that know lots about business and they’re going to love a new young chick like you who’s full of enthusiasm and ideas.” So, I joined Rotary really with the idea of getting advice and figuring out what this whole management gig was about. Then 10 years, three or four states and territories later, a couple of CEO gigs, as well as many management roles under my belt, and I’m still in Rotary and I suppose I’ve learnt so much. So, the reason I joined was for mentoring and learning and development and that’s still part of what I get out of Rotary, but a whole lot more as well.

AMBER: Now it’s everything else as well I suppose.

JESS: Yeah, definitely.

AMBER: Well, like, all your projects it looks like there’re many different reasons to join Rotary these days. What was your biggest leadership learning in Rotary?

JESS: As a leader, you should always talk last. I learnt that from sitting around board tables in Rotary and that the chair was always the last person to speak apart from asking questions or prompting other people, and I think my natural inclination in any role, whether it’s a leadership role or otherwise, is to speak first and speak the quickest and often speak the loudest, which is not always valuable when you’re trying to get opinions or ideas and information from people who don’t have as much confidence as you. So, as chair in a boardroom or as a leader in a situation, unless it’s a crisis—then sometimes, you do just have go step up and take charge—in a lot of situations, working in a group collaboratively, which is what we do constantly in Rotary, speaking last, encouraging others to share everything and then sharing your opinion but also summarising. And I’d say it also gives you the benefit of hearing everybody’s view. You always think that you know it.

AMBER: And then wrapping it up and parroting it, so they know you know.

JESS: Yeah, so speaking last. It took me quite a while to learn that, I will say.

AMBER: I was going to say it’s not something that when you think of leadership or that managers speaking last normally—most of time you’d assume if you were putting if you tell into that position you’ve got to talk the loudest, you’re talking first, giving directions. So,

JESS: So, like, suddenly you know everything.

AMBER: Exactly.

JESS: Well, I will say becoming a manager at the age of 22, I think my first manager role was, I was very aware that I did not know everything about anything at all! So, it was probably a good thing for me. It gave me humility.

AMBER: Best way to learn. Well, we’ll continue along this kind of line. What do you think has been your highlight with this journey with Rotary today?

JESS: I love my current Rotary Club, Beaufort Rotary, which is based around Mount Lawley and Maylands and that Northbridge funky kind of area. The club is way funkier than I am as an individual, so they really give me some cool cred.

AMBER: I feel that walking down Beaufort Street.

JESS: So, Beaufort Rotary Club is very Beaufort Street. Jess Karlsson by herself is very not Beaufort Street. So, as a shameless plug, I would say Beaufort Rotary Club is an amazing club to be involved in. I love the people within it. I love our values. I love how much inclusion we have and the diversity within our club and how we all come together from very different perspectives and not only support but also challenge each other. So, that’s definitely a highlight for me right now, but reflecting through all of my Rotary memories over the years, with Rotary of Perth, we had a great project, the Tabitha Project, which is building houses for Cambodians who live outside Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. What we did in 2017 was take a group of young Rotaracters, who are Rotary members from the age of 18 through to 30, and a group of Scouts from Scouts in Western Australia overseas to build houses. So, we spent about six months fundraising to buy the equipment for the houses and then we spent about a week outside Phnom Penh building houses. And I say building houses in inverted commas because we really—we’re kind of putting on the floorboards and the bits—we’re not pouring concrete or—you’re not going to get a carpentry qualification in Rotary. I’m not going to promote that.

AMBER: Do the bits that they can observe.

JESS: That’s right. So, it was getting involved. The best part about that for me—I’m all about young people being empowered and improving themselves and feeling supported to do so. So, the fact that we got to take the young Rotaracters and the Scouts away, it gave them a different perspective because growing up in Perth, it’s quite a privileged position, I think. I didn’t grow up in Perth, but Queensland is similar. So, it was good for them to get some perspective on how a lot of the rest of the world live below the poverty line. That was an amazing thing for me to be part of, but also seeing the locals in Cambodia and just the amount of gratitude on their face. They were hugging us and crying. It was life changing for them. The situation in Cambodia is they live in a kind of swamp land almost outside of Phnom Penh and so every year when they have the wet season, their houses, which are kind of lean-to shanties, generally would just get washed away.

AMBER: Wow.

JESS: So, imagine every year you have to start from scratch. All your belongings, everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve written and stored and saved—gone. So, it really creates this cycle of constant poverty and not really being able to break free. But once we built these houses that are put on high stilts, they last through the wet season, so people can start to accumulate wealth and assets. It was really humbling and eye opening to me as well to see just how little it takes to make a huge difference in someone’s life.

AMBER: It’s quite humbling, and strange to see that something like the wet season that we see—like, winter, we just pop inside, I don’t want to get wet, pop the brolly up, whereas to these people it means the loss of everything, whereas for us the worst it would get is your gutters get blocked or something.

JESS: Absolutely. It’s completely different. We fundraised for about six months, but I think, from memory, for the Tabitha Project, it’s really only about $2 500 to build a house.

AMBER: Wow.

JESS: So, $2 500 to change a whole family’s life.

AMBER: For years and years.

JESS: Maybe generations. Pretty amazing.

AMBER: That’s great. I’m sure that that will probably answer the next question quite well because you’ve already told us that it does, but do you think Rotary is essential in today’s world and why?

JESS: Absolutely. I think Rotary is all about connecting people and doing good through collective action and I think in today’s world—my full-time role working in Cahoots is also about connecting people, particularly young people in an inclusive and supportive environment so they can learn new skills and build friendships and develop confidence together and I think Rotary is very similar. It is about bringing people together, connecting them, from diverse backgrounds, in a way that they can work on something collectively that has a positive impact on the world. I think without Rotary those opportunities might not exist. So, some of my best friends, some of the people who really inspire me, some of the people who have challenged me the most and given me the most feedback to develop in both a personal and professional sense, I wouldn’t possibly have crossed paths with without Rotary. There’s no reason why our lives would have overlapped and I’m really thankful that those people have come into my life because, yes, I’ve learnt so much from them and continue to, to date. And I think also when I moved to Perth four years ago, I knew no-one at all, like, no-one, so I went to a Rotary Club and straightaway these people opened their arms and welcomed me into the room and accepted me. So, yeah, I think Rotary is probably more important now than it was 115 years ago when it was still new, because the world is becoming an increasingly lonely and disconnected place. So, I think anyone who’s feeling a bit left out or maybe has lost their sense of belonging, Rotary definitely fills a gap.

AMBER: So, it’s just as important to personal growth as it is to community growth.

JESS: Yeah, 100 per cent. Definitely. I’ve looked over it for years and years. Why do people join Rotary? I think some people join because they want to meet people, which was one of my key drivers. Some people join because they want to make a positive impact in the world. And some people join because they’re interested in developing themselves in some way. For some people it’s all three or maybe two of the three, but for me, initially, in Queensland it was about self-development and then when I came to Perth, by that point, it was more about meeting new people.

AMBER: I don’t think that a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Rotary realise it can do all those things. And what is the key to Rotary’s success as an international community organisation? We’ll give you the easy ones!

JESS: So, I think the key to our success is the diversity, not only of members but of clubs. So, across Rotary in Western Australia, there are 100 clubs, about 50 south of the river and about 50 north of the river, plus some Rotaract clubs as well, and about 2 000 or 2 500 members. Each of those 100 or so clubs has its own personality. So, there’s some that enjoy quite a professional, business, networking-style breakfast. Some that go out for corporate-style lunches. Some like my personal Rotary Club Beaufort we go out for drink and nibbles and a chat for how we can change the world on a Thursday evening. So, there’s a club in Western Australia and more broadly across the world for everybody. So, I think that diversity of clubs is one of the keys to Rotary’s success and I think the other thing is our really aspirational vision of having that positive and long-lasting impact on the world through collective action.

AMBER: Definitely a good mission. You’re the chair of both marketing and PR for Rotary and you’re the CEO of Cahoots.

JESS: That’s right.

AMBER: That must keep you busy?

JESS: Yeah, it does.

AMBER: Why do you do what you do?

JESS: Why do I do what I do that’s a deep question, Amber. I’ll have to do some navel gazing now.

AMBER: It’s more that I’m like: it sounds very busy. Some mornings I would be like: I’ve got all this stuff to do!

JESS: I think I was really fortunate that although I originally studied exercise physiology, by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was working for a YMCA in the Northern Territory doing really what was community engagement or community outreach programs focused on health more holistically, particularly with young people. So, for me, helping young people have better lives through giving them opportunities to learn about themselves and the world around them in a safe environment is really important. And I suppose the why behind that is really—you know, I don’t want to end on a sad note, and obviously my story to date has improved; every decade, every year is better and better in my world, but it didn’t start that way. So, I had a pretty—I’m sure we’re going to keep this podcast G-rated, so I won’t swear! I had a pretty below-average upbringing. We were really, really poor. My mother was not always the person who was able to look out for me. My father wasn’t around. My withdraws were significantly older than me, so for me, little Jessica, I was alone quite a lot, in and out of foster care, and I spent some time in an institution and I didn’t really have anyone in my life who could help guide me and give me the support that I needed. And as a teenager, I really went off the rails. Like, I’ve got —

AMBER: A lot of teenagers don’t realise that they do need that support or they don’t realise what they’re missing.

JESS: Yeah. I needed someone who really cared enough to sort of give me that guidance and say, “You’re off track”, quite a lot. So, I suppose for me growing up it’s given me that desire to provide that for other young people, which guides a lot of what I do now.

AMBER: It’s always good when you’re aware or you do realise how important that is. Once you’ve been there, you can emphasise and give that to someone else.

JESS: Absolutely. I’m still technically or in Rotary world anyway, I’m still considered young enough to connect with young people as well.

AMBER: [Laughs.]

JESS: She’s laughing because she agrees with me. Isn’t that right, Amber?

AMBER: You’ve said it a few times. You’re very young.

JESS: I’m hanging on to that. In my mid-thirties, I’m hanging on to be described as young!

AMBER: The average life span, you’re still easily on the younger half, so you’ve got plenty more years.

JESS: That’s right. We might live till we’re 200 or something.

AMBER: Exactly. Who knows? Thank you so much for that, Jess. You’re going to be heavily involved with this podcast so we might be hearing from you again.

JESS: Yes, look forward to it. Thanks so much, Amber.

– – –

If you are interested in being part of a local Rotary project, event or club in Western Australia or being part of an international movement, which is creating positive lasting change, check out Rotary in Western Australia’s Facebook page or go to Rotarydistrict9455.org for more details.

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