How a Single Mom with a Full Time Job Found Connection, Growth and Joy in Service as a Volunteer for the World’s Largest Ocean Preserve
Amy Kellestine with a stack of books she’s reviewed as the Book and Film Editor for Parvati Magazine, one of the many volunteer opportunities she has embraced at Parvati.org
From early on, I was told I was a natural leader. Unfortunately, despite outward signs of success, inwardly I felt like a failure and “leader” wasn’t a label I felt able to identify with. I’ve since learned that leadership is not about power, popularity, or even positional authority. Rather, it is about leading yourself by getting clear on your own values and purpose while having the clarity and commitment to live in alignment with them. Working with colleagues at Parvati.org has played a key role in my understanding of leadership and has inspired me to be more committed than ever to my own leadership journey.
Nature has always felt to me like an absolute beautiful miracle. My love affair with it started before I could even contemplate my definition of leadership. My first act of environmental activism was joining the Eco-Club in elementary school where I promoted the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) and helped to sort juice boxes and pudding cups for the school recycling program. As a teen and young adult, however, I became overwhelmed with the magnitude of the issue at hand. Without being clear on my values and purpose, I became disenfranchised as I didn’t see how my small actions could ever matter.
Putting Values into Action
Fast forward over 20 years: failed relationships, professional challenges, and motherhood all pushed me to get clearer about who I was and what I stood for. It was around that time that I started hearing about Parvati.org and the vision for MAPS from my longtime friend and colleague Darcy Belanger. I was inspired by the wholistic, strategic nature of the goal, his own commitment to the cause, and the stories he told about the passionate and dedicated team of volunteers who were working tirelessly to turn a dream into reality. I wondered if I had something to offer and if this would be a place where I could put my values into action.
As it turns out, my core values of connection, growth, joy and service were all a perfect match with Parvati.org. Even though we are spread out around the globe, I feel connected to an amazing community of passionate and heart-centered volunteers. I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a range of challenging and rewarding assignments that have continually provided me opportunities to learn and grow. And we have fun as we work together in service toward a common goal.
Over the past three years with Parvati.org, I’ve also noticed an improvement in a number of areas that make me a better leader at work and at home. I’m more open to new ideas and possibilities and am much less anxious. I am more authentic and honest in all facets of my life. I am calmer under pressure and am more trusting and collaborative with others. I’ve always had a strong voice and have been able to put together and manage a project plan. Now, the outward signs of success are matched by the comfort I feel in my own skin and my increased confidence in my abilities.
As a single mom with a full-time job, I often get asked how I find the time to commit to Parvati.org. The answer is that I see the way I choose to spend each and every moment as a reflection of the priorities I have in my life. Volunteering in this way is fully aligned with who I am and what’s important to me, and I honestly can’t think of anything I’d rather do with my time, energy, and skills.
It is an honour to work alongside such an amazing group of fellow volunteers and I look forward to the day when we can celebrate the realization of the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. Today, the work we do often reminds me of a quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.