FAITH IN KINDNESS & UNDERSTANDING

On my first meeting with Wendy Nelson at a recent International Women’s day lunch, I felt compelled to learn more about this amazing young Bribie Island School Chaplain who started out life growing up in the Northern Territory town of Humpty Doo. Her exposure to a passion for helping others came from growing up in church culture, whilst doing good deeds such as for the 40-hour famine for World Vision and raising money for wells in Africa.

Becoming part of a Christian mission organization called “Youth with a Mission”, Wendy had the opportunity to travel the world at a young age helping others in need. Today she has an undergraduate degree in Community Development and Youth work and is making her way towards a Masters in Social Science and Leadership.

This adventurous woman threw herself into a life of volunteering to aid less fortunate people in countries such as Thailand, India, and Mexico, with most of her time in Papua New Guinea, supplying educational resources and working on medical ships that provided care to remote Islands in her role as the Community Liaison Officer. Taking on a variety of roles gave her the hands-on practical experience she needed to cement the formal framework of her degree.

All her years of effort were volunteer-based. Being able to continue her passion for helping others didn’t come without the support of fundraising efforts, the church, family, and friends, who often joked that Wendy was their sponsor child.

I asked Wendy, how have you managed to live your life and your mission so heavily reliant on donations and peoples’ goodwill, yet continued without what many of us would deem as the necessities being job security, a home, day to day stuff? She responded with “faith had a lot to do with growing up, knowing there is more to life. Having a good family who bails you out if things go wrong and I knew I was with a group of people I trusted, and they had my back and looked after me.”

During these times, they required learning to live with extraordinarily little and out of a suitcase, which Wendy says “it’s really nice now to have a wardrobe, a bathroom and a bed to sleep in every night. Back then, I certainly got good at using squatty potties and built up good leg muscles” she laughs with fond memories. If she could meet anyone, this crazy Richmond supporter said it would be Dustin Martin the AFL football Brownlow medal recipient of 2017.

The most interesting people Wendy has met are in remote villages. The ones who have never seen white people. “Seeing people who are of different colour skin and they see your skin colour for the first time. It’s such a fascinating response, because they just reach out, seeing white skin and blonde hair”

Putting down her roots here on Bribie Island about 3 years ago to live with her grandparents while continuing her studies, she tells me she loves working with the students in her “Chappie” role at the school saying “it brings me a lot of joy encouraging the next generation”. With her Masters thesis being around Cross-Cultural Competence, her passion is for teaching people about how to interact with other cultures, believing that by understanding other cultures we demystify the differences and learn to live together better in a more functional society. It is not about losing different cultures, just understanding them better.

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be? “It has to do with how we can be so happy with so little. There is a framework, academic rhetoric, and literature out there about how we can understand people better, but at the end of the day, it’s just being kind, understanding, and putting other people first”.

“I love Bribie. I love the ocean. I love the lifestyle” says this member of the Mahalo Outrigging Canoe Club and allround active breath of fresh air who lives amongst us.