Prior to working at CAC, I was a Physical Education teacher at a local secondary school for ten years, after which I ran my own childcare business from home for the following eight years. In these roles, I worked face-to-face with many people every day; I barely sat down and often had no time to eat or visit the toilet. I was busy and active, and for much of my time, I was outdoors.
I loved being a PE teacher. I enjoyed the variety of teaching so many different sports throughout the year to a mix of boys and girls aged 11 to 16. I relished the challenge of planning lessons that would excite and engage my students, particularly the theory classes in which many of the students would have preferred to be outside playing sports, and to be honest, so would I. Some of the students were challenging, and there were days that left you feeling empty and exhausted, sometimes even tearful from the battles with teenagers who were resistant to learning and were resentful of anyone who tried to help them along the journey of maturity and growth. However, I was fortunate to have an amazing team of staff to support me. We had staffroom banter and brilliant social events, and in general, it was a fantastic phase of my life, one I think of with a warm heart, especially for the PE staff who welcomed me into their families at a time when I had not yet started my own.
Making the choice to become a childminder was an easy one. Yes, I would miss teaching, but I wanted to be at home with my children to watch them grow and be there at those special moments. I didn’t want to read about their achievements in a learning journal or access photos through an app. So, I set up my own business, caring for and nurturing other people’s children while also being present for my own. This was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t predict that I would become so emotionally invested in the development of the children I cared for; in hindsight, maybe that’s why my business was successful. Over the eight years that I was childminding, my staff and I helped to raise 54 children from 6 months to 5 years old and then had the heartbreaking yet satisfying task of waving them off to primary school. Those children became a part of my extended family, and I will always be their ‘Lou Lou’. The beauty of childminding was the fact that each day we looked at the weather forecast and chose how best to spend the time: visit the beach and hunt in the rock pools, go to the allotment to dig up potatoes, or stay at home and paint or bake. Every day was different, rewarding, and filled with love.
In both my previous roles, I spent all of my time within my local community, meeting people, educating people, observing others, being observed, and establishing myself as an integral part of the society within which I lived. I don’t know everyone in Newquay, but it’s not often that I go out to the pub or the beach and don’t see someone who I know to chat with (I do like to chat). Newquay is my home, not just because of the bricks and mortar that I reside in, but because I belong here.
In 2021, I started as a volunteer with CAC, joining online calls and getting to know the staff and CAC partners. At first, I was so inexperienced with the technology that I couldn’t navigate Workplace or find a document unless it was sent directly to me (actually, I still struggle with this a bit). I had never heard of Google Meet and certainly had no experience with Zoom, but I loved meeting people, and I especially enjoyed listening to people from other countries share their stories and experiences. I was fascinated by the social issues that I learned about during the calls, and I felt inspired to make a difference in the world. I had spent the last 18 years investing in my local community and making a difference in the lives of people I could reach out to and touch; I had not given much thought to life outside Cornwall. Suddenly, my world started to grow, and yet this was happening on a single laptop in my bedroom. By the time I joined CAC as a permanent member of staff in September 2022, I felt like I had made new friends—global friends—on every continent. I was developing a better understanding of social issues and local solutions, and I was checking the map less and less as my knowledge of countries and locations was improving. I still check the map regularly. I mean, who really knows the location of Cape Verde? Working at CAC is rewarding and diverse, and I love it, yet I spend 8 hours each day sitting in one chair in my bedroom, mostly with the curtains shut to stop the sunshine from getting in my eyes. What a contrast to my former roles! My world has expanded with a global reach, from Melbourne to Uttarakhand to Kenya and Barbados. I consider time zones when planning my day and feel totally enriched by the people I meet, conversations I have, and knowledge I acquire, yet my total steps equate to less than 100.
Writing this blog has made me reflect on how lucky I have been. I have had three different professional roles, each of which has been rewarding and brought me great joy. I have gained confidence, knowledge, and skills, but best of all, I have formed relationships and made friends. I am excited for 2024. I wonder how much more my world can grow from my little chair.