Mariska interviewing community members in the Solomon Islands.
My hair’s a mess, my face is red and I’m looking a bit hot and bothered – but this is still one of my favourite photos of myself.
Why? Because it’s a photo of me living out a life-long dream.
To explain, I’d better go back twenty years ago, when I put my hand up in my school assembly – volunteering to lead the 40 Hour Famine in my school.
My family had sponsored a child – Villi – since I was 10 years old, so I knew a bit about who World Vision was. I was also someone who was passionate about making a difference in the world – and was planning on becoming a journalist.
I can’t remember how much we ended up raising for the 40 Hour Famine. But I do remember what happened next. Because I had successfully run the Famine – getting up at school assemblies to motivate our students and writing a column in the school newsletter – my Principle nominated me for the City of Casey’s Australia Day Study Tour Award. Together with a group of other sixteen year olds, I was flown up to Canberra to meet the then Prime Minister, John Howard.
When I got back, I was more passionate than ever about becoming a journalist. I applied to do the first week of my year 10 work experience at ABC TV and – because I’d had such fun organising the Famine – chose to do the second week with the editor of World Vision News.
That week of work experience changed the course of my life.
My eyes were opened to the fact that I could use my gifts to help others – in a field other than news journalism. In my school report about my work experience, I say: “I’ve decided that my calling in life was to take over David Henry’s job as editor of World Vision News and travel the world writing about the people World Vision helped”. I’ve even drawn a picture of myself on a remote island photographing and interviewing people.
After I finished high school, I studied Communications and Business degrees at Monash University. I even spent a semester studying in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Once I returned, I contacted World Vision – volunteering to be trained as a public speaker and travelling around Melbourne speaking at schools about the 40 Hour Famine. I loved seeing the student’s faces when I pulled out a fake gunniea worm – and explained how it grew inside people’s bodies.
When I finished University, I pursued my passion for working in a not-for-profit organisation – going on to spend 13 years in fundraising and communications for the Uniting Church’s community services.
Just before I graduated, I got married to my high-school sweetheart Nathan. Before I accepted his proposal, I’d had two stipulations – he had to let me get a Golden Retriever puppy and he had to sponsor a World Vision child with me.
Since then, we’ve had three different sponsor children from Indonesia. The latest one – Marsela – was chosen by our three kids because she’s the same age as my 5 year old daughter and they liked the pink bows in her hair.
Last May, we prayed about our future and decided that Nathan would sell his business and we would switch roles so he could return to university. The day I logged onto Seek.com – a job at World Vision had just been posted so I applied. Two weeks later, I left my 2, 4 and 6 year old kids home with Nathan and started here in a full time Communications role.
For me, World Vision is more than just a place I work. It’s been part of my life on and off since I was a child praying for our sponsor child with my family at the dinner table.
Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to the Solomon Islands to interview local pastors and community leaders working with World Vision’s Channels of Hope project to address horrific domestic violence rates.
Sitting there, on a remote island, taking photos and hearing men and women tell their stories, I thanked God for the work that was being done through World Vision.
And I thanked Him for allowing me to live out that calling I had as a 16 year old girl.