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Stories of #GoodChange

July 2020

Good Neighbour #3: Jenny

In the third Interviews with our Good Neighbours, where we feature stories of those involved with Good Neighbors Australia, our focus is on #GoodNeighbour Jenny McKechnie!

Affectionately known as Mama Jenny in the team, she first joined us in November 2019, and mainly provided advice on our monetary-related duties. But time flew by! She remained persistent and has now been with Good Neighbours Australia for around 9 months.

And what’s more, as of this month – that’s July – Jenny has become our official treasurer! It’s truly a meaningful moment not just for Jenny, but everyone in the team too. Her journey to humanitarian volunteering is even more awe-inspiring. From working with leading universities in Australia and New Zealand to living in Malaŵi, Africa, it really seems as though she’s seen it all.

"It’s a change working for a small I am doing what I enjoyed most from my previous role."

GN: Please briefly describe your role at Good Neighbors Australia. When did you start, and what do you enjoy about it?

JM: My role is to ensure Good Neighbours Australia is doing the right thing in its accounting, tax and finance functions. I provide advice on financial matters as they arise. I started in November 2019, and I’m enjoying researching information to include in my advice. The office team is great to work with.

GN: What motivated you to join?

JM: I had left full-time work and was looking for an opportunity to use my accounting and finance skills in the voluntary sector. The Good Neighbours international partnership is doing work I want to support, so I’m happy to be a member of the team developing its work in Australia.   

GN: Were you always interested in international development?

JM: To be honest, no. But I had always wanted to live abroad. When I moved to Malaŵi, I saw how poverty, a lack of health care and poor education were impacting the lives of everyday Malawians. It changed my view of the world.

GN: Moving to Malaŵi must have been a big change in your life. What was it like living in Africa? What do you miss most about living in Malaŵi?

JM: It was a big change, though not in a way you might expect. We were living on a private school campus where the teachers were expats. We had three domestic workers and were glad we could give them work and support three families. We weren’t encouraged to mix with locals. Nearly all Malaŵian staff lived off campus.

When we lived there, it was a one-party state. Malawians faced restrictions on what they could say and do, as did expats. Ladies weren’t allowed to wear trousers and skirts had to be below the knee. It’s different today as Malawi now has a multi-party democracy and the dress rules have gone.

I guess this is not the response you were expecting. We did get to meet locals as we travelled around Malaŵi. We had a bach (NZ word for holiday cottage) in a village on the shore of Lake Malaŵi, where got to know some villagers and understand their lives.  It was the home of the retired Bishop of Southern Malaŵi, who had spent time in England. He gave us English summaries of the Chichewa sermons when we went to the local church.  Malaŵi’s tourism promotion as “The Warm Heart of Africa” is well justified. People are poor, but usually helpful and cheerful.

I miss the sunshine, the slower pace of life and having my household chores done by someone else.

GN: What is being an advisor like at a non-profit organisation? Are there significant differences when compared with your previous professional experience?

JM: It’s a change working for a small organisation. Previously I had worked in universities. Now I am doing what I enjoyed most from my previous role, which is research and advice without having to do the rest.

GN: Lastly – what's one word to describe your experiences with us at Good Neighbours Australia?

JM: Fulfilling.

Like Jenny, you too can start working towards a more rewarding life. We are a family that welcomes anyone and everyone, no matter the background. Simply apply to be a volunteer on our website, and we will get back to you as soon as we can! Thank you Jenny, and look forward to our next Good Neighbour feature!

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