TVC075 Vinnies CEO SleepOut with Nikki McWatters

charity community giving back leadership nikki mcwatters podcast vinnies ceo sleepout Jun 18, 2017

TVC075 Vinnies CEO SleepOut with Nikki McWatters

The 6th Pillar of Ultimate Vitality is giving back. This year I've signed up to do something a little different and join the Vinnies CEO SleepOut - choosing the more chillier location of Melbourne.

I proudly support many non for profit events and have a long standing relationship with 2 key organisations.

 The Layne Beachley Aim For The Stars Foundation as a mentor and running workshops for their recipients, the RSPCA and then support local community projects and events where I can. 


So why Vinnies CEO Sleep Out and why now?

I was drawn to this particular cause after I got talking to a former CEO who had at one time almost lost his home, his family and everything. He was very near to living on the streets via a variety of interconnected events that had him going from hero to zero very quickly.

We spoke about the role of charities who provide the behind the scenes bare necessity support for those who are on the brink mentally, financially, socially and physically.

Organisations such as the Salvation Army and Vinnies. Providing a range of support from temporary housing to $50 for electricity, warm blankets or a meal for you and your children.

It is not always those you would expect who need the help most.

While we need to be aware of, support and build awareness for those who need us overseas and in far away places, there are many people who are in our own community that are in dire need for our support, a sense of connection, wellbeing and help when they need it the most.

Before I head to Melbourne next week to join this event I wanted to share the story of someone else who on the outset you would never expect to have been homeless.

Someone well educated, driven and ambitious. Who knows first hand what it is like to go from striving and thriving to barely surviving with a young family.

I hope you enjoy this podcast with author and Vinnies SleepOut ambassador Nikki McWatters. Her story is real, raw and genuine.

It's up to us not to brush past people, to assume that people who need it the most even know how to ask for help.

It's up to us as family, friends and as a community to see the signs, to have empathy and break down the stigma so that we can create safety and a sense of belonging close to home.

Meet Nikki Mc Watters 

Nikki was born on the Gold Coast of Queensland in 1966, the eldest of four, to her school-teacher parents.

A good student but rebellious, Nikki had aspirations of becoming an Academy Award-winning actress or a best-selling author. She dabbled in the theatre and revelled in rock n roll. At eighteen, after graduating well from high-school, she ran off to Sydney with a musician, with stars in her eyes and a bulging kit-bag full of dreams.

Reality hit. A string of D-grade T.V commercials, a bit-part in a C-grade movie and some guest spots on Aussie soaps, was not ever going to bag her that Oscar. She married her muso (who’d become a roadie) and soon they had two young sons.

In 1992, with two little boys under five, Nikki found herself alone and penniless when her marriage dissolved. She was 26. The relationship with her family was strained and Nikki moved onto the foldout couch of a nearby friend, with her children, and stayed there while she saved up for a bond on her own place.

Her first independent home-sweet-home was a cockroach infested unit in a bad corner of Bondi Beach but she did her best to make it comfortable.

Taking sporadic cleaning jobs for private homes she scraped by to pay the rent, the bills, the food and managed to get the children to school and day-care on a series of buses to fit in with her fluid and unpredictable workload. This complimented the Single Parent Pension which was not a lot and mostly went toward rent.

The Stigma Of Society 

Having awareness and compassion is key for us in society. Our actions to others and even to ourselves directly effects confidence and self esteem. Drop the judgement of yourself if you are in a crisis and avoid judging others you may see who need help - you never know their story until you ask.

Nikki ran into some stigma from other parents in the playground, as the Eastern Suburbs in the nineties was a place of great contrasts, between the haves and have-nots.

Nikki’s first connection to St Vincent de Paul came after her electricity was cut-off after her payment plan went astray following a rash of illness that attacked the family so that she was unable to work, as one, and then the next, fell ill.

A friend suggested that Vinnie’s could help and two elderly gentlemen, volunteers, came to Nikki’s unit to see how they could assist. It was an emotional time for Nikki to have to unload her great wallops of humiliation and shame at being in such a desperate situation. All her food had spoiled during the day that the electricity had been turned off.

  • The volunteers reassured her that she was doing her best and that they could help. They looked after the electricity bill and gave her fifty dollars in cash to get the boys ‘some fish and chips'. 
  • Nikki's story went on from there and she found herself on the rise again, then once again struck by tragedy was back fending for herself. This time she knew how to ask for help and who to go to.  

Courage & Confidence

People who front up to Vinnies and other charities to ask for help are not weak.

It takes a great deal of strength to swallow your pride, shame and humiliation to ask complete strangers for help - even for the most basic of needs. All the small elements that we can do to donate and support charities have a direct effect on those who need it the most. 


It's The Little Things That Count

Don't throw away items that are in perfectly good condition - other families in need may benefit greatly.

  1. Donating white goods, clothing, kitchenware, bedlinen and toys for children, clothing for school, books and hardware are all items that families in need have to do without. Providing warm meals, the basic food necessities, supporting for school lunches and making sure there are warm clothes and extra blankets in cold weather are all ways you can support by donating to your local Vinnies, church, outreach or charity location.
  2. Time: Spending time with those in need, asking people who you may think are struggling or offering a word of support without judgement can go a long way. 

Nikki shares her personal story on the show today to raise awareness for not only the charities that support those in our communities who need it - but to remind us that anyone can be at a cross roads.

To have compassion and understanding for yourself and for others.


In this interview we defined the 4 steps to helping those in need and getting help if you need it

  1. Honesty - don't wait
  2. Help - Don't Judge or be afraid of being judged
  3. Hope - Be present and open
  4. Healthy  - The right attitude to be there for others and also accept help and support when it is offered

Overall giving back starts at home:

  • it starts with being kind to yourself
  • being conscious of the world we create around us and the decisions we make when we interact with others.

If you know of someone that is in need of help them please reach out to them or offer some assistance. Even a friendly face or phone call to see how they are.

A little can go a long way. 

How Can You Support The Vinnies CEO Sleepout

I am looking forward to the experience on Thursday 22 June.  To the invaluable time spent face to face with people who have inspired the overall theme for the 2017 Vinnies CEO SleepOut.  If you would like to help please CLICK Here support on my official CEO Sleep Out donations page.

Thank you for tuning into the Vitality Coach show on iTunes and across the many wonderful platforms.

It's a pleasure and a privilege to feature such wonderful guests who continue to inspire and empower us all to lead in business and in life.

Please reach out if you have questions, feel you or someone close to you may need support as well. I'd love your review as too:


Yours in Vitality




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