I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand and being fairly outgoing with lots of interests, I’ve done a lot of different things over the years. By the age of 30 I had obtained a sport science and psychology degree, and been a fitness instructor, a student politician, a sales consultant, a representative rugby player, a zookeeper, a step mum, an ESL teacher, a house owner, a sales training manager, an international tour guide, and a business owner.
Then, at the age of 31, I decided to follow my childhood dream of becoming a vet and tried to get into Vet school. I was successful on my first attempt and after 5 years at vet school I moved to Australia in to start my career.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed I launched into my perfect graduate job with positivity and an amazing future ahead, so I thought.
Less than a later I was a depressed and anxious mess. I was at risk of becoming a statistic.
At this time while I was trying really hard to work it all out and find a way to get through, it occurred to me that if the challenges in my life, both big and small, were taking such a toll on me, with all of the fantastic opportunities and resources I had available to me, then there had to be a whole lot of other people out there struggling too, not sure how they got there and, like me, not sure about how to get themselves out.
It was then that I decided that I wanted to try and make a positive difference. I wanted to try to help people have better lives...Even just a little bit…
But how could I make a difference? Looking around it seemed that everything was stacked against us.. The media content we’re delivered is mostly negative, technology is taking our jobs, banks can’t be trusted with our life savings and workplace bullying is a common occurrence. What could I do? - just me, living by myself, struggling in my new job and career, my family were all in NZ, and I was living in a new country where didn’t have very many connections…?
It would have been easy to say it’s too hard, the problems are just too big but instead, I decided to ask myself “What CAN I do, with what I have, to make things better?”
I looked around me. I had a saw, an esky and some camping gear to lend people. I had some knowledge about animal health to help people that were worried about their animals, and lots of experience to share from previous roles I had held.
I also had a mouth for smiling at people, ears for listening and unlimited hugs to offer. None of these things cost me anything to give away.
Now I just had to figure out how to connect with people and find out what they needed so I could help them.
In April of 2016 I started the Kensington Good Karma Network (KGKN) as a Facebook group with a clear purpose. It was going to be a place that we could ask for help from our neighbours. I wanted people to share their knowledge, experience, skills and resources to help with finding solutions to each other's challenges.
In doing this I brought a little light into my life. At the same time, we began shining a little light into other people’s lives as well.
I wanted to use social media to do things differently. It was important for the KGKN to be a safe place to ask for help, and in order to do this it needed to be free of judgement and negativity. So the guidelines began simply as no selling, no advertising, no negativity and anything that is offered is done so with no expectation of anything in return. I was determined for this group to be a positive contribution to people's lives, and quite aside from that I didn’t have time or energy to try to manage people's complaints or opinions about right and wrong.
When people started asking for help and finding solutions to all sorts of problems the KGKN grew. With positive interactions due to guidelines that didn’t allow negativity, the KGKN grew. With connection, collaboration, and compassion, the KGKN grew, and it started a movement. The seeds of the Good Karma Effect had been planted.
Early in 2017 people from around the country heard about what was happening in Kensington and got in touch to ask how they could start a Good Karma Network in their suburb.
4 years later there are now 36 active GKNs across 4 states of Australia with a combined total of over 105,000 members.
Everyday thousands of people are asking for help on Good Karma Networks and giving others the opportunity to make a difference with whatever they have to offer. The GKNs share with us examples people being vulnerable to ask for help. And they allow us to realise that we can actually make a difference, by responding to those requests for help.
Reflecting on how this all occurred when I was struggling, as a result of simply asking myself "What can I do with what I have to make things better?" and then taking action, I now ask myself the question is "What else is possible...?"
For more information about Good Karma Networks, please go to the Good Karma Effect website.