I never imagined I would be here again. Now as I remember my first visit, I reflect on the circumstances that brought me to the United Kingdom three years ago. At that time I knew I just wanted to try. From the moment I heard about the annual scholarships, I wanted to apply for one and did my utmost to complete the application to the best of my ability, truthfully reflecting the person I am. The purpose of the program and the generosity of the organisation providing these scholarships was exceptional. After re-writing and re-considering and so many moments of self doubt, I decided it was time to hit the submit button and my application had been lodged. Each year, St John Ambulance Western Australia provide the opportunity for all personnel, paid staff and volunteers, to apply for a scholarship under their Fabric Program to attend conferences at different locations around the world. There was only one conference that sparked my interest and that was the Leadership Forum in the UK as I felt a strong connection to my current role and recognised the opportunity I would be given to learn more of the significance of this role.
Fabric is the structure or framework formed by fibres and threads being woven together and the organisation was a unique fabric bound together by paid staff, volunteers and members covering a land area of 2.5 million square kilometres.
My role was to ensure the 5000 (at that time) volunteers were rewarded and recognised for their years of service. Understanding the guidelines of the Order of St John governing the Service Medals issued to the volunteers as part of the Australian Honors System was of paramount importance. I was confident in my knowledge of the guidelines and my ability to perform this role and this confidence supported me when completing the scholarship application.
I approached the application like most things I do in life, just one step at a time, constantly reminding myself that my job satisfied and fulfilled me. The successful applicants would be travelling to Malta, Leeds, London and visit St John’s Gate London to learn the legacy, traditions and growth of the organisation throughout history.
A few weeks after I submitted my application, I was surprised to be notified that I had progressed to stage 2 and was provided with relevant information about the process involved. My scheduled appointment was diarised but most unexpectedly one afternoon, I was requested to meet with the selection panel immediately as a result of an unforseen vacancy. My head was spinning and my heart pounding as I entered the meeting room filled with familiar and unfamiliar faces from across the state and after a brief introduction I joined other applicants in presenting a given scenario to the selection panel highlighting our individual and team skills. Immediately I centred my focus on the challenge given and thinking quickly, began to write, plan and take the lead. The presentation unnerved me and I have little memory of other participants or the length of time involved but soon it was completed and leaving the room, I slowly started to breath again.
Eventually as more time lapsed, the application was somewhat forgotten. At the close of business one Friday afternoon after yet another hectic week, Rachael from HR crouched beside me at my desk, her elbows on the corner with her hands supporting her head and she said “I know you have had a tough week, but before you finish for the day, there is one more thing I need you to do for me”. I remember looking her in the eyes and thinking no – no more work – let me go home, but instead I said “OK, what would you like me to do” and she replied “I need you to go to Malta and the UK to attend the leadership conference because you have been granted a scholarship. After hearing the word Malta my mind went blank and my heart started to pound.
Before I realised, colleagues were hugging me and I was laughing and crying and hugging colleagues I would not normally hug; even hugged a Director that day! Throughout the application process, I was often filled with doubt and insecurity and now that I had been granted the scholarship, I was faced with more challenges as I was a non-clinical recipient in the group of four who would be travelling with me. I was the Administration officer who sat in the back corner of my department on the first floor of the Head Office building in Perth and apart from attaining a First-Aid Certificate, I had no other medical training.
Throughout the application process I doubted myself so many times and wondered why I thought I could even apply. I needed to continually affirm both my ability and enthusiasm for this role. Believing in myself strengthened my confidence and enabled me to succeed.
Late one evening when I was in London, at a very busy intersection not far from Westminster Bridge, I witnessed a female paramedic rushing to an emergency on a bicycle, her siren blazing, emergency equipment and supplies in her backpack and she was racing through the London traffic, overtaking slow moving vehicles, riding in front of trucks and other emergency vehicles. She was demonstrating utter confidence, self belief and exceptional courage and this moment will continue to inspire me.
I want to acknowledge the volunteers in the organisation across the world as I recognise and admire the confidence and self belief they possess to commit to attending emergencies, being on call 24/5 – 365, to weekly training and skills development and for the clinical and medical knowledge they attain through their volunteering. Many of these volunteers are generations of families in remote, isolated communities who simply care about their community and the lives of everyone.
Most important of all is that I needed to believe in myself, to know that I am capable, that I can succeed and to always participate to the best of my ability in any project I undertake. Being a recipient of this scholarship strengthened my courage and I appreciate that this has allowed me to continue to strive and achieve in a variety of ways in later years.