Vicki Condon on the importance of mentoring and self-worth

"We are losing sight of empathy as we are all so busy, so I believe it is really important to consider the perspectives of others."

Soul-searching on a beach 11 years ago sparked an idea that not only changed the life of Vicki Condon, but thousands of at-risk young Australians. The idea lead to Condon launching a charity called Raise, that provides mentoring programs to support the one in 10 young adults in Australia who are vulnerable and disengaged from education, employment and social connections. The Bump Program (by the Raise foundation) is a charity partner of The Priceline Sisterhood Foundation.

This year Vicki is joining Ita Buttrose, Chrissy Swan, Olivia Molly Rogers and more as part of Priceline Pharmacy‘s Festival Of You to celebrate all the things that make every woman unique and individual.

We sat down with the Priceline Ambassador to get her take on business planning, the importance of mentorship and self-care, and who it is that inspires her most.

When you wrote your business plan for Raise, you put it into a drawer?

I was concerned that Australia had too many charities already, and I had a crisis of confidence about whether I could effectively run a for-purpose organisation with only my experience in Human Resources previously, so I did quietly put the business plan in my top drawer not long after I wrote it.

It was a few months later that our family experienced the death by suicide of a family friend’s 14-year-old-son, and it was the day of his funeral that I pulled out the business plan and registered the organisation with The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), hoping that if we could help just one young person, then it would be worth it. That was 11 years ago now, and we have had 5,421 young people graduate from the program.

Have you had a mentor in your life who has helped you?

I have been lucky enough to have several mentors in my life.

My first one was also my hero: that was my Dad. In more recent times, however, I have some remarkable people giving me mentoring support around the management of Raise, and I call them ‘The Davids’. David Gonski has been our Patron at Raise Foundation for several years and his business insight and people expertise is extraordinary.

David Thodey has been my personal mentor through the Kilfinan program and it has been so incredibly helpful to have someone of his experience to guide me through the personal development of growing from the Founder of a small charity, to the CEO of a large charity. I have learned an immeasurable amount from the Davids, they are superb mentors.

How do you inspire people to help others?

It seems to me that most people actually want to do something to help others, especially when it is helping young people. Mostly, though, people just don’t know where to start and that is what causes inaction.

The beauty of becoming a Raise Mentor is that it is a very easy and well supported way to make a very real difference. We make it very simple to take the first step towards action, which inspires people to readily help.

Why is mentoring such an important element for young people at risk?

More young people die by suicide than by any other cause in Australia. This is not okay! What is really important for young people is that they learn resilience and coping strategies when things inevitably go wrong; that they have confidence and an ability to set and achieve goals so they feel they are capable; that they have trusted adults around them who they can ask for and accept help from when they don’t feel connected.

When young people are engaged with school, able to find work, and know people who care about them, they are more like to grow into happier and healthier adults who have hope for the future.

How can we champion the people around us?

By walking in their shoes. We are losing sight of empathy as we are all so busy, so I believe it is really important to consider the perspectives of others in a really non-judgemental way so that you can have their best interests at heart when you are supporting or encouraging them.

How do you take care of yourself?

I’m an introvert, so for me to be able to give to others, I need to have some quiet time to myself pretty regularly. The last hour of my day is often in our office, alone, finding balance. That and a lot of chocolate!

Where does your drive to affect change come from?

There’s a long and complicated story behind my drive for change, but I do feel that when you taste the impact that something so positive can have, and you feel the benefits that shine through from people sharing basic goodness, then it becomes addictive and it doesn’t feel like you have to drive change at all, it feels like it propels itself.

What has been the most satisfying part of your journey so far with Raise Foundation?

We have an extraordinary village of kind and clever people who are working at Raise and making it the success that it is now. I just love being part of the team that gets such good things done for our young people who are struggling.

It is very satisfying being part of the Raise village, and witnessing the important difference that is made in young people’s lives by connecting them with a high-quality mentor. The difference a mentor makes is very powerful.

What have you found to be the most effective way to inspire people to share your passion?

Being brave enough to talk about your passion with others, and being honest and humble about it, engages them to experience it alongside you. When we speak from the heart about the stories that inspire us, others hear our love for what we are doing and the passion can become contagious. It is also important to allow others to choose whether they align or not, and not judge if they don’t.

A group of people who are passionate about a cause together can change the world. Many of us get side-tracked away from finding our passion, and finding what really makes your heart sing can take energy and commitment, but when you align your passion with vision, and a group of others who feel the same, then anything is possible.

Who inspires you?

Our three incredible (adult) children are the most amazing people. I’m so ridiculously inspired by them, in so many ways. They have individually faced significant challenges and they have achieved remarkable goals, and I get inspiration from them every single day. My husband and I feel like we are actually living with flatmates now, and the dinner table conversation is so stimulating.

There is a crossover when your children become more worldly, knowledgeable and engaging than you are, and that has now happened in our family. I could listen to my children for hours, and I would choose my children as my friends.

What keeps you feeling balanced?

Making time to listen to my team about what is going on for them, making sure I have at least read all my messages before the end of each day, taking time out with my family, giving myself the opportunity to breathe and have space, swimming in the ocean. And eating hot chips with gravy!

How do you feel about your age?

My age is not something that worries me. I feel like my age is not very relevant, although I love that with more years comes more experience, and that has become very valuable to me.

Good things have happened for me when I felt like I was running out of time in terms of age, so that has been positive.

How has your body image and self-worth changed with life experience and success?

Wow, this is a big question! My body image has not changed considerably, but my self-worth has been defined differently throughout the different stages of my life. I was a shy and un-confident young person, but I have become stronger and more positive as I’ve got to know myself throughout the challenges that life has inevitably thrown at me.

How do you take care of your skin?

I am a very basic skincare person. My clever and beautiful mum taught me to cleanse and moisturise my skin every morning from a young age, and so that is really all that I still do. I have quite dry skin, so every now and again I give it a good exfoliate and a big drink with a lathering of moisturiser, but I keep things very simple.

Right now I’m using L’Oréal Paris’ Revitalift Filler Ampoules and Kotia’s Rejuvenating Serum, both from Priceline Pharmacy.

Do you have any beauty rituals?

I really don’t. My favourite beauty ritual is swimming in the ocean, rinsing my body and hair in the outside shower and then drying off in the warm air. Doing the photoshoot for this feature found me way out of my comfort zone, if I’m being really honest. I love a concealer: my favourite is the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Light Radiant Concealer.

Having my nails done, a full face of makeup, and a lot of work on my hair is something that I never (ever) do. I was half an hour late on my wedding day because it was the first time I had an expert do my makeup, and I hated it so much that I took it all off.

When you want to feel nurtured, where do you turn?

My big indulgence in life is my love for getting a deep tissue massage. If I can make a whole day of it and do two or three treatments like a salt scrub or coconut cream body masque, and then go out for a long lunch at a beachside café somewhere, then I am peacefully happy again and ready to keep going.

What is the secret to holding a vision that others will follow?

Developing the vision with others involved and with others in mind is the first step, and the second step is communicating it clearly and regularly.

Our vision at Raise is to offer our best practice mentoring programs in every capital city and in every public secondary school across the country by 2024. It is a very bold and ambitious plan, but it is exciting because it will make a big difference in the landscape for young people in Australia.

We have all developed our vision together, and we all have parts to play in its successful execution. Together, we will create thriving communities by connecting generations through best practice mentoring programs. We are bringing back heart to heart conversations, and we feel very passionate about it.

If you, or someone you know, would like to have a free, confidential chat with someone they can trust, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website here.

Brought to you by Priceline Pharmacy. The Festival Of You is on now.

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