It's often the small things we do for others that give us the greatest joys in life. Whether it's extending a helping hand to those near and dear who need it most, or simply sharing a warm smile with someone we don't know, kindness is free to give, but priceless to receive. With the guiding light of initiatives like Gumboot Friday, we know that together, small acts of kindness embraced by many have the power to change the world.

Gumboot Friday, an initiative by the charitable organisation I Am Hope, founded by Mike King, supports Kiwi children and young adults struggling with their mental health, giving them free and fast access to qualified counsellors and therapists. Since 2022, Gumboot Friday has supported 75,000+ counselling sessions with the support of people like us.

We are proud to partner with Gumboot Friday, and hope together with your help, we can add a little magic to their mission by learning more about how we can help those who need us the most. We recently had the privilege of chatting with Carla King, the Clinical Lead of I Am Hope, to learn more about the charity, her role and ways we can support those closest to us.

Can you tell us about your role at I Am Hope?

The title of my role is Clinical Lead. But to be truthful I don’t like titles; I wouldn’t have one if I could get away with it. Originally, I was employed to oversee the development and implementation of a Counselling in Schools programme (CiS) (Primary/Intermediate) funded by the Ted Manson Foundation, in collaboration with the Manukau Institute of Technology School of Counselling. This role includes providing day-to-day practice (or clinical) supervision and of the MIT intern (student) counsellors. I am passionate about growing great counsellors to meet the increasing mental health needs of our rangatahi; in a school context.

Now, the role has morphed a little and I am providing guidance and support to our ambassadors who deliver our ‘Little People Big Feelings’ talks to primary schools. I also provide our organisation with guidance and support on things to do with mental health and wellbeing. We are small but mighty team who value a high level of collaboration and tend to work best when we are bouncing ideas off each other. I am by no means an expert but have some ideas and experience to share.

What motivated you to become involved with mental health and work with I Am Hope?

From a very young age I wanted to help others. I experienced terrible bullying and exclusion between the ages of 6-13 years of age and didn’t want other kids to feel the way I did. I learnt from my mum the value of taking care of people who needed it most. So, I embarked on a journey to become a Clinical Psychologist after I finished school, but it worked out that Psychology didn’t really fit with the way I saw and wanted to be in the world.

However, my Psychology and Sociology degree provided me with a fantastic knowledge base. I used this knowledge in my roles in Payroll and HR in both the private and public sectors. My own person mental health journey began after the birth of my first child when I experienced (what I realised later) was Postnatal depression; which came back with a vengeance after the birth of my son when I was diagnosed (such a lovely word) with Clinical depression and anxiety. Inspite of my mental health struggles, when I was 40 years of age with 2 school-aged children and a household to run, I decided to retrain as a counsellor completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Narrative Counselling at Unitec Waitakere.  It was hands down one of the best decisions I ever made. I spent the last 11 years working as a NZAC registered counsellor at the primary/intermediate and high school level, in South and East Auckland schools. I resigned from that work in December 2022 and a few weeks later I happened to meet Mike and his wonderful wife Jo. The rest, they say, is history.

In your own words, “the problem is the problem, the person is never the problem”. Can you tell us a little more about what this means.

To ensure I cover this question adequately I will quote from the Dulwich Centre. Narrative therapy was “initially developed by Australian, Michael White, and New Zealander, David Epston. Narrative therapy centres people as the experts in their own lives and views problems as separate from people. Narrative therapy assumes that people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments, and abilities that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives. The word ‘narrative’ refers to the emphasis that is placed upon the stories of people’s lives and the differences that can be made through particular tellings and re-tellings of these stories.”

Can you share some conversation starters to initiate what can sometimes be tough conversations with loved ones?

In general, if you feel comfortable about the topic of mental health then others will also feel comfortable. It’s just a conversation at the end of the day.

I do think we need to spend more time telling/showing our loved ones what we appreciate and love about them and in general talk more openly about how our mental health is tracking. So, if there is a time when a more serious conversation about mental health is needed - a relationship built on mutual respect and care is already present/visible and hopefully then, a conversation is not so tough.

One thing I have noticed in our kiwi culture, is that we will often walk past each other saying something like ‘good morning – how are you?’.... but we often don’t stop to wait for the answer. What if we asked that question, but with the intention of wanting to know and caring about the answer, and being okay if the answer was “actually, I’m not doing that great to be honest.

What do you love about Kiwi businesses getting behind I am Hope?

Everyone has mental health – just like we have physical health. Sometimes our physical health is great, sometimes we have the sniffles and then sometimes, we get seriously ill. The same applies to our mental health – it exists on a continuum.

With Kiwi businesses like yours getting behind us here I Am Hope, you are supporting our vision for creating societal attitudinal change to normalise mental health conversations and increasing access to counselling, as a way to care for our mental health and wellbeing. The small but mighty team here at I Am Hope could not do the work we do without the support of amazing Kiwi businesses like yourselves and all the wonderful Kiwis who donate to us. To all our amazing I Am Hope supporters! We love and appreciate you!!!!

Every third Friday of each month, for every purchase made with us in-store and online, we give $2 to Gumboot Friday. Because we know acts of kindness embraced by many has the power to change the world.

To donate $3 immediately to Gumboot Friday, text MAX to 469, or click to find out what more you can to help.