Interview with Carolina Puleston (CEO & Founder)

Our CEO and Founder, Carolina Puleston, a first-generation Australian and Sydney-sider at heart decided to stop racking up frequent flyer points in 2014 and choose to settle in Brisbane. Although still not the same time zone as Sydney for half the year, being back in Australia is a welcome change. Disliking coffee and most teas (don’t hold that against her!), she joined us with an enormous bottle of water in hand to give us her well-hydrated take on her story so far.

Question 1: Why did you join commonkind?

I wanted to create a kinder and more connected community starting in our own backyard. Having lived around the world but still having strong connections with family and “chosen family” like neighbours and friends in my hometown of Sydney, Australia I wanted to emulate that supportive “takes a village” mindset here in Brisbane. I recognise that my own children have inherent privilege and I want them to get outside their bubble and realise that there are many others who aren’t as privileged as them and that each one of us has a role to play in being the rising tide that lifts all boats.

During COVID I was saddened by the social impact of lockdowns especially on those living in aged care communities. I contacted two local aged care communities and offered to get my child and others to make the residents cards to spread a little joy and let them know that others were thinking of them. After delivering the cards I received positive feedback from the staff on behalf of the residents and from this small gesture the idea of providing benevolent relief to those suffering from poverty, disadvantage and distress was born.

After the pandemic I looked for ways my children could use their time to give back and discovered there were very few opportunities for children under 16. That’s when I decided to turn the small idea of commonkind into reality.

Question 2: What were you like as a child?

You’d have to ask my family or friends who may use different words but I’d describe myself as quiet, helpful, patient and caring.

Question 3: What was your first volunteering experience?

In the heyday of the 1980s when spiky fringes and bubble skirts were the rage, I remember joining my mum on weekends at working bees at my primary school doing various odd jobs. I’m not sure how much help I was because I also have vivid memories of traipsing around with other children there to volunteer with their parents and checking out the classrooms and even more excitingly the elusive staff rooms! I guess that’s the reality sometimes with very young children – they need breaks factored in!

Question 4: What has been your most memorable volunteering experience?

I’ve had so many impactful volunteer experiences throughout my life such as feeding homeless men with my best friend and her dad at the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney to storm recovery and bushfire support with the State Emergency Service. However, I’d have to say my most memorable volunteering experience was working as a Speech Pathologist on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. I probably shouldn’t say as a Speech Pathologist but rather as THE Speech Pathologist because at that time, other than a Physiotherapist, there were no other allied health professionals working with children in the nation.

Not only was St. Lucia a beautiful place to live and the people were so warm and generous but I also saw firsthand the impact my volunteering had on the children and families who in many cases had been waiting a very long time to be assessed, let alone have therapy.

Question 5: What’s the very first job you had (that’s not on your LinkedIn profile) and what did you learn from the experience?

Like many others I suspect, I started babysitting neighbours children when I was in high school. I also worked at a local green grocer but the first job I had that always makes people laugh (or cringe) was as a Purveyor of Haute Cuisine (Cheese on a Stick, Hot Dog on a Stick and Fresh Lemonade!) at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. Other than having to wear a “stylish” red, yellow and blue striped shirt and a strange matching hat, working long hours on my feet and mastering how to take a wedge of cheese, coat it in a fine cornmeal batter and fry it to crisp, golden perfection, what I remember learning is “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.” In hindsight, it sounds very much like optimising operations management indoctrination, but it makes me a must have guest at a party as I’ll always clean up before I go!!

Carolina (age 3) on holiday in Bowral.

Question 6: What do you do for fun?

My idea of fun has totally changed over time. I still love to try new things – whether it be restaurants or travel to new places but I have such little downtime that my idea of fun is to relax! When I do get a chance to unwind I’d be just as likely to pick an early dinner and movie with friends (so I can still have a sensible bedtime!) as snuggle up in bed and binge watch a few episodes of Bridgerton or trash TV. Actually, who am I kidding? I often fall asleep in the first episode or few pages of reading a book, but the intent is there!

Question 7: What motivates you?

Leaving the world a better place for my own kids and for future generations.

Question 8: How do you practice self-compassion?

I’ve got a long way to go on this. I’m definitely my own harshest critic and have always had very high expectations of myself. Having children has probably been the single biggest factor in nudging me towards developing some self-compassion. When my kids are in pain or suffering I respond instinctively with compassion but I often struggle to transfer that to myself. Sometimes I’m aware enough to realise when I’m negatively judging myself and I stop to ask myself “How would you respond if this was happening to one of your kids?” It’s something I want to consciously develop and think is vital to ensure children develop from an early age so… watch this space!

Question 9: If you could give children and young people one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Following on from my thoughts on self-compassion, one thing I’ve noticed from working with tweens and teens through commonkind, but perhaps had forgotten from my own adolescent experience, or prior professional experience working with teenagers, is how hard it feels to be a teenager and how afraid many are of something as small as answering a question for fear of being wrong. So in terms of advice I’d say to children and young people: 

If you haven’t realised already, let me be the first to tell you… just like me, you will be wrong SO many times in your life you’ll lose count. It may seem incredibly embarrassing at the time but believe me you won’t even remember it a month, a year let alone 10 years down the track. Don’t let fear of being wrong (or imperfect) stop you from giving things a red-hot go. Embrace your unique imperfections that make you, you! Being your authentic self with all your flaws, will allow you to live a life with deeper connections and one that is enriched from all of the opportunities that come to you if you are brave enough to step out of your comfort zone.

Question 10: What is your most used emoji?

This is (sort of) a surprise.

With young kids, I thought it would be love heart, face palm or fingers crossed!

Learn even more about Carolina and other members of the commonkind team here.

About commonkind

We provide benevolent relief to people and communities suffering from poverty, disadvantage and distress by facilitating age-appropriate community service activities for children, families and other interested parties.

Get in touch!

Whether you are a charity with a task that might be suitable or you are interested in helping us create a kinder and more connected community, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us here.

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