After many years working in IT, Kathy Karimondi wanted a career change. She started her search by volunteering at the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre teaching computer skills.
Volunteering proved to be a life-changing move, setting off a chain of events which eventually saw her reskilling for a new career.
At the neighbourhood centre Kathy noticed that there wasn’t much available for refugees so she started a refugee support group. Her initiative was noticed and next she was invited to be on the Coffs Harbour Council Multicultural committee.
“I realised then I was passionate about community work and decided to change my career,” says Kathy.
To get qualified for work in the community sector Kathy enrolled in a Diploma of Community Services at TAFE. By the end of the year she had her diploma and had won the 2018 NSW Vocational Student of the Year. She then went on to represent her state at the Australian Training Awards.
“Winning the NSW Vocational Student of the Year was a turning point in my life. It has given me lots of self-confidence,” says Kathy.
Shortly after completing her training Kathy began working for the Northern Settlement Services in two roles. As the multicultural support coordinator she organises social support for people over 65. She also works as the community visitor scheme coordinator, organising volunteers to visit isolated people living at home or in aged care.
Remarkably she still finds time to volunteer at the Northern Women’s Health Centre by providing administrative support.
The rewards of working with the elderly
Listening to Kathy talk about her work you can’t help but be enthused. Kathy gets an enormous amount pleasure from helping others.
“It’s so rewarding to give back to the community - when a client tells you they feel better or they feel happy I feel good,” says Kathy.
Last month she put two elderly women in touch with each other. One was a lively 90-year-old woman who still drives. The other was a 94-year-old who lived around the corner. Now they talk on the phone daily and visit each other every week.
“You can’t imagine how happy they are - they had the biggest smiles on their faces. After just two weeks they both called, telling me how much they look forward to their visits,” says Kathy.
Kathy also finds its satisfying to help older people to be more independent.
She explains with pride how she taught the 90-year-old woman to do online training. The woman is also a volunteer for the community visitor scheme and visits isolated elderly people. Due to COVID-19 all volunteers have to do online training.
“I helped her to start the online course. Now she can do it by herself - I just send her the link. “
Retraining to propel your career
Kathy credits her successful career change to vocational education and training (VET).
“I learnt communication skills and how to network which are very important skills for a community-based role,” says Kathy.
“I also learnt to find the resources or information I need. You can’t know everything but now I know how to find information if I need it”.
Kathy is now thinking of studying for a psychology degree so that she can work as a counsellor in the community services sector.
“Having VET training means I have eighteen months credit so I can get a bachelors degree in just two years,“ says Kathy.
How to find work in the community sector.
Kathy recommends identifying what skills you have and what you like to do, and use that information to find work that suits you.
“Make a clear vision about what you want to be and what you want to do,” she says.
Kathy strongly recommends volunteering as a great way to get practical skills.
“Volunteering gave me opportunity to network and develop my professional skills,“ says Kathy.
“Age, gender and background doesn’t matter – when I started I was a single mom, came from another country, had a degree and work experience in a different industry and English was not my first language, but I have been successful.”