At just 22, Pippa has made more difference to the world than many make in their lifetime. She travelled from Pymble to Cambodia to work in the Sunshine House Orphanage for the first time in 2010, later riding a bicycle 300 km from Pymble to her home town in country New South Wales, Crookwell. Seven years on she has become an extraordinary activist for both women’s and children’s rights.
Age: 22

So to start off, What's something weird and wonderful about you?

First of all, I swear I have two different feet – well what I mean is that one foot of toes are slightly long and elegant and the other are short and stumpy… I’m pretty odd!
Now something wonderful about me is that I truly love being at home. Honestly, despite my overseas experience and love of travel, I am a true homebody. To me, home is more than just a home. It’s my sanctuary where I can relax, help dad on the farm, ride my horses, swim in the river and just ground myself. This sounds bizarre, but being at home makes me a better person; it rejuvenates me, resets my mind and readies me for the chaos and challenges of contemporary society.

Being home is always great! So, Who has been the most motivational person in your life and why?

I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to a number of inspirational people in my life. The first that comes to mind is my mum. My mother is one of the most creative, driven and compassionate people I have ever come across. From the get go, my mother has encouraged, supported and guided me in any project, challenge or problematic moment in my life. We have a philosophy centred on equality and mutual respect. My mum has the ability to bring out the best in people, prompting them to let their true colours show. She is someone who nurtures individuality; when I was three she encouraged me to dress myself and express things in the way I thought apt at the time, often this included outfits made up of knickers on my head, riding boots and of course a pink dress. Having now studied developmental psychology, I have a totally new appreciation for my mother’s forward thinking and the incredibly wholesome emotional and physical environment she brought my brother and I up in. I feel the rawness and realness to our country upbringing, in conjunction to my parents personalities and openness was instrumental to making me the person I am today.

Other people of influence to me more recently have been Fiona Stanley who is a specialist paediatrician who has dedicated much of her life to Aboriginal paediatric preventative healthcare in remote Western Australia. Similarly, when I was living in Africa volunteering I had the opportunity to stay with some family friends occasionally on weekends. These friends have also been incredibly inspiring to me. Des is head of Malaria Control for the United Nations and Yolande was a Sanitation Specialist for World Bank. Aside from their awesome roles, the couple are extremely compassionate and have been pivotal motivators in my desire to make a difference and to somehow make a change in healthcare on both a micro and macro level in society. This couple were amazing at inspiring me to pursue a career chasing my passion, not just doing something because I thought it was what I should do as I feel some young people can be tricked into feeling.

That’s definitely a very real problem for young people! When you set off for Cambodia and Vietnam for the first time in 2010, did you ever image you would land where you are today?

Honestly, probably not. I still remember where I was when I asked mum and Dad, in anticipation for a big “non”, if I could go on the school tour to Vietnam and Cambodia. I was sitting in the back of our old dual cab ute leaving Sydney for holidays crammed with about two hundred bags, doonas, and the remaining contents of my boarding dorm as I decided to ask. Of course, mum and dad seeing my curiosity to explore a developing country and challenge oneself doubtlessly gave the nod. I think they knew the impact it would have on my life as I knew it.

It must have been a really life changing decision. In saying that, what compelled you to ride 300km on a bicycle?

On the return flight to Australia as I left Cambodia I decided I wanted to do something to express the impact I had in meeting so many amazing people from this world so polar to our own and seeing first-hand the struggles and beauty of the developing world. I remember thinking I wanted to do something that would turn heads and make people listen. I wanted to not just raise a bit of money or have a few cupcake stalls but to really put blood, sweat and tears into something big. Something big enough that I knew, and everyone else knew, just how lucky we are and that because of our fortune we have the ability to really do something for others. I also remember thinking running home was a bit far, riding my horse was a bit unrealistic, and in fact riding a bike was just perfect. All I needed to do was a lot of training, right?

It really was an enormous project for someone so young to undertake!! How do you think your first Cambodia and Vietnam trip change your life? Why was that important to you?

Although I had grown up in quite an eclectic and cultured environment in country NSW with of course an added touch of my mother and her family being Irish, my time in Cambodia was like no other experience. To this day I believe life touches people in many different ways, of which I can see Cambodia was one which touched me. When in Cambodia and Vietnam I was deeply touched by what I saw. From the poverty and stench of the streets of the villages, to the infectious happiness of the children, I knew this experience was one which would not sit lightly with me. It left me frustrated, passionate and intrigued by this world. In hindsight, I think it was this intrigue which changed my life and made me question humanity and social injustice.
I think seeing this world first hand, in conjunction to my inherent passion to stand up for the underdog and in this case those who have so much less than us, was what compelled me most to act on my thoughts. In initiating a project of such magnitude, the ride was more than just a fundraiser but also an act reflecting an individual’s capacity to make sustainable change on both a local and global level. I saw this initiative as a platform to raise awareness of poverty, humanity and culture, but also an avenue to raise the profile of rural youth, young women and any individual who believes they can advocate and empower others based on service and passion. I believe it was the combination of many factors that made the Pymble to Crookwell Service Adventure Cycle and my experience in Cambodia, especially working in the Sunshine House Orphanage so important to me.

It has obviously had a massive impact on your life, how did your time in Cambodia and Vietnam impact your decision to become a nurse?

I think it was probably more the experience I gained when volunteering on my gap year after school in both Cambodia and a Maasai community in rural Kenya than my initial trip to Cambodia and Vietnam that triggered me to pursue a career in healthcare. During school I became interested in preventative public health through my studies of PDHPE. This stayed true to me as I travelled, explored and worked in developing countries. Although at the time I was more interested in Public Health or Medicine, on returning to Australia I realised that Nursing was a degree that provided a core foundation to healthcare on many levels. Clinical placements both in metropolitan hospitals as well as Alice Springs has further developed this inkling. From the individual, community and policy level of health, nursing is a degree that provides one with both the clinical, practical and theoretically knowledge to go into many diverse avenues of health or to merely make indispensable change to all individuals during moments of vulnerability. It was this flexibility and invaluable knowledge that compelled me to study Nursing at UTS. Now in my final year of studies preparing for upcoming placements with Air Ambulance/Careflight, Emergency in Broken Hill, Complex Mental Health in Goulburn and a final four-week placement in a busy metropolitan hospital, I feel confident that nursing as enabled me to explore some of the many diverse and interested areas of healthcare. I am considering applying to postgraduate studies in either Medicine or Public Health as I initially hoped to, but am also excited by the opportunity to work in the field of nursing within a disadvantaged population such as rural and remote health, and Indigenous health. As my mum says, the world is my oyster and experience speaks louder than words so I may as well see where life takes me so long as I am exercising potential, challenging myself and most of all happy, I don’t really mind.

It so amazing that you have already achieved so much!! In saying that, what are your aspirations for your future?

My future aspirations are huge, in fact a little intimidating. Ultimately, I would love to combine my nursing degree and on ground healthcare experience, with a more policy and advocacy based position whereby I have a voice to make sustainable change in healthcare. My passion for rural and remote health along with women’s health is inherent to me at this time in my life, especially evident in my recent National Council of Women and Zonta Australia Day Prize. One dream is to enter the world of public health and promotion and to work within the United Nations to bridge the very preventable gaps in healthcare between rural and urban healthcare, as well as to alleviate the apertures between Indigenous and non-Indigenous healthcare and education. Similarly, I love the clinical side of health and medicine, so I am also passionate to ty my luck with getting into post graduate Medicine where I would dedicate my career to rural and remote communities. Both dreams have been heavily shaped by my very fun and imperative nursing studies and experience. At this point I just aim to finish my degree and to continue advocating for what I believe in on both a micro and macro level within healthcare and see where that takes me. As a quote, I read the other day says, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” so who really knows where I will be in five or ten years – hopefully somewhere fun and exciting!

I’m sure it will be!! How do you plan on using your nursing degree to make a difference to the world? How has it inspired you?

Nursing is more than a clinical expertise where one aims to provide impeccable care to patients and their families. It is also a platform to advocate and empower all to be the best version of themselves. Nursing involves actively educating health literacy to individuals who may further spread the word of good health and prevent further ill-health in the future. As mentioned previously, I aim to utilise the skills and knowledge from my nursing degree to firstly put into high quality nursing practice as I work within the healthcare workforce, but also as an avenue into a number of different areas of health including health advocacy, preventative public health and potentially a career in Medicine. At this point I do not know where this will take me but I believe I will be working and collaborating with individuals and communities from rural and remote Australia, including Indigenous populations, to alleviate the inexcusable gaps in healthcare between these minority groups and the rest of Australia on both a local and global level. I believe I have the ability and determination to be the one to drive such change and will find the appropriate pathway to take me where I need to go to achieve this.

It sounds incredibly exciting!! I think young people often feel that, even though they are passionate about something, they can't make a difference on their own, what would your advice be for these people?

 Everyone can make a difference. Making a difference is anything that makes someone, or someone else, feel something within them that they believe has left a positive footprint in their journey through life. Whether that be caring for a younger peer who is homesick by knowing and relating to this experience and helping them on an individual level, to conquering the MS Sydney to Gong cycle; both acts are making a change and helping someone else with a moral conscience. Making a difference to someone else, someone more vulnerable or someone in need at that particular time in their lives IS making a change in the world. Making a difference doesn’t always have to be hard or publically recognised, but merely an act which demonstrates kindness, compassion, and the desire to do the right thing with moral integrity. Personally, I believe the raw values of this include compassion and kindness. If one feels they show this to themselves and to others, then they are making a change. More specifically in relation to your question – yes I agree finding a passion is essential to one’s ability to make this change and to follow through with what one believes in whole heartedly. A passion gives someone a target, a goal that one can channel their energy towards, and totally engage with so that this act becomes their own mentally, physically and spiritually. For me I have many passions; from country Australia, to standing up for women’s rights and healthcare, to working with disadvantaged people in a healthcare capacity. Thus, a passion is ever changing, dynamic and can be interrelated based on one’s moral integrity and current purpose in life. Finding a purpose and passion go hand in hand, and in that message, I ask you, the reader, to think long and hard about your purpose and your passion. Whether that be working your socks off to work alongside the greatest minds on the next space expedition or spending all hours of the day looking after your horses in the front paddock, I ask you to think about what makes you tick. And most of all, what makes you feel most happy and most fulfilled as a person. Remember, making a change in the world, may in fact be making a change to you and your happiness. Be true to yourself and you may well be surprised by the change you make in your world.

That really is truly inspirational!! Thanks so much for your time Pip!!

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