My first ‘Ordinary Angels’ interview is with Rosalie Pace – Senior Manager for Social Inclusion and Regional Development with Red Cross in South Australia. Rosalie has many years of experience working in communities to help deal with the many social problems we continually face. The age of our social digital interface has created many new problems around loneliness and isolation even in city communities. Rosalie talks about the challenges in her current role as well as what she has learned from past roles to give us a wise insight into what we can do to help ourselves and each other.
Interview Transcript by Lea Groves
Merelyn – Good Morning Rosalie
Rosalie - Good Morning Merelyn
Merelyn – I want to start by telling us a little bit about your current role in Red Cross
Rosalie – Yes certainly, my role is Senior Manager level at Red Cross in South Australia and it’s all around social inclusion and regional development throughout the state. So I oversight a lot of programs and we work from Ceduna right through to Mount Gambier and every town and in between. We have lots of volunteers and members and staff who try and help people become more included and overcome barriers in their lives that exclude them from being apart of their community and those things can be like transport or telephone support, someone to go with you to your appointments, mental health support and things like that. So that they can become more resilient and get back into their community and enjoy life.
Merelyn – so it’s a very grass roots level service isn’t it for ordinary everyday people.
Rosalie – Yes, and that’s Red Cross and it’s about people helping people and the power of humanity, mobilising the power of humanity to help each other and it comes from the grass roots of Red Cross, and you would see Red Cross overseas where we are apart of disaster response and things like but we do very local and everyday things as well and it’s been part of society and a movement that has humanity as its fundamental and principle.
Merelyn – I think growing up I probably always remember Red Cross as being the Blood Bank and then going through the Black Saturday fires I had a very first hand experience of Red Cross stepping into our very troubled community and giving crisis help. I actually didn’t realise until you started in this role and we have talked about this that it’s such a broad based organisation which is absolutely fantastic. We talked earlier before the interview about loneliness being one of the most affecting things in our community today and you were saying it affects more people than those who are affected by those who smoke 2 packets of cigarettes a day.
Rosalie – the studies have been done that loneliness makes you ill and if you are chronically lonely it impacts your health, impacts your physical health and by being part of a community and having family involved in your life, being able to interact and talk with people, go out and be part of community activities that all helps keep you healthy. In aged care and mental health spaces that is really vital that people are connected to community and to people that love them and want to share their lives with them and that helps their health.
Merelyn – So it is actually literally true that people can die of a broken heart?
Rosalie – Oh yes, yes definitely. If it’s not arrested or helped by other people going through the grieving process, or being able to reconnect with people that care and love you.
Merelyn - I certainly know being on a little farm I have seen that with animals. Alpacas in particular will die very quickly if they lose their mate or their bonded, could be another goat doesn’t have to be another alpaca. But it’s interesting because we tend to put people in a more resilient category or do we just put it in the too hard basket.
Rosalie - When they’re grieving??
Merelyn - Yeah and loneliness. Why is this a big problem – it shouldn’t be, there’s millions and millions of people in the world.
Rosalie – Exactly and sometimes we might miss those skills around connecting as early as in school. If you don’t have a good school experience as a child then sometimes it can impact your life further on. We have got a very fast paced world where things are happening very quickly and people are getting left behind because they can’t afford the latest digital device or they can’t get the internet in their home so they aren’t as connected. We don’t go to church as much as we used to, we don’t go to activities because they cost money. All these things impact, and you can get on a path that takes you into that loneliness space and often the community don’t notice until it gets quite severe so its about helping communities understand the patterns that people can get into that lead to chronic loneliness.
Merelyn – So the worlds changed quite a bit in the last 50 or so years too and television some people have it on or go on Facebook or whatever to help relieve loneliness but sometimes that can exacerbate as well can’t it?
Rosalie – Yes.
Merelyn – its instilling values that aren’t necessarily truth for people – and it’s putting things in our minds that often tell us we are not good enough.
So talk a little bit about how you see the gap between the people who are IT savvy and those who aren’t in relation to the people that you work with at that grass roots level.
Rosalie – I think there’s all sorts of things that you can gain from being IT connected so on Facebook and Twitter and all those sorts of things but it has to be good relationships and good relationships are based on trust and caring for each other and being respectful for each other. The fundamental principles of Red Cross, you join the society to actually promote healthy interactions with people and respect for each other, peoples cultures and peoples own choices. So the idea of the society is to keep people involved but also to respect each other’s differences and live together as humanity and help each other. It can get to the point where people need specialised help and certainly in the mental health area. and in chronic aging and depression there is great clinical help out there in our communities for that serious end. But then as people recover and most do recover, it’s about having those people around you just who remind you make life worth while living and make things happy and celebrating with music or outings or food or whatever.
Merelyn – So it’s not really rocket science is it?
Rosalie – No.
Merelyn – We are not getting it right.
Rosalie – A lot of people do get it right. I think the fact is that sometimes you just have to not be so individualised. I think what society is teaching – we get into this pattern in society that it’s all about me and actually it’s all about us.
Merelyn – Yes.
Rosalie – We need each other to share life and to make it meaningful.
Merelyn - We have to allow ourselves to be a bit vulnerable in that don’t we and be open to that.
Rosalie – Yes.
Merelyn – So it’s obviously a very detailed role as the Senior Manager, you’re juggling a whole lot of things because these principles that you are applying to help people out there you also have to apply to your enormous staff and volunteers.
Rosalie – Yes.
Merelyn – So what role have you had leading up to this Senior Manager position?
Rosalie – Worked in many different spaces, in Community Centres which I really enjoyed. Back about 10-15 years ago I worked in Community Centres where the whole role was just involving community in different aspects and I did that with local government, and some not for profit, also worked in the mental health support space where people are supported post clinical mental health, worked with unemployed people and sort through things that keep people out of employment because that’s really important that people do have something valuable to do with their lives, either paid or unpaid and that’s important around voluntary service. So lots or most of my career has been in that space where it’s all about people helping people and encouraging people to participate in their communities. Have done lots of study that goes with that, so Bachelor of Social Science and Management studies and some studies in how to run communities and groups and facilitate things and all that comes together. It makes a strong skill base and of course I then have 5 great managers across the state who also work with me and its not just about me, its all about how you help other people get going and work together.
Merelyn – I also happen to know that you were a Salvation Army Officer.
Rosalie – Yes many years ago.
Merelyn – Early in your working life.
Rosalie – Yes.
Merelyn – I guess that also gave you an insight into – or did that kind of propel you into this industry, of going on to continue to help people.
Rosalie – Becoming a Salvation Army Officer was around my faith and wanting to do all I could do for God who I worshipped and want to make sure other people have good opportunities to understand their own faith. The other key thing was around Adult Education and Community Education was one of the Associate Diplomas I did which there is a lot of study done around people are able to reach their potential. My potential might be different to your potential but we can have fulfilled lives if we are allowed to and encouraged do what makes us who we are and be the best that we can be.
Merelyn – Find your passion.
Rosalie - Yes – yes that’s exactly what it is. Work on your strengths, so a lot of the talk these days we talk about Strength Based Approach and we talk about Consumer Directed Care, we talk about Customer Focus, and all those things are there to help us remember that its not just about what we want but – also as together how can we be a better community and live peacefully together. There’s a really good project starting in United Kingdom around loneliness talking about smile, speak, share so basically 3 key words to connect with people where ever you are – speak to people, smile at people and share with people. Our lives would be much better.
Merelyn – That’s come out of the Eat, Pray, Love era.
Rosalie – Yes, could do, yes.
Merelyn – Which is really about ourselves and building ourselves up and then also about speak, smile share, is about sharing the journey. As a storyteller myself that’s my ethos in life, is to share our journey and that way we help other people find their potential as well. I think that sometimes we think that it takes a special person to do certain jobs but realistically it’s about – I don’t know what you think – but I think its about who we are as people and finding that spotlight you are talking about and often that’s I guess we might explore that or have an opportunity to explore as children, sometimes we don’t always get that, maybe its something we grow into as adults. Just wondering if we could go back now and hear a little bit about your upbringing and how it may have influenced your decision to enter this field of work. Did it motivate you to help people? And I have to say full disclosure at this point in the interview because you have known me my entire life which is 54 years in fact we shared a bedroom for the first 12 years of my life because you are in fact my older sister.
Rosalie – That’s correct - yes
Merelyn –But I’d like to hear from your perspective, we grew up on a farm and you know we had a very particular style of upbringing, do you think that has influenced you in anyway to work towards and be involved in this community building and helping people or the role that you are in now?
Rosalie – everything that happens in your life influences you in some shape or form if you understand it. So I’m the middle child and you are the youngest.
Merelyn - So the middle child syndrome is coming out.
Rosalie - Even that may have an impact, but also my personality, so I’m a great combination of mum and dad and I am a quieter person, I sit back and listen and learn and then speak whereas other members in the family may be the other way round – NOT looking at anyone. All those things influence who you are and you have got to understand who you are and then work with that. We had a maybe strict religious upbringing, not as strict as some but mum and dad were very clear about what was right and moral and ethical and what underpinned it was our faith in God and every week worship and Sunday school and Youth Group and all those sort of things. I think those early years certainly train you to look outside yourself and help others and sometimes you can go too far that way and can always being the supportive person and doing things for others and never remind yourself that you have got to look after yourself.
Merelyn – The over giver.
Rosalie – Yes the over giver and you need to be careful about that. Sometimes you can be too generous, I’m a very generous person, but I’ve learnt over the years being over generous doesn’t help myself or others at times so you have to work out what’s the best thing to do there. So that’s where all your training and I’ve had some fantastic coaches throughout my life both in the Salvation Army when I was training there and great managers in my other parts of my career who guide you and say yes you have great aspirations you have to work out how those aspirations can be delivered in a day to day way and what that means.
So the centre of my conversation always with my staff and volunteers and other people is about respect and I encourage them to respect me and then I also respect them. It’s about people have the right to make their own choices but when they impact other people around them for whatever reason that is this needs to be discussed and worked out. So lots of things.
Merelyn – Fantastic – I want to pop in to the Red Cross and have a little chat with everybody if they all have the same ethos that sounds fantastic.
Merelyn – Just before we finish off and I do thank you for your time. We are actually here together this weekend visiting our very elderly mother and elderly aunt and spending time with family. It’s a great opportunity to hear some more about your work and share that particularly because I’m just getting started on this podcast.
I really wanted to – you know so many times in podcasts we hear from famous people and that’s fantastic as we all like to hear famous people stories but I think there are so many great people out there, ordinary people like you and me just doing ordinary things that are making the world a better place.
So on a personal level before we finish off, is there something encouraging for every day life that you would like to share with those of us tuning into this Podcast.
Rosalie – Something for everyday life that’s a big question.
Merelyn – It is, how long is a piece of string? Have you come to a point – of a bit of wisdom?
Rosalie – I’ve always been an optimistic person so I think that does me well, but even on the days when I don’t feel very optimistic or bright I find joy in whatever is around me that is joyful so some days its in nature, so spending time just taking in nature by a walk, sitting on the verandah with a cup of tea and looking at the birds and things like that. Finding your own inner peace and then you are a far better person to go out and look after others and take care of others and also believe in yourself that you can do things. Many years ago I was taught things come your way big or small you can manage them with the care and sharing with others, as well as your own resilience and understanding who you are. If we can start each day with the positive attitude doesn’t matter how bad it’s going to get during the day be kind to yourself and be kind to others.
Merelyn – Fantastic, I’ve just been listening to a Richard Rohr podcast, he’s a Franciscan Monk and he just has some amazing wisdom but he says the same thing, he says every morning starts with his staff and their role in the Centre for Action and Contemplation that they have in America and they start for 20 mins and they just have contemplative time, quiet time together until they are able to say yes to the day.
I had to have a big think about that what does it mean to say yes to the day mean?
I think you are actually saying that right there, to find your peace, let go of the things you have bought forward from the day before so you can face todays issues, problems, joys all the things that come together with a fresh spirit and fresh heart.
And I guess when you are working so directly with people you need to have quite a bit of tolerance and kindness and courage in that.
Rosalie - Once you start work during the day there is often not time to stop, so its important to have that peace of time with yourself in the morning and if possible in the evening before you go to bed so you get a decent nights sleep.
Merelyn – Yes, so we aren’t worrying half the night.
Rosalie – That’s right.
Merelyn - Our grandmother always said “Never let the sun go down on your anger”. I suppose you could transfer the word anger for worries. Taking on other people’s responsibilities you need to have those skills of letting them go.
Merelyn - Well I’m going to hopefully cultivate during these Podcasts an opportunity for my guests to ask me a question at the end.
So being my older sister being the middle child, and having me grow up and be the little brat underneath you as I’ve heard you say a few times during our life. What would you like to ask me?
Rosalie –That’s a very interesting question.
Lets start with, why did you choose a music career other than one of your other many talents, what drew you to music all these years, where you got many other things that you could have been focusing on in your life.
Merelyn – I think for me it came down to a point in time as you know where I was very miserable in my life and we grew up as children not necessarily being able to express that misery in a way that we now understand is good for us. It was just the era of growing up and the way our strictness of our youth was. So there came a time where I think I was pretty much towards hitting rock bottom and I needed to find an outlet for my passions, I was over responsible, I was over giving, I had found myself in a relationship that now days I wouldn’t haven chosen. I chose for the wrong reasons or less informed reasons than I have now, that is youth as well. But also perhaps a bit of family expectations that I felt, whether they were there or not.
So, I remember going there has to be something more for me, and I always loved the creative side of music. I went to a Steve Grace concert and I just had an epiphany it was one of those pivotal moments in my life, where I went this is what I want to do, simple as that. I went home and bought a guitar quite a commitment on a financially small budget that I had at the time and I just went from there. Like we were talking about earlier, when you find that is your passion and your joy in life and if you go with it with your whole heart if it was meant to be it will fall into place. For me, I still say with all the travel that I do and all the writing that I do these days and spread out all the things I’ve done within this creative field. I will knock on a door, if it opens, if it doesn’t open immediately, Ill keep knocking for a bit, but if I keep knocking and its uphill, its not my path for me to go, its not my peace. I’ve learnt over the years to keep following my path of peace for me. I think that in itself is a skill. I’m doing different things now, as I get older. It’s all about story telling for me and connecting with people.
Rosalie – we do a lot of story telling in my area as well and as I continue on in my career I often wonder whether I stay at the level I am because I still get to hear those stories and create those stories with people. As soon as you get into executive management you get further and further away from the people, you have the strategies and cause that you are driving but the people you miss that connection. Those are the questions in my head going forward. What level of management or executive that I want to be at, as I still like to hear those stories. Help people create their own.
Merelyn’s writing is supported in part by the sale of her books. Autobiography - ‘The Deepest Part of Me’. ‘Inspire’ – inspirational reflections for your life’s journey. ‘Stories behind the Songs’ and her first children’s picture book ‘To The Moon and Back - Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. To find out more about her work and to support her through the purchase of her writings and music, please go to www.carterandcarter.com.au