In this week’s episode, Geoff is talking to Ben Poveda-Alfonso who was a Winner in the 2021 NT Young Achiever Awards.
Ben is passionate about multiculturalism, youth empowerment, community engagement and international education. During his studies, Ben held representative office, as the 2019 President of the CDU Students’ Association and the Undergraduate Representative (Board Member) on the CDU Council. Until recently, Ben was the Student Representative (Board Member) in the NT International Education and Training Industry Group, and a StudyNT, CPA and CDU Student Ambassador. He was also the 2019 National Secretary of the Council of International Students Australia.
Ben works as a Policy Officer for the NT Government’s Office of Youth Affairs and has demonstrated commitment to enhancing the welfare of international students by working in several organisations focused on student needs such as Charles Darwin University, Navitas, Unilodge and more recently, the Kindness Shake.
Ben was awarded the 2020 CDU International Alumnus Award and 2018 StudyNT International Student of the Year Award, during the Chief Minister’s Industry and Export Awards. He is a Finalist for the 2020 Excellence in Youth Leadership Award NT.
They have served over 5,000 pre-cooked meals, assisted more than 500 individuals and raised over $60,000. Ben won the 2020 CDU International Alumnus Award and 2018 StudyNT International Student of the Year Award. He plans to commence a Masters of Public Policy in 2021.
In this episode:
- We hear of Ben’s passion to make a difference with his charity, Kindness Shake
- Born in Columbia, Ben says he never wants to lose his accent – neither do we!
- You will be amazed just how Ben fits all his work and volunteering into his busy life, yet he still finds time to celebrate his heritage, dancing with the Macondo Columbian Dance Troup
Want to know more about Kindness Shake – check out the website
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Welcome to the inspirational Australian’s podcast, where we chat to people, make a difference in their communities and in the lives of others. And here is your host for today, Geoff Griffin. Welcome to the inspirational Australian’s podcast stories of inspiring achievements and community contribution. Every week we will celebrate an award program category winner or finalists. We hope you’ll be inspired and encouraged to know that Australia is in good hands. Together with our corporate partners and not for profit partners, Awards Australia, showcase ordinary people from across Australia doing extraordinary things. If you enjoy hearing the stories about inspirational Australians, please subscribe, rate us and review us. Would really appreciate it. My guest today is really passionate about multiculturalism, youth empowerment, community engagement and international education. Ben Poveda-Alfonso recently won the Minister for Youth Excellence in Youth Leadership Award, the NT Young Achiever Awards and that was presented by the Honourable Lauren Moss, Minister for Youth. It’s such an honor to have you on the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us and congratulations for all you do. Welcome, Ben. Thank you so much for having me here. I’m so excited to join the podcast and it is an honor to be able to share a little bit about me. It was an honor to meet you on the awards night, to see you on the stage and the big smile that listeners can’t see your smile right now, but it was exactly the same on the awards night, it was such a thrill to meet you and all of the other winners of course and to acknowledge the good work that you do. Ben, you’ve done so much already in your short life. And I want to unpack just a little bit of it starting with your time, in CDU, they are one of our long term sponsor partners. And so quite coincidental and terrific that you’ve gone through the journey so far with your education. And of course I educate so many of young people in the territory. Can you tell us a little bit about your roles on the CDU student council and also the International education and training industry groups? Absolutely. Look, it’s really interesting that we start with this question. I think it’s really appropriate because this brings me back to 2017, I think or 2018 if I’m not wrong. When I was starting at CDU and my accounting degree, I was trying to be involved in as many activities as possible. So I joined the CDU student ambassador program when I had the fortune and the luck to be invited to actually attend the Young Achiever Awards. And I was sitting on the cereal table with the vice chancellor by then Simon Maddox and his wife. And I was looking at the people around and listening to those amazing stories and I was thinking about myself, man, one day I got to be there one day. I will make them here. We were four years later I was want to do it. So that’s, that’s very, very inspiring and I think appropriate to mention, and yes, I’ll tell you a little bit more about what I did when I was a in CDU, in addition to, to the ambassador program, I was selected as the president of the CDU student council. By then, it was called the CDU student association or CDUSA, as we used to call it. So it is the peak student group at CDU, they advocated are represented, represents, and lobbies on behalf of the student cohort at CDU. And in addition to that, I was also elected as the undergraduate representative on the CDU council. So I was actually sitting on the table with the vice chancellor, deputy vice chancellor and senior executives at the University to represent and advocate on behalf of the students and ensure their voices were heard. And we were able to bring to the table ideas and recommendations for CDU to make things better . So it was an exciting, very important opportunity because I learned so much about governments about how the University works. And that led me to actually contact the NT government and recommend or suggest that there should be a student position or a student seat on the International Education and Training Industry group. So when I first got to be part of that group, I was the very first international student to do it. And I was really proud of that because I identified their niche. I identified the gap and I suggested that in such an important forum like which are all the International education providers in the Northern Territory, are discussing matters of importance for the students with the government and other important stakeholders. I thought ok, I think the student voices should be heard and as part of this they started a NT student ambassador program, I was selected to sit on the, on the, on the group. And following on that there’s been now two other two or three other students, part of that group, starting from that, so it was obviously a very enriching experience. I learned so much about government boards and others, and of course I use those skills in what I do now in my life. And what a great initiative, a great idea initially to get young people international students involved in decision processes for education. I just think that’s brilliant and so necessary. I know you’ve done a great deal to help international students, and we’ll get there shortly as well because it’s really exciting what you’ve done and how you involve others in that journey. You’re also part of the StudyNT and CPA as well as CDU student ambassador, tell us about that. Yeah, absolutely. Look. I was when I was starting out with my hand out for every single opportunity that I would see out there. I wanted to learn as much as I could to meet as many people as I could and you know, to be involved in the community volunteering, which is something that I am really passionate about. So I started as a CDU student ambassador, and then I moved on to CPA, Certified Public Accountant because that’s what I started as an accountant. So I was starting a CPA or an ambassador as well. And then also starting an ambassador. So with CDU, I was helping organize events to be involved in events like the orientation week. They opened the welcoming new students sharing our stories. What are tips that we could give to wew students at CDU. I made so many friends that was probably the very first group that I was really part of, I would say here in Australia and I really led me to be involved more and more. So with CPA, I remember the general manager and coming to the CDU campus to talk about CPA to try to get us involved in the program. And then I thought about myself, maybe because I haven’t finished my degree. I could not join the cCPA program yet, but maybe I could do something to help. So I actually went and talked to him and his colleagues, the thought of starting my degree, but I want to be in full what I can do to help. So they recruited me straight away . I learned so much to the program. I became a CPA student ambassador, I assisted in events promoting events, attending events as well, assisting in logistics and participating in forums in congress is one of them was held here in Darwin, the CPA congress, which was really fantastic. And actually through a CPA program, I got my very first business cards. I got my very first profile picture for Linkedin, and actually I created my very first my first my Linkedin account, in fact through the advisors that I got from CPA. So they told me I didn’t even know of the existence of Linkedin and how important that was. And then they know, although it was all volunteering, you know, they, they wanted me to skill myself, to learn more things. And it was really important if I didn’t take that step, I would probably not be able to do the things that I do. And then lastly, the StudyNT and the program study and the ambassador program, which is probably the one that really changed my life. I guess I was part of it for two years. 24 to 25 international students from across different nationalities who basically get together to promote international education in the Northern Territory and to share the wonderful things that the NT has to offer. When someone decides to come to the territory and leave a study and work, so we were able to attend lots of events to meet with ambassadors, council consulates to share our stories. Attend webinars, meet agents, meet people from the industry all over. I was able to travel around Australia through the ambassador program and professional development sessions. You know, they help me with public speaking, social media and networking, everything. So I was part of the program for two years and somehow I am still linked with them because I believe in so much of what the program is about. And I can see so much potential. And so many people are doing amazing things through through those, all those programs. So yes, that’s a little bit of what I, imbued with the study in the CPA in CDU. It’s a fair bit and what I love about people like you have been to come to Australia and integrate in the community. Just want to give back. Want to get involved. The thing I loved is the people have they keep their own traditions, but they integrate into Australian traditions, learn the cultures, get involved, want to make a difference, and see that with you just jumped in, feet first, want to help, and you know what it comes back because you’ve made friends you’ve had developed and you’ve had opportunities. But that comes because you want to first to make a difference and you’re such a role model. And a wonderful example for all international students who come to Australia or anywhere around the world to just jump in and have a go make a difference because it’ll come back to reward you as well. That’s what we call karma. So I take my hat off to you and I acknowledge how amazing you are and to such as I say, a wonderful role model for everybody. I thank you for being that for everyone. And of course, and I love your accent as well. Of course. Now I’m hinting that there’s a little bit of Columbia in there. Would that be? That is correct. Yes. I was a Latino guy like they like to call me around. And so, yes, Colombian all the way from South America, so I speak Spanish, really proud of my accent and hopefully will never never lose it. Just on another little side. Can you tell us is Colombia all the media make it out to be? Not really! This is one of the speaking about Colombia is one of the things that are most passionate about and my goal to portray the reality of Colombia as a country is one of the things that drives me every day. Because before I came to Australia, i really knew that due to the challenges that we face 30 years ago, the reputation of my country wasn’t the best in an international setting. But when I came to Australia, i realised a little bit more that, that there is a lot that we can still share. There is a lot that we should talk about other than, than the challenges that we face. And I think part of the things that I always do when I come to events or attend these type of opportunities is to talk a little bit about my country and to make sure that whatever is shown on Netflix, on Facebook and stuff like that is not necessarily what is happening at the moment, although yes we, we face a lot of challenges back home back in the day with issues of crime and drugs, which I’m not going to talk about today. We’re working really hard on my parents, our families and their generation, and our generation of younger people are working really hard to portray the amazing things that Colombia has to offer to the world. And to talk about the things that really matter. So for example, colombia is one of the world’s 17 mega diverse country, has the second highest level of biodiversity in the world. We have the Amazon rainforest, grasslands, highlands, and is the only country in South America, with coastlines and islands, along both Atlantic and Pacific oceans. So we have one of them where one of the most diverse countries in the world, and we are excellent when it comes to exports, when it comes to coffee production flowers. And somehow where I read a couple of years ago, the Colombia one was one of the happiest countries in the world. I believe we were the second. I don’t know where that where those stats came from. But I believe that we are overcoming a lot of the challenges that we faced some years ago. So I encourage everyone to read a little bit more about what our country does, obviously. Right, right now as we speak for the last four weeks, there has been some social challenges at home due to some tax reforms that we need to get into. But there has been a lot of talk internationally about how our people are always putting their voice up and showcasing that the most important part of our society is the people’s voices and recommendations and what they bring to the community. When some of the leaders don’t necessarily take that into account. So that’s a bit of a Colombia there. I think from a tax perspective, you’ll be just the person having completed your degree to help them with that. And you’re clearly a walking tourism brochure for Colombia and, and I think if you’re an example of the average Colombian, we all need to go. And So when you bought your ticket to South America, please let me know. Going to do that and I’ll go visit your family as well. Well, you’re now working as a policy officer for the NT Government’s Office for Youth Affairs, what does your role entail there? Yes, yes, I’m so excited to share in this podcast because, you know, I’m really proud and honoured to go in the NT government to go in the office of youth affairs because I believe in the programming that we show for young people in the Northern Territory, i am a policy officer. And in this case I am the program coordinator for the NT youth roundtable, which basically is a program that has been running for over 20, 20 years. In the Northern Territory and it’s a group of young leaders who come together and bring their ideas to the table they they are basically a group of 15 to 16 young leaders from different parts of the Northern Territory such as Tarwin, Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek this year we have people from go from Groote Eylandt and basically they are young people of ages between 15 to 25 who get together develop strategies, develop projects, develop ideas, and provide feedback to government to ministers. In this case, someone that you mentioned earlier, minister Moss, who is a minister for youth in order to take, to ensure that the government takes the right steps when it comes to youth policy. So basically they are people who are able, or young leaders who are able to give us feedback to tell us how things are going in the regions. Where can we do better as a government? And you know, and provide us with the feedback that is required to know if the, if the services and the projects that are being developed in the regions are working or aren’t and what else can be done. So this is something that I’m really passionate about, youth empowerment is one of those things that really I’m passionate about in life. And I think being able now to, to have gone through similar programs in my life and now being able to coordinate something like this is something that I’m super proud of. And to see and hear the stories of these amazing people who are doing so much so many good things out there and, and to hear their stories and what they want to do for their communities is just incredible. You probably will remember that in my speech, i mentioned 15 different names thinking and, and acknowledging people out there and they were there, they were the 2021 individual roundtable. And some of them were actually there at the awards night, sitting in one of the tables, which was pretty amazing. And when I finished and when I went and talked to them, they were so proud. But I was also proud to see them because one of the things that I told them is that we will work together really, really hard in the upcoming years to make sure that they will be there the next time in the next year. And that is something that I want to see and I’m sure something that will happen. Brilliant. Sounds fantastic, but we have a really terrific relationship with the NT government. They really, really do make a big difference. I’m very passionate about supporting young people and I know minister Lauren Moss’s wonderful human being and very supportive always comes to our events to support young people, which is fantastic. And an interesting fact is that Minister Moss was actually part of the roundtable in 2010 and 2011. She was the chair of it. So she has really been through the process and this is something that inspired us. It’s quite subtle. So that’s a great story. I didn’t know that. That is amazing. Yeah, well, she’s still very young herself. Absolutely. So it’s great to see her development and people like yourself and all of those people, as you said on the roundtable, watching them grow and continue to give to, to the community. You’re also support for international students are working really closely with Charles Darwin University, we talked about, the Navitas and also Unilodge. You tell us a bit more about their involvement. Absolutely. My first I guess of official, one of my first jobs in Australia was at Unilodge. So I actually, which is a student accommodation, one of the largest student accommodation companies in Australia where I live for three years and I have when I was studying and basically my job started as a resident leader. So basically I was kind of the point of contact after hours when everyone needed a hand in all that. And then I started organising events and activities for the, for the residents. So I started creating events and activities that will enhance their engagement and satisfaction in the property. So that’s where I really kind of develop my social skills and connected with the students, not only international students, but also you know, students overall or people who want to experience the uni life, I guess. So we did a lot of pizza nights, bowling KFC night and you know, watching movies, playing games going out there and play football, volleyball, and stuff like that. So I always try my, my, I guess my approach is always trying on doing stuff on using people’s time. To do something good to do something, to connect to learn your skills to network so that people don’t have time to do other things that they shouldn’t. So that’s one of the things that I did at the Unilodge. And then I moved to Navitas, which is one of the largest english providers in Australia. And they ran a number of different education programs and partnerships across the globe in fact . And actually Navitas was the English institute where I study the English when I first came to Australia back in 2015. So I finished my courses of general english and academic english then. And then after that they and they’re recruiting me as the activities coordinator and the student support officer, which was quite interesting and, and similarly, you know, my role was being the first point of contact for inquiries and things like that. It related to student international student support in this case. And then creating the activities program, ensuring that there was always something or are going to museums, you know, visiting places. So always trying on doing something. So I’ve always been focusing myself on trying to do the stuff that, that really makes a difference in people’s life. And I think connecting and Learning more about these new places like Darwin or the Northern Territory has been influential in everything that I do. You remind me of an Ever Ready battery that never runs out. Like a constant go, go, go. And I’m just constantly amazed every moment longer that we talk about how much you actually do and certainly see how you and your award, you are extraordinary. And of course it didn’t stop and it doesn’t stop there, you go on and co-founded Kindness Shake, that’s really exciting. So tell our listeners more about Kindness Shake. Absolutely, thanks so much Geoff. I really appreciate your thoughts and with great pleasure. I shared a little bit about Kindness Shake because this is probably one of the things that I am most proud of during my time here in Australia. During all this time working, you know, in the young people’s area and international student support industries. I did a lot of volunteering, as I have already mentioned, and I was able to connect with thousands of people. Not only are students and young people but also organisations and stakeholders, local businesses. And I think that we need a place where, you know, when you do something good for the community, people appreciate it and acknowledge it and always will try to support you. So in April 2020, when, when the pandemic kicked in are the situation for international students was really hard. You know, a lot of their main income came from hospitality and retail industries, which then had to close down due to Covid-19 restrictions. And of course, their main way to, to, to receive the financial that they needed to pay their fees to pay. The rent to pay for the basic mix was gone. So a lot of people started contacting me not only, not only seeking for help, but also people that I have been friends of or have been working with. Wanted to actually help. So they were being, i heard this, I heard, what can we do to help? So that was pretty amazing and I thought ok, maybe this is something that this is I don’t believe in coincidences. So I think this is like a call and this means something. So I brought together a group of about 12 to 15 people who really wanted to help and we started talking about things and what are the challenges that the community is facing at the moment and what can we do to help? So we talk about race and we talk about fees, we talk about, obviously food. We talk about mental health, we talk about so many things. But obviously a lot of those things are responsibilities of, of different organizations, of governments and other things. So we, we decided that food was probably something that we could help with on a practical level. So basically, it was really mirrored by then. So basically what we did is that we connected with local businesses. We connected with international education providers, especially with Charles Darwin University again. We connected with the NT government with multicultural organizations. And basically every Friday night we were based at Charles Darwin University, providing prepared meals, food hampers, emergency relief, gift cards to hundreds of people who would come every Friday night to receive support. So we, we were out there as an innovative idea. We received so much support from the community, which was really fantastic. We ran the project and still ran the project, after more than forty five or 50 weeks and we have provided thousands of meals. We have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have recruited over 150 volunteers. We have partnered with 30 plus local businesses. We got over two hundred thousand dollars now in donations and grants for the organization. And now Kindness Shake is actually a not for profit and officially a charity focus on international students and multicultural communities. So now we didn’t stop there. Yes. We, although we were, you know, thinking ok food is important. We start touching on things such as employability. So we develop a project called a skill up to scale up, which uses employability, serious seminars and webinars to help students. Although we couldn’t find jobs for them, we could find ways to help them build a resume builder kbe their lending profile pictures. We also develop a language exchange program called lingual to mingle. We do, we do so many things out there. We have a program called Miralocal in collaboration with the rotary club where international students get to meet with locals and share their stories share. The feedback is just really amazing. Yes, it’s been running for about a year. And Kindness Shake is now one of the fastest growing nonprofit organizations in the northern territory, all fully run by volunteers who use their time and skills and experience to help the community. And we just really proud and really happy to have an amazing team who works every day to help the community to the best that they can. So yeah, I think you probably need to talk to CDU about a PHD in how you manage to have more than twenty four hours in each day, I am not sure how you do that. It’s really extraordinary. Wow, that’s amazing. The amount of stuff that you’re doing to help others. And I think you made a good point before you are not for profits and voluntary organizations. It’s not just the part about the people who need help. It’s also about engaging people who want to help. So that was really spoken, spoke very loudly to me is double edged sword. You know, many people who want to make a difference. And if you can harness their desire to make a difference in a way that you have done is so important to then be able to make the difference as a collective sigh. All power to you. That is a terrific story. So, so impressed and clearly you’ve got big plans plans for the future as well. Absolutely. Look. I think we what we created with Kindness Shake is a platform to share love, to share kindness, you know, to, and a lot of people who started attending and receiving help from us, turned out to become regular volunteers, permanent volunteers. And now some of them even ran projects themselves. So now we are able to actually have a youth oriented organization where people do not only receive help, but actually it’s a place where you can bring your skills and get some experience. And actually we have been able to help others to find jobs through them getting some experience and where we do so. Absolutely. We’re working really closely with the, with the NT government, with the studyNT especially in order to be able to create a sustainability approach whereby these organizations can run operationally in the future. And that we are able to hopefully have employed staff in a casual basis where we can all part time basis, a full time basis in the future. Who knows where we can ensure that we can operate in a great way because a lot of us work full time or use our time, or we have limited time. But because we have an amazing team, things are running really well about obviously we want this to work for the future . You know, I want this to, you know, when I come back in five years and 10 years and 50 years in show my kids, this is where a group of people committed to support the community did back in the day and look at where it is. And I believe that one day, you know, you know, one hundred years ago, that’s how the Red Cross once it started. That’s how Salvoes once it started and how is once it started. And I think that’s kind of our vision. We want to do things that are of great scale. We receive calls and messages from other people across the Australia across the country who wants to, you know, assist and who want to do something similar. And I believe that’s something that we will end up doing in the future. So at the moment, in the short term, we’ll focus on establishing a proper governance and operational status within the organisation, and hopefully continue supporting the community that has given us so much. So we’re really excited and I’m sure, in the next couple of months we will be able to report some exciting news because we’re bringing the Season National Conference, which is the Council of International Students of Australia, National Conference to Darwin is coming in September, which is really exciting bringing that to Darwin, to the Northern Territory, and many amazing, amazing things that we will able to achieve. So yes, I think everybody coming to Darwin will absolutely love it. such a beautiful place to be in good hands as well make for a wonderful time. I can certainly understand why you were awarded the 2018 StudyNT International Student of the year. And then you’re also awarded the 2020 Alumnus Award. That must have been a real thrill to win those awards. Absolutely. If this was some of the most memorable things that happened in my life to be recognized by the community here in Australia, a place where you know what I wasn’t born a place where I came here without even speaking the language and now to be able to inspire others to represent others and to be recognised. It’s just been really incredible. I’m really proud and honored to have been given those awards. And it’s something that I don’t take lightly because although, you know, the International student of the year award was given to me in 2018. And although i’m not an international student anymore, I keep working really hard every day to inspire other international students and see what can be achieved when they decide to put the focus on the right things and put their passions together and work really hard. And now obviously to get the twenty twenty two islander’s award. And which is the inaugural, the very first one is really, really incredible. Is something that I will always be proud of because, you know, there has been thousands and thousands of alumni at CDU who have done so many amazing things and to be recognized as one of them and be surrounded by amazing people who also won awards is just a really, really incredible honor to me and something that I’m really proud of and, and I don’t think this is the end. I think that when, when these things happen, more responsibilities come to you, I believe because you are now the person you are now. They are worthy so, so people will look up to you and that means that, that you need to actually work harder and harder and harder to continue inspiring others to be there. So I keep advising and mentoring other young people who want to do good stuff. And I am sure, you know, the, they will be hundreds and thousands of ballots in the future, you know, who will be getting and doing the things that I have done. And that is what I’m really passionate about for you. You’re a humble guy, that’s for sure, and a lot of what you said about the more you inspired, how are you going to keep working to continue to inspire and take people on your journey with you. I love that, but I love those that you mention that in 2017-2018, i’d end up sitting at a table and we’d say to you and thinking i’d love that to be me one day. I’m to be up there on the stage. winning an award, not because you love winning awards, but because of the work that you envisage doing in your, in your mind, you could clearly say that you wanted to make a difference in how these people were. And when you are nominated for the program, just gone, that must have been a thrill for you as well. Oh, absolutely. This is just like seeing my dreams coming to life. You know, it’s just like seeing that when, when you have a goal, you know, as long as you work really hard for it, nothing is impossible. You know, by then I was thinking, but you know who I am, I just an international student. I just came here. What can I do? You know, we always have something that is stopping some time from doing things is thinking about how, how, how I will get there. But we should be focusing about why and why we want to be there. And things will just come that, you know, life will give you the opportunity will introduce you with the right people with the right situations. And, you know, I put my focus there. I said I’m going to work really hard to, to help my community. And hopefully one day be recognized with an award like that. So obviously to be able to, to get the minister for youth, the excellence in youth leadership award as an international student, especially which I believe was the very first time that that happened was just incredible. You know, it’s just Something that I, I envisage, so for so many years, and I was nominated a few times before. And I was thinking, oh man, I’m never going to get it. This is not going to happen. But this again proves that perseverance that passions and determining always pays off in the life. And the things will continue to live at the right moment when you’re ready when you have them and when you can use them in a great way. So I’m really happy to, to have been through this process and I’m really excited for what is next in my life. Because like I said before, this is just the beginning. So yeah, I think stay tuned because it’ll be an exciting journey. The sky’s the limit for you, and I love what you said about. Don’t worry about how I think about the why. Why do I do? What do I do? What’s the purpose that I have? And if you know your purpose, then you just make it happen. So I believe in yourself and go on the journey. So it will happen. I couldn’t agree more. And as I say, you certainly a very, very worthy winner. And I know Minister Moss is very proud to present your award for all the great things that you do. Now the awards are launching again. Not too far away. Why would you encourage people to nominate someone for an award? That’s a, that’s a really good question. And I’m really glad that of the work that Awards Australia does and that you are able to provide young people with an opportunity to be recognised for everything they do. Because I think young people do not always get the chance to put their work and their, and their initiatives and the amazing things that they bring to the world or to their communities in an easier way because of their age or because of Social taboos . And other things, so I think to be able to help someone to bring their story to bring their work, to bring their idea of their projects in a platform where ministers, where the administrator of the Northern Territory, the, the different dignitaries that were present on that on that night with the vice chancellors with ceos of organizations and companies is incredible because I think it is a win win for our society for our young people to realize that there is people out there who care about them, that they care about what they do and that the work that they’re making in that therefore they’re putting is, is really making an impact on the society. But also to those people that have already gone through things in life that are already leaving big companies that are making the big bucks that are making the decisions that impact our community in different ways. You know, to remind them of the time when they were their age, you know, and now what they’ve achieved and what support they would have liked to receive when they were their age. You know, to, for them to remember, you know, when they were 15, when they were twenty five. When they were, you know, what sort of assistance, what sort of people, they could Some people who have made an impact in their life. And hopefully, you know more and more and more and more people will continue supporting the young achiever awards. And more people will continue being nominated because there is so much work being done out there. Me. And now with my, with my job, I came to realize that, you know, we’re so lucky to be in the Northern Territory where there are so many great stories and projects and initiatives. So, you know, to be able to put that work out there and showcase the amazing things that young people can do and the impact that they can play in this society is just incredible . So I strongly advise anyone to not only nominate themselves, but also put someone else forward, you know, is the most, what is the word selfless thing that you can do, you know, just to appreciate someone’s commitment, it can be your friend, it can be your family member it can be anyone that you don’t even know have you read or someone’s stories in the paper. Have you seen someone on Facebook? Did someone tell you about someone you just need to put their name forward and then you guys do the rest? So I think to be able to, to help in that regard is really incredible. And I take this opportunity to thank you and your team for, for the work that you are doing. Because it really makes a difference in our life to be recognized for the work that we do is incredible. We don’t do it because of our awards, but because he’s so passionate our dreams. But obviously, this is something that I will never forget in my life, in something that I will continue working hard for others to achieve to. That’s awesome. As you said it’s the most selfless thing that we can do to help others. And to put someone forward for nomination is a real, selfless thing. I can make such a difference for someone. So I certainly encourage everybody to get on to the Awards Australia website and have a look at the nominations. The NT Community Achievement awards are now open, and the NT Young Achiever Awards will be open soon and also if there’s anybody listening who thinks their business might be able to get involved as a sponsoring partner. And there are opportunities there because to be able to help keep this program going, is such a privilege as well. And you mentioned ben, i mentioned going back some or twenty five is a ceo of a big company now, how much they would have appreciated that help then. And what’s on a different tact, what something we might not know about you? Good question Geoff. You just mentioned before of having a chat with the vice chancellor about how we use our 24 hours a day. And it’s interesting that you say that because we’re having a meeting with him in the next couple of weeks, i’m definitely going to bring it back, bring it up. But in addition to the things that I already told you that I do, I am actually really passionate about football. And by football, I mean soccer in the round go. So I play football for our football team called Football Without Borders, which is focused on multiculturalism and social inclusion, so we connect with refugees with migrants and, and help them assimilate and get used to a new country and a new place like Darwin through a sports in this case through football. So we have our male and female team and we organize the refugee world cup every year in collaboration with football, Northern Territory. So I like to say that I played it twice or three times a week, but to be honest, lately, i’ve been so busy that I’ve only managed to do it once a week at the moment. So we play almost every Sunday or Saturday, and that is the way that I keep my mind set focused on something else other than work and this professional stuff. And this is a way to keep myself healthy as well, which is obviously really important. You hear how passionate i am about Colombia. So although i’m not the best dancer, I actually dance for a Colombian dance group called My Condo. So basically we, we showcase a little bit about colombia here in darwin in the Northern Territory through dance . So we organize things like the colombian independence day on the 20th of July in Colombian, festivals and other things in multicultural events. So basically we just put our, our culture, our, our traditions out there, always put in my Colombian hat. And probably the last thing that I’ll mention in a more personal level, because I give in and all those are, is not necessarily the best platform to share it. But I feel that this conversation today has been somehow fully positive in a way, but, but I don’t want your listeners to get confused and to think that it is all pink color and that we all are just talking about you know, successes and achievements. But we all go through a lot of challenges and it is like an iceberg. Like they say people only see the tip of the iceberg. But behind, you know, and under the water, there has been so many challenges. So one of the things that you probably don’t know about me is that actually I’m an only child and that I was. And then my mom is the best in the world. Because unfortunately, due to those challenges that I talk about before about Colombia, my dad passed away just before I was born. So I was only, I was raised by my mom fully with the support and everything that I do and everything that I’ve been through has been thanks to her and for her. So for those listeners who are doubting about their story and about what they can achieve in life, I think we all go through challenges and I think that’s part of life. But those challenges should only make us stronger. I should only push us to move forward and do things better and better and better. So although my mom is currently on her own back home, we all are focused for a goal and she knows that the best for me at the moment is to be here in Australia . So it has been really challenging for me to leave her there, especially now with covid-19. But I was able to bring her to Australia for four months for my graduation a couple of years ago, which was really amazing. And I’m really working hard to be able to bring her to Australia because I want her and she wants to live in this country permanently. So hopefully in a couple of years I will be able to message you Geoff and tell you, Hey Geoff, just so you know, my mom has arrived in Australia and we are a happy family together again. So I just mentioned this because I think it is important to balance and to realise that there will be challenges in life and that is not just a straight line. We will receive difficult messages, difficult situations, but as long as we stay focused and we work really hard with determination, anything is possible. Now, I think it’s a very good point, Ben, and I’m so sorry you never got to meet your father. Well, your mother sounds amazing. I would be honored to meet her one day raise due to be the young man that you are is she should be very proud and no doubt she is. And it’s exciting that she was able to come to visit Australia that she wants to come and live here. She has a little enticement. That would be lovely to meet her because she must be absolutely extraordinary woman. To make it a part of making you who you are today. Congratulations, mum! Well done to you, bringing up children on your own is very, very tough. So, and I think to make a good point, ben, that there is no better roses all the time for anybody. Everybody has their moments, we shouldn’t judge people, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. And we should try to understand that there might be underlying factors, talked about being a bit low. What do you do to help reset bounce back and recharge when you’re feeling a bit alone? Oh, yeah, good. Good point, Geoff. One of the things I do so many things, but one of the things that I like doing is looking back at pictures before I arrived in Australia and once I arrive and you know, to think about where I started, where everything started, where I am at the moment where I want to be and especially how it will make me feel when I get there, where I want to be. So this gives me some energy to recharge my batteries and my focus. And you know, obviously thinking about the sacrifices that my mom, but my family, my partner who I live with here and happily all the challenges and the hard work that they put in order for us to achieve that. So that I always, I always put gratitude and appreciation as one of the first things in life. So realizing that, you know, this is sometimes work is not ben’s work, is really important. So that are really always helps me. And when I say appreciation is about thinking that we are really lucky, but sometimes we take things for granted. And what I mean by this is that sometimes We take for granted the fact that we have legs and arms, that we can see things that we can smell, that we can talk, that we can hear things because there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world that don’t even have that the people don’t have clean water, that people don’t have Internet, that people cannot go to school and the people don’t know anything about life. And don’t even know that in our side of the world we eat three times a day. So people kind of need when there is food. So always keeping in mind, I have a picture in my, in my studio where, where that represents that, that always brings me back to, to the, to the actual real world. And to think about that, you know, it could be karma that you made sure they could be God, it could be the universe, it could be whatever you believe in. But realizing that we are in this moment, we’re really fortunate to be where we are. And that if life has given you the opportunity, the people, the platform to make an impact in someone else’s life in your community, then you should do it, then you should and use your time and your skills and your knowledge of doing other things. So we will always be time, and we will always be down at some point. But the journeys are b, it’s a large journey and you can always remember where you started, where you are now where you want to be and how it will make you feel. But also what responsibilities you have with the life, with the world for the life that you are living in how what you’re doing today is helping others to live a better life and how well you’re doing today is going to help you to be where did you want to be the next five years, 10 years or whatever it is. So that’s the way I see. That’s brilliant. So what is next for Ben? To be honest, I’m really happy where I am at the moment. I’m really excited to be working in this role with the NT government for the last two months and I’m loving it. Although it’s my first year with the government, i’m learning so much I can see that I can put my ideas on the table. I can make a real impact in the program and in people’s lives. And so I’m really happy with. I am with the commission will continue growing really fast and really steady. So I’m seeing myself working really hard to make these two things continue. Being as successful as they are on a more personal level my partner and I apply for our permanent residency last year . So we really feel putting our fingers crossed, that we are able to get our permanent residency very soon. And being able to take, you know, to continue thinking long term and live in this amazing country, permanently and continue supporting the community to the ways that we can. Of course, you know, I have the normal dreams as everyone has, you know, I love to have a house in the next couple of years. I’d love to have a family, although I was an only child. I actually want to have two or three kids minimum. I know how challenging it is to be raised as an only child. So that’s what I was what I think will be next for me, Geoff. Well, Ben, i wish you all the success in the world. I wish you a speedy, permanent residency. And it all comes for all of your sakes sooner the better because we will all benefit from having been as a permanent resident of Australia. And that’s selfish me coming out. We will definitely benefit from having you here in a great deal and where can our listeners connect with you online or get involved in all that? Absolutely. If anyone wants to connect with me, you know, I’m always on Linkedin, although i’ve been a little bit away from it for a while. I’m always there to connect. You know, my email address firstname.lastname@example.org. We have our website there as well, kindness-shake.com.au, you know, check out the office of youth affairs on our website with the NT government. But I believe that now Linkedin is a very important platform now more than ever. So I would really love to connect with whoever would like to learn more about what we do know is, you know, create some other amazing initiatives down the road. Fantastic. Well Ben, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast. And I mean, really, I feel really blessed myself to have talked with you to have met you to have seen you in the flesh at the awards night. You’re an absolute inspiration and a powerhouse. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story with us today. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Thank you for all the work that you and your team do and for allowing this platform to share a little bit about me and the work that my my team and my family have been doing. So thank you and thank you all the listeners. It’s absolutely our pleasure and I hope everybody has enjoyed listening to Ben’s story as much as I have. If you have why not share the podcast and rate and review the podcast with Ben today. I’d love to hear your thoughts and until next week please be kind and remember, together we make a difference. I hope you enjoyed today’s interview as much as I have. We would love you to subscribe to our podcast, that you won’t miss an episode. Join us each week as we talk with ordinary Aaustralians. achieving extraordinary things. Did you know that Awards Australia is a family owned business that proudly makes a difference in the lives of those that make a difference for others. We thank our corporate not for profit partners to making award programs possible. Do you know someone that’s making a difference? Or maybe your business might like to sponsor an award. Contact us through our instagram page. inspirational.Australians will head to our website. awards australia.com would be great if you could share the site with your network. Because who doesn’t like a good news story, and please rate and review us. We would really love to hear your thoughts until next week. Stay safe. And remember, together we make a difference. Thanks for joining us today on the inspirational Australian’s podcast. 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