“I wanted to see how far I can push myself and how many boundaries I could break through.”
I’m currently living and travelling in Peru, making and selling jewellery and having amazing adventures.
I was born on a cattle farm in Shepparton. We moved to Melbourne when I was in high school, and that’s where I fell in with a rough crowd of kids. I stopped doing schoolwork, started wagging, drinking, getting into fights. I became an absolute terror, my parents and teachers couldn’t do anything with me.
Then, when I was 14, I was attacked by a man connected to one of my ‘friends’. Everyone at school found out and my friends turned on me. Kids said I provoked it and if I went to court they’d all testify on his side. Things got bad, my family got death threats and I was too scared and confused to report it.
After that, I didn’t want to remain in school and left when I was 15 to go to work. For a few years I jumped from one job to the next – I probably did 20 different jobs in retail, office, hospitality.
I wasn’t sure what to do, although even then I thought I wanted to help people. I had a youth worker, Kelly from Youth Services in Cranbourne, who helped me during the hard times in school, and she was my only support then, and an amazing help.
So a part of me always wanted to do for others what she did for me. I wish I could thank her for being such a massive inspiration for me.
My first serious career stint was in music. I started with a retail job in JB HIFI and loved it. When I got promoted to looking after my own music section, I used the opportunity to meet and befriend sales reps from music labels and find out a bit about the industry.
That’s how I heard about a job at Stomp Records, a label that specialized in my favourite punk and hardcore. I went for it and got it. As a junior sales rep, I was given a list of all the tiny country stores in Australia that hardly ever did business with us, and charged with getting them to buy more of our music.
I aced it.
I got all these little shops who used to buy nothing, to being the big money makers for the label. They came to trust me because I was honest and took the time to find out about them and their clientele, so that I could sell them the most suitable records.
I was topping the sales ladder almost every week, despite being the only girl selling records to tiny shops in Ballarat and Dubbo, against the senior male reps who had Sanity and JB HIFI in the cities.
Unfortunately, despite these results, it was still hard to get respect from male colleagues, I often got shut down in discussions. And when we all got our pay reviews, I found out that mine was the smallest. When I spoke up about it, the boss treated me dismissively, and became quite nasty. I left with a feeling of being pushed out.
I moved to Sydney and went back to JB HIFI as a music buyer, which was a great job. However, I was also realizing that this was not what I wanted to do with my life, so I came back to Melbourne to figure it out.
After a few temping jobs, I settled at Australian Communications and Media Authority, working for the Do Not Call register, investigating complaints of annoying telemarketing calls.
For three years I dealt with angry people complaining. I hated it, but it paid well. I did just enough not to get fired, but I was pretty bad at my job. In the end the company offered me $20,000 to leave because there was no other way to get rid of me!
That was the most money I’ve ever had, and I had a great three months spending it. But I was also on Seek everyday, looking for work of any type.
I saw the ad for an office assistant for Make a Wish Foundation and just knew it was the right thing for me.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t struggle writing an application. The words flowed, I just wrote from the heart about why I wanted to work there and how I’ve always wanted to help people. I went through two interviews and got the job.
My role was entering all the applications from parents with sick kids who want a wish granted into the system, and then consulting the doctors to confirm the condition was life threatening. Then I’d call people to let them know they’ve been approved.
Calling the parents to say that their child’s wish is being granted is a strange feeling. On the one hand, you’re ringing to say congratulations, I’m granting your wish. But you’re also confirming that their child’s condition really is grave enough for us to do it. That can be hard.
After 3 months I was promoted to the wish granter role, organizing the actual wishes. It was an amazing job. I got to change the lives of so many people for the better, bring happiness to families that knew nothing but grief for so long. To hear from parents that you played a role in curing their child was so special.
Most of the wishes were to meet celebrities like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift. I’ve sent kids to meet Johnny Depp, Pink. I sent a girl to Finland to see the northern lights, another to see the snow. Princess parties, bedroom makeovers, cars done up for older kids, puppies.
I remember one boy who wanted to go to Rome to see the motocross X-Fighters and meet Robbie Madison. He got the royal treatment in Rome, met Robbie. Not long after that, he went to the doctors and his kidney, for the first time in his life, was OK. And for his parents to thank me as playing a part in his recovery was incredibly touching.
But it was also really hard. Whilst you got to grant wishes for some kids, there were lots of kids who’d die before they got their wish granted. You would make that phone call to get it started and they’d be crying because their child just died.
There wasn’t any real training to help you understand how to deal with it. You become so tongue tied and awkward. That’s hard. After the call, it eats away at you.
It’s not just the child dying, it’s the aftermath – seeing the families in torment, broken by grief. Seeing families financially ruined to keep their kid on treatments – losing cars, homes, jobs. So much unfairness in the government support systems, who got help and who didn’t, how much.
I was there for 3 years. I was so happy to be there for most of it, to go above and beyond, do extra fundraisers. I really love the Foundation and respect their work, but it was hard to remain stable while experiencing such massive highs and lows daily.
Towards the end, when I really started to get affected by it all, there wasn’t much support and my work started to suffer. I started to deaden inside and lose that energy and passion. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, I was sad all the time.
I had to leave. I wanted to be around people and positivity, so I decided to go into hospitality. I thought a cafe would be perfect, to be around happy people getting coffee and breakfast. It was great for a while, but my emotional state wasn’t improving.
I tried therapy, but it didn’t work. I tried partying, but that made things worse of course. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, feeling dead inside and hopeless. I didn’t know what to do to fix myself.
I had heard about Ayahuasca and started researching it, because I felt I was out of options. I read everything I could find. I read the stories from people with PTST, anxiety, depression and severe addiction, who achieved after a week in a jungle with Ayahuasca what generally takes five years of therapy and medication. There were so many amazing success stories.
Ayahuasca is a medicinal brew created thousands of years ago by the shamans and medicine men of Peru, made from specific plants that contain healing and spiritual properties. People go to special retreats that are run by the actual shamans and participate in an Ayahuasca drinking ceremony. Before that, they must cleanse their body through a strict diet to be rid of harmful toxins. No smoking, drinking, sugar, fat, salt, caffeine – all that usual things.
Before I knew it, I booked my flight to Iquitos.
I stayed at the Kapitari Lodge. There were about seventeen people there from all over the world, all with their own health problems or demons. We each stayed in a individual, very rustic huts, in solitude, so that we could meditate and reflect. Then we did four Ayahuasca ceremonies in four days.
The things I experienced on that retreat, the transformations and healing I witnessed in others convinced me of the incredible powers of Ayahuasca. I felt a positive change in myself and knew that my life will be somehow tied to helping people experience it and improve their lives.
When I got back to Melbourne, all I could think of was going back. I sold everything in my apartment and moved back in with mum in Wodonga in order to work and pay all my debts off, and to save for my return.
At the retreat, I met Hector from Chilli, going through his own healing process. He had such a profound experience there, he decided to buy some land in the jungle and build his own Ayahuasca retreat. We developed a strong bond through our experiences in the jungle, and kept in touch after we left. He talked about building the retreat and asked me if I’d like to work there with him and I jumped at the chance.
I travelled to Peru to start work at Mother Ayahuasca Foundation Organic Farm and Retreat. When I arrived, it was still in construction stage, so I was helping with the actual building of the huts and the facilities.
My pay was minimal, the equivalent of 20-30 Australian dollars a month, but you don’t really need money in the jungle!
I thought that once the retreat became operational, I would be maintaining the garden and cooking for guests. I’ve long had a passion for food, and for cooking delicious meals with natural ingredients.
Before Peru, my goal was to open a cafe serving super healthy food that is cooked with love and purpose. I thought this cafe could be a haven for people who have depression or anxiety, or other illnesses, and a part of their healing. So this retreat was like my wish that had been granted!
Unfortunately, after a few weeks of my arriving, I realized that Hector and I were working with different goals in mind, and after a while I realized that we didn’t see eye to eye. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to move to another, similar, retreat that was being built in the area.
However, all my plans were changed when I met and fell in love with Shego, a local Shipibo tribe member.
He is now teaching me to make jewellery like him – the plan is to travel together, selling what we make. I have already learnt so much from him, and he has helped me on my journey of healing.
Thinking of the future, I am still on the path of helping people. Once my adventures with Shego are done, I want to look into working with children who live in the really poor areas locally. We’ve spent time with kids locally, teaching English, bringing them gifts and simply trying to encourage them – but there is a lot more to be done.
It’s been a huge change; I’ve left my home to go live in a different country, a vastly different culture. I wanted to see how far I can push myself and how many boundaries I could break through. And while I’m still testing my limits, and finding myself – it has been a remarkable experience and I am amazed to see how far I’ve come!