From fashion industry high-flyer to volunteer with Ed-Connect, Lori Benassi, finds herself in a very different space of late.
A few years ago Lori, now 66, was chief operating officer of a global fashion company, overseeing the Australian business of a firm that manufactured in China and Bangladesh and had offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.
"It was very consuming work with lots of responsibility," she said. "There were about 120 staff across all sectors. It provided a wonderful opportunity to travel abroad, buying and sourcing. I worked with junior designers and helped them get established."
The latter aspect of the job led her to Ed-Connect.
"I have an affinity with younger people, interfacing with them - I understand them. I had that in the workplace and had a desire to continue relationships with younger people. It's very important they have cross-generational connections."
Ed-Connect teams volunteers with school students who need extra help and guidance, be it mentoring or learning support. Volunteers build positive and supportive relationships with each student.
"With Ed-Connect I have a mentoring role and am involved in their Mentoring Matters program where I work with VCAL students over a 10-week period, which last year was done entirely by Zoom.
"I also mentored a Year 8 student who'd hardly gone to school in Year 7 due to the pandemic. Those kids had finished primary school, then missed most of Year 7 - they were overwhelmed."
Lori said she found it challenging to connect with her Year 8 student when she first started mentoring her. "But one day she opened up and the joy that gave me was immeasurable."
I couldn't just stop - I need stimulation and to keep learning.
While she still does some consulting work associated with her professional background, Lori said she had considered what she would do once her working life wound back, knowing it had to be people-focused.
"We're all social beings and I knew when I was no longer busy with work, I couldn't just stop. I need stimulation and to keep learning. Others might find their oxygen through gardening, or play golf, and that's fine but my oxygen is people.
"Volunteering in the area I do means you never really know the effect you're having, and that's the beauty of it. It might be years later that someone you've worked with fully appreciates something you've done or said and how much it's influenced them."
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